The South may be known for many things, but at the top of that list must be its food. No matter where you stop below the Mason-Dixon Line, you’re sure to find culinary creations and traditions that more than please the palate.
Dallas may get most of the attention around these parts, but the hidden culinary gem of north Texas is just a few miles away: Addison, Tex., a 4.4-square-mile town that’s packed with delectable eateries. In fact, Addison has the most restaurants per capita in the United States. “We have a population of 16,000 people, but we have more than 180 restaurants here within our community,” said Addison’s director of economic development and tourism, Orlando Campos. “We have basically any type of food you could want. The only challenge here is settling on where to eat because there are so many great options.”
The Texas Triangle
This area is synonymous with barbecue, but more specifically, the region is known for smoked meats, which Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center strives to creatively incorporate into their menu offerings as much as possible. “We sometimes do jerky for snacks during a break, and it always goes over really well,” said Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center general manager Greg Stafford.
Chilis and peppers also make up a big part of the region’s flavors. One unexpected outlet for these ingredients is the Caesar salad. “Instead of bread croutons, we use polenta jalapeño croutons to give it a real Texas twist,” Stafford added. “We also do a jalapeño Caesar dressing as opposed to the regular Caesar dressing.”
Comfort foods are at the heart of Nashville cuisine, from mac and cheese and fried chicken to pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes. Chef’s Market has found multiple ways to not only include those favorites in their offerings, but to elevate them. Instead of basic mac and cheese, they often opt for smoked gouda. A popular canape of pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes is made with tomatillos instead. “Infusion is also big in Nashville, and a big hit is our beef short ribs with a Jack Daniel’s glaze,” said owner Jim Hagy.
Greenville is blessed with a long growing season. That means fresh fruits and vegetables have long played a major role on the dinner menu, and that certainly continues today, noted executive chef Shaun Garcia, of Soby’s New South Cuisine. Fresh veggies like green beans, okra, heirloom tomatoes, and all types of field peas constantly make their way onto the dish, along with longstanding Southern favorites like fried chicken or fresh seafood. “A mainstay on our menu is the vegetable plate,” said Garcia. “We love to showcase locally grown veggies and fresh seafood from our coast, and we do so in a simple but delicious way to really showcase those fresh ingredients.”
Lowcountry cuisine shines in Savannah, Ga. The city’s proximity to the coast and its incredibly rich culinary history play a prominent role at the dinner table, with plenty of fresh seafood and grains like grits and peas maintaining their place as staples in the kitchen. The city is known for fabulous seafood dishes highlighting grouper and crab, and there’s probably not a restaurant in town that doesn’t have their own version of shrimp and grits, noted Savannah Convention Center’s food and beverage director Jamie Parks. In fact, the Savannah Convention Center is known throughout the city for its crab cakes. “A popular thing we do is give away a box of crab cakes to our holiday party guests each year,” Parks said. “It has become a popular tradition of ours, and we’ve done so for the last 20-plus years.”
Florida boasts a range of food offerings thanks to its beautiful coast, Caribbean influences, and Southern roots. It’s not unusual to find dishes across the state that combine all three, but the Caribe Royale Orlando has been doing just that for years. The resort draws on its Caribbean influences with menu items such as coconut French toast, fresh ceviche, pulled pork tacos, and conch fritters—dialing up the Caribbean flavor with the addition of key lime, grapefruit, and oranges.