Good Eats

The Year in Southern Restaurants

By Jed PortmanDecember 29, 2016

In 2016, restaurants below the Mason-Dixon line continued to expand and play with regional flavors and ingredients. These five stood out.

Local Provisions
Asheville, North Carolina

From left: Tables at Local Provisions; chef Justin Burdett. (Photos by Johnny Autry; Meghan Rolfe) 

Justin Burdett became a master of local, seasonal ingredients as at the right hand of chef Steven Satterfield of Miller Union in Atlanta. Here, he brings the full force of that fine-dining education to modernist plates that evoke his high-country surroundings. Plenty of chefs tout their farmers and foragers, but few are as radically devoted to local flavor as a chef who once cooked trout on a hot rock from the river where it swam and served it with condiments made from plants growing along the riverside. In such experienced hands, wild chaga mushrooms and invasive knotweed become delicacies. localprovisionsasheville.com

Curds and whey at Local Provisions. (Photos by Johnny Autry)

Pineapple and Pearls
Washington, D.C.

From left: Chef Aaron Silverman; inside Pineapple and Pearls. (Photographs by Kate Warren)

In 2013, we named Rose’s Luxury one of the most exciting restaurant openings of the year. We weren’t the only ones. This spring, chef Aaron Silverman tested D.C.’s goodwill with his follow-up: the $250-a-head, tasting-menu-only Pineapple & Pearls. The theatrical, ever-changing fifteen-course lineup of such dishes as caviar with avocado ice cream and made-on-the-spot vegetable broth over mustard green agnolotti is well worth the price. Besides, it includes drinks. “When you arrive, everything is paid for–that’s it,” Silverman told us earlier this year. “All you have to do is have a good time.” pineappleandpearls.com


McCrady’s Tavern
Charleston, South Carolina

From left: Chef Sean Brock; escargot-stuffed marrow bone; pastry chef Katy Keefe. (Photos by Andrea Behrends, jwkpec.com, Andrew Cebulka)

After making his name with whiskey and country ham, chef Sean Brock turned his focus to a different kind of Americana: the heady, over-the-top flavors of the Gold Rush, the Gilded Age, and the Roaring Twenties. At McCrady's Tavern, you can scoop caviar with a mother-of-pearl spoon, slurp nineteenth-century calf’s head soup, and slice into a plate-sized slab of veal blanquette dressed with peas and ham. Brock is leading the pack once again, with help from chef de cuisine Justin Cherry and pastry chef Katy Keefe, whose black walnut–perfumed Lady Baltimore cake is a fitting end to an extravagant all-American meal. mccradystavern.com

McCrady's Lady Baltimore cake. (Photo courtesy of jwkpec.com)

Turkey and the Wolf
New Orleans


From left: Lauren Holton and Chef Mason Hereford; menu items at Turkey and the Wolf. (Photos courtesy of Turkey and the Wolf)

Behind the playful sandwiches at this popular spot are two seriously trained professionals: chef Mason Hereford and his partner, Lauren Holton, both restaurant industry veterans. So they know what they’re doing when they pile fried bologna on white bread with hot mustard and potato chips, or long-cooked collard greens on rye with pickled cherries and cheese. Pair your lunch with a cocktail and stick around for dessert: the soft-serve ice cream comes with toppings like date molasses and key lime pie chunks. And don’t plan on making it back to the office when you’re done. turkeyandthewolf.com



J.C. Holdway 
Knoxville, Tennessee

From left: Chef Joseph Lenn; cookware inside J.C. Holdway; seating at J.C. Holdway. (Photos courtesy of J.C. Holdway)

A lifelong bachelor from Clinch Mountain, Tennessee, J.C. Holdway impressed the importance of hospitality on his grandnephew, the James Beard Award–winning former Blackberry Farm chef Joseph Lenn. “He went out to eat every day of his life, pretty much,” says Lenn, a Knoxville native. “Wherever I went with him, every single person knew his name.” Holdway inspired the welcoming atmosphere at Lenn's downtown restaurant where the world-famous chef comes down to earth. “I’m aiming for something simpler than what I did at Blackberry,” Lenn says, which means haute rustic plates of wood-fired meats and seasonal vegetables. But he’s still working with Blackberry’s key local purveyors, including Allan Benton, Cruze Farm, and Muddy Pond Sorghum Mill.  jcholdway.com