Special Report

The 35 Best Restaurants in the South

Source: Courtesy of SpringHouse

1. SpringHouse
> Location: Alexander City, Alabama

Pimento cheese-stuffed peppadews, shrimp and grits, and a very Southern vegetable plate (pink eye peas, corn ribs, heirloom tomatoes, squash casserole, and smoked cheddar cornbread) are among the expressions of the “modern version of Southern classical cuisine” at this wood-and-stone-framed restaurant on Lake Martin, northeast of Montgomery.

Source: Courtesy of Acre

2. Acre
> Location: Auburn, Alabama

Expect house-cured charcuterie, locally raised meats sourced in collaboration with the Auburn University Meat Lab, Gulf Coast seafood, and such menu offerings as “chicken fried” bacon with barbecue pecans and grilled flat iron steak with butterbean orzo salad in this rustic-chic place in eastern Alabama, about 30 miles from Columbus, Georgia.

3. Highlands Bar & Grill
> Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Chef Frank Stitt was a true pioneer of contemporary Southern cooking, opening this Alabama restaurant in 1982. Such dishes as oysters “Old Mobile Style,” Gulf black grouper with Carolina Gold rice and crawfish tails, and lamb porterhouse chops with collard greens and Tuscan kale gratin have set the standard for melding Southern ingredients and food traditions with modern European cuisine.

Source: Courtesy of Hot and Hot Fish Club

4. Hot and Hot Fish Club
> Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Imaginatively blending Southern, French, and Californian cuisines into an idiom of its own, Hot and Hot Fish Club comes up with such original fare as smoked sea bass rillettes, tripletail minestrone, and “Iron Chef” rabbit roulade with sausage.

Source: Courtesy of The Hive

5. The Hive
> Location: Bentonville, Arkansas

Bentonville is Walton (as in Walmart) country, and a major cultural destination thanks to the Moshe Safdie-designed Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, opened in 2011 by Alice Walton, daughter of the massive retail chain’s founder, Sam Walton. There’s a smaller contemporary art museum nearby at the 21c Museum Hotel — which is also the home of this proudly Southern restaurant. Look for such fare as shell bean hummus, crispy pork belly with compressed watermelon and pickled sweet peppers, and pan-roasted chicken with purple hull peas and grits on chef Matthew McClure’s menu.