100 Best Restaurants in the South

Southern Living Deputy Editor—and intrepid restaurant scout—Jennifer V. Cole hit the road to determine the top 100 places to eat in the South now. The list highlights Jennifer's favorite restaurants for 2014, both new and old, in her most frequented towns. This list is always evolving, so follow @jennifervcole on Twitter for her latest stops.The South is filled with fantastic restaurants. From fine dining to barbecue joints, Delta tamales to soul food, Southern food is some of the most amazing in the country. Southern restaurants bring the best fresh, down home, local cuisine to diners across the South. The best Southern restaurants know that good food and great people make a fantastic meal. Here are our best Southern restaurants 2014. From Acre in Auburn, Alabama, to Woodbury Kitchen in Baltimore, Maryland, the editors of Southern Living bring you the (almost) A-to-Zof the best southern restaurants—plus a few hot numbers as well. The food is anything but ordinary at The Ordinary in Charleston, South Carolina, and you will feel like you are in charge at Commander's Palace in New Orleans. Take a table at any of these—they are some of the best Southern restaurants you will find.

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The 404 Kitchen, Nashville, TN

Cobia Crudo, The 404 Kitchen
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

What to Order: The CrudoChef Matt Bolus calls his brand of cooking fresh and uncomplicated, but there’s some cloaked modesty there. Everything about this industrial-chic 40-seater blends functionality, novelty, and a little “I’m with the band, but I’m not the rock star” attitude. In the Crudo, simple slices of cobia are dotted with pickled strawberries, pea tendrils, and Marcona almonds. For his Tomato Galette, Matt envelops lemony ricotta in a toasted cornmeal crust, and piles on heirloom tomatoesâ€"a twist on tomato pie without any pretension. Much like Nashville these days, it’s all familiarâ€"but new.404 12th Avenue South; the404nashville.com/kitchenRead more about The 404 Kitchen

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610 Magnolia, Louisville, KY

610 Magnolia Restaurant Louisville Kentucky
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

What To Order: Florida White Shrimp and Duck Meatball Pho.Chef Edward Lee’s flagship restaurant is Louisville’s most sought-after reservation in town. And each plate showcases his ability to combine bold personality (something he’s developed a deserved reputation for) and the best of the seasons with a global perspective on Southern traditions. Go for this twist on traditional pho, with butter-and-fish-sauce poached shrimp and spiced duck meatballs bobbing in a rich broth of chicken, duck, and beef bones scented with burnt ginger, toasted coriander, cloves, and star anise. Sriracha gelee takes the place of the noodles. And it all mingles with fresh Thai basil, cilantro puree, and chili oil.610 West Magnolia Avenue; 610magnolia.com

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Acre, Auburn, AL

Acre Restaurant Auburn Alabama
Photo: Stephen DeVries

What To Order: Acre Shrimp & Grits.The menu at this gem of a find on The Plains changes almost daily, producing an ever-revolving roster of highlights from chef David Bancroft. This past summer, the Cast Iron Hereford Ribeye for Two was a stunner, with pecan-smoked crackling butter, sweet creamed corn, and fried okra. One near-constant dish is the shrimp and grits, which features sweet shrimp with deep fried Gouda grits, arugula, pickled red onion, and lemon butter.210 East Glenn Avenue; acreauburn.com

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Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Memphis, TN

Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Memphis, TN
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

What to Order: No Menu Monday. On the last Monday of every month, Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman go totally off script and create a multi-course $45 prix fixe menu. The theme changes each time, from a porcine ode to an all-vegetable rundown. No Menu also means diners aren’t told what they are eating when dishes arrive at the table, making each course a food lover’s guessing game: is that rhubarb in the ketchup? Black pepper and honey in the gelato? At the end, handwritten menus are passed out to decode the experience.712 West Brookhaven Circle; andrewmichaelitaliankitchen.com

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Bacchanalia, Atlanta, GA

Bacchanalia Restaurant Atlanta Georgia
Photo: Courtesy of Bacchanalia

What To Order: The five-course Prix Fixe menu ($85).After more than 20 years in business, chef Anne Quatranno’s flagship restaurant still sets the bar for hospitality. The five-course tasting menu gracefully highlights the flavors of the South through dishes such as North Georgia rainbow trout, with fennel from Anne’s own farm, brown butter, and almonds, or beautiful white shrimp from the Georgia coast with pork belly, romesco, and basil. I’m always smitten with the cheese course, with its selection of Southern standouts, such as Many Fold Farm “Brebis” and Sequatchie Cove “Dancing Fern.”1198 Howell Mill Road, NW; starprovisions.com/bacchanalia

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The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN

The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN
Beall + Thomas Photography

What to Order: Rainbow Trout with Buttermilk Consommé and Watercress1471 West Millers Cove Road; blackberryfarm.com

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Cakes & Ale, Decatur, GA

Cakes & Ale, Decatur, GA
Photo: Courtesy of Cakes & Ale

What to Order: Lamb Saddle. Chef Billy Allin, who really shines through his inventive work with produce and great meats, isn’t afraid to play around with flavors. The Middle Eastern-inspired saddle of lamb (big enough for two), served with cracked wheat, cucumber, and minted yogurt, manages to portray a global perspective without sacrificing his Southern sensibility.155 Sycamore Street; cakesandalerestaurant.com

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Capitol Grille, Nashville, TN

Capitol Grille Restaurant Nashville Tennessee
Photo: Courtesy Capitol Grille

What To Order: Anything from Double H Farms.A few years back, chef Tyler Brown put his money where his mouth is and, well, bought the farm. A 245-acre farm in Dickson County, Tennessee, approximately 30 minutes west of downtown Nashville. Okay, technically, he didn’t. The money men behind The Hermitage Hotel did. But Tyler wears his farmer hat about as often as he wears his chef whites. As a result, the menu is stacked with the fruits of his (and his team’s) labor, including roasted and pickled beets, burgers of Double H Farms beef, and succotash. 231 Sixth Avenue North; capitolgrillenashville.com

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Casa Rubia at Trinity Groves, Dallas, TX

Casa Rubia Restaurant Dallas Texas
Photo: Jerry McClure

What To Order: Boquerones, a simple preparation of anchovies, pipérade, quail egg, and olive oil. Or try the Setas, an elegant display of maitake mushrooms with smoked pear butter, a farm egg, Manchego, and fresh herbs.3011 Gulden Lane; casarubiadallas.com

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Catbird Seat Restaurant Nashville Tennessee

Catbird Seat Restaurant Nashville Tennessee
Photo: Lisa Han

What To Order: 7-to-11-Course Tasting Menu.This is dinner theater, plain and simple. In an austerely white dining space, chef Trevor Moran delivers immaculate courses to diners at a U-shaped counter surrounding the open kitchen. With only 32 positions, the Catbird Seat is a hard table to snag. (New spots open each day for reservations 30 days out.) But for modernist cooking with real personality, there’s nothing like it.1711 Division Street, thecatbirdseatrestaurant.com

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CBD Provisions, Dallas, TX

CBD Provisions Restaurant Dallas Texas
Photo: Courtesy Mei-Chun Jau/CBD Provisions

What To Order: Berkshire Pig Head Carnitas.At this meat-centric, Texas-style brasserie, you can’t go wrong with the roasted pig head. It arrives at the tableâ€"snout, ears, and allâ€"crisp and fatty atop a wooden plank. For anyone who loves a proper pig pickin’, this is your tableside porcine dream. Wrap the rich and smoky meat in fresh tortillas, pile on crunchy bits of skin, and top with radishes and roasted tomatillo salsa. Plan to come with friendsâ€"this dish is meant to be shared.1530 Main Street; cbdprovisions.com

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Chef & The Farmer, Kinston, NC

Chef Farmer Kinston Restaurant North Carolina
Photo: Courtesy Melanie Mansfield/Chef & The Farmer

What To Order: Tomato Pie.Chef Vivian Howard, perhaps best known for her PBS show A Chef’s Life, treats Southern staples with reverence, curiosity, and finesse. Her tomato pie, a vision of seasonal greatness, comes with charred vegetables, sweet corn, and a basil vinaigrette. Her fried collards are genius in their simplicity: flash fried and sprinkled with sea salt. You get the essence of collard in a single wispy bite.120 West Gordon Street; chefandthefarmer.com

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Chez Fonfon, Birmingham, AL

Chez Fonfon Restaurant Birmingham Alabama
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

What To Order: Steak Frites or Trout Amandine.Chef Frank Stitt’s French bistro, with a boules court out back, ranks as my favorite hometown drop-in spot. I like to grab a seat at the bar, order the steak frites (a fork-tender study in perfection) or the trout amandine in brown butter (crisp and tangy, bistro fare at its best), get a carafe of wine, and catch up on my own thoughts (and my Instagram feed). If I’m really indulging, I add in a slice of the 7-layer coconut cake, encased in fresh coconut shavings and dressed with crème anglaise.2007 11th Avenue South; fonfonbham.com

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Chez Nous, Charleston, SC

Chez Nous Restaurant Charleston South Carolina
Photo: Courtesy Chez Nous

What To Order: Whatever is on the Menu du Jour.This hideaway of a restaurant, tucked in a quiet residential strip downtown, offers two appetizer, entrée, and dessert options each day. When I was there, the tidy radish salad, crisp and peppery, gave way to rosy wild salmon atop a satiny pool of melted leeks, and finished with classic profiterols. As I sat downstairs in the compact restored house, glass of rosé in hand, with light streaming through the open windows, I might as well have been in a bistro in the south of France. 6 Payne Court; facebook.com/cheznouscharleston

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Cinco Y Diez, Athens, GA

Cinco y Diez Restaurant Athens Georgia
Photo: Courtesy Cynco y Diez

What To Order: Grilled Chesapeake Oysters with mezcal lime butter, and the Red Chile Pozole.Influences from France to western Africa have long informed how Southerners eat. Today, it’s Vietnam and Latin America that are most shaping the modern South. At Cinco y Diez, chef/owner Hugh Acheson, an outspoken proponent of the all-inclusive table, highlights the vibrant Latin traditions through a soft-focus Southern lens. And executive chef Whitney Otawka transforms the Southern pantry into a fiery amalgamation of cross-cultural flavors. Oysters from Chesapeake waters sizzle with tangy mezcal lime butter. In the pozole, chunks of silken pork bathe in a red chile broth with Anson Mills hominy, escarole, and fresh radish slices.1653 South Lumpkin Street; cincoydiezathens.comRead more about Cinco Y Diez

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City House, Nashville, TN

City House, Nashville, TN
Photo: Andrea Behrends

What to Order: Belly Ham Pizza. Tandy Wilson gets a lot of credit for giving Nashville its current reputation as a food town. His inventive antipasti (bresaola with blueberries and pecorino; scrapple with pepper sauce), fresh pastas, and brilliant cocktail list (e.g., the Junior, a mix of moonshine, créme de violette, and Dr. Enuf soda) puts a progressive twist on Tennessee staples. The Belly Ham pizza, a simple showcase of house-cured ham with mozzarella, Grana Padano, oregano, and chile flakes, blows my mind every time.1222 Fourth Avenue North; cityhousenashville.com

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Cochon, New Orleans, LA

Cochon, New Orleans, LA
Photo: Chris Granger

What to Order: Fried Livers with Pepper Jelly and Toast. Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski, revered as Louisiana’s pork kings, buy whole hogs and make use of every part they can. They’ve built a cult following around hogshead cheese, cracklins, trotters, fried pigs' ears, and every type of sausage possible. And I love it all. But I swoon for the fried livers. Sometimes chicken, sometimes rabbit, the rich and nutty nuggets come perched on toast, swathed in pepper jelly, and finished with shaved onion, fresh parsley, and mint.930 Tchoupitoulas Street; cochonrestaurant.com

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Comfort, Richmond, VA

Comfort Restaurant Richmond Virginia
Photo: Courtesy Comfort

What To Order: Cheerwine Vinegar Pie with Corn Cob Jelly Cream.At a place called Comfort, you expect a certain type of food: Pork chops, veggie plates, fried green tomatoes. And the restaurant does all of those exceptionally well. But it’s the Cheerwine twist on vinegar pie, a traditional Appalachian dessert, that still has me hollering. Add in a dollop of corn cob jelly cream and a two-fingered pour of George T. Stagg whiskeyâ€"it’s the best way to end a night in Virginia.200 West Broad Street; comfortrva.com

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Commander's Palace, New Orleans, LA

Commander’s Palace Restaurant New Orleans Louisiana
Photo: Courtesy of Commander's Palace

What To Order: Oyster & Absinthe “Dome.”Tory McPhail, 2013 winner of the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: South, doesn’t shy away from tradition. But he has decidedly put his own mark on the menu of this NOLA institution. For example, try the bourbon-braised fig-and-foie gras beignets with a chicory coffee mist. The rich Oyster & Absinthe “Dome,” a medley of Gulf bivalves poached with bacon, artichokes, tarragon, absinthe, and cream under a pastry shell, masterfully combines the Crescent City tradition of fresh seafood and the town’s delicious cocktail history.1403 Washington Avenue; commanderspalace.com

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Coquette, New Orleans, LA

Coquette, New Orleans, LA
Photo: Sara Essex Bradley

What to Order: Speckled Trout.Michael Stoltzfus’s menu changes regularly, including the $23 prix fixe lunch (possibly the best deal in town). But on one visit, I fell hard for the speckled trout served with burst cherry tomatoes, perfectly cooked pattypan squash, and a fluttering of Brussels sprouts leaves, finished with delicate satsuma butter.2800 Magazine Street; coquettenola.com

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Crook's Corner, Chapel Hill, NC

Crook’s Corner, Chapel Hill, NC
Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

What to Order: Atlantic Beach Pie. Chef Bill Smith honorably carries the torch for this beloved destination restaurant, where he and his team continue to be the standard bearers for classics such as shrimp and grits and Hoppin' John, and have arguably influenced just about every kitchen in the South. But it's the Atlantic Beach Pie that causes eyes to roll back in heads each and every time. With its saltine cracker crust and lemony sweetened condensed milk filling, this throwback dessert borders on tacky in that made-every-year-by-Aunt Sue-for-the-family-reunion kind of way. Nothing short of delightful.610 West Franklin Street.; crookscorner.comNote: Get the recipe for Crook's Corners phenomenal Shrimp and Grits.

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Cúrate, Asheville, NC

Curate Restaurant Asheville North Carolina
Robbie Caponetto

What To Order: Pulpo a la Gallega.At Katie Button’s Spanish tapas-style restaurant, this Galician-style octopus, cut in medallions that are tender as a butterbean, arrives warm with sea salt, olive oil, Spanish paprika, and a puree of Yukon Gold potatoes.11 Biltmore Avenue; curatetapasbar.com

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Cypress, Charleston, SC

Cypress Restaurant Charleston South Carolina
Peter Frank Edwards

What To Order: Artisan Meat board.Craig Deihl is hands down the best in the Southâ€"possibly the countryâ€"at curing meats. If you don’t eat another thing at Cypress, stop by to stuff your gullet with salumi and charcuterie: rosy Crespone salami with pockets of silken fat, mortadella studded with peppercorns and pistachios, marbled bresaola, Ossabaw hog lardo, fennel-flecked spreadable salami, spicy ’nduja, and on and on. Splurge for the Motherboard ($42), which gets you a little sample of most everything Craig has in stock. It’s worth it, even if you develop a case of the meat sweats. Trust me.167 East Bay Street; magnolias-blossom-cypress.com

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Delta Bistro, Greenwood, MS

Delta Bistro, Greenwood, MS
Photo: Gary Clark

What to Order: Fried Green Tomato Plate. Taylor Bowen Ricketts certainly doesn’t bow to cliché, but her rendition of this Southern classic, served with comeback sauce (a tangy Mississippi staple akin to rémoulade), reminds you why folks across the nation rightfully associate fried green tomatoes with the South.117 Main Street; deltabistro.com

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Domenica, New Orleans, LA

Domenica Restaurant New Orleans Louisiana
Photo: Rush Jagoe

What To Order: Roasted Cauliflower.Alon Shaya, one of the Crescent City’s golden boys, produces some serious pies at Domenica, from a classic Margherita to the Roasted Carrot pizza, with goat cheese, red onion, Brussels sprouts, beets, and hazelnuts. But it’s the surprisingly decadent whole roasted cauliflower with whipped goat cheese and sea salt that’s garnered something of a cult following among food lovers in New Orleans and beyond.123 Baronne Street; domenicarestaurant.com

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Edmund's Oast, Charleston, SC

Edmunds Oast Restaurant Charleston South Carolina
Photo: Courtesy Chrys Rynearson/Edmund's Oast

What To Order: Carolina Gold Rice Heritage Chicken Porridge.I like to think of Edmund’s Oast as a stylish gastropub with righteous charcuterie. But that almost undersells it. The craft beer program is unparalleled in South Carolina, with some 40-odd beers on tap, including a handful made in-house, and over 30 bottled options. The cocktail program is relentlessly ambitious. And dishes like the buttermilk fried wings, the pickled shrimp on rye bread, and the roasted-and-smoked chicken with cornbread pudding demonstrate the kitchen’s finesse with classic grub. But it’s the outliersâ€"creamy spiced turnip custard, lemony chicken porridge with poached shrimp, braised lamb meatballs with apricotsâ€"that make me want to return.1081 Morrison Drive; edmundsoast.com

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El Barrio Restaurante Y Bar, Birmingham, AL

El Barrio Restaurante Y Bar, Birmingham, AL
Photo: Bradford Daly

What to Order: Grilled Chorizo Meatloaf. Under the guidance of Brian Somershield, a Frank Stitt acolyte, this kitchen turns out thoughtful interpretations of modern Mexican fare, such as the grilled meatloaf, made with a robust chorizo, served atop Cotija cheese-mashed potatoes, and crowned with ranchero, a piquant tomato-based sauce spiced with chiles.2211 Second Avenue North; elbarriobirmingham.com

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Empire State South, Atlanta, GA

Empire State South Restaurant Atlanta Georgia
Photo: Andrew Thomas Lee

What To Order: Fried Chicken Po-Boy with hot sauce and pimiento cheese. Or the Grassroots Chicken with hoe cakes, spaghetti squash, okra, and sorghum.999 Peachtree Street NE., Suite 140; empirestatesouth.com

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Fearing's Restaurant, Dallas, TX

Fearings Restaurant Dallas Texas
Photo: Courtesy Dave Carlin/Fearing's

What To Order: Dean’s Tortilla Soup and Dr. Pepper Braised Short Ribs.2121 McKinney Avenue; fearingsrestaurant.com

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The Fearrington House Restaurant, Pittsboro, NC

Fearrington House Restaurant Pittsboro North Carolina
Photo: Joshua Carpenter

What To Order: The three- ($95) or four-course ($105) tasting menu.At this rural North Carolina inn, reminiscent of a French or English farmhouse, the menu echoes the pastoral sophistication of the overall estate. For example, a tomato salad might come adorned with lemon pickled watermelon and a parsley financier. Chicken and sweet corn ravioli mingles with chanterelles, cucumbers, and fresh lima beans. It’s a winning example of farmhouse chic.240 Market Street; fearrington.com

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F.I.G., Charleston, SC

Fig Restaurant Charleston South Carolina
Photo: Courtesy Andrew Cebulka/FIG

What To Order: Ricotta Gnocchi & Sea Island Grass-Fed Beef Bolognese.Jason Stanhope has taken the kitchen reins from Mike Lata, a Charleston culinary icon and James Beard Award winnerâ€"and he’s doing him proud. F.I.G., a spot known for food cooked with technical precision and fueled by excellent ingredients served at their peak, remains a must-visit in Charleston. Often, when I’m in town, I’ll pop into the bar area for a nightcap of the ricotta gnocchiâ€"affectionately referred to as pillows of loveâ€"even if I’ve already eaten dinner elsewhere. It’s that good.232 Meeting Street; eatatfig.com

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Fiola Mare, Washington, D.C.

Fiola Mare Restaurant Washington DC
Photo: Courtesy Greg Powers Photography

What To Order: Frutti di Mare platter or Tempura Fried Soft-Shell Crab with basil pesto, blood orange, and trout roe.3100 K Street NW.; fiolamaredc.com

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Fisher's Upstairs, Orange Beach, AL

Fishers Upstairs Restaurant Orange Beach Alabama
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

What To Order: Oysters Earle.Even with a bounty of seafood around, it’s often hard to find a great meal at the beach that’s not fried. Fisher’s Upstairs has changed all that in Orange Beach, Alabama. Start any meal with the Oysters Earle, a beautiful platter of oysters from nearby Bon Secour that have been roasted and topped with leek garlic butter.Orange Beach Marina, 27075 Marina Road; fishersobm.com

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Five & Ten, Athens, GA

Five Ten Restaurant Athens Georgia
Photo: Hugh Acheson

What To Order: Boiled Peanut Hummus to start, followed by Lowcountry Frogmore Stew, a beautiful preparation of the coastal classic with shrimp, potatoes, corn, andouille sausage, and tomato broth, served with grilled bread.1073 South Milledge Avenue; fiveandten.com

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The French Press, Lafayette, LA

French Press Restaurant in Lafayette, Louisiana
Rush Jagoe

What To Order: Sweet Baby Breesus.Justin Girouard has become the de facto face of modern food in Cajun country. With this dishâ€"named with a nod to Saints QB Drew Breesâ€"a buttermilk biscuit slider with bacon, fried boudin balls, and Steen’s cane syrup from Abbeville, Justin delivers food with a real sense of place.214 East Vermilion Street; thefrenchpresslafayette.com

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Gautreau's Restaurant New Orleans Louisiana

Gautreau's Restaurant New Orleans Louisiana
Photo: Instagram, mauxfo

What To Order: Crispy Sweetbreads with Crawfish Tails served with brabant potatoes, braised greens, and spicy beurre blanc.1728 Soniat Street; gautreausrestaurant.com

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The General Muir, Atlanta, GA

General Muir Restaurant Atlanta Georgia
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

What To Order: Pastrami Sandwich.Emory Point, 1540 Avenue Place, Suite B-230; thegeneralmuir.com

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Gunshow, Atlanta, GA

Gunshow Restaurant Atlanta Georgia
Photo: Courtesy Angie Mosier/Gunshow

What To Order: Whatever looks best.With Kevin Gillespie’s dim sum approach to dining, dishes are paraded by your table and described in detail. Acquiesce and dive in, or send it on its way. The menu’s theme changes weekly, guaranteeing you’ll never have the same meal there twice.924 Garrett Street; gunshowatl.com

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Heritage, Richmond VA

Heritage Restaurant Richmond Virginia
Photo: Courtesy Kieran Wagner Photography/Heritage

What To Order: House-made Charcuterie, and the Bourbon Barrel Smoked Pork Belly with kimchi, bok choy, carrots, peanuts, and ginger.1627 West Main Street; heritagerva.com

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Highlands Bar and Grill, Birmingham, AL

Highlands Bar and Grill, Birmingham, AL
Christopher Hirsheimer

What to Order: Stone-Ground Baked Grits with country ham, mushrooms, fresh thyme, and Parmesan2011 11th Avenue South; highlandsbarandgrill.com

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The Hive, Bentonville, AR

Hive Restaurant Bentonville Arkansas
Photo: Courtesy Magnus Lindqvist/The Hive

What To Order: Arkansas Trail Mix.Chef Matthew McClure is a champ in the kitchen. And you’ll often hear about his finesse with the Southern larder: grilled quail with roasted peaches and buckwheat, Gulf shrimp with green tomato chowchow and pole beans. But I’m a little obsessed with the Arkansas Trail Mix, his take on a bar snack, which combines spiced-and-fried black-eyed peas, candied pecans, candied black walnuts, toasted soybeans, and cheese straws.200 NE. A Street; thehivebentonville.com

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Hog & Hominy, Memphis, TN

Hog and Hominy Restaurant Memphis Tennessee
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

What To Order: Red Eye Pizza.Simple yet decadent, this pizza arrives piled with chunks of pork belly around a soft-cooked egg on sugo (a tomato-pork sauce) and Taleggio cheese with fragrant celery leaves scattered like confetti. But you really can’t go wrong with any of the menu: wood-fired pizzas, drippingly messy neckbone gravy poutine (fries studded with cheese curd), and earthy cauliflower roasted with brown butter. Even a simple romaine salad feels like an indulgence with its rich pecorino vinaigrette and generous scattering of fried chicken skins instead of croutons. At this unlikely East Memphis spotâ€"all airy and modern, like Ikea with country-boy swaggerâ€"Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman demonstrate their low-key prowess of merging classic technique and pitch-perfect ingredients. They continually prove that a glorious meal has nothing to do with a tufted dining room and a hefty tab.707 West Brookhaven Circle; hogandhominy.com

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Hominy Grill, Charleston, SC

Hominy Grill Restaurant Charleston South Carolina
Photo: Courtesy Squire Fox/Hominy Grill

What To Order: Shrimp & Grits.207 Rutledge Avenue; hominygrill.com

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Hot and Hot Fish Club, Birmingham, AL

Hot and Hot Fish Club, Birmingham, AL
Photo: Bonjwing Lee

What to Order: Hot and Hot Tomato Salad. This namesake salad, a wobbly tower of fresh heirloom tomatoes, bacon, and fried okra pods atop a pile of field peas, epitomizes Chris Hastings' efforts to showcase Alabama’s bounty: grown, caught, or foraged.2180 11th Court South; hotandhotfishclub.com

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Husk, Charleston, SC, and Nashville, TN

Husk Restaurant Nashville Tennessee Charleston South Carolina
Photo: Courtesy Neighborhood Dining Group

What To Order: Fried Chicken Skins with hot sauce, honey, and Espelette; The Husk Burger, quite possibly the finest example of a hamburger in the South; and a side of skillet cornbread with Allan Benton’s bacon. Oh, and the veggie plate. And the fried chicken if they’ve got it on special. Honestly, this is the perfect opportunity to #ordereverything.76 Queen Street, Charleston; huskrestaurant.com37 Rutledge Street, Nashville; husknashville.com

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Jaleo, Washington, D.C.

Jaleo, Washington, D.C.
Photo: Greg Powers

What to Order: Pan De Recapte Con Anchoa, traditional Catalan toasted bread with peppers, tomatoes, and salt-cured Spanish anchovies480 Seventh Street Northwest; jaleo.com

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Kimball House, Decatur, GA

Kimball House Restaurant Decateur Georgia
Robbie Caponetto, Styling: Celine Russell/Zenobia

What To Order: Oysters and absinthe-based cocktails.I’ve yet to see another spot in the South with such a thoughtfulâ€"and joyfulâ€"oyster program. The menu lists, give or take, 22 oyster varieties, most sourced from small family farms and flown in daily, with the kinds of tasting notes more frequently reserved for wine lists. The Chelsea Gems from Eld Inlet, Washington, are likened to “anise and buttered truffle”; the Northern Cross from Fisherman’s Island, Virginia, “salted parsnip and green onion.” And local bar hero Miles Macquarrie wields his magic wand with drinks like the Afternoon Delight, a heady yet refreshing mix of absinthe, lime, pineapple, tarragon, and bubbles.303 East Howard Avenue; kimball-house.comRead more about Kimball House

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Knife & Fork, Spruce Pine, NC

Knife and Fork Restaurant Spruce Pine North Carolina
Photo: Gary Clark

What To Order: Turnips with Kettle Corn and Gjetost, a rich, caramelized cheese.Chef Nathan Allen brings the flavors of North Carolina to the table in smart, inventive ways at this casual Appalachian eatery. Find things like local rabbit, trout belly with radishes and wood sorrel, and sumac roasted cauliflower.61 Locust Street; knifeandforknc.com

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Komi, Washington, D.C.

Komi, Washington, D.C.
Photo: Scott Suchman

What to Order: Multi-course Tasting Menu ($135). Lest you think fine dining is dead (there’s no denying that casual restaurants have experienced a major resurgence), just pay a visit to Komi, an homage to modern Greek fare. With its bare tables and youthful staff, it might not appear like the white-tableclothed temples of yore. But pay attention and you’ll see that the service is exquisite (the staff moves with graceful ease without acting overly familiar), the wine list is full of interesting bottles (and the young sommelier can speak to the qualities of all of them), and the food arrives with orchestrated precision. And each bite (after beautiful bite) tastes like your new favorite dish. That is, until the next dish arrives.1509 17th Street Northwest; komirestaurant.com

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Lantern, Chapel Hill, NC

Lantern, Chapel Hill, NC
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

What to Order: Seafood Hotpot with lobster dumplings, wild shrimp, blue crab, Bogue Sound clams, spring rain noodles, fresh lime leaf, and pea greens in a shellfish broth423 West Franklin Street; lanternrestaurant.com

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La Petite Grocery, New Orleans, LA

La Petite Grocery New Orleans Louisiana
Photo: Courtesy Chris Granger/Polished Pig Media

What To Order: Blue Crab Beignets with malt vinegar aioli, and the Turtle Bolognaise.4238 Magazine Street; lapetitegrocery.com

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Little Serow, Washington, D.C.

Little Serow, Washington, D.C.
Dakota Fine

What to Order: $45 Prix Fixe Menu. Johnny Monis’ jewel box of a restaurant delivers fiery Thai flavors that tend to just get hotter with each of the seven courses. They don’t take reservations, so get there early (by 5 p.m.) and expect to wait in lineâ€"it can stretch down the block.1511 17th Street Northwest; littleserow.com

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Lockeland Table, Nashville, TN

Lockeland Table, Nashville, TN
Photo: Stephanie Granada

What to Order: Sapelo Island Clams Casino Pizza1520 Woodland Street; lockelandtable.com

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The Macintosh, Charleston, SC

The Macintosh, Charleston, SC
Photo: Instagram, @bambou34

What to Order: Bone Marrow Bread Pudding479B King Street; themacintoshcharleston.com

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Mateo Tapas, Durham, NC

Mateo Tapas, Durham, NC
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

What to Order: Huevo Diablo. At this Spanish-inspired cantina, in the heart of downtown Durham’s revival, Matt Kelly masterfully blends the flavors of the South and Spain. His Huevo Diablo (deviled egg) arrives neatly halved, wrapped in chorizo, and piled high with a satiny egg filling, the seeming culinary offspring of a demure Southern mama and a swarthy Spanish father. But don’t stop there. Put simply, Matt’s food is mind-blowingly good. Bowls of Manila clams and boiled peanuts surrender to a sherry-laced, garlicky broth. Meaty pork ribs, lacquered in Espellette pepper jelly, seem just the thing you’d eat at a barbecue joint in Basque Country. Luckily, his tapas-style menu encourages sharing.109 West Chapel Hill Street; mateotapas.com

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McCrady's, Charleston, SC

McGrady's Restaurant Charleston South Carolina
Photo: Jennifer Davick

What To Order: The four-course Prix Fixe menu ($65).Chef Sean Brock has made a name for himself for his thoughtful, inventive, do-it-right-or-don’t-do-it-at-all attitude and his commitment to the heritage of the Southern pantry. At McCrady’s, his fine-dining flagship, that ethos comes through in every beautifulâ€"but never preciousâ€"bite. From the beef tartare with puffed beef tendon to the Berkshire pork decorated with corn, cherries, and chanterelles to the frozen grits parfait, eating at McCrady’s is like getting a glimpse behind the curtain at the genius who’s pulling the levers of contemporary Southern food.2 Unity Alley; mccradysrestaurant.com

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Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Miami, FL

Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Miami, FL
Photo: Pascal Pernix

What to Order: Crispy Sweet and Spicy Pork Belly. Chef Michael Schwartz is a Miami revolutionary. And the food at his flagship restaurant, opened in 2007, is so memorable I have inflicted serious travel hurdles on myself simply to eat there. No joke. I have regularly planned Miami layovers just long enough to grab a quick bite (yes, that means an unnecessary trip through MIA security). Once, en route from Key West to Naples, I drove 40 minutes out of my way at 10 p.m., in a blustering thunderstorm, to catch the kitchen before it closed. And that pork belly is a dish I catch myself going back to over and over again. Beautifully glazed, topped with kimchi, crushed peanuts, and fresh pea shoots, it perfectly balances sweet and savory, crispy and unctuous, fresh and fermented.130 Northeast 40th Street; michaelsgenuine.com

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MilkWood, Louisville, KY

MilkWood, Louisville, KY
Photo: Dan Dry

What to Order: Miso Smothered Chicken or Organic Pork Burger. At chef Edward Lee's newest restaurant, located inside Louisville's Actors Theatre, he thoughtfully layers the Korean flavors of his childhood with his reverence of Southern food. His take on traditional smothered chicken, served with buttery Carolina rice, gets added depth from miso. His four-napkin pork burger comes piled with kimchi and cracklins.316 West Main Street; actorstheatre.org/milkwood

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Miller Union, Atlanta, GA

Miller Union, Atlanta, GA
Photo: Art Meripol

What to Order: Seasonal Vegetable Plate or Country Captain.999 Brady Avenue; millerunion.com

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The Obstinate Daughter, Sullivan's Island, SC

Lowcountry Shrimp Roll at The Obstinate Daughter
Photo: Andrew Cebulka/South City PR

What To Order: Favas and Peas or Mepkin Abbey MushroomsThough the wood-fired pizzas and pastas conjure Italy, Jacques Larson relies mightily on the flavors of the Lowcountry. Under the Plates section, Jacques’ command of flavor as sense of place shines. Oyster mushrooms from the nearby Mepkin Abbey join earthy kale and a runny Sea Island egg under shards of Parmesan. Favas and peas sit atop ricotta made with milk from John’s Island, accented with sea salt from nearby Bulls Bay.2063 Middle Street; theobstinatedaughter.comRead more about The Obstinate Daughter

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Odd Duck, Austin, TX

Odd Duck Restaurant Austin Texas
Photo: Courtesy Jody Horton/Odd Duck

What To Order: Carrots Roasted in Hay with goat feta and pistachio crumb.1201 South Lamar Boulevard; oddduckaustin.com

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Ollie Irene, Mountain Brook, AL

Ollie Irene Restaurant Mountain Brook Alabama
Photo: Andrew Thomas Lee

What To Order: Cornmeal-dusted catfish, sautéed with corn, Cajun ham, lemon butter, and scallions.2713 Culver Road, ollieirene.com

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One Flew South, Atlanta, GA

One Flew South Restaurant Atlanta Georgia
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

What To Order: Pulled Duck Sandwich.One Flew South is a unicorn among restaurants: It makes me want to spend more time in the Atlanta airport. Whenever I have a layover, I make a beeline to Concourse E, snag a seat at the bar, and order the Pulled Duck Sandwich. Within the layers of duck confit, fig-and-peanut relish, scallions, and slaw, the fat and spice dance with a medley of textures. It’s the perfect sandwich. And it’s in an airport. Pair it with a Pretty Brown Eyes cocktail (Eagle Rare bourbon, benedictine, lemon, and a Malbec float) or whatever bartender Tiffanie Barriere is pouring.Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Concourse E; oneflewsouthatl.com

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The Optimist, Atlanta, GA

Optimist Restaurant Atlanta Georgia
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

What To Order: Shell on Georgia Shrimp a la Plancha, with arbol chile butter, lime, and “sopping” toast.At The Optimist, it’s a fish lover’s smorgasbord, and chef Adam Evans works magic with seafood, routinely turning out one exquisite, finger-licking dish after another.914 Howell Mill Road; theoptimistrestaurant.com

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The Ordinary, Charleston, SC

The Ordinary, Charleston, SC
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

What to Order: Oyster Sliders. At chef Mike Lata’s high temple of Neptune’s bounty, these sliders are the perfect spicy-sweet, crispy, tender combo: fried oysters are tucked inside Hawaiian rolls, topped with cabbage, pickled carrots, homemade Sriracha hot sauce, cilantro, and jalapenos.544 King Street; eattheordinary.com

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Oxheart, Houston, TX

Oxheart, Houston, TX
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

What to Order: Tasting Menu. Justin Yu’s Houston hot spot is a champion of casual dining. Guests retrieve their own silverware and cooks double as waitstaff. But his tasting menus inspire. He has elicited tears of rapture with his deceptively simple beet salad, dressed with lemon blossom vinegar, quinoa, and almonds.1302 Nance Street; oxhearthouston.com

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Pêche Seafood Grill, New Orleans, LA

Peche Seafood Grill Restaurant New Orleans Louisiana
Photo: Courtesy Chris Granger

What To Order: Whole Grilled Fish.The latest project from the team behind Cochon and Herbsaint (Donald Link, Stephen Stryjewski, and Ryan Prewitt), this open-fire emporium in the New Orleans Warehouse District was inspired by a trip to Uruguay, where every restaurant, farmhouse, and even rest stop seems to have a wood-burning parrilla.800 Magazine Street; pecherestaurant.com

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Peter Chang China Café, Glen Allen, VA

Peter Chang China Cafe Glen Allen Virginia
Photo: Squire Fox

What To Order: Scallion Bubble Pancake and Szechuan Dan Dan Noodle. 11424 West Broad Street; peterchangrva.com

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Pinewood Social, Nashville, TN

Pinewood Social Restaurant Nashville Tennessee
Photo: Steven Devries

What To Order: Fried Broccoli, and Hot Sweetbreads.When Pinewood Social opened in 2013, it quickly became Nashville’s de facto clubhouse. The coffee shop/craft cocktail bar/restaurant/vintage-style bowling alley/karaoke lounge offers a stylish spot to post up all day long (7 a.m. to 1 a.m.). Chef Josh Habiger, formerly of The Catbird Seat, delivers a decidedly Nashville take on comfort food, with dishes like fried nuggets of tender sweetbreads served Hot Chicken-style. Or bites of broccoli, fried without any breading and sprinkled with lemon zest and sea salt. No matter the time of day, there’s a cocktail for the occasion. The Easy Like Sunday Morning, a coffee cortado with Fernet Branca and demerara sugar, might be the best eye opener around. 33 Peabody Street; pinewoodsocial.com

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Poole's Diner, Raleigh, NC

Poole's Diner Restaurant Raleigh North Carolina
Photo: Jennifer Davick

What To Order: Chilled Poached Shrimp with Smoked Tomato.Two years ago at the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) annual symposium, Ashley Christensen cooked the ballsiest meal ever: an all-vegetable lunch at a barbecue-themed weekend. It was so good that when she emerged from the kitchen she received a standing ovation, and I saw grown men silently weep. This Poole’s dish channels a highlight of that meal (smoked tomato pie with corn cream). Ashley tosses chilled poached shrimp with rich tomatoes that have been smoked over embers, then crowns it all withâ€"the best partâ€"whipped cream made from sweet corn. That whipped corn cream is the stuff of dreams. At SFA I professed my love immediately, and my tablemate, ESPN writer Wright Thompson, offered to perform on-the-fly nuptials.426 South McDowell Street; ac-restaurants.com/pooles

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Proof on Main, Louisville, KY

Proof on Main, Louisville, KY
Photo: Courtesy of Proof on Main

What to Order: Broadbent Country Ham Falafel.702 West Main Street; proofonmain.com

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Provisions, Houston, TX

Provisions, Houston, TX
Photo: Ralph Smith

What to Order: Cresta di Gallo pasta with Hen of the Woods mushrooms, roasted yeast, and Parmesan807 Taft Street; passandprovisions.com

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Qui, Austin, TX

Qui Restaurant Austin Texas
Photo: Jody Horton

What To Order: Tasting Menu ($65) or Vegetable Tasting Menu ($55).Chef Paul Qui, of Top Chef fame and the man behind Austin’s food truck darling, East Side King, has taken his inventive à la carte menu and replaced it with a seven-course prix fixe offering. No more picking and choosing between the Ode to Michel Bras (a showcase of vegetables from area farmers) and the Squash & Corn (summer squash with corn miso butter and uni bottarga) or the dry-aged beef tongue and the Flintstones-size côte du bÅ"uf. Expect equally exciting adventures in dining. But this time around, just sit back and enjoy the ride.1600 East Sixth Street; quiaustin.com

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Rancho Loma, Valera, TX

Rancho Loma, Valera, TX
Photo: Art Meripol

What to Order: Multicourse prix-fixe menu that includes dishes such as smoked salmon rillettes, balsamic grilled quail with figs, and grilled Akaushi strip steak, a Texas-raised breed of Wagyu2669 County 422; rancholoma.com

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Rasika West End, Washington, D.C.

Rasika West End Washington DC
Photo: Courtesy Robert Miller/Rashika West End

What To Order: Black cod marinated in honey and dill with star anise and red wine vinegar.1190 New Hampshire Avenue, NW.; rasikarestaurant.com

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Reef, Houston, TX

Reef, Houston, TX
Photo: Jennifer Davick

What to Order: Roasted grouper with braised collards, pecan-shallot cracklins, and potlikker jus2600 Travis Street; reefhouston.com

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The Refinery, Tampa, FL

The Refinery Restaurant Tampa Florida
Photo: Courtesy Shawn Kyle/The Refinery

What To Order: Shishito & Flageolet Stew, with oyster mushrooms, potatoes, Chianti, tomatoes, and saffron rice grits. Or Hubbard Squash Hoe Cakes with a muscadine-chile jam.5137 North Florida Avenue; thetamparefinery.com

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Restaurant Eugene, Atlanta, GA

Restaurant Eugene Atlanta Georgia
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

What To Order: Seasonal Vegetable Plate.2277 Peachtree Road; restauranteugene.com

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Restaurant Eve, Alexandria, VA

Restaurant Eve Alexandria Virginia
Photo: Ken Wyner

What To Order: Salad of Virginia Asparagus with Hares Valley Farm’s Chicken Egg and Parmesan Vinaigrette.110 South Pitt Street; restauranteve.com

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Restaurant Iris, Memphis, TN

Restaurant Iris, Memphis, TN
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

What to Order: Rod Bailey’s Raviolo with Brown Butter and Mushrooms2146 Monroe Avenue; restaurantiris.com

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Restaurant Michael Schwartz at The Raleigh, Miami Beach, FL

Restaurant Michael Shwartz at the Raleigh Miami Florida
Photo: Courtesy of The Raleigh Hotel

What to Order: Grilled Octopus.Michael Schwartz’s South Beach outpost delivers everything you want Miami to be: al fresco elegance, a hint of the tropics, and confidence without too much swagger. The grilled octopus aloneâ€"with crushed hazelnuts, green olives, clementines, preserved lemon, and parsleyâ€"merits a visit.1775 Collins Avenue; raleighhotel.com

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Rhubarb, Asheville, NC

Rhubarb Restaurant Asheville North Carolina
Photo: Chris M. Rogers

What To Order: Brick Oven Prince Edward Island Mussels in a Celery-Fennel Broth with Benton’s Bacon and Grilled Chapata Bread.John Fleer, the chef who shone a light on Appalachian foodways at Blackberry Farm, emerged last fall with Rhubarb in Asheville. Touchstones of his legacy (Benton’s bacon, Sunburst trout) are there. But Rhubarb is no history lesson. He digs deep into the region’s traditions, adds global influence, and highlights the local larder. Benton’s bacon shows up in a bowl of mussels in a silken celery-fennel broth. The roasted whole trout bathes in wood smoke before joining a crisp potato-celeriac latke. At Blackberry, John put Southern foodstuffs on the map. At Rhubarb, he’s showing just how far he can stretch them.7 SW. Pack Square; rhubarbasheville.comRead more about Rhubarb

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The River and Rail, Roanoke, VA

River Rail Restaurant Roanoke Virginia
Photo: Courtesy of Kemper Mills Fant

What To Order: Jar of Pickles.Yes, it’s a simple dishâ€"a snack really. But with these pickles, vegetables truly shine and offer a pitch-perfect example of the canning tradition. It’s just one of the many ways chef Aaron Deal deftly draws on the foodways of Appalachia to build his menu. 2201 Crystal Spring Avenue SW.; riverandrailrestaurant.com

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Rolf and Daughters, Nashville, TN

Nashville, Tennessee
Photo: Art Meripol

What To Order: Garganelli Verde with Heritage Pork RagoÃ"t and Sarvecchio cheese or Squid Ink Trofie with Gulf Shrimp, Squid, and Pancetta700 Taylor Street; rolfanddaughters.com

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The Roosevelt, Richmond, VA

Roosevelt Restaurant Richmond Virginia
Photo: Courtesy Roosevelt

What To Order: Anything.I know that’s an easy out, but at this restaurant I really mean it. Chef Lee Gregory diligently executes dishes that both nourish and inspire. On one visit, the daily special was pork crackling gnocchi, with country ham, collards, boiled peanuts, and potlikker jus. For the not-at-all-pedestrian wings, Lee confits the chicken, then smokes it, then fries it, and dresses it in Alabama white sauce and house-made hot sauce. Lee’s food is elegant but not fussy; approachable but not low-brow. And that “order anything” attitude? Just go ahead and apply that to the cocktail list as well.623 North 25th Street; rooseveltrva.com

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Rose's Luxury, Washington, D.C.

Rose's Luxury Restaurant Washington DC
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

2. Rose’s Luxury, Washington, D.C.What To Order: Uni Scrambled Eggs.For chef/owner Aaron Silverman, luxury isn’t about fine china and Champagne poured in unison. “It’s how you feel, how people treat you,” he says. And as a result there’s a homeyâ€"never folksyâ€"sophistication that resonates throughout the restaurant. The custardy bowl of scrambled eggs makes a decadent leap with briny, rich layers of uni (sea urchin): pureed, sliced, and whisked into hollandaise. As with anything, it all boils down to the execution. And so far, Rose’s is doing luxury right.717 Eighth Street SE.; rosesluxury.comRead more about Rose's Luxury

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San Salvaje, Dallas, TX

San Salvaje Restaurant Dallas Texas
Photo: Courtesy Kevin Marple/San Salvaje

What To Order: Fried Whole Snapper with pickled green beans and mango-habanero mojo.At chef Stephan Pyles’ modern take on haute Latin, expect creative riffs on traditional dishes. You’ll find ceviches, tacos, empanadas, and the like, but with modern interpretations. With the Fried Whole Snapper, the fish is split and stuffed with a spiky fistful of tempura-battered pickled green beans and placed atop a chunky mango-habanero mojo. The Ahi Tuna Ceviche, served in a halved coconut shell, arrives scented with kaffir and studded with sweet coconut. The Chocolate Tamal, a mole-rich expression of a tamale, is stuffed with wild boar and topped with cherry salsita. San Salvaje showcases chef Pyles’ current obsession with Central and South American flavors, with perfect measures of ingenuity and restraint. #100, 2100 Ross Avenue; sansalvaje.com

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Seviche, A Latin Restaurant, Louisville, KY

Seviche Latin Restaurant Louisville Kentucky
Photo: Dan Dry

What To Order: Tuna Old Fashioned, a Bourbon Country-inspired twist on a classic tuna ceviche. Chef Anthony Lamas marinates rosy chunks of fresh tuna in locally made soy sauce and Kentucky bourbon with orange and a little pineapple.1538 Bardstown Road; sevicherestaurant.com

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The Shack, Staunton, VA

Shack Restaurant Staunton Virginia
Photo: Courtesy Sera Petras Photography/The Shack

What To Order: Crispy Lamb Shank with English peas, a soft-cooked egg, and hot sauce vinaigrette.At Ian Boden’s shotgun-style restaurant in tiny Staunton, Virginia, he serves up designer dishes from, quite frankly, the sticks. With the lamb shank, Ian layers fresh (sweet green peas), rich (a crisp puck of meaty goodness), and creamy (a perfectly cooked runny egg) to produce a model of simple decadence. Most days, the hand-written menu reads like a bipolar expression of flavors: cold ramen with razor clams and a pickled egg listed above chili cheese fries. Burgers alongside Sardinian Gnocchi with pulled rabbit, morels, ramps, and mustard. But on Friday and Saturday nights, Ian switches to a three-course prix fixe menu that highlights not only the seasonal bounty of rural Virginia but also his impressive talents behind the stove.105 South Coalter Street; facebook.com/theshacksva

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Snackbar, Oxford, MS

Snackbar, Oxford, MS

What to Order: Chicken Cafreal. At John Currence's Snackbar in Oxford, chef Vishwesh Bhatt merges a Southern point of view with an Indian pantry in this dish of Goan spiced pan-fried chicken thighs, stewed okra and tomatoes, and cardamom grit cakes.721 North Lamar; citygroceryonline.com

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Springhouse, Alexander City, AL

Springhouse Restaurant Alexander City Alabama
Photo: Courtesy of Russell Lands On Lake Martin

What to Order: Gulf Barrelfish Crudo.At Lake Martin, an area known more for bait shacks and high-flying leaps off Chimney Rock than great food, chef Rob McDaniel spotlights the bounty of Alabama with deft skill and thoughtful combinations. Drawing from the Gulf waters, the forests surrounding the lake (he regularly forages for chanterelles, sassafras, blackberries, and the like), and a wealth of Southern tradition, Rob is the sleeper of the Southern food scene. With the Gulf Barrell Fish Crudo, thin slices of this bycatch fish, dressed with garlic, parsley, lemon, peppers, and mint, mound together under a pile of smoked house-made potato chips. It’s the perfect blend of textures, and channels the high-low duality Southerners know and love so well.12 Benson Mill Road; springhouseatcrossroads.com

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Stanbury, Raleigh, NC

Stanbury Restaurant Raleigh North Carolina
Photo: Stacey Van Berkel

What To Order: Steak Tartare with nuoc cham vinaigrette, peanuts, mint, Thai basil, cilantro, and crab chips.938 North Blount Street; stanburyraleigh.com

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Table Three Ten, Lexington, KY

Table Three Ten Restaurant Lexington Kentucky
Photo: Ashley Gieseking

What To Order: Cornmeal Madeleines with Sorghum Gelato.310 West Short Street; table-three-ten.com

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Toups' Meatery, New Orleans, LA

Toups Meatery Restaurant New Orleans Louisiana
Photo: Courtesy Toups' Meatery

What To Order: Confit Chicken Thighs, with Parmesan-crusted Brussels sprouts and a mushroom vinaigrette.845 North Carrollton Avenue; toupsmeatery.com

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Two Boroughs Larder, Charleston, SC

Two Boroughs Larder Restaurant Charleston South Carolina
Photo: Instagram, @stephaa4

What To Order: Pork Scrapple Sandwich, on a hard roll, with aged Cheddar and a silky farm egg cooked over-easy. Or the Bowl-o-Noodle, house-made noodles with pork confit and a runny egg in pork broth. Go all-in by adding kimchi, sesame greens, pickled mushrooms, and an extra helping of pork.186 Coming Street; twoboroughslarder.com

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Uchi, Austin, TX

Uchi, Austin, TX
Photo: Cary Jobe

What to Order: Machi Cure, a cold preparation of smoked yellowtail with a yucca crisp, marcona almond, Asian pear, and garlic brittle801 South Lamar Boulevard; uchiaustin.com

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Underbelly, Houston, TX

Underbelly, Houston, TX
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

What to Order:Korean Braised Goat and Dumplings. Without a doubt, Houston is the most interesting, far-ranging, delightful food city in the South—strike that, in America—right now. There's a confluence of a post-Katrina Creole population, traditional Southern staples (biscuits, barbecue, pimiento cheese), diverse multinationals (Vietnamese, Korean, Pakistani, Mexican), fertile farmland, easy access to the Gulf, and a general yearning to make a culinary mark. Chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly might as well be the town's pied piper, leading diners deeper into the flavors of the city. His Korean Braised Goat and Dumplings pairs tender braised goat with dense rice-flour dumplings, fiery with gochujang (red chile paste), moody with fish sauce, and flecked with toasted benne seeds. Also notable: Chris' use of Gulf bycatch (often called "trash fish," or the fish caught when you're actually going after something else, say shrimp). A recent highlight built on bycatch was whole Vermilion snapper, fried as if midswim, topped with green chile-cilantro chutney, served over garam masala-scented green beans and okra.1100 Westheimer Road; underbellyhouston.com

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Vittoria Macelleria, Birmingham, AL

Vittoria Macelleria Restaurant Birmingham Alabama
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

What To Order: Selection of house-made Salumi or Aged Spinalis (cap of the rib eye) Steak.Chef James Lewis will change the way you think about meat at Vittoria Macelleria, his homage to the art of butchery.2901 2nd Avenue South; 205/315-4366

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Walker's Drive-In, Jackson, MS

Walker's Drive-In Restaurant Jackson Mississippi
Photo: Rush Jagoe

What To Order: Redfish Anna with Lump Crabmeat.3016 North State Street; walkersdrivein.com

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Woodberry Kitchen, Baltimore, MD

Wodberry Kitchen Restaurant Rockhall Maryland
Photo: Scott Suchman

What To Order: Rockhall, MD, Rockfish, served with stewed wheat berries, wood-roasted sweet onions, sungold tomatoes, squash, eggplant, and scallion oil.2010 Clipper Park Road, Suite 126; woodberrykitchen.com

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