No one boasts better food than the South, and these 11 spots prove it!
1 BUXTON HALL BARBECUE
Pitmaster Elliott Moss had a dream when opening Buxton Hall: to keep the tradition of Eastern Carolina-style barbecue alive. Starting the night before, he and his team smoke whole hogs from Vandele Farms over a live, wood-fueled fire and infuse them with flavor using a vinegar mopping sauce, a Moss family recipe. Calling themselves the evangelicals of Eastern-style barbecue, the team at Buxton Hall reveres the Appalachian philosophy of using every part of the pig, letting their greens simmer under the cooking pork to soak up all the drippings.
2 OXBOW BAKERY
Mile-high meringue and Southern heritage collide in the ultimate pies at this bakery in Old Town Palestine, Texas. Owned and operated by mother and son team Becky and David Wolfe, Oxbow Bakery offers more than a dozen delectable flavors, ranging from pecan praline cream to coconut meringue. Strawberry pie, a seasonal specialty, is so popular that the bakery is often sold out before they even open.
3 THE ARK
Back in the 1920s, The Ark was a reclaimed barge-turned-speakeasy floating in the Coosa River, where the tamest thing for sale was all the catfish you could eat for 60 cents. Several fires and locations later, the dive lives on in Riverside, Alabama, and so does its famous catfish, fried crisp and piled high in all its humble glory.
When we’re passing through Knoxville, Tennessee, we can’t resist a stop at this Old City breakfast spot. The thought of their OliBea Chicken Biscuit with whipped sorghum butter and chow chow and Tennessee Benedict with local ham and smashed potatoes has us drooling before we even get off the interstate. Don’t forget a side of bacon!
5 TATO-NUT DONUTS
Legendary is too small a word to describe the glaze-enrobed blessings born in the kitchen of this quaint yellow doughnut shop in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Some say it’s the potato flour that makes the difference; we think it’s the love that owners Theresa and David Mohler stir into every glorious donut. Go early, and order the cinnamon-laced “Persians”—you‘ll never be the same.
6 CITY HOUSE
Since opening its doors in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2007, City House has been bridging the gap between down-home Southern and Italian cuisine. Chef Tandy Wilson, a James Beard award winner, and pastry chef Rebekah Turshen continue to push the envelope, creating innovative dishes using local ingredients. On the top of our list: the sweet potato skillet cake with salt and pepper meringue.
7 KERMIT’S OUTLAW KITCHEN
Chef Mitch McAmey is making Tupelo, Mississippi, a food destination at Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen, where he and his team dish up top-notch fare in a totally unpretentious way. Courtesy of their butcher shop, Neon Pig, their hand-cut $35 ribeye arrives in all its glory, next to a roll of self-serve paper towels—it’s a place that’s primed to surprise you in the best possible way.
8 BUTCHERTOWN GROCERY
Bobby Benjamin, chef/owner of Butchertown Grocery in Louisville, Kentucky, had worked in fine dining restaurants for 10 years when the recession forced him to take a different look at cooking. When he opened his own restaurant in 2015, he envisioned a more casual place where diners could enjoy an approachable, plant-focused menu in a relaxed atmosphere. “I want to cook for everybody,” he says. “We find the best ingredients and prepare them in the best way.” The result: “I’m having more fun cooking now than I have ever had in my life,” he says.
9 BREAD & BUTTER
At this micro-batch bakery in Chattanooga, Tennessee, time is the secret ingredient. A long, slow rise adds deep flavor to their breads, such as the Cheesy Grits Loaf, Bacon Baguette, or the seed-studded Sonrisa Whole Wheat boule. Though its doors only opened in late 2016, Bread & Butter is already breaking the mold. Using as many locally sourced ingredients as possible, and favoring quality over quantity, this is one bakeshop worth the detour.
10 ROEGELS BARBECUE COMPANY
Located in the Tanglewood suburb of Houston, Texas, Roegels has become a mecca for barbecue aficionados. Pitmaster Russell and his wife Misty Roegels are producing some of the very best barbecue in eastern Texas, like their pastrami-style brisket, served on Thursdays. On most Fridays, they serve pastrami-style beef ribs, and as Russell says, “There’s no better piece of meat out there.”
11 PIE BAR
It all started with apple pie for Lauren Bolden. She was just a preteen when she pulled her first fruit-filled miracle from the oven, but that ignited the passion that would later lead to Pie Bar—Woodstock, Georgia’s personal, flaky heaven. Lauren and her husband, Cody, now prepare pie for the masses, taking on the classics, but adding their own little twists. Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie? Yes, please.