From gumbo to meringue-topped pie to chicken and waffles, these are our top 12 restaurants and places to visit from our 2016 Taste 50 list.
Four generations of strong Southern women in Chef Michael Fojtasek’s family have held the name Olamaie, and now he and his partner, Chef Grae Nonas, have brought that heritage to this generation with their Austin, Texas, restaurant. Just like the names, the food is rooted in tradition, and the pair’s thoughtful interpretation of classic Southern cuisine draws folks from all over to dine in this restored cottage. Try the Hopin’ John or the Country-Fried Cornbread and you’ll see what all the fuss is about.
Brought straight from the docks daily, the seafood at this family-run market is always unbelievably fresh. It doesn’t hurt that in Destin, Florida, known as “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” the fishermen are constantly plucking beautiful fish, shrimp, scallops, and more from the emerald waters. Don’t miss their smoked tuna dip and Boathouse Gumbo.
The little sister to Chef John Fleer’s Asheville hotspot Rhubarb, Rhu is a café, bakery, and small grocery dedicated to local ingredients and producers. Don’t pass up the butter-rich Sweet Potato Brioche: It’s a loaf above all others, studded with crispy bits of Benton’s smoky bacon.
Durham, North Carolina
Tucked away near Chapel Hill and Raleigh, Durham has become a haven for food lovers. Here you can find a variety of ways to sate your appetite, from Southern-inspired Spanish-style small plates at Mateo Tapas to rich soul food at Dame’s Chicken & Waffles, and everything in between.
In business since 1929, this café in Marble Falls, Texas, is especially beloved for their pies, piled high with billowy clouds of meringue. Luckily, owners John and Belinda Kemper have instituted “pie happy hour” on weekdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., when meringue lovers can take the opportunity to get their fill.
Protégés of John Besh, pastry chefs Kelly Fields and Lisa White are the hearts and masterminds behind this glorious bakery and café in downtown New Orleans, Louisiana. Named after Fields’ grandmother, Willa Jean offers heavenly baked goods, as well as Southern- and Creole-influenced fare all day long. Don’t miss their Cookies and Milk-baked with a hint of salt and served warm with a beater of cookie dough and a glass of ice-cold vanilla-infused milk, it’s a treat straight from your childhood.
Located in a 100-year-old farmhouse set at the edge of an apple orchard in Cashiers, North Carolina, The Orchard is a rustically beautiful spot, but the food is what sets it apart-specifically their Dannyboy’s Fried Chicken Livers. Served on top of Anson Mills stone-ground grits and topped with barbecue-caramelized Vidalia onions, these chicken livers are deliciously upscale.
Situated on historic Frankfort Avenue in Louisville, Kentucky, this bakery is equally popular for its wood-fired loaves and the brimming hospitality of husband-and-wife owners, Bob Hancock and Kit Garrett. It’s a truly blissful place to start your day.
Located in Florida’s oldest ice plant in historic St. Augustine, Florida, this distillery collaborates with local farmers to produce vodka, gin, and rum distilled from Florida-grown cane sugar to produce ultra-smooth spirits. Hungry? Stop by the Ice Plant Bar for lunch, dinner, or snacks to complete your experience.
This small, independent pharmacy and soda fountain opened in 1892 and is the oldest continuously running business in Kenova, West Virginia. This shop’s classic fountain treats like jerk-pulled sodas and milkshakes, make you feel like you’ve stepped into a bygone era.
This one-stop shop in Tupelo, Mississippi, does everything-whole animal butchery, fresh seafood, craft beer, and of course, good food. Don’t miss their burger, topped with Comeback sauce (a Mississippi specialty).
Housed in a former textile plant in Florence, Alabama, The Factory + Café grew out of Alabama clothing designer Natalie Chanin’s love of quality, minimalist beauty, and good Southern food. With a focus on local produce, goods, and community enrichment, the café also holds harvest dinners and their “Friends of the Café” dinner series, where visiting chefs create masterful menus.