21. City Grocery
> Location: Oxford, Mississippi
The flagship of James Beard Award-winning chef John Currence’s mini-empire of Oxford restaurants (which also includes Big Bad Breakfast, BourÃ©, The Main Event, and Snackbar — the last of whose chef has also won a Beard Award), City Grocery is a casual but serious place with a menu that’s undeniable Southern but with international accents. Pan-fried quail with savory bread pudding stuffing, Nashville hot chicken panzanella, and Sea Island vegetable curry with Carolina Gold rice are typical offerings.
> Location: Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is becoming a destination restaurant city, due at least in part to the efforts of husband-and-wife team of Félix Meana and chef Katie Button — both veterans of Ferran Adrià’s famed elBulli in Catalonia. They offer Asheville a menu of just-like-in-Spain tapas, including such essentials as patatas bravas, chicken croquettes, stuffed piquillo peppers, and octopus Galician style. The selection of Spanish wines is superb.
23. Chef & the Farmer
> Location: Kinston, North Carolina
Cookbook author, TV personality, and chef-restaurateur Vivian Howard’s “progressive eatery” draws on local products and traditional Southern recipes, but often gives them an international twist. Peel & eat shrimp come with lemon aïoli, pork shoulder is accompanied by red-curry-braised watermelon, and the “dirty” Carolina Gold rice is prepared paella style with the addition of “quirky furikake” (a variation on a traditional Japanese condiment for rice).
24. The Fearrington House Restaurant
> Location: Pittsboro, North Carolina
This destination dining location in Fearrington Village, a development outside Chapel Hill, is known for its rustic-elegant environment and modern American (which means internationally accented) seasonal fixed-price menus. Sample dishes include house-cured bacon with lobster, peach, corn, and cucumber; center-cut beef ribeye with lion’s mane mushrooms and basil; and warm sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch and Medjool dates.
25. The Lantern
> Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
North Carolina ingredients and Asian dishes are featured at Andrea Reusing’s restaurant, a longtime Chapel Hill favorite. Crab and pork spring rolls, tea- and spice-smoked chicken, and crispy whole wild-caught North Carolina fish with garlic, chiles, tamarind, and fresh lime leaf are typical offerings.