Southern cooking and its varied dishes across the expanse of the lower US states tell the stories of the people and places that have evolved during the region’s history. Influences come from the likes of Native Americans, West Africans, and Europeans. Some dishes were borne out of necessity while others have been refined via families for generations.
Taking a culinary road trip through the south is experiencing history itself, and there are many places in which to do it.
Barbecue and Border Inspiration in Texas
Texas barbecue preparation methods are many, and mainly involve the smoking of beef brisket, pork ribs, and sausage. The way in which the food is made is different depending on where you’re at in the state. A great place to start is in the lower part of Austin, with Franklin Barbecue (900 E. 11th Street), which has sold out of brisket every day since its opening in 2009.
Given Texas’s proximity to Mexico, Tex-Mex cuisine is also prevalent in the lower state. Matt’s El Rancho (East 1st Street, Austin) has been serving up definitive dishes like Carne Guisada and Flautas since 1952.
The Big C-Easy
Heading east to The Big Easy puts you in Creole and Cajun country, two of New Orleans’ most beloved cuisines that are inspired by French culinary practices. This includes dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, étouffée, muffulettas, po-boys, turtle soup, beignets, and king cakes.
Antoine’s Restaurant (713 Saint Louis Street) serves French-Creole cuisine and is the oldest restaurant in Louisiana, having opened in 1840. Other classic Creole restaurants include Arnaud’s (813 Rue Bienville), which touts Frogs Legs Provençale and Escargots en Casserole, as well as Galatoire’s (209 Bourbon Street), whose menu includes Turtle Soup Au Sherry and Bouillabaisse.
Cajun spots not to miss include Cochon (930 Tchoupitoulas Street), which serves Fried Boudin and Chili Dusted Cracklins’, and Coop’s Place (1109 Decatur Street), where you can get Jambalaya Supreme.
Hot Chicken and Pork Pickins
As you’re passing through the lower corner of Tennessee looking at Memphis houses for sale, stop in at The Bar-B-Que Shop (1782 Madison Avenue) for Memphis barbecue that makes pork the star. If you prefer poultry, try Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken (310 S Front Street).
Head east to Nashville to indulge in the regional classic Nashville hot chicken at Hattie B’s (various locations) or Big Shake’s Hot Chicken (421 11th Avenue North).
Georgia On Your Mind
Driving southeast, journey first through the middle of the state to Atlanta, where you can nosh on Chicken and Waffles at 10th and Piedmont (991 Piedmont Avenue NE) or Home Grown (968 Memorial Drive SE) for a Chicken Biscuit.
Continue east towards the coast to Savannah for classic Shrimp N Grits at Huey’s (115 East River Street) or juicy Fried Green Tomatoes at Vic’s on the River (26 East Bay Street).
Southern Charm in SC
Finally, end your journey at the South Carolina port of Charleston, where Page’s Okra Grill (various locations) serves up the sometimes slimy southern staple, or Hyman’s Seafood (215 Meeting Street), which has a hefty serving of Hush Puppies to start your meal.
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