1 GROUPER CHEEKS Want to eat like a local in the Florida Keys? Drop into Hogfish Bar & Grill on Stock Island, a true locals’ spot, where people who fish eat fish. We recommend the grouper cheeks, tender nuggets of fish that have been dipped in buttermilk and dredged in seasoned flour, then fried to a crispy delight. Owner Bobby Mongelli says they taste sweet like scallops.
2 SALT BREAD Drop by Burke’s Bakery in Danville, Kentucky, for a loaf of traditional salt-rising bread, a yeast-less bread that was popular in the Appalachian region more than 100 years ago. Fifth generation owner Joedy Burke learned the process through his apprenticeship to his father and grandfather. Surprisingly tangy in flavor, this Southern treat calls for a road trip.
3 CULTURED BUTTER Wrapped in wax paper and stamped with those convenient tablespoon measurements, store-bought butter is a staple in Southern cooking. But we can do better! Look for cultured butter, which has a higher fat content and live cultures, resulting in a rich yet subtle hazelnut flavor. It’s butter like your great-grandmother used to make. To find out how to make it at home, see our step-by-step guide at tasteofthesouthmagazine.com.
4 MISSISSIPPI TAMALES Exactly how tamales made their way into the heart of the Mississippi Delta is a bit of a mystery. Most historians agree they came through Mexico—via migrating laborers or soldiers returning from the Mexican-American War, while others maintain tamales date back to the region’s original Native American tribes. While the mystery lives on, one thing remains true: tamales are as common on Delta dinner plates as fried chicken.
5 NOT-SO-CAJUN CRAWFISH In the 1970s, thousands of Vietnamese families immigrated to the Gulf coast, where they fell in love with local seafood boils. They soon blended the traditional Cajun crawfish boil with the flavors of South Asian cuisine—ginger, garlic, and lemongrass. And while it’s hard to beat a good old-fashioned crawfish boil, there’s something magical about their aromatic take on mudbugs. They’re served drenched in garlic butter, so you’re definitely going to want to pinch the tail and suck the head.