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Your opinion: Best Dish in the Southeast?


Gifted Gourmet
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Pulled pork sandwich at Big Bob Gibsons in Decatur, AL

Fried chicken and fried chicken gizzards at Price's Chicken Coop in Charlotte, NC

Oyster roast at Bowens Island, James Island, south of Charleston, SC

Shrimp and grits at Jestine's Kitchen, Charleston, SC

Barbecue hog (particularly the fried skin) at Sweatmans Bar-B-Cue, Holly Hill, SC

Hamburger at Lupies, Charlotte, NC

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In a visit to Savannah last year, I went to a place called The Crab Shack that was between Savannah and Tybee Island. I was afraid it was going to be a tourist trap, but instead it produced one of the best, most memorable meals I've ever had.

The tables are all outside, on the edge of the marsh, under enormous live oak trees. You get a roll of paper towels, and then the waiter brings out a gargantuan platter of all kinds of amazing things so fresh they taste like they were just pulled out of the swamp. Crawfish, shrimp, crab claws, corn on the cob (okay, the corn wasn't just pulled out of the swamp).

You dip it in melted butter, eat it, and drop the shells in the trash can under the table. It's hot, messy, and excessive in the best possible way.

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Let me mention a couple of nominations in some of the categories that have developed. For classic southern roadside grill / diner type-food, I have to say the cheeseburger and fries at Johnson's in Siler City, NC. Obviously, you can get a cheeseburger anywhere but I do think this is about the best one around. Freshly ground meat, tons of melted velveeta all done in a precise and time-honored tradition on the grill before your eyes. You really have to experience it to fully appreciate the process What really makes this special, however, is the whole atmosphere of the place and the reverence everybody has for these burgers. It used to be that they did not have set closing hours--they simply prepared as much meat as they had for the day and closed when they ran out. Fortunately for those forced to eat lunch past noon, they usually stay open later now. I love the way the locals look at you a little strangely if you're not from around there but still give you a warm welcome because they know you are part of the avid Johnson's fan club that has altered your route and timing of your trip just to get by Johnsons at lunch time.

For food so good it made me cry, I have to say the Niman Ranch Pork Loin I had a Enoteca Vin in Raleigh a couple of years ago. Again, not unique to the south but it was fantastic for the sheer simplicity and expert preparation. It was a perfect cut of pork and was so good I sat there torn between wanting to gooble it down as quickly as I could chew versus the realization that each bite I took brought me closer to the end of the experience.

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When I hear "Best dish in the Southeast" my tastebuds get primed for something both addictive and rooted in the region.  Thus, tastebuds being fickle creatures, mine react with a "big deal" when, in this context, the conversation turns to Japanese beef and those overrated little bivalves.  Generic may be too strong a term, but "ubiquitous" is damming enough, in my eyes.  And I  don't doubt the talents of the chefs putting this stuff out but brunch for God's sake, or the year's trendy beef cut, short-ribs.  I'm a thrill junkie, I need more than Saveur Magazine highlights to drive out of my way.  Something that is not only "the best in the South," but "the best anywhere, and only available in the South."  :wink:

If I may... Any chance at all that this thread was not created for the amusement of some outsider? Those of us who live in the southeast do not subsist completely on fried chicken and grits. Thus, for anyone who actually lives down here, eats down here, and are apparently interested enough about eating to come to a site like this, we may care to read about stellar dishes eaten in the area. Regardless of their origin. If it's a perfect brunch, so be it. If it's something than can be gotten in DC or NY, that's great too. In fact, I'm less concerned about turning you onto something "you can't get in DC" then I am in finding that I don't need to shlepp to DC myself to find these things. I, for one, am not native to the area. There are plenty of things I miss about my old home in the SF Bay area. If there's a place right under my nose where I can find a taste of home, I'd like to know.

I'm sorry for your sake that this whole thread didn't turn into poetic waxings of BBQ shacks where shoeless bumpkins take your order whilest chewin' on a stick. I can see why that would be more fun.

Now, if you asked nicely, I'd bet you could get a mile long list of great, uniquely southern treats in any area down here.

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I'm sorry for your sake that this whole thread didn't turn into poetic waxings of BBQ shacks where shoeless bumpkins take your order whilest chewin' on a stick.  I can see why that would be more fun.

I have enjoyed the responses thus far and, as a resident of the SE for some 28 years, have noted with no small amount of pleasure, the changes from those barbecue shacks, which still exist, to significantly more interesting fare within the region. Stereotyping, as you have in this particular quote, is not exactly what was desired in the initial query.

you could get a mile long list of great, uniquely southern treats in any area down here.
I believe that is precisely what I got in the responses of Artichoke, Ari, Guilty Gourmand, The Cynical Chef, wht, catdaddy, Milt, and so many others ....

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I'm sorry for your sake that this whole thread didn't turn into poetic waxings of BBQ shacks where shoeless bumpkins take your order whilest chewin' on a stick.  I can see why that would be more fun.

I have enjoyed the responses thus far and, as a resident of the SE for some 28 years, have noted with no small amount of pleasure, the changes from those barbecue shacks, which still exist, to significantly more interesting fare within the region. Stereotyping, as you have in this particular quote, is not exactly what was desired in the initial query.

you could get a mile long list of great, uniquely southern treats in any area down here.
I believe that is precisely what I got in the responses of Artichoke, Ari, Guilty Gourmand, The Cynical Chef, wht, catdaddy, Milt, and so many others ....

My response was not to you but to the person who complained about all the dishes that weren't "southern". If you look closely, you'll see I quoted him in my post. I think you've started a fine thread that revealed plenty of great meals both traditional and otherwise. I was simply irritated at what busboy was saying.

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Much appreciate your explanation .. I tend to be exceptionally sensitive at times on such issues .. I did like the question as well as a great majority of the positive responses ...

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I'm sorry for your sake that this whole thread didn't turn into poetic waxings of BBQ shacks where shoeless bumpkins take your order whilest chewin' on a stick.  I can see why that would be more fun.

I have enjoyed the responses thus far and, as a resident of the SE for some 28 years, have noted with no small amount of pleasure, the changes from those barbecue shacks, which still exist, to significantly more interesting fare within the region. Stereotyping, as you have in this particular quote, is not exactly what was desired in the initial query.

you could get a mile long list of great, uniquely southern treats in any area down here.
I believe that is precisely what I got in the responses of Artichoke, Ari, Guilty Gourmand, The Cynical Chef, wht, catdaddy, Milt, and so many others ....

My response was not to you but to the person who complained about all the dishes that weren't "southern". If you look closely, you'll see I quoted him in my post. I think you've started a fine thread that revealed plenty of great meals both traditional and otherwise. I was simply irritated at what busboy was saying.

I certainly didn't mean to imply that I thought Southern food should be limited to barbecue and grits. But, as much as I appreciate "international" cooking, I find that I most enjoy cooking that has something of its home town in it, whether that's Paris or Birmingham. So, "outsider" though I am, I thought I'd shake the tree a little and see what fell out. Got some good ideas and I'm sure I'll be back on this board when my plans for a trip later this year firm up.

In the mean time, I remain skeptical of brunch and promiscuous use of balsamic vinegar, wherever they are found. :wink:

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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well, Atlanta is a huge city with a bazillion restaurants...I feel like I've worked at half of them.

But here are a few of my nominations...

The Buttermilk Fried Chicken at South City Kitchen on Crescent Avenue...brined in buttermilk, it's incredibly tender and the breading is perfectly spiced. the bourbon gravy is a great touch

Fried Oysters at Ray's on the River...when they're in season, there's nothing like it. They fry up nice and plump, thanx again to buttermilk (it's a wonderful thing, ain't it??)

and for an interesting guilty treat, there's fried pickles at the Foxfire Grill in Snowshoe Mtn, WV...it was a first time experience last summer.

Most of my favorites involve seafood in the Savannah area....Fish and Chips at Fannies on the Strand on a Friday night, for instance...we go down there once a year and it's nice to walk to dinner barefooted.

"have a sense of humor about things...you'll need it" A. Bourdain

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In the mean time, I remain skeptical of brunch and promiscuous use of balsamic vinegar, wherever they are found.  :wink:

I'll see your balsamic and raise you a sundried tomato.

For the record, I should also add that, though I stand by what I said earlier, I too found it a bit odd to read of kumamoto oysters being listed among someone's favorite dishes in the south east. I come from Pacific oyster country so there I do indentify them a specific location, and this ain't it.

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Hmm, I'll stick with desserts. The honeysuckle sorbet at Chapel Hill's Crooks Corner is perfect. The coconut cake from Raleigh's Hayes Barton Grill and Dessert is the best example of my favorite down-home cake. But perhaps my top dessert by a chef from the Southeast in the past several years was made by Phoebe Lawless, former pastry chef (now on maternity leave) of Durham's Magnolia Grill. The thing is that this dish was made in my home, but was similar to what they served in the restaurant: Pumpkin fritters rolled in cinnamon sugar, served with goat cheese ice cream, cajeta and candied, spicy pepitas.

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Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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breakfast at the old loveless cafe in nashvegas

she crab soup anywhere in charleston

chicken and dumplings at my grandmother's house with pone bread and fresh sliced tomatoes

white castle's crispy chicken sandwich after a long and blurry night of honkytonkin on broadway

the buffet at piggie park

being a southerner is delicious

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In the mean time, I remain skeptical of brunch and promiscuous use of balsamic vinegar, wherever they are found.  :wink:

I'll see your balsamic and raise you a sundried tomato.

For the record, I should also add that, though I stand by what I said earlier, I too found it a bit odd to read of kumamoto oysters being listed among someone's favorite dishes in the south east. I come from Pacific oyster country so there I do indentify them a specific location, and this ain't it.

Gotta tell ya, wish I'd never brought it up :biggrin:

What can I say, I ate the oyster appetizer in Atlanta, which is in the Southeast, and I thought the presentation was beautiful and it tasted fantastic. So I mentioned it. Foodies are SO opinionated :wink:

But I still stand by the Florida Black grouper in pecan butter at Chatham's Place in Orlando. Although I'm sure some snobby foodie will tell me REAL pecan treatments can only be relied upon in Georgia at a roadside Stuckey's in the form of a "roll". :raz:

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Hazardnc -- May be a dumb question, but what city are these august establishments located in?  (Not Mt. Pleasant, the other town).

The Penguin and Charleston House are both in Charlotte, NC.

As for The Wreck - no question, the food there is pedestrian. Some people don't like Bowen's Island either. I guess I am as easily swayed by atmosphere as I am by good food. To me, a sitting on the deck at Bowen's Island (on John's Island outside of Charleston), cold beer in hand, watching the sun set over the salt marsh and the "knobs" from the Citadel woo their College of Charleston girlfriends, is so utterly southern. I go toBowen's Island every time I go to Charleston.

I also go to B.O.'s Fish Wagon for fried grouper sandwiches everytime I go to Key West! What can I say?

I like fine dining and fine cuisine as much as the next guy. I love it when I can find kumamoto oysters on a menu here - saves a trip to Seattle! I love the foie gras of the day prepared by the chef at Sonoma California Bistro in Charlotte or just about anything prepared by Bruce Moffett at Barringtons in Charlotte. But what I really love, and wish we had more of, are restaurants where the chefs take classic southern ingredients and create something sublime.

And wouldn't it be wonderul if we had a restaurant that sought out local ingredients - beyond our local produce? How about a place that features a North Carolina cheese course, or the trout caviar from Sunburst Trout Company?

edited for typo

Edited by hazardnc (log)
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she crab soup anywhere in charleston

being a southerner is delicious

I have to heartily concur with both of these statements, Chef Brock!

and the latter actually makes one hell of a splendid sig line ... :biggrin:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Hazardnc -- May be a dumb question, but what city are these august establishments located in?  (Not Mt. Pleasant, the other town).

The Penguin and Charleston House are both in Charlotte, NC.

As for The Wreck - no question, the food there is pedestrian. Some people don't like Bowen's Island either. I guess I am as easily swayed by atmosphere as I am by good food. To me, a sitting on the deck at Bowen's Island (on John's Island outside of Charleston), cold beer in hand, watching the sun set over the salt marsh and the "knobs" from the Citadel woo their College of Charleston girlfriends, is so utterly southern. I go toBowen's Island every time I go to Charleston.

I also go to B.O.'s Fish Wagon for fried grouper sandwiches everytime I go to Key West! What can I say?

I like fine dining and fine cuisine as much as the next guy. I love it when I can find kumamoto oysters on a menu here - saves a trip to Seattle! I love the foie gras of the day prepared by the chef at Sonoma California Bistro in Charlotte or just about anything prepared by Bruce Moffett at Barringtons in Charlotte. But what I really love, and wish we had more of, are restaurants where the chefs take classic southern ingredients and create something sublime.

And wouldn't it be wonderul if we had a restaurant that sought out local ingredients - beyond our local produce? How about a place that features a North Carolina cheese course, or the trout caviar from Sunburst Trout Company?

edited for typo

Is that hazard county? I'm with you on the celebration of local carolina foodstuffs, I believe its some of the best in the world.

Edited by chefdg (log)

"He could blanch anything in the fryolator and finish it in the microwave or under the salamander. Talented guy."

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  • 3 months later...

It's been a long time since I've touched ground anywhere between Alexandria, Virgina and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but I was impressed with the dish served by Hank's Seafood Restaurant of Charleston, South Caronlina at the book party for Fat Guy's Turning the Tables. It was a thin gazpacho with clams and crab meat. Both the clams and crab meal were properly succulent. Basically, it's an old fashioned seafood place, but I'd explore some of their more contemporary dishes as well based on this dish.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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