Fried green tomatoes are as Southern as, well, fried green tomatoes. While tomatoes, and therefore green tomatoes, certainly grow outside the South, fried green tomatoes are only served around these parts or by folks who hail from here.
And while that may be true today, fried green tomatoes originated in the Midwest. The first recipes for them were found in Jewish and Midwestern cookbooks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But it’s here in the South where they’ve been embraced as part of our culture.
So what makes a good fried green tomato? The tomato’s crust must be flavorful enough to complement its succulent tang. And yes, that tomato has to be green. Even a touch of yellow will yield a mushy mouthful.
But what should that crust be made of? Cornmeal? Flour? A simple breading or dipped in batter? Crisped in a skillet or deep-fried? The easy answer is, all of the above, because the crust depends on where you are in the South.
Here’s a selection of the best from across the region. Enjoy those close to you, and be on the lookout for those farther afield.
PORT ROYAL, SOUTH CAROLINA
You may not immediately think of finding great fried green tomatoes at a seafood restaurant, but 11th Street Dockside makes some of the best, and the view isn’t bad, either. They claim the secret is in the sauce, described as a piquant salsa, but it takes a great fried green tomato to pull off the praise that these get.
1699 11th St. W 843.524.7433
LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS
The Root Café is all about local and seasonal. You won’t find fried green tomatoes here in the heart of summer, but if you wait until fall when farmers are culling their tomato plants, fried green tomatoes become a menu staple. The ones here are simple and perfect. First breaded in flour mixed with local cornmeal, the tomatoes are then fried in Arkansas rice bran oil for a truly local dish.
1500 S Main St. 501.414.0423
SOCIAL CIRCLE, GEORGIA
At the Blue Willow Inn, fried green tomatoes are credited with the restaurant’s rise to fame in the early 1990s. Columnist Lewis Grizzard tried them and loved them, and more than 280 newspapers picked up his story. You can enjoy them hot from the restaurant’s buffet line with a glass of cold lemonade.
294 North Cherokee Rd. 770.464.2131
RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA
Of course, you expect to find green tomatoes along with other fresh produce at the farmers’ market, but you usually don’t get them fried on site. The State Farmer’s Market Restaurant changes that by offering the pick of the season’s best green tomatoes dipped in a spicy batter and deep-fried to perfection.
1240 Farmer’s Market Dr. 919.755.1550
It’s hard to mention fried green tomatoes without talking about the Whistle Stop Cafe in Fannie Flagg’s novel-turned-movie. In real life, it’s called Irondale Cafe, and their fried green tomatoes are rightly world famous. Their breading is a mixture of self-rising flour and corn flour for a thicker crust. And for a nontraditional take on their most-popular dish, order the Green Tomato and Okra Fritters with Jalapeños.
1906 1st Ave. N 205.956.5258
Fried green tomatoes show up in unexpected places at the elegant Felicia Suzanne’s. In her BLFGT salad, a fried green tomato is layered with baby greens, Benton’s bacon, and a Tennessee Cheddar spread for a unique experience. They’re also available as a side order served with rémoulade.
80 Monroe Ave., Ste. L-1 901.523.0877
The Goose Creek Diner claims to have the best fried green tomatoes in Louisville, and they back that claim well. These are nicely breaded slices served with their signature spicy Creek sauce. They also serve their green tomatoes on a BLFGT—bacon, lettuce, and fried green tomato sandwich.
2923 Goose Creek Rd. 502.339.8070
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
Fried green tomatoes lead Chef Chris Lynch’s menu at Atchafalaya. His are crisply coated and paired with crabmeat and spicy rémoulade as an appetizer. They also make an appearance at brunch when they’re served with poached eggs, crabmeat, and hollandaise sauce.
901 Louisiana Ave. 504.891.9626
FRIED GREEN TOMATO
When a dish is your restaurant’s namesake, you have to take pride in it, and the folks at the Fried Green Tomato get theirs right. These are batter dipped and deep fried, but they stay crispy, a true feat at a buffet restaurant. Make plans to visit during the week, because the Fried Green Tomato is only open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday.
11026 Lamey Bridge Rd. 228.396.2979
JIM ‘N NICK’S BAR-B-Q
LOCATIONS ACROSS THE SOUTH (AND COLORADO)
The fried green tomatoes at Jim ‘N Nick’s aren’t always on the menu, but keep your eye out for them as a must-order vegetable of the day. These thick slabs of firm green tomatoes are coated with a thin layer of crisp cornmeal and make a perfect barbecue side.
By Paul and Angela Knipple