How do raw oysters, smoked meat, and sweet potato hush puppies sound for dinner? Go to one of these restaurants — they’re the best new spots in the South
If you’re planning a trip for business or pleasure to the American South, add these restaurants—all of which have opened in the past six months—to your travel itinerary (particularly if you want to nosh on BBQ or chicken and waffles), you won’t regret it.
The Obstinate Daughter – Sullivan’s Island, SC
Chef Jacques Larson won a loyal following for his rustic Italian way of handling local fish and vegetables at Wild Olive on Johns Island. This year, he gained an ocean view with the opening of The Obstinate Daughter. The pastas and pizzas are first-rate, but don’t skip the baked clams and griddled octopus from nearby waters.
Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oysters – Charleston, SC
Start with the chargrilled oysters, a lemon-soaked and cheese-matted tribute to the Lowcountry’s most beloved bivalve. Almost everything at Leon’s is a stylish salute to the rough-and-tumble South, from the house-made hot sauce to the bluesy soundtrack to the fried chicken, sporting a crisp, smooth crust.
The Florence – Savannah, GA
Having reached the pinnacles of the dining scenes in Athens and Atlanta, Top Chef judge Hugh Acheson this year rolled into a third Georgia city. With the Florence, Acheson brings his particular brand of casual sophistication, preservation prowess, and wine savvy to Savannah. In keeping with the restaurant’s Italian theme, the breads and pizza crusts are excellent.
The Pig & The Pearl – Atlanta, GA
Chef Todd Richards is always a welcome sight at the South’s many food festivals, since his contributions to tasting events are always exceptionally balanced. He’s more interested in flavor than showing off. That notion of balance is central to The Pig & The Pearl, which specializes in raw oysters and smoked meat.
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint – Nashville, TN
Nashville’s restaurant scene is in the throes of a full-fledged renaissance, but city slickers were still driving to Williamson County for whole hog barbecue. This year, acclaimed pitmaster Pat Martin saved them a trip by opening a massive location on Belmont Boulevard. In deference to urban diets, Martin also put a salad on the menu.
Thai Esane – Nashville, TN
The name references Thailand, but the restaurant’s menu is indebted to a range of Southeast Asian cuisines, including Laotian and Malaysian. Thai Esane’s chef-owner Nina Sayasack, who last cooked at an Asian market south of city limits, is renowned for her soups, sausages, and spring rolls.
Pizza Domenica – New Orleans, LA
When crowds for Domenica’s pizza happy hour threatened to overpower the Central Business District restaurant, Alon Shaya and John Besh came up with Pizza Domenica, a casual, counter-service joint that happens to serve Shaya’s revered roasted cauliflower. Pies from the wood-fired oven can be paired with a trio of dipping sauces (and a cold beer, if you choose.)
King Daddy’s Chicken & Waffles – Asheville, NC
King Daddy’s acknowledges its Asheville address with hip dishes like kale salad, sweet potato hush puppies, and a vegan beet burger; but the restaurant’s raison d’etre is fried chicken and waffles, as imagined by Early Girl Eatery’s John and Julie Stehling. Ever inclusive, the couple offers a gluten-free chicken and vegan waffle option. (Pictured: A poutine dish.)