The Best Southern Food Restaurants Outside The South

While world class chefs like Sean Brock and Hugh Acheson have long been using Southern cuisine to shine a much-needed spotlight on their hometowns, it's hard to ignore the rise of authentic Southern cooking elsewhere around the country (if not the world). Specialties you'd have to venture well below the Mason-Dixon to sample, like crispy chicken drenched in fiery hot sauce and authentic jambalaya, are no longer the hard-to-track-down treasures they once were.

So whether these joints are bringing a taste of tangy Nashville chicken to New York or Creole comfort food to San Francisco, here are five restaurants doling out the best in Southern food and hospitality — outside of the South.

Brenda's French Soul Food in San Francisco, California

The chef and namesake behind Bay Area resto Brenda's French Soul Food brings the Creole cuisine of her New Orleans upbringing to her popular brunchtime hot spot. On Sundays, you'll find lines of locals waiting to sign their names on a giant chalkboard waiting list, so they can sample Brenda Buenviaje's classic soul food, which includes a variety of oyster preparations, crawfish étouffée, and sandwiches served with creole potato salad. The occasional live jazz trio passing through will buy you enough time to decide which type of beignets to order: classic powdered sugared, savory crawfish, or a Ghirardelli-filled chocolate version. 

Juniper in Saint Louis, Missouri

The food at Juniper might be rooted in the South's culinary heritage, but within the exposed-brick walls, chef John Perkins — who's been hosting secret pop-up dinners under the pseudonym "Clandestine Chef" — is turning Southern food on its head. Pickled shrimp are paired with chanterelle mushrooms and chilled sesame noodles, while roast radishes are served over miso paste and black garlic. On Mondays, the restaurant turns into an old-school meat-and-three restaurant featuring fried chicken, which is brined in savory fish sauce and palm sugar. Wash your meal down with Juniper's homage to classic sweet tea, made with maple syrup.

Peaches HotHouse in Brooklyn, New York

Ask Tennessee natives about hot chicken, and they'll wax poetic about Nashville's sacred culinary religion. But the searingly hot and lip-burning fried chicken at this homey Bed-Stuy café is downright sinful. Peaches HotHouse customers can order regular, hot or extra hot — the latter coming with its own cautionary warning and, according to co-owner Ben Grossman, "will kick you in the face and make you cry." Extinguish those flames with the fried green tomatoes, neatly shingled on a plate and covered in bacon, arugula, and barbecue-spiced aioli. 

Pine State Biscuits in Portland, Oregon

No trip to Portland is complete without a visit to this string of diners with a cult following among Stumptown locals. North Carolina transplants Kevin Atchley, Walt Alexander, and Brian Snyder originally started selling their hometown favorites at farmers' markets, but eventually, word of their flaky, butter-glazed biscuits forced them to go the brick-and-mortar route to meet demand. Lines at any Pine Street location are intimidatingly long but move quickly. Though the cornmeal pancakes and hash brown skillets are not to be missed, the hearty biscuit sandwiches draw the crowds. These towering showstoppers are piled high with everything from fried chicken, apple butter, and bacon to flank steak, blue cheese, and heirloom tomatoes. 

Yardbird in Miami, Florida

You might associate Miami Beach with green juice and bowls of quinoa, but airy hangout Yardbird covers all tenants of an exemplary Southern meal. Hot biscuits come to the table, ready to be slathered in honey butter, while shrimp and grits get a ladleful of jus amped up by a generous pour of lager. Meanwhile, the Great American Burger, made with a blend of short rib, brisket, and chuck, and topped with smoked pork belly, is a gluttonous take on a bacon cheeseburger. In the end, however, it's Yardbird's namesake chicken and waffles — served over a savory cheddar waffle before being doused in bourbon-spiked maple syrup — that takes the spotlight.

Luella's Southern Kitchen in Chicago, Illinois

Luella's Southern Kitchen's chef and owner Darnell Reed was inspired to craft his Southern dishes at his Lincoln Square restaurant after his great grandmother, Luella Funches. He had fond memories of Luella cooking classic Southern dishes like shrimp and grits, cornbread, and fried chicken in his childhood kitchen. Now, Darnell and his team are infusing Southern flavors into everything from smoked brisket mac and cheese to buttermilk fried chicken served with a side of collard greens. 

The Infatuation recommends ordering the buttermilk biscuits and jam because of the dish's extraordinary flavor and quality compared to the biscuits and jam you'd find in the South (or any of the biscuits in Chicago, for that matter). Other reviewers note the restaurant is humble in its interior but impeccable in its flavors. One GrubHub reviewer claims the spot is a "gift to Chicago." Plus, Luella's is BYOB, so don't forget a six-pack! 

Sandra's Next Generation in New Haven, Connecticut

If you're thinking of New Haven, you're probably thinking about its famous thin-crust, Neapolitan pizza. While we do recommend making a stop at Frank Pepe's on Wooster Street, we also suggest trying out Sandra's Next Generation. You'll find a series of plates made with chicken wings, fried catfish, smothered pork chops, and, of course, collard greens. You can mix and match your favorite vegetables and proteins over four different plate options for the perfect Southern combination. 

Reviewers report fall-off-the-bone meats and flavorful, generous portions of sides like mac and cheese, candied yams, and fried okra. You'll also find numerous spices and seasonings to pair with chicken wings including cajun spice, barbecue, and sweet & tangy sauce. Google Reviewers rave about the banana pudding and coconut cake on Sandra's menu, as well as the impeccable service. One reviewer claimed, "YOU MUST EAT HERE IF YOU LOVE SOUTHERN COOKING. ... Simply outstanding, big portions, great sweet tea. Best fried chicken outside of South Carolina. Maybe even better." 

Vivan's Soul Food in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

When you hear the line "food made with love," you should think of Vivian's Soul Food in Cedar Rapids. You'll find flavorful sides including collard greens, green beans, and mac and cheese, as well as daily specials including rib tips, smothered pork chops, and jerk chicken.  Plus, Vivian's is a family-owned restaurant with a commitment to making soul food more accessible to the Cedar Rapids community. One reviewer writes, "So. Much. Flavor. And those greens, I could have did the chef's kiss with every single bite."

Little Village Magazine was equally as impressed with the decor of the restaurant as the food on the plate: "The owners' love of music is evident everywhere you look, from the floor-to-ceiling paintings of black musicians to a guitar mounted on the wall to a playlist of R&B, soul and rap songs spanning five decades — including Beyoncé, Jay-Z, James Brown, and the Temptations — soundtracking your meal." And if music is the food of love, we're playing on at Vivian's. 

Meat Southern BBQ and Carnivore Cuisine in Lansing, Michigan

Meat Southern BBQ and Carnivore Cuisine claims that no good story started with a salad. The restaurant is serving up traditional Southern barbecue like pork ribs, chopped brisket, and smoked chicken wings. But, you'll also find some new favorite on the menu like trailer park bruschetta: housemade chorizo atop crispy potato skins, crispy onions, jalapeños, and housemade cherry-bomb sauce. 

If you're feeling adventurous (and hungry, of course), try the boss logg: a sandwich topped with pork, brisket, smoked turkey, pulled chicken, bacon, fries, gravy, three cheeses, hot garlic sauce, jalapeños and a sunny-side-up egg. If you can finish the sandwich, one side, and mac-and-cheese, you could get your name on the wall of the restaurant, a tee-shirt, a beer, and a free meal. But, the meal is more than just the challenge; it's about good food and friendly competition. 

HQ Southern BBQ in Evansville, Wyoming

HQ BBQ describes the restaurant as the "authentic Tennessee-style barbecue." You'll find classic Southern favorites like a rib sampler: A full rack of ribs covered in three separate rubs including a Memphis dry rub, HQ's signature "wet sauce," and smoked bourbon habanero. You can also sample HQ's housemade smoked sausage, pulled pork, smoked chicken, or ribs. If you're not a fan of barbecue, we would recommend trying HQ BBQ's chili made with black beans and brisket and topped with shredded cheddar. 

24/7 Wall St. named HQ BBQ the best barbecue location in Wyoming. Not only is the food fantastic, but the guests note that the staff at HQ is well-trained, welcoming, and understands "southern hospitality" well. One reviewer writes, "I've been an HQ customer since they opened. Lately, though, they've been my celebratory end of the work week stop for a great meal and a friendly face. ... The food is awesome, but the people are just as awesome."

Gritz Cafe in Las Vegas, Nevada

Gritz Cafe in Las Vegas has received many accolades for its food and service in recent years, including winning the Las Vegas Review Journal's "Best Soul Food Restaurant" title. And it's no surprise why this restaurant and its food is so well-received by the surrounding community. You can order a plate of your Southern favorites including fried catfish fillets (the "Mississippi"), chicken fried steak with country gravy (the "Arkansas"), and pork or turkey chops (the "Georgia") along with sides like grilled cornbread, grits, collard greens, or mac-and-cheese. Gritz' dessert menu is equally as impressive and includes sweet potato pie and buttery peach cobbler.

Even if you're just stopping into Las Vegas to tour the famous Vegas Strip, we have to recommend stopping in and sampling some of the delicious options at Gritz. The cafe's mission statement to provide the best Southern style restaurant food and embody Black Excellence through great food and outstanding customer service is nothing short of true. 

Darryl's Corner Bar & Kitchen in Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, it's the place to experience history, clam chowder, and ... barbecue? Darry's Corner Bar and Kitchen (DCBK, as it's better known) marries live entertainment with good Southern cooking. The ambiance is similar to that of an exclusive Southern jazz club while the flavors are straight out of your grandmother's kitchen. You'll find elevated flavors and spices from "Bob's Glorified Catfish," a blackened and fried catfish fillet served with Cajun remoulade and two sides. For those seeking a more popular Southern classic, check out the restaurant's chicken and waffles (including a substitution of a red velvet waffle for the traditional buttermilk batter) or cajun shrimp with crispy polenta cakes and a smooth tomato gravy. 

At DCBK, it's more than just the food. The restaurant's owner, Nia Grace, is a notable figure on the Boston restaurant scene for co-founding the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition, a group that aims to preserve the economic vitality and steadfastness of black restaurants within Boston's city limits.

Granny's Restaurant in Owings Mills, Maryland

Granny's opened in its Owning Mills location in Maryland in 2008. The namesake of the restaurant was "Granny" Lessie Wainwright, a woman who cooked professionally for years without sacrificing her commitment to cooking for the people she loved. The restaurant successfully expanded to another location in Baltimore after openings its original location to share more Southern foods with its dedicated following. 

On the Granny's Restaurant menu, you'll find appetizers like peach bourbon wings coated in a housemade sauce, diced peaches, and a dipping sauce of your choice. For entrees, we recommend the absolutely massive chicken and waffles plate at Granny's. It's made with four (yes, four) chicken wings or tenders, buttermilk waffles dusted in powdered sugar with a cup of whipped butter. If you're feeling savory, order a bowl of grits with two eggs any style, breakfast side, and choice of bread. The portions are almost as big as the love these folks have for Southern cooking. 

Cadence in New York City, New York

Southern cooking and vegan aren't usually found in the same sentence. But, at Cadence in New York City's East Village, you're bound to find Southern favorite made free of meat, dairy, and eggs. Executive chef Shenarri Freeman is committed to uniting her Virginian roots with the ethical and sustainable mission of the Overthrow Hospitality restaurant group: a predominately plant-based group of 10 other restaurants in the United States, including Avant Garden and Rabbit.  

Cadence adds modern flair to everything from fried okra to maple "buttermilk" cornbread with sage maple syrup and seasonal jam. The smoked grits plate substitutes shrimp with fried oyster mushrooms, rosemary butter, and crispy garlic. Instead of a traditional Southern chicken and waffles, Cadence's vegan spin uses fried oyster mushrooms with lavender-maple spread, buffalo sauce, cilantro, and greens. You're guaranteed to walk away satisfied with the flavors and texture profiles of Cadence's dishes — even if you're not part of the typical a plant-craving crowd. 

Dulan's Soul Food Kitchen in Inglewood, California

Owner Adolf Dulan, the self-proclaimed "king of soul food," has been serving up traditional Southern flavors to the Los Angeles area at Dulan's Soul Food Kitchen since 1999. He has since expanded to two separate locations in both Los Angeles and Inglewood. His menu features numerous soul favorites like fried chicken, ox tails, pork chops, and meatloaf. The sides hit all the classic southern ingredients including black eyed peas (to which one reviewer said "even if I practiced for the next 100 years I'll never get [the black eyed peas] to taste this good"), as well as cornbread muffins and candied yams. 

The Infatuation terms Dulan's Soul Food as a "Los Angeles institution." The blog unequivocally recommends ordering the ox tails, which are usually gone before 6 p.m. The baked mac and cheese is crispy on the edges and soft in the middle, making for a perfect, cheesy sensation. Oh, and don't forget to pick up a container of peach cobbler for the ride home, you won't regret it.