The 8 Best Southern Restaurants Outside of 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 North Carolina barbecue to the Northeast or Creole comfort food to San Francisco, here are eight restaurants doling out the best in Southern food and hospitality—outside of the South.
① Arrogant Swine (New York)
Pitmaster Tyson Ho gives New York the North Carolina-style barbecue spot it deserves with Arrogant Swine. The 5,000-square-foot space includes a sprawling beer garden with a list of craft beers that will keep even the most dedicated self-proclaimed cicerone occupied. But despite our love for a good double IPA, it's Ho's whole hogs that steal the show. Smoked for an entire day, the shredded pig comes dressed in sharp, vinegary North Carolina barbecue sauce (none of the sweet stuff here) and is accompanied by inventive sides like mac and cheese pressed into crispy waffles. Ho also offers up the seldom-seen regional specialty known as outside brown, pork shoulder smoked in smaller steaks, yielding more of the magnificently charred and smoky bark barbecue aficionados lust over.
② Brenda's French Soul Food (San Francisco)
The chef and namesake behind this Bay Area resto 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, spicy chicken étouffée and sandwiches served with house-made watermelon pickles. 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.
③ Heaven on Seven (Chicago)
A seemingly infinite number of hot sauce bottles line the walls of this Cajun restaurant, which offers the best of Louisiana's finest, just a block away from Millennium Park. While the family-owned business originally opened as a coffee shop, customers couldn't get enough of chef Jimmy Bannos's gumbo, so the owners converted the seventh-story café into the Southern restaurant it is today. The menu incorporates everything you'd ever find in New Orleans's alleyways, including a roster of 17 po'boys, platters of fried seafood and, of course, the gumbo that started it all. Just like the owners' hospitality, portion sizes are generous, so go prepared with a Mardi Gras-sized appetite.
④ Juniper (Saint Louis)
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.
⑤ Peaches HotHouse (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. 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 a giant wedge of cool iceberg lettuce (topped with smoked bacon and blue cheese) or the fried green tomatoes, neatly shingled on a plate and covered in more bacon, arugula and barbecue-spiced aioli.
⑥ Percy Street BBQ (Philadelphia)
In a city unfairly stereotyped for subsisting on just cheesesteaks, Percy Street (originally founded by superstar chef Michael Solomonov of Zahav fame) churns out legitimate Lone Star Texas BBQ. Brisket is smoked over red oak embers and served in between squishy Martin's potato rolls with bread-and-butter pickles. Porcine lovers can opt for racks of tender ribs glazed in Percy Street's old faithful barbecue sauce, while more carnivorous parties can shell out $240 for the entire smoked brisket, carved tableside and served with a smorgasbord of classic smokehouse sides.
⑦ Pine State Biscuits (Portland)
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.
⑧ Yardbird (Miami)
You might associate Miami Beach with green juice and bowls of quinoa, but this airy hangout covers all tenants of an exemplary Southern meal. Hot biscuits come to the table, ready to be slathered in honey butter or topped with slices of cured country ham, while shrimp and grits get a ladleful of jus amped up by a generous pour of lager. Meanwhile, the Swine 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.
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