The South's Best Bar Food 2015
No. 1 Pickled Shrimp Edmund's Oast
The Pickled Shrimp at this reimagined beer hall (the room is more minimalist Scandinavian farmhouse than Irish pub) is the perfect complement to the menu's many craft beers. The shrimp are gently poached, then pickled in a delicate brine with quick-cured fennel, onion, and celery. The mixture is served on a slice of aïoli-slicked bread—more than rich enough to stand up to your pint.
It's only one of the many hits coming out of this kitchen. Just as the 40-tap beer program has become a beacon for brew lovers everywhere, chef Andy Henderson's menu, with dishes such as heritage pumpkin custard and chicken and Carolina Gold rice porridge, has prompted a reconsideration of what beer-friendly food is. A meal here proves that brews can be every bit as luxurious and elevated as wine.
1081 Morrison Drive, Charleston, SC; edmundsoast.com
No. 2 Sweet Potato Hummus The Sutler Saloon
Banish all thoughts of monochromatic hummus and pita. Chef Nick Seabergh supplants chickpeas with sweet potatoes as his hummus base, topping the dip with a pesto of walnuts and sage plus chunks of marinated Cotija cheese. Grilled fresh tortillas and pickled peppers accompany each jar of hummus.
2600 Franklin Pike, Nashville, TN; thesutler.com
No. 3 Lemongrass Fried Chicken Hotbox at Parkside Cafe
Head to the converted Airstream trailer parked in the bar's backyard, and order up the Lemongrass Fried Chicken. Forget the messy fingers and piles of napkins—the chicken is refreshingly easy to eat.
Marinated in lemongrass and coconut, with hints of lemon, garlic, and ginger, the bird is deep-fried tempura-style, then topped with jalapeño chile slices and drizzled in spicy aïoli and fresh cilantro flakes.
4036 Fifth Avenue South, Birmingham, AL; 205/224-5632
No. 4 Meatball Sub Sovereign Remedies
Chef James Albee blends local pork and dry-aged beef in-house, and then he seasons the meat with onions, garlic, chile, oregano, and parsley before stewing them in a rich tomato sauce and stuffing them into a hoagie roll. Aged provolone gilds the lily, adding a sharp, salty bite.
29 North Market Street, Asheville, NC; sovereignremedies.com
No. 5 Redneck Laundry Eat the Rich
This dish (a cheeky nod to The French Laundry, a fine-dining temple in California) alters the traditional components of a formal caviar service, making it a tad bit more fun.
Instead of toast points or blinis, potato chips—straight from the bag—act as the canvas on which to pile your choice of trout or lumpfish roe. Use the supplied wooden craft stick to doctor each bite with such toppings as minced red onion, diced hard-boiled egg with herbs, and sour cream. Caviar by the chip-full might seem like a violation of etiquette, but this snack is totally worth it.
1839 Seventh Street NW., Washington, DC; etrbar.com
No. 6 Navajo Fry Bread Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall
The bread from Atlanta's camping-themed restaurant will make you pine for the great outdoors. A flat piece of bread, fried until crispy, is dressed with thin slices of Benton's country ham and sprinkled with cilantro and a bit of black pepper. Honey drizzled all over the colorful dish adds a touch of sweetness to the savory snack. Ask for extra napkins.
As delicious as it is beautiful, the bread invites one question: Why isn't camp food more popular at bars?
No. 7 Smoked Oysters Julep
The food menu at bartender Alba Huerta's cocktail bar shines in a sea of late-night snacks. Chef Adam Garcia's auxiliary seafood preparations are not to be missed.
Take the smoked oysters: The Wellfleet bivalves are smoked in their shells over mesquite wood chips and then mixed with charred onion, pickles, and a coriander vinaigrette. Taste barbecue without heaviness—just a salty, smoky pop of flavor.
1919 Washington Avenue, Houston, TX; julephouston.com
No. 8 Crispy Rum Ribs Cane & Table
New Orleans, LA
Although rum is the bar's lodestar, only a few snacks use the spirit as an ingredient. Braised in ginger, garlic, El Dorado rum, and peppers, these pork ribs are then battered and deep-fried, creating a crispy shell around the tender meat.
1113 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA; caneandtablenola.com
No. 9 Artichoke Gratin The Alley Light
This dish is as rich and fortifying as any cut of meat, thanks to the addition of nutty, sharp Parmesan cheese and bacon. Want more of a meal? Check out the specials for the chef's interpretations of Gallic classics such as braised beef, duck confit, and escargot.
108 Second Street SW., Charlottesville, VA; alleylight.com
No. 10 Sliders The Apothecary
Most sliders are distinguished by nothing but their small size. But here they change seasonally and are as popular as the burgers next door at Brent's Drugs.
Cold-weather offerings include a crispy fried Gulf oyster slider (sandwiched between two small rounds of Texas toast) and a silver-dollar lamb patty (adorned with feta, shaved red onion, and roasted garlic mayonnaise).
655 Duling Avenue, Jackson, MS; apothecaryjackson.com