2013 Best Restaurants in the South
Travel & Features Editor Jennifer V. Cole shares her personal favorite restaurants, both new and old, in her most frequented towns. This list is always evolving, so follow @jennifervcole on Twitter for her latest stops. See Jennifer's top picks for 2014 here: 100 Best Restaurants in the South
610 Magnolia, Louisville, KY
610 West Magnolia Avenue; 610magnolia.com
Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Memphis, TN
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
Barbecue Inn, Houston, TX
116 West Crosstimbers Street; thebarbecueinn.com
The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN
What to Order: Rainbow Trout with Buttermilk Consommé and Watercress
1471 West Millers Cove Road; blackberryfarm.com
Birch & Barley, Washington, D.C.
1337 14th Street. Northwest; birchandbarley.com
Cakes & Ale, Decatur, GA
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
Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, Mobile, AL
916 Charleston Street; callaghansirishsocialclub.com
Cardamom Hill, Atlanta, GA
1700 Northside Drive Northwest; cardamomhill.net
Catbird Seat, Nashville, TN
1711 Division Street, thecatbirdseatrestaurant.com
C.F. Folks Restaurant, Washington, D.C.
1225 19th Street Northwest; cffolksrestaurant.com
Chez Fonfon, Birmingham, AL
2007 11th Avenue South; fonfonbham.com
City House, Nashville, TN
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
Cochon, New Orleans, LA
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
Commander’s Palace, New Orleans, LA
1403 Washington Avenue; commanderspalace.com
Coquette, New Orleans, LA
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
Cotton Row, Huntsville, AL
100 South Side Square; cottonrowrestaurant.com
Cozy Corner, Memphis, TN
745 North Parkway; cozycornerbbq.com
Crook’s Corner, Chapel Hill, NC
610 West Franklin Street.; crookscorner.com
Note: Get the recipe for Crook's Corners phenomenal Shrimp and Grits.
Delta Bistro, Greenwood, MS
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
Doe’s Eat Place, Greenville, MS
Domenica, New Orleans, LA
123 Baronne Street; domenicarestaurant.com
Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, New Orleans, LA
2301 Orleans Avenue; dookychaserestaurant.com
El Barrio Restaurante Y Bar, Birmingham, AL
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
Empire State South, Atlanta, GA
999 Peachtree Street Northeast, Suite 140; empirestatesouth.com
The Fearrington House Restaurant, Pittsboro, NC
240 Market Street; fearrington.com
FIG, Charleston, SC
232 Meeting Street; eatatfig.com
Five & Ten, Athens, GA
1073 South Milledge Avenue; fiveandten.com
Flora-Bama Lounge, Package, and Oyster Bar, Pensacola, FL
17401 Perdido Key Drive; florabama.com
Gautreau’s, New Orleans, LA
1728 Soniat Street; gautreausrestaurant.com
The Georgian Room at The Cloister at Sea Island, GA
100 Cloister Drive; seaisland.com
The General Muir, Atlanta, GA
Emory Point, 1540 Avenue Place, Suite B-230; thegeneralmuir.com
The Grocery, Charleston, SC
4 Cannon Street; thegrocerycharleston.com
Heirloom Market BBQ, Atlanta, GA
2243 Akers Mill Road; heirloommarketbbq.com
Highlands Bar and Grill, Birmingham, AL
What to Order: Stone-Ground Baked Grits with country ham, mushrooms, fresh thyme, and Parmesan
2011 11th Avenue South; highlandsbarandgrill.com
Hog & Hominy, Memphis, TN
707 West Brookhaven Circle; hogandhominy.com
Holeman & Finch Public House, Atlanta, GA
2277 Peachtree Road Northeast; holeman-finch.com
Hominy Grill, Charleston, SC
207 Rutledge Avenue; hominygrill.com
Hot and Hot Fish Club, Birmingham, AL
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
Husk, Charleston, SC, and Nashville, TN
Indian Pass Raw Bar, Port Saint Joe, FL
What to Order: Raw Oysters. Located in an old commissary, the Indian Pass Raw Bar is quite possibly the best seafood shack in existence: live music, a constant crowd, and oysters straight from the waters of the Apalachicola Bay.
8391 C-30A; 850/227-1670
- Featured in Off the Eaten Path
The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, VA
309 Middle Street; theinnatlittlewashington.com
Jaleo, Washington, D.C.
What to Order: Pan De Recapte Con Anchoa, traditional Catalan toasted bread with peppers, tomatoes, and salt-cured Spanish anchovies
480 Seventh Street Northwest; jaleo.com
Jonathan at Gratz Park, Lexington, KY
120 West Second Street; jagp.info
Knife & Fork, Spruce Pine, NC
61 Locust Street; knifeandforknc.com
Komi, Washington, D.C.
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
Lantern, Chapel Hill, NC
423 West Franklin Street; lanternrestaurant.com
Little Donkey, Birmingham, AL
2821 Central Avenue; thelittledonkey.com
Little Serow, Washington, D.C.
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 line—it can stretch down the block.
1511 17th Street Northwest; littleserow.com
Lockeland Table, Nashville, TN
What to Order: Sapelo Island Clams Casino Pizza
1520 Woodland Street; lockelandtable.com
The Macintosh, Charleston, SC
What to Order: Bone Marrow Bread Pudding
479B King Street; themacintoshcharleston.com
Martha Lou’s Kitchen, Charleston, SC
1068 Morrison Drive; 843/577-9583
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, Nolensville, TN
7238 Nolensville Road; martinsbbqjoint.com
Mas Tacos Por Favor, Nashville, TN
732 McFerrin Avenue; 615/543-6271
Mateo Tapas, Durham, NC
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
McCrady’s, Charleston, SC
2 Unity Alley; mccradysrestaurant.com
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Miami, FL
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
MilkWood, Louisville, KY
316 West Main Street; actorstheatre.org/milkwood
Miller Union, Atlanta, GA
999 Brady Avenue; millerunion.com
Miss Myra’s Pit Bar-B-Q, Vestavia, AL
3278 Cahaba Heights Road; 205/967-6004
Ollie Irene, Mountain Brook, AL
2713 Culver Road, ollieirene.com
The Optimist, Atlanta, GA
What to Order: Whole Georgia White Shrimp a la Plancha, “Sopping” Toast, Arbol Chile, and Lime
914 Howell Mill Road; theoptimistrestaurant.com
The Ordinary, Charleston, SC
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
Oxheart, Houston, TX
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
Pêche Seafood Grill, New Orleans, LA
800 Magazine Street; pecherestaurant.com
Peggy’s, Philadelphia, MS
512 Bay Street; 601/656-3478
The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden, Nashville, TN
731 McFerrin Avenue; thepharmacynashville.com