Throughout the South, there is one immutable truth: We Southerners love our ’menna cheese. For generations, this concoction of sharp Cheddar cheese and roasted red bell peppers, bound together with mayonnaise, has been a favorite at lunchtime tables, Southern cocktail parties, and just for snacking. But now, the beloved paté of the South has found its way onto menus at some of the South’s finest restaurants and well-loved neighborhood eateries. Here are some of our favorites.
Tupelo Honey Cafe
Asheville, North Carolina
While the Tupelo Honey Cafe reveres the time-honored traditions of Southern cooking, Chef Brian Sonoskus likes to give his Southern dishes a decidedly different (and creative) spin at this Asheville eatery. That especially goes for the house pimiento cheese, which he flavors with Dijon mustard and fresh parsley and serves warm with tortilla chips. “Shoo Mercy” is the Tupelo Honey Cafe’s slang for bumping a recipe up to the next level. And what that means will become clear when you taste what the menu calls “the most mind-blowing grilled cheese on the planet,” the Shoo Mercy Cheesy Grill. In addition to pimiento cheese, it’s made with Havarti cheese, caramelized onions, maple-peppered bacon, city ham, fried green tomatoes, and fresh basil on sourdough wheat bread.
12 College St.
The Bar at Lemaire
We can’t imagine a more pleasant way to spend an evening in Richmond than sitting on the open-air patio at the Bar at Lemaire with a cocktail and the bar’s signature white Cheddar pimiento cheese. A popular dish on the bar’s menu since the restaurant opened inside The Jefferson Hotel in 2009, it’s served with olives and toasted sourdough bread. Chef Walter Bundy has infused everything on the menu at Lemaire with his commitment to providing upscale Southern cuisine that showcases Virginia-grown ingredients and the Southern influences of his native Richmond. The pimiento cheese is no exception.
101 W Franklin St.
Chef Chris Shepherd has been known to visit family-owned ethnic restaurants in some of Houston’s most culturally diverse neighborhoods in search of new techniques and flavor combinations. So it comes as no surprise that Underbelly’s pimiento cheese goes off in a different direction than other recipes for this classic Southern spread. Chris starts with Redneck Cheddar, a Texas farmstead cheese from Veldhuizen Family Farm that’s soaked in a dark Texas beer during the production process. Then, he replaces the traditional mayonnaise with Mississippi’s Comeback Sauce, a happy inspiration that occurred when he was using the spicy condiment in another dish. Underbelly’s menu changes constantly, and pimiento cheese shows up in some surprising ways. Lately, the restaurant has been serving it with pork cracklings as chips. And in summer, Chris likes to pair it with grilled okra. One word of caution: Before making a pilgrimage to Underbelly for the pimiento cheese, you should call first. It’s not a regular menu item.
1100 Westheimer Rd.
Empire State South
The pimiento cheese at Empire State South has been a hit with Atlanta diners since the restaurant opened in 2010. Hugh Acheson perfected his pimiento cheese recipe at his Athens, Georgia, restaurant Five & Ten, and it’s one of the few recipes from his restaurants that are included in his cookbook, A New Turn in the South (Clarkson Potter, 2011). But at Empire State South, diners treasure the pimiento cheese not for what’s in it, but for what’s on it. It’s delivered to your table in a 4-ounce Mason jar topped with a layer of sweet-and-spicy bacon marmalade, made with Benton’s hickory-smoked bacon. Pimiento cheese goes solo as an appetizer on the lunch menu, but at dinner, it’s paired with deviled ham, trout mousse, and peanut hummus in a starter called “In Jars,” where the revered Southern spread holds its own against these worthy newcomers. If you’re in a hurry, drop by and pick up premade pimiento cheese sandwiches from the restaurant’s Grab and Go menu at lunchtime. Or, take home a jar for just $6. And, yes, the take-home jars include a layer of bacon marmalade.
999 Peachtree St. NE #140
Butcher & Bee
Charleston, South Carolina
The pimiento cheese at Butcher & Bee, a craft sandwich shop in Charleston, South Carolina, is pretty straightforward—shredded Cheddar cheese, roasted red peppers, mayonnaise, hot sauce, and one secret ingredient, pickle juice. It’s not about what’s in the recipe but how they make it and what they do with it that makes this rendition of the paté of the South something special. Everything at Butcher & Bee is made from scratch each day; they even grate the Cheddar for their pimiento cheese by hand. And then, they layer it with ham and honey on a sub sandwich or tuck it into a brioche bun with a fried egg. Or, they spread it on a biscuit for breakfast. If you make a special trip to Butcher & Bee to try the pimiento cheese, it’s best to call first. You can also check the restaurant’s menu, which changes daily and is posted on Facebook and Twitter. Pimiento cheese is not offered at the restaurant every day, but when it is, it’s worth the trip.
654 King St.
Jack Allen’s Kitchen
Most restaurants roll out the welcome mat for diners. At the Jack Allen’s Kitchen locations in Austin and Round Rock, Texas, they roll out the pimiento cheese. Every meal begins with a plate of Jack’s signature pimiento cheese and house-made flatbread crackers, a welcome that is never overlooked. Their unique recipe, which includes Monterey Jack, Cheddar cheese, cream cheese, a little Worcestershire sauce, and sherry vinegar, is one of chef/owner Jack Gilmore’s favorite snacks. “I thought it would be great to start everyone off at the restaurant with a little Southern hospitality,” he explains. “It always leaves them wanting more.” If, indeed, you want more pimiento cheese, you can order more or have it layered with pork belly, micro greens, fried green tomatoes, and slaw on BLT Sliders or baked in a pimiento cheese-potato gratin. Jack also recommends using it as a topping on a burger. And if you still haven’t had your fill of this creamy pimiento cheese, you can take home an 8-ounce jar for $5.
7720 Texas 71 W.
The Pantry, a farmstead café and food boutique in the Birmingham suburb of Mountain Brook, takes an untraditional approach to pimiento cheese, and it shows. They begin with goat cheese, produced 30 miles down the road in Harpersville at owner Deborah Stone’s Stone Hollow Farmstead. Then, they make their own mayonnaise, a duck-egg aïoli flavored with thyme, rosemary, and garlic. “We mix our pimiento cheese by hand,” explains Deborah. “No machines are used to make it.” Deborah says she likes to have full control over what goes into her pimiento cheese. (This summer, she plans to begin growing and pickling her own pimientos.) That approach goes for the other foods offered at The Pantry as well, where almost everything is grown by Deborah or her farmer friends. “We know where our food comes from,” she says. “And we grow it as sustainably and as organically as possible.” The result is a fresh and bright pimiento cheese that is great spread between two slices of flatbread for a pimiento cheese sandwich, served in a trio of salads on The Pantry’s chicken salad plate, or piled high on pickled beets, radishes, and squash on a crudités plate.
17 Dexter Ave.
Pimiento cheese is a staple at Mason’s Restaurant, the Southern brasserie located inside Nashville’s Loews Vanderbilt Hotel. You’ll find it on the menu at every meal. You can have it for breakfast in the pimiento cheese grits served with the Rise n’ Shine Breakfast (two cage-free eggs, grits, cat head biscuits, and ham or bacon) or tucked inside the Omelet of the South with fresh chives and bacon at brunch. The lunchtime menu offers a Fried Green Tomato BLT with pimiento cheese, and at dinner it is served in jars as part of an appetizer that also includes deviled ham, pepper jelly, and lavash crackers. Chef Brandon Frohne loves to take traditional Southern dishes to a new level, combining them with classic French techniques. His creativity, coupled with his connection to the local culinary community and his passion for farm-to-table cooking, guarantee diners a unique dining experience.
2100 West End Ave.
High Hat Cafe
New Orleans, Louisiana
When Chip Apperson tasted Jane Scott’s pimiento cheese for the first time at a family gathering (Chip’s brother married Jane’s daughter), he knew it was the best he’d ever tasted. So years later when he and local restaurateur Adolfo Garcia opened the High Hat Cafe in New Orleans, he put Jane’s pimiento cheese on the menu. Jane hails from central Georgia, Chip says, “where there are as many ways to make pimiento cheese as there are to make gumbo in New Orleans.” In addition to sharp Cheddar cheese, Jane’s recipe uses only a hint of mayonnaise and adds a little pimiento juice to get it to a spreadable consistency. Then, the flavor is kicked up with grated onion, grated garlic, cayenne pepper, and dill. The resulting deliciousness is served as an appetizer with deviled ham, stuffed eggs, and mixed pickles. Pimiento cheese can also be found in their macaroni and cheese, topping The High Hat Burger, and on top of the restaurant’s hand-cut fries. You can take home a pint or quart jar for $9 and $18, respectively.
4500 Freret St.
Grab-and-Go Pimiento Cheese
Native to Pawleys Island, South Carolina, Palmetto Cheese comes in three delicious varieties: original, jalapeño, and bacon. Known as “The Pimiento Cheese with Soul,” Palmetto is available in more than 5,000 grocery stores across the Southeast. ($5.49, palmettocheese.myshopify.com)
Blackberry Farm, located in Walland, Tennessee, is known for their high standard of quality in all areas, and their pimiento cheese is no different. Aged sharp Cheddar cheese gives this spread a bold, smoky flavor. ($10 for 8 ounces, $18 for 16 ounces, blackberryfarm.com)
Local to Elkmont, Alabama, Belle Chèvre puts a contemporary twist on the Southern classic. Made with goat cheese instead of the traditional Cheddar, their pimiento cheese is nothing short of amazing. ($6.99, bellechevre.com)
This Charleston, South Carolina, company might be better known for biscuits, but their pimiento cheese is every bit as good. Freshly shredded Cheddar and secret spices are hand-mixed for best quality. ($9.95, calliesbiscuits.com)
MyThreeSons hails from Greensboro, North Carolina. Emmy’s Original, Fire Roasted Jalapeño, and Spicy White Cheddar are handmade in small batches and taste just like (dare we say better than?) your grandmother’s pimiento cheese. (About $7, visit mtsgourmet.com for retailers)