City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Best chefs in the South?

Credit: Jason Wallis

Chris Hastings (Credit: Jason Wallis)

This morning’s post on Sean Brock at McCrady’s in Charleston got me thinking: Who are today’s Southern chefs worth driving for? Which are the restaurants outside of Atlanta that are worth planning a weekend around?

Here are my recommendations from the ones I’ve tried.

  • Chris Hastings at Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham. I love eating at the bar in front of the open kitchen, and the heirloom tomato and butterbean salad is still something I dream of.
  • Mike Lata at Fig in Charleston. Such a smart, casual spot, and the menu changes so frequently that you always want to check in on every visit to Charleston.
  • Frank Stitt at Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham. This restaurant does such an amazing job of tying together French country cooking and Southern cooking into something that makes perfect sense. Again, the bar is an awesome stopover if you’re dining solo.
  • Adam Cooke, Joseph Lenn and Josh Feathers at Blackberry Farm. This Great Smoky Mountains inn in Walland, Tenn., isn’t for the weak of wallet. But it’s worth looking for special off-season rates. The trio of chefs here do spectacular work with the farm’s veegetables, sheep’s milk cheeses, eggs and honey.

I’ve never tried the cooking of Ben and Karen Barker at Magnolia Grill in Durham, NC, Andrea Reusing at Lantern in Chapel Hill, NC or Karen Urie Shields and John B. Shields at Townhouse in Chilhowie, VA, but I hear great things about all of them.

Who else did I miss?

55 comments Add your comment

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June 14th, 2010
12:53 pm

Chef John Fleer at the Canyon Kitchen at Lonesome Valley in Cashiers, NC:


June 14th, 2010
1:06 pm

Mike Lata, Sean Brock, Hugh Acheson, Daniel Lindley in Chattanooga, Jim Noble in Charlotte

Tyler Pike.

June 14th, 2010
1:07 pm

If you’re in the area you ain’t finding any chef better than daddy. I don’t care that he don’t cook in a ’straunt (that’s southern for restaurant). You can bring any chef you want to and daddy will literally grill them under the table. Then he’ll serve them a succulent plate of pork and throw in just a little bit of his famous vinegar based sauce just to make sure they’ll never forget who’s boss.


June 14th, 2010
1:08 pm

Daniel Lindley at St. John’s in Chattanooga is worth checking out. He’s been a Beard semi-finalist the past couple of years. I’ve had a number of memorable meals there, and the service is always excellent – all the more surprising given the lack of a professional waiter class in such a small city.


June 14th, 2010
1:10 pm

Not even kidding, I plan trips just to go visit Table in Asheville. Wish I had gotten to try their crazy new vegetable: hops asparagus.


June 14th, 2010
2:27 pm

How about four time James Beard nominee, Hugh Acheson…. owner of multiple restaurants in Athens (Five and Ten, The National, Empire State South (June 2010), and Gosford Wine)……. That should be a no-brainer.

Huge fan of Hugh

June 14th, 2010
2:42 pm

I live in Athens. I’d eat Hugh’s food every day if I could.


June 14th, 2010
2:58 pm

I agree with others on Daniel Lindley. In addition to St John’s, he also owns St John’s Meeting Place which is more casual and less expensive, and Alleia which is upscale Italian


June 14th, 2010
3:13 pm

I think that John considers Athens as part of metro Atlanta in this context. I agree that Hugh Acheson’s places are awesome.

Patrick Wood

June 14th, 2010
3:25 pm

Johannes Klapdohr at Madison’s in Highlands, NC.


June 14th, 2010
3:28 pm

Hugh hands down!


June 14th, 2010
3:46 pm

Chris Dupont, Cafe Dupont, in downtown Birmingham – best oysters ever, and doing a lot to promote community gardens and local produce.


June 14th, 2010
4:02 pm

In New Orleans, Donald Link of Herbsaint and Cochon and Susan Spicer of Bayona.


June 14th, 2010
4:07 pm

tyler pike….being a good griller like your daddy is nice. But a good chef can cook any type of food including that which comes off the grill. I believe that was the intent of the article?


June 14th, 2010
4:24 pm

I would add Amy Tornquist of Watts Grocery in Durham to your list.

John Kessler

June 14th, 2010
4:25 pm

Good ideas. Excited about John Fleer’s (ex-Blackberry Farm) new place.


June 14th, 2010
4:45 pm

I’m not sure of the name of the head chef, but try Four Moon’s Restaurant & Bar in Orangeburg, SC.


June 14th, 2010
4:47 pm

Linton Hopkins


June 14th, 2010
4:53 pm

James Beard award winner – John Currence, City Grocery, Oxford MS


June 14th, 2010
5:25 pm

Its sad that none of these are in Atlanta!


June 14th, 2010
5:32 pm

Elizabeth Terry, of Elizabeth’s on 37th in Savannah. She was the ‘ 95 James Beard winner for best chef in America..southeast.


June 14th, 2010
5:34 pm

If hugh has 4 restaurants, how do you know if he is cooking at any of them? Or does he even cook at ANY of them?

Tyler Pike: You crack me up any time you post. Thanks for the laughs.


June 14th, 2010
5:59 pm

Ditto on John Currence from Oxford, Mississippi. He has two great places there: City Grocery and Big Bad Breakfast. Either place alone is worth the drive. (Great town to boot.)

Not Forsyth County

June 14th, 2010
6:08 pm

Wayne Wetendorf–Grits Cafe–Forsyth, GA. Worth the drive.

Tommy C.

June 14th, 2010
6:39 pm

How about Daniel Alterman at Horseradish Grill?


June 14th, 2010
7:25 pm

I personally heard Frank Stitt say that Acheson (Five and Ten) is one of his favorite chefs. That’s a heck of a recommendation as far as I’m concerned! I’ve eaten at all Stitt’s places and they are great!


June 14th, 2010
7:27 pm

Elizibeth Terry hasn’t been at Elizabeth’s on 37th for 10 years, but it is still a great restaurant.


June 14th, 2010
7:35 pm

Maurice’s Piggie Park


June 14th, 2010
8:03 pm

taylor pike…if that was scarcasm, I must appologize. It is hard to decect sometimes with the printed word!!!


June 14th, 2010
8:49 pm

How about Shane. The executive chef at Shane’s Rib Shack?

Former B'ham Resident

June 14th, 2010
9:05 pm

I try to tell people in Atlanta about the great restaurants in Birmingham. Highlands & Hot and Hot are about a mile away from each other. Take a weekend and dine at Highlands on Friday night and Hot and Hot on Saturday. It will be a worthwhile trip.

Big Will

June 14th, 2010
9:21 pm

Dan Tederous in Tampa, of course!


June 14th, 2010
10:02 pm

Former BHam Resident: Considering Atlanta’s traffic and how close B’Ham is, I see no reason to stay over night. I’ll just drive over and try them lol.

Baltisraul: I missed your first comment. “Tyler Pike” posts in the genre every time he posts. He’s not being sarcastic as sarcasm is the lowest form of humor, he’s just being funny. Stick around. He doesn’t post on every one of John’s blogs, but on enough. He and his daddy have a LOT of BBQ adventures lol.


June 14th, 2010
10:03 pm

He got an uncle with character too…….

bootin snootin

June 14th, 2010
10:56 pm

How about Chef Scott Peacock….. Watershed in Decatur, GA nuff said


June 14th, 2010
10:56 pm

James Beard twice-nominated Daniel Lindley has created a kind of holy trio of Chattanooga restaurants:

St. John’s Restaurant [amazing new American]
Meeting Place [casual American classics - fantastic versions of BLT, steak frites, or sausages with pickled beets and onions];
ALLEIA [Italian-inspired and experiential - housemade papadelle and braised veal, basil gelato]


June 14th, 2010
11:32 pm

Hugh Acheson been killin’ it


June 15th, 2010
9:54 am

how about chef henry


June 15th, 2010
10:38 am

it’s too bad Gunter Seeger skipped town


June 15th, 2010
12:17 pm

bootin, you might want to catch up on your news.
Jamie, Four Moons is interesting. I ran into them at the Charleston Food & Wine Festival, and I had to know why they were in Orangeburg. The relocated-from-NJ family that owns Zeus mfg (on I-26 outside of Columbia) needed a place to take clients, so they opened it up. I’m sure they are taking a loss on it now, but I hope it gets supported. Their sample at the festival was quite good.


June 15th, 2010
12:19 pm

Devereaux’s in Greenville, SC — I haven’t eaten there, but a foodie friend has, and it sounded incredible.

Chip Shoulder

June 15th, 2010
12:22 pm

The best meal I’ve had in the south was by Gunter Seegar; the best meal I’ve had by a chef still working in the south was by Scott Crawford, formerly of the Dining Room at the Cloister. We did the chef’s table once and the tasting menu another time, and both meals were phenomenal. He’s working in NC now, but I don’t know where.


June 15th, 2010
1:00 pm

I’ve loved SNOB in Charleston for quite some time. And would gladly drive the distance to dine there. And do. Year after year.

Charles Robinson

June 15th, 2010
1:36 pm

Sean Brock of McCrady’s in Charleston is simply amazing. Ken Vedrinski at Trattoria Lucca (also in Charleston) does some pretty spectacular food, too. I am also very pleased with Michelle Weaver at the Charleston Grill at the Charleston Place Hotel.

Karen and John Shields from Townhouse came down to do a special dinner with Sean Brock at McCrady’s. Karen and John did five of the eight courses. The eight people at my table tasted each of them, then put down their utensils. Karen and John seemed so obsessed with the food science they forgot it was supposed to taste good. I won’t be making the trek to Chilhowie any time soon.

Finally, one small nitpick: Mike Lata’s restaurant is FIG, in all caps. :-)


June 15th, 2010
5:31 pm

Fred…I will wait for Mr Pike and daddy to return with great anticipation! Thanks for the heads up!!!!


June 15th, 2010
7:04 pm

Former B’ham Resident- you must’ve gone the long way around b/c Highlands and Hot and Hot are only a few blocks apart.

I volunteer to tag along for a road trip to the Triangle, John. I was there a few weeks ago for a really quick visit. Didn’t get to eat at the listed places, with the exception of a late-night app and drink at Lantern.

Bill C.

June 17th, 2010
12:24 am

Wally Joe in Memphis, TN is one the best. He was one of the chefs on Turner South’s “Off The Menu”


June 20th, 2010
2:07 pm

Hugh Acheson is superb.

seeded buns

June 20th, 2010
2:14 pm

Tyrone at the N’side West Paces McDonalds makes a killer Big Mac. Check it out.