Many college towns across the south have developed reputations for their delicious and diverse food scenes. Considering the thousands of students, families, alumni, football enthusiasts, and locals these restaurants serve on any given day this time of year, their budding popularity is no surprise.
We searched far and wide for the best and most beloved among these establishments in some of the South’s busiest college towns. So whether you support your alma mater or the local school, let this be your guide to must-try eats for gameday weekends and beyond.
1 THE CHEESE SHOP
Sitting just across from the historic William & Mary campus in Colonial Williamsburg, this gourmet deli has serviced the town for more than 45 years. With several flavorful sandwiches to choose from, breads and treats baked fresh daily, and a hearty selection of cheeses from across the country, it’s no wonder students and locals alike flock to this family-owned business time and time again.
2 PAWLEYS FRONT PORCH
Columbia, South Carolina
Just blocks from the University of South Carolina, Pawley’s is a casual hub known for its eclectic, award-winning burgers along with an impressive selection of salads, sandwiches, and more to tempt those taste buds. Start your meal off right with their Fried Crawfish Tails with chipotle mayonnaise or get straight to the main event with their hearty Fried Green Tomato & Pimento Cheese BLT Sandwich—just be sure to save room for dessert, because the Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich is definitely worth it.
3 DUDLEY’S ON SHORT
University of Kentucky students count down the days until their families visit in hopes of scoring a trip to places like Dudley’s. Offering a sharp departure from campus dining options, you can expect creative and refined dishes like the Marksbury Farm Pork Steak with candied and roasted sweet potatoes or Oysters on the Half Shell served with a delicious mignonette—which all taste even better when your parents are picking up the tab.
4 STOCK & BARREL |
Locations in Tennessee
Looking for a relaxing yet upbeat atmosphere to unwind before, during, or after the big game? Whether you’re at Vanderbilt in Nashville or the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, head to this hotspot that serves up twenty creative gourmet burgers that give even the pickiest eaters out there something to drool over. From smaller, more traditional options like the classically dressed ‘Merican (layered with cheese, tomatoes, onions, and mayo) to the towering beast that is the Big Nasty (loaded with double patties, bacon, and cheese), Stock & Barrel has a little something for every level of burger enthusiast.
5 SASSY’S |
What started as a mission to create the perfect barbecue sauce evolved into one of Razorback Nation’s premier locations for laid-back, Southern-style barbecue. Now with two locations, Sassy’s Red House and Sassy’s BBQ & Grill, this Fayetteville staple draws countless visitors looking for a taste of century-old secret family recipes each year. The smoked Beef Brisket Dinner is a definite must.
6 BOW & ARROW |
Following the success of his first restaurant, Acre, nestled just blocks from Auburn University, Chef David Bancroft decided to step out of the barbecue box when he opened Bow & Arrow in late 2018. Expect nothing but the finest meats cooked over a live-fire Kudu grill and served family-style alongside a selection of Southern sides, including our personal favorite: the cheesy Hashbrown Casserole.
7 VITEK’S BBQ | Waco, Texas
Baylor University students and locals know that Vitek’s is the place to be in Waco for tried-and-true Texas BBQ. This local landmark has been serving up classic Southern meats and sides since 1915, but their most recent claim to fame goes by the name of the Gut Pack, a decadent combination of corn chips, brisket, sausage, beans, pickles, onions, and jalapeños piled high that’s definitely worth the challenge. Just make sure to show up with an empty stomach.
8 TAYLOR GROCERY
Just a few miles outside of Oxford, this refurbished filling station proves that sometimes the best eats in town aren’t actually in town. The all-you-can-eat catfish platter (either fried or grilled) is sure to please any hungry Ole Miss crew. But nothing comes without a price—the doors are only open four days a week, and lines of hungry patrons usually stretch into the parking lot.
9 JIM’S STEAK AND SPAGHETTI HOUSE
Huntington, West Virginia
Countless Marshall University students and visitors stop in for plate after plate of the famous spaghetti at this iconic Huntington institution, but they keep coming back for the good ole Southern hospitality and homey atmosphere. The pleasant aroma of all the freshly made pasta is enough to put a satisfied smile on anyone’s face. If that’s somehow not enough, though, Jim’s was even dubbed an American classic by the James Beard Foundation earlier this year.
10 LAST RESORT GRILL
What do you get when you take an iconic former music club and transform it into a contemporary restaurant with Southern charm? You end up with the Last Resort Grill. Contrary to what the name suggests, you’ll want to add this to the top of your list next time you’re in town to watch the Georgia Bulldogs play. The Hazelnut Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake alone is worth the trip.