The South's Best New Restaurants

Buxton Hall in Asheville, NC

For this year's roster of the South's best new restaurants, writer and eater extraordinaire Jennifer V. Cole spent over two months logging thousands of miles back and forth across the region to eat more meals than any human should comfortably or reasonably consume. The result is this list—fully vetted—that collectively demonstrates the ever-evolving culinary tale of a region impassioned by its food culture. From a third-generation North Carolina barbecue joint to a Dallas neighborhood bistro with a global take on Southern classics, this year's picks prove it's a damn fine time to eat out in the South. Check out our previous best restaurant winners.

01 of 25

Bastion: Nashville, TN

Bastion in Nashville, TN
Courtesy of Bastion/Danielle Atkins

Sister restaurant to The Catbird Seat, this warehouse-style bar and 24-seat jewel box restaurant follows the same eat-at-the-counter- and-watch-the-chefs-work format. But unlike the stark formality at Catbird, with its plain white walls and tasting-menu format, Bastion offers a roster of high-minded bites à la carte in a high-ceilinged room warmed by rosy exposed brick, with the dulcet tones of Waylon Jennings wafting from the hi-fi. At the curved chef's counter, you're given a paper menu to check off your dinner choices from a grid of 15 ever-changing menu options. Chef Josh Habiger has left it intentionally cryptic so diners get a bit of a surprise with each course. Oyster & Pineapple delivers two small Aunt Dottie oysters from Duxbury, Massachusetts, topped with thinly sliced Fresno chiles and a smoky pineapple likker. When asked about Ham & Friends, Habiger replied, "Ham has lots of friends." Just trust the well-pedigreed chef who has worked at The Fat Duck near London and Alinea in Chicago. Arranged in a wide, shallow bowl—all dishes are handmade by local artist John Donovan—sweet melon balls with Thai basil, miniature Parmesan tortellini, marinated white butter beans, and a six-minute egg are flooded by a deeply smoky pork broth that's intensified with dehydrated Benton's country ham. Each combo in this ham-ified lazy Susan of a bowl eats like a completely different yet cohesive dish. The food is quite serious, but everything about Bastion feels surprising and fun.

02 of 25

Butchertown Grocery: Louisville, KY

Downstairs Bar at Butchertown Grocery
Courtesy Butchertown Grocery

Just east of downtown Louisville is the historic Butchertown neighborhood, so named because of the stockyards and meat masters that filled the area over 100 years ago. It's experiencing a renaissance—and once-deserted buildings are getting a new life—thanks to local entrepreneurs. Joe Heron, for example, is reviving the American brandy tradition at Copper & Kings, while Matt Jamie's Bourbon Barrel Foods makes everything from Southern soy sauce to bourbon-smoked sea salt. Now there's a new addition. At the light-filled Butchertown Grocery, chef Bobby Benjamin works wonders with meat (ultra-juicy burgers, a sandwich piled high with house-cured salumi, rack of lamb dressed with aged balsamic). But don't dismiss his stellar veggies, like the fragrant mushrooms enriching tender gnocchi.

03 of 25

Buxton Hall: Asheville, NC

Buxton Hall in Asheville, NC

Old-school barbecue temples put the meat on a pedestal. The whole-hog cookery alone merits a stop at this vintage-inspired South Slope restaurant, but calling Buxton Hall just another barbecue joint would be a disservice. Take the sides, for example. Green beans simmer under the cooking pig, basting in unctuous pork drippings. Braised collards sing with the tang of cider vinegar and the spice of fresh black pepper. Here, you could create the ultimate vegetable plate and never think twice. The smoked fried catfish sandwich might be the real menu sleeper, though. Cured North Carolina catfish gets a brush of the barbecue mop and is fried to crispy perfection before getting piled with bread-and-butter pickles, slathered with tartar sauce, and crowned with gloriously melty American cheese. It's the fish sandwich of your dreams.

04 of 25

Death and Taxes: Raleigh, NC

Death and Taxes
Photo: Nick Pironio

Raleigh dynamo Ashley Christensen's trip to Uruguay several years ago, where she cooked alongside asadors on their open fire pits, laid the foundation for her latest restaurant, Death & Taxes (so named because the historic building was once a funeral parlor and later a bank). There, she witnessed the simplest source of heat—fire—deployed on meat, seafood, and vegetables with impressively nuanced results. Even though a 2,000-pound custom grill occupies the heart of the open kitchen, Christensen insists that this is a restaurant about fire, not grilling. Instead, she intensifies the flavors of her ingredients with char and smoke: Oysters, topped with fermented chili butter and zesty gremolata, sit directly on the hot coals, their edges curling slightly as they roast. Even the requisite hunk of beef, aged 93 days, is amplified with a chimichurri made from grilled onions, herbs, and beef fat rendered over the flames. In the right hands, the simplest tool can deliver strikingly complex results.

05 of 25

Foreign Correspondents: Houston, TX

Foreign Correspondents in Houston, TX

Over the past decade, Houston has established itself as a hotbed of international flavors, with the dining scape mirroring the rich multicultural fabric of the city. Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Pakistani, Mexican—you name it, Houston has it in spades. But until now, Thai food had been reduced to take-out containers of pad thai and drunken noodles. Foreign Correspondents changed all of that. In a Houston Heights strip mall, PJ Stoops and his Thai-born wife, Apple, masterfully present the riches of the Gulf through a northern Thai lens. PJ first made a name for himself as a supporter and peddler of bycatch, convincing chefs to work with lesser-known species. So it's no surprise that the seafood at Foreign Correspondents particularly stands out. Don't miss the Makrut Lime Curry, with Texas-caught fish simmered in coconut milk curry, or the sticky rice stuffed with conger eel and steamed in banana leaves.

06 of 25

Helen Greek Food and Wine: Houston, TX

Helen Greek Food and Wine in Houston, TX
Courtesy Helen Greek Food and Wine/Shannon O'Hara

There's a rich tradition of Greek restaurateurs throughout the South, running everything from diners to meat 'n' threes to barbecue joints. So it's fitting that one of our favorite meals this year comes from the Hellenic tradition, even if owner Evan Turner isn't actually Greek. The slender—and always packed—spot near Rice University injects a taste of the South into Greek regional specialties. Blistered banana peppers are stuffed with Greek cheeses and cornbread. Grilled feta-brined chicken gets an earthy, aromatic boost from Texas bay leaves. The Tex-Mex obsessed can think of ktipiti (a blend of yogurt and cheese with red peppers) as Greek queso. For a more traditional taste of the Mediterranean country, explore Helen's diverse and beguiling wine list. Turner and his team stock the second-largest selection of Greek wines in the country—because, as they say, everything is bigger in Texas.

07 of 25

Josephine Estelle: New Orleans, LA

Josephine Estelle inside the Ace Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana
Photo: W. Rush Jagoe

Helmed by Memphis wunderchefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman, Josephine Estelle anchors the newly opened Ace Hotel in New Orleans' Central Business District. Located on the ground floor of a 1928 Art Deco building, this expansive brasserie takes its design cues from the rich French, Spanish, and Afro-Caribbean influences of the Crescent City. Floor-to-ceiling windows and the staff's bon vivant attitude encourage lingering past lunch, sipping your way through the afternoon and into cocktail hour in the softly changing light. The menu reinforces Ticer and Hudman's mastery of Southern-meets-Italian food. Don't miss the snapper crudo, a hazelnut-studded ensemble enriched with browned butter and brightened with Meyer lemon. The pastas, all made in-house, range from a pitch-perfect cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) to orecchiette with Gulf shrimp in an almond-tomato pesto. A recent favorite entrée featured soft-shell crabs with a redeye aïoli, a subtle tribute to the iconic Southern gravy. In just a few short months, the Ace Hotel has established itself as the clubhouse of cool, with Josephine Estelle as its dazzling canteen.

08 of 25

Kenton's: New Orleans, LA

Kenton's in New Orleans, LA
Photo: W. Rush Jagoe

When you walk into Kenton's, a glorious wall of bourbon (and accompanying 150-label whiskey list) beckons like a siren. The restaurant is named for Simon Kenton, one of the founders of a Kentucky river town from which bourbon was supposedly first shipped to New Orleans. Chef Kyle Knall delivers a repertoire that pays homage to the restaurant's Kentucky naissance and the culinary traditions of New Orleans without coming across as derivative or gimmicky. His wood-fired oysters are differentiated by the topping of luscious country ham, smoked onion, and salsify. Fire figures prominently on this menu—speckled trout gets lightly perfumed by woodsmoke—but Knall maintains deft restraint to deliver beautifully nuanced flavor, all of which goes perfectly with that bourbon list.

09 of 25

Kindred: Davidson, NC

Root Tortelloni at Kindred in Davidson, NC

Visit this community outside Charlotte and you're transported to a charming Main Street town, populated heavily by Davidson College students and their professors. This is chef Joe Kindred's hometown, where he chose to open his shotgun-style bistro—with his sommelier wife, Katy, at his side—after years at award-winning restaurants. Load up on the pastas: ravioli with stinging nettle and fiddlehead fern, country ham gnocchi with a charming play on peas and carrots, a crawfish-to-the-max campanelle that's packed with mudbugs and finished with crawfish roe butter. Don't miss the mind-blowing milk bread served with house-cultured butter and flaky crystals of fleur de sel. And definitely save room for the home-style chocolate birthday cake with sweet-cream ice cream and sprinkles.

10 of 25

Kinship: Washington, DC

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Souffle at Kinship in Washington, DC
Courtesy of Kinship

Expect decadence during a meal at Kinship. Any restaurant that features an entire lobe of roasted foie gras isn't messing around. There's even a section of the menu called "Indulgence," from which you can select French toast piled with hunks of rosy lobster. Yet, as the restaurant's name suggests, there's an affable ease—and noticeable absence of pretense—to chef Eric Ziebold's version of a really great dinner party in D.C.'s Shaw neighborhood. Your server will ask if you want to preorder the chocolate chip cookie dough soufflé for dessert. The answer is yes—you do.

11 of 25

Launderette: Austin, TX

Launderette in Austin, TX
Wynn Myers

At night, this former laundromat glows like a Hopper diner, with food-frenzied Austinites illuminated through the restaurant's long front windows. Inside, where the wait for a table can exceed an hour, chef Rene Ortiz and his pastry-goddess sidekick Laura Sawicki serve up small plates and Snacky Bits worthy of the early—and continued—hype. Crispy oysters, a study in briny, plump perfection, are tossed with fried lemon and jalapeño slices for a Texas twist on fritto misto with a verdant mojo-style coriander dressing. Blue crab with avocado and caper-mint vinaigrette on semolina bread from Austin's Easy Tiger Bake Shop boldly reminds us why this whole toast trend became a thing. Regulars know to order the mussels and immediately dip the grilled sourdough bread in the broth, which is enriched with Serrano ham, bright Castelvetrano olives, and fermented chili butter. As for something sweet to cap it off, Sawicki's birthday cake ice-cream sandwiches have developed such a passionate cult following that they get Instagrammed almost as much as the Cronut.

12 of 25

Little Jack's Tavern: Charleston, SC

Burger at Little Jack's Tavern in Charleston, SC
Photo: Christopher Shane

It's a steak house that doesn't take itself too seriously. It's a pub where the martinis are shaken. With its checked, hunter green tablecloths; paintings of racehorses; and black-and-white photos of heavyweight fighters and Frank Sinatra, it feels like the Southern godson to Manhattan's 21 Club or P.J. Clarke's. But what you really need to know is that Little Jack's is home to one of the most satisfying burgers in the land, the Tavern Burger. Petite enough to be an appetizer (pro tip: always go for a burger appetizer), this thin-patty beaut features 4 ounces of USDA Prime beef (a 50/50 blend of chuck and brisket) cooked to a perfect medium-rare on the flattop grill, blanketed with American cheese and just a smear of sunchoke relish on a sesame-seed bun. Seriously. This is one amazing little burger that you absolutely must try. Once that's out of the way, you're ready to take in the fillet with sauce gribiche, the artichoke gratin, the crab salad with jicama, and warm cheese puffs. But we wouldn't judge if you ordered an extra Tavern Burger (or two) for the road. Truth be told: We most definitely did.

13 of 25

Little Octopus: Nashville, TN

Little Octopus in Nashville, TN

Super fresh is the name of the game at Sarah Gavigan's restaurant that started as an East Nashville pop-up and is moving to a (well-deserved) permanent brick-and-mortar location in The Gulch (505 12th Avenue South) later this year. Craving the vegetable- and seafood-focused food that she grew to love during the years she spent in California, Gavigan teamed up with chef Daniel Herget to create dishes that seem simple but deliver a punch of flavor. Divided into sections labeled "raw," "cool," and "warm," the menu features delicate hamachi, thinly sliced and served raw with peppery romesco and Cerignola olives. A modest mashed avocado becomes a table favorite with the addition of sour orange, scallion ash, crispy shallots, and cilantro. Grilled sardines shine with lemon and bottarga. The sumac-encrusted tofu—a hero of a vegetarian dish— radiates creamy, spicy complexity. There's an elegant ease to the whole dining experience at Little Octopus. And here's more great news: The most expensive thing on the menu is $17, making it easy on the wallet too.

14 of 25

Local Provisions: Asheville, NC

Asheville, NC
Photo: Johnny Autry

Mark our words: The next big thing in Southern food is Appalachia. The foodways of the mountain South offer the perfect intersection of tradition, lore, and resourcefulness. In Asheville, chef Justin Burdett, who worked closely with chefs Hugh Acheson and Steven Satterfield, champions the ingredients of the area and often relies on foragers to inject dishes with a bona fide sense of place. The menu can at times read like a botanical guide: pennywort, sorghum berries, celtuce, stonecrop, and angelica. But Burdett's refined approach elegantly tempers the wild flavors, using them to augment North Carolina trout or add peppery bite to a green salad. Local Provisions might not be serving traditional apple stack cake, leather britches, and greasy beans, but rest assured, this is a taste of the hollers and hills that define the area.

15 of 25

OvenBird: Birmingham, AL

OvenBird Courtyard in Birmingham, AL
Courtesy of OvenBird

Enter OvenBird through the pea gravel courtyard, which is beautifully framed by crepe myrtles and climbing roses. Then step into a live-fire studio where chef and outdoorsman Chris Hastings uses a steady supply of hardwood to impart smoky nuance to an array of meats and vegetables. Inspired by the fiery culinary style of South American asados and a lifetime of cooking around the campfire, Hastings blisters shishito peppers flecked with benne seed, braises goat (that eventually perches atop grits with preserved lemon), and spit-roasts chickens in his open kitchen. That open configuration means that diners can get a view of the action. This chef is so dedicated to the art and science of cooking elementally with fire—from roasting over embers to grilling à la plancha—that he didn't even run a gas line into the restaurant. That means if he's so much as boiling water, he's setting flame to wood.

16 of 25

PinPoint Restaurant: Wilmington, NC

Oysters at PinPoint Restaurant in Wilmington, NC
Photo: Andrew Sherman

PinPoint is one of those truly exciting restaurants where you get to see a talented chef fly solo for the first time—and absolutely soar. Dean Neff grew up around Savannah, where he was inspired by the rich quilt of Southern and Gullah culinary traditions of the Lowcountry and beyond. For years, he was Hugh Acheson's right-hand man in Athens, Georgia, running Five & Ten with a sense of vigor, diligence, and enthusiasm before moving on to support legendary Southern chef John Fleer at Rhubarb in Asheville, North Carolina. Last year, he struck out on his own to open PinPoint just a block away from the Cape Fear River. Here, he's working closely with the farmers, fishermen, shrimpers, and oystermen of the Carolina coast to create food that is inspired by tradition, shaped by his years behind the scenes, and informed by his stewardship of the South's food heritage. Get started the right way with a drink you won't soon forget: the Holy Muscadine Sour, which incorporates local muscadines with basil and bourbon for a balanced and fragrant cocktail. Painted Hills beef tartare arrives like a beautifully deconstructed tableau with caper aïoli, soy-pickled beech mushrooms, delicate fennel blossoms, and waffled potato crisps. Butter beans become hummus, generously spread on benne seed focaccia. Go for the sweet blue crab fritters and the lettuce wraps stuffed with pickled shrimp and octopus. Or pick the veggie plate, which comes to your table beautifully arranged with seared Swiss chard, Anson Mills black rice, succotash, and peanut romesco. Each bite of this incredible food just makes you happy. And that's doubly so when you realize you're watching a young, talented chef expertly hitting his stride.

17 of 25

Preserved Restaurant: St. Augustine, FL

Porch at Preserved Restaurant in St. Augustine, FL
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

We've seen a rash of modern Southern restaurants open in the past few years, with chefs championing the agricultural bounty of the region. In the Lincolnville neighborhood of St. Augustine, chef Brian Whittington offers his French-inspired spin on the genre and resists the urge to put fried chicken and all things pork at the heart of the menu. At Preserved, located in a late-1800s Victorian house that was once the home of Thomas Jefferson's great-granddaughter, the chef excels with the seafood and produce of northern Florida. Bowls of Cedar Key clams arrive in a bright broth of white wine and butter, like moules marinière with a Southern twang. In Whittington's shrimp and grits, creamed corn cozies up to stone-ground antebellum grits to enhance the natural sweetness of the plump Florida white shrimp. And they serve hospitality in spades—just as you might expect of a restaurant with a wraparound front porch.

18 of 25

Rapscallion: Dallas, TX

Beef Tri-Tip Steak at Rapscallion in Dallas, TX
Photo: Kevin Marple

At Rapscallion in Dallas' Lowest Greenville neighborhood, chef Nathan Tate gives more than just lip service to the idea of modern Southern food. This hulking Texas boy grew up on a multi-generation farm in rural Rockwall. He turns a studied eye on old-fashioned Southern classics, employing a robust global pantry and his own ingenuity to create a menu that defies stereotypes. On one visit, Tate served a comforting dish of skillet-fried sorghum, a bowl of grains prepared like fried rice with sprinkles of sesame-laden furikake, topped with collard kimchi, smoked oyster mushrooms, and a tempura-fried poached egg. He reinvigorates Nashville-style hot chicken with a Szechuan mala sauce. His cornmeal-crusted catfish, a far cry from backwater fry shacks, springs to life in a bowl of Gulf shrimp, smoked ham hock dashi, and comeback sauce. This being Dallas, Tate has developed a vigorous dry-aging program, with primo cuts of beef on display in a glass-front case behind the bar. (He'll grill them over pecan wood.) Tate is part of a new generation of chefs who truly understand the beautiful possibilities inherent in any Southern favorite.

19 of 25

Revival: Decatur, GA

Revival in Decatur, GA
Photo: David Crawford

Kevin Gillespie has made a name for himself with restaurants across Atlanta, namely Woodfire Grill and Gunshow. But Revival might be the truest example of who he is as a chef—full of heart and reverence for the most beloved dishes of Southern memory. Inside the restaurant, Gillespie's family collectibles provide a heartfelt welcome. Go with friends, and order the Family Style Dinner, a feast of hors d'oeuvres (deviled ham tea sandwiches, benedictine on soft bread), relishes (pickled cucumbers), and sides (baked stone-ground grits, whipped sweet potatoes) that accompany entrées such as fried chicken, beef-and-pork meatloaf wrapped in bacon, and even chicken casserole. Every meal starts with the Gillespie family cornbread—a thin, crispy crust encasing a fluffy, tender interior. This dish is so prized within the family that only one person per generation is entrusted with the recipe. Diners should be thankful that Kevin Gillespie was the chosen one.

20 of 25

Saltine Oyster Bar: Jackson, MS

Saltine Oyster Bar in Jackson, Mississippi
Photo: W. Rush Jagoe

You might not think Jackson, Mississippi, when you imagine robust oyster culture. And you might not expect to find a sleek eatery in a repurposed schoolhouse. But Jesse Houston has created such a spot, where he is wholeheartedly supporting a resurgence of American oystermen, such as Murder Point Oysters off Dauphin Island, Alabama. Inside a former elementary school that was built in 1927 in the city's Fondren District, Houston has turned a series of classrooms into a nautical wonderland worthy of Jules Verne—complete with a massive octopus mural. In this unexpected setting, you can slurp down a pristine dozen and get your fill of wood-fired half shells lacquered with tangy white barbecue sauce or loaded with crawfish tails, bacon, and hot sauce butter. Through his consistently killer collection of seafood dishes, Houston has earned his diners' trust and the right to play around with his menu. Most notably, every Monday (no doubt, locals mark it on their calendars) he serves up Southern ramen, transforming familiar Mississippi ingredients into rich, brothy noodle bowls. He might use ham hock-laced collards or Gulf shrimp to create his dashi (the broth base). From there, his creativity truly knows no bounds. In a recent creation he called Pond Ramen, Houston loaded the dish with lemongrass-braised frog legs, fried frog legs, and smoked Mississippi catfish. Saltine might be located in an old school, but it's anything but textbook.

21 of 25

Shaya: New Orleans, LA

Shaya in New Orleans, LA
Photo: Randy Schmidt

At chef Alon Shaya's new namesake restaurant, the pita is not technically on the menu, but it sops, scoops, and encases his roster of soul-fed dishes like a biscuit at a Southern breakfast buffet. Creamy and pliable, it tempers the acidity of pickled ramps with feta and pecans and soaks up the last spicy bites of chiles, tomato, and egg in shakshuka. It wraps around luscious bites of slow-roasted lamb with walnut-and-pomegranate tabbouleh. It's that undeniable soul that makes an Israeli restaurant feel right at home in a city better known for po'boys than falafel.

22 of 25

Staplehouse: Atlanta, GA

Staplehouse in Atlanta, GA
Andrew Thomas Lee

Staplehouse is rooted in family, community, and generosity of spirit. A husband/wife/sister-in-law trio runs the Old Fourth Ward spot, and all after-tax profits are channeled to The Giving Kitchen, a nonprofit organization that helps members of the restaurant industry in times of need. It exudes the sort of neighborhood vibe where you could pop in on any given weeknight, take a seat at the bar, and feel like you're eating a casual dinner with friends. However, chef Ryan Smith's ever-changing, five-course tasting menu is anything but casual. While tasting menus often feel tedious, Smith brings bright energy to the table. Each dish, a panoply of local ingredients and avant-garde culinary techniques, demonstrates the chef's playful prowess. On a recent visit, a twist on surf and turf showcased beef whipped cream (aged beef fat emulsified with milk) atop hunks of sweet crab. It sounds outrageous, but it works.

23 of 25

The Dabney: Washington, DC

Chef Jeremiah Langhorne at The Dabney in Washington, DC
Photo: Scott Suchman

The culinary character of the South is a composite of its many subregions: Appalachia, Cajun Country, the Lowcountry, and so on. Thanks to chef Jeremiah Langhorne, the Mid-Atlantic now has an able new champion. From a narrow brick row house in D.C.'s tucked-away Blagden Alley, Langhorne pays homage to the culinary history of the area through open-hearth cooking (the restaurant has no oven) and strict local sourcing. Langhorne is so committed that he's making his own Worcestershire sauce with black walnut leaves and won't even serve olives. The regularly changing menu is informed by the agricultural seasons and the chef's deep dive into regional 19th-century cookbooks. At the hearth, he chars house-made ciabatta and tucks vegetables—beets, carrots, celery root—into the embers, where they take on a hint of smoke and lusty caramelization. He stuffs flame-licked quail with Chesapeake oyster dressing. Langhorne isn't creating a Smithsonian-worthy time capsule, but a meal at The Dabney certainly delivers a real sense of place.

24 of 25

The Theodore: Dallas, TX

Beef Wellington at The Theodore in Dallas, TX
Courtesy of The Theodore

Stepping into The Theodore feels like entering a fantastical movie set, one designed by a Teddy Roosevelt-obsessed Wes Anderson circa 1901. Billed by chef and owner Tim Byres as an American gastropub, the restaurant is packed with ephemera, ranging from Presidential portraits and assorted animal mounts to vintage first aid kits, field guides, and etiquette books. Oh, and it's located in a mall, the NorthPark Center. But this is no food court. The Theodore manages to be simultaneously kooky and stately. A hearty lamb shank pie arrives with a bone extending from a bronzed tower of pastry dough. The throwback beef Wellington is wrapped in flaky puff pastry and stuffed with foie gras and mushroom duxelles. An in-house bread program, from the same folks behind Easy Tiger Bake Shop in Austin, lends itself to very respectable pizza. (Naturally the take-out boxes bear Bill Murray quotes.) For dessert, don't miss the charmingly retro baked Alaska, a meringue dome surrounded by pink grapefruit supremes and honeycomb and full of grapefruit ice cream.

25 of 25

Sam Jones BBQ: Winterville, NC

Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville, NC
Denny Culbert

In the world of barbecue, Sam Jones is hog royalty. This third-generation pitmaster, heir to the legendary Skylight Inn throne, just opened his own namesake joint about 8 miles down the road from the barbecue landmark his grandfather built (and where Jones earned his low-and-slow chops). At this expansive, wood-framed spot, where sepia-toned photos honor the men of the pit, Jones continues to smoke whole hog and serve pulled-pork sandwiches flecked with crisped skin just like his father and grandfather always have. But he's making his own mark. Notably, you can get a cold beer—a rarity at old-school houses of 'cue—like a draft Fullsteam, brewed in nearby Durham. And he has rounded out the menu, adding spareribs so perfectly cooked that they require an actual bite to pry them off the bone. His turkey, redolent with woodsmoke, arrives tender, juicy, and ready to prove it isn't just a holiday bird. This place even serves salads (available with any of the smoked meats, of course). Rooted in rich tradition, Sam Jones BBQ offers a model for the next generation of Southern barbecue. It's no hole-in-the-wall joint—and it doesn't need to be.

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