“I used to be a newspaper reporter,” says the author Ace Atkins, “and when you’re getting into a new city, that’s how you dip into the culture there—you go out and eat.” At six-foot-three, the former Auburn University defensive end certainly has the metabolism for it. These days, though, a different kind of writing guides Atkins’s travel. In 1998, he traded hard news for crime fiction with his first novel, Crossroad Blues. Now, he’s twenty-three books in, with a clutch of New York Times best-sellers, and frequently tours to give readings and meet fans.
The Sinners, the eighth installment of his Quinn Colson series, kicks off with a reading in Atkins’s Oxford, Mississippi, hometown at the vaunted Square Books on Tuesday, July 17. It’s Atkins’s second book tour this year—in May, he hit eight cities for Robert B. Parker’s Old Black Magic, his seventh installment since taking over the iconic Spenser detective series. From Oxford, he’ll depart for Memphis, then swing west with stops in Houston, Tulsa, and Austin, before returning to Alabama, South Carolina, and finishing in Pittsboro, North Carolina, at McIntyre’s Books. (Get the full schedule here, and follow along on Atkins’s Instagram account.)
That’s a lot of ground to cover. And a lot of meals to eat. “I’m a fan of greasy spoons, and I love places with history—those restaurants that have stood the test of time,” Atkins says. We asked him to share a few of his favorites.
“It’s a little greasy spoon up on North Parkway. It’s one of the few barbecue places I’ve ever found with Cornish hens. They have outstanding ribs, too. Barbecue is barbecue; it really boils down to, Is it good or not? I’ve got pretty high standards, and this is top-notch.” cozycornerbbq.com
“Birmingham seems to be making such strides with new restaurants, but when I go through, I always go back to an old standby—Lloyd’s. It’s on Highway 280, on the road to Auburn. I grew up going there and, full disclosure, it’s my uncle’s restaurant. He bought it from the original Lloyd. As a kid, I used to help wash dishes. It’s just a great, classic Southern restaurant.” lloyds280.com
Chris’ Hot Dogs
“It’s a step back in time. I’ve been going there my whole life; before that, my mother went there, and before that, my grandfather. It was a favorite of Hank Williams’s. The owners are seventh-generation. In the back, there’s a booth with memorabilia from FDR’s funeral—it’s like a tribute. I always sit in that area.” chrishotdogs.com
“This place outside of Austin has—I don’t say this lightly—the greatest breakfast I’ve ever had. It’s to the point where people in Austin, they say, No, no, you don’t understand. You have to go. It’s an eggs and biscuits and coffee kind of joint.” maxinescafe.com
Bacon Brothers Public House
Greenville, South Carolina
“I would go way out of the way for Bacon Brothers. It’s really unassuming—in a strip-mall. Everything is farm to table and very fresh. Outstanding burgers. They cure their own meats. Great cocktails. When I’m in Greenville, I’m definitely going straight there before or after the reading.” baconbrospublichouse.com