Our Favorite Meals of 2012
Our Favorite Meals of 2012January 4, 2013
2012 will go down in history as the year that the Southern Foodways Alliance’s annual conference sold out in twelve minutes. It was a banner year for Southern food all around. While chefs in Charleston and Atlanta played with Southern standards, grits, sorghum, and country ham continued their march onto white-tablecloth menus from New Orleans to New York City. We reaped the benefits at restaurants all over the country. Here are the best meals we ate:
Dave DiBenedetto, Editor-in-Chief
This is a hard call. I’d say that I had my best meal of 2012 at Yardbird, in Miami—fried chicken with waffles and spicy Tabasco honey. It’s hard to improve on fried chicken, but Chef Jeff McInnis did it.
Marshall McKinney, Art Director
I went to the Beard Boys dinner at McCrady’s, here in Charleston, last fall. Sean Brock's duck breast was unbelievable, and Mike Lata’s coddled egg was the jam. That ties for meal of the year with a dinner last fall at Lata's FIG restaurant. He was testing recipes for The Ordinary when we went in, so there were a lot of seafood dishes on the menu. And a vegetable plate that was off the chain.
Maggie Kennedy, Photography Director
I ate at Lantern, in Chapel Hill, in September. Incredible, original food. We ordered half the menu! I probably should pick my husband Hunter's New Year's Day meal: pork with Meyer lemon sauce from our yard and Hoppin’ John. (He swears by field peas, and will eat it no other way, but I'm a black eyed pea girl myself.)
Dave Mezz, Deputy Editor
I would have to say late-night hot tamales purchased out of the back of a car outside Po Monkey's Lounge in Merigold, Mississippi. Red hot!
Kim Alexander, Digital Media Editor
Poole's Diner, in Raleigh, NC. Best. Mac. And. Cheese. Ever. You know how people sometime joke that you can taste the love in a really good dish? Well, no joke, you can taste the love in chef Ashley Christensen's mac and cheese. And, believe me, the love tastes really good.
Elizabeth Hutchison, Editorial Assistant
One of my favorite spots in Charleston is chef Ken Vedrinski's Trattoria Lucca. Located off the beaten path in residential Elliotsborough, it's the type of place that makes you want to order that extra glass of wine and visit a while longer. Lucca's 24-hour flat-iron steak with lambrusco braised beef cheek ravioli—topped with a palmetto sweet onion crema, smoked ricotta, speck, and porcini mushrooms—remains the best thing I ate in 2012. But the pickled shrimp at Carter's Kitchen and the french fries at Moe's (a perennial favorite) are at the top of my list, too.
Jed Portman, Editorial Assistant
I wrote about Bluff City, Tennessee's Ridgewood Barbecue twice last year. Here I go again. Why can't I get it off my mind? Maybe it's the location—in a quiet hollow, just down the road from our old family farm. Or the bright dining room, a beacon of warmth on a cool evening in southern Appalachia. Or the locals who swear, with contagious enthusiasm, that Ridgewood serves the best barbecue on earth. All of those things are part of the experience. But the main attraction at Ridgewood is the ham—smoked, sliced, and brushed with a dark barbecue sauce. Add a side of the restaurant's famous blue cheese dressing, and a pot of beans, and you have a meal that took me hours out of my way more than once in 2012.
Braxton Crim, Assistant Art Director
The best thing I ate in 2012 was a dessert—the sorghum cake with bourbon ice cream at FIG. Best main course? Probably the suckling pig confit that I ate earlier the same night.
Margaret Houston, Assistant Photo Editor
Which Southern restaurants did you love in 2012?