2016 was a tumultuous year in the world, and so it was for Southern food as well. From hot sauce in our bags to chefs on a roll, here’s where we ate, and what we put on it this year.
- We all know barbecue is having a moment, but 2016 took the art of the ‘cue to new heights. From Elliott Moss’s deeply smoky Eastern-Carolina pork at Buxton Hall in Asheville, to the melty, perfect brisket at Hometown Bar-B-Que in Brooklyn (yes, Brooklyn), American barbecue has never been more succulent or sought after.
- “Top Chef,” the Bravo TV juggernaut, came to Charleston, and the closely guarded contest began airing this month. Tom Colicchio, the chef and show judge, told Garden and Gun that “More than any other location, this one dictated the food.” The eight contestants include five Southern chefs, and their first challenge? Shrimp and grits, of course.
- The Raleigh chef Ashley Christensen just won’t stop: her new cookbook, Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner hit the shelves in September to wide acclaim, and Bon Appetit called her latest venue in the Triangle, Death and Taxes, her most ambitious restaurant yet.” This month, Eater called Poole’s first restaurant in Raleigh, one of the top 38 restaurants in America. Go for the unbelievably good macaroni gratin.
- Like Beyonce and a certain pantsuit-wearing presidential candidate, we had hot sauce in our bags—and we used it on everything. From artisanal hot sauce to good old Tabasco, we drained bottle after bottle. We added it to a buttermilk brine for fried chicken, to a pimento cheese sandwich, to brown butter for Vivian Howard’s grits and greens. Better stock up.
- Sean Brock announced in July he was shuttering McCrady’s, the restaurant in Charleston that put him on the path to national chef stardom. But all is well in the Holy City: Brock reopened McCrady’s this fall as an 18-seat tasting menu restaurant, filling small plates with some of his favorite ingredients and dishes, intensely reimagined. “This menu is me,” he told Eater in September. In August Brock opened McCrady’s Tavern, around the corner from the new McCrady’s, and loaded his menu with craveable comfort food like pork chop sandwiches and veal blanquette.
- Take that, Gotham: the best bagels in the United States—and maybe the world—are made in Charlottesville, Va. Bodo’s Bagels, boiled and baked daily in three plain-jane locations in town, are chewy but not tough, substantial but not too doughy. They come in 10 flavors and stand up to even the biggest pile of toppings. New York may have Black Seed and Ess-a-Bagel, but for the truly perfect bagel, head south. Bring some back to your New Yorker friends. They’ll thank you.
- 2016 was the year food halls swept the south. These aren’t the greasy mall food courts you haunted as a teenager: some of the South’s biggest food names, from Anne Quatrano to Hugh Acheson to Sean Brock, have outposts in halls in Dallas, Atlanta and soon, downtown Birmingham. And if you haven’t been to St. Roch Market in New Orleans, go.
- West Virginians eat a lot of hot dogs. That’s what the writers Emily Hilliard and Emily Wallace found out when they embarked on a 286-mile road trip to eat the state’s best, and worst, dogs. West Virginia has at least 350 hot dog places, Hilliard wrote for Gravy: “From a first job to a first date, hot dog joints are often the sites of important life milestones.” Chili is a must, mustard and onions are both necessities—but slaw is up for debate.
- In a year of turmoil, comfort food surged: We deviled potatoes, made cassoulet with cornmeal dumplings, and dipped our homemade soft pretzels in Creole mustard dip.