The maxim may tout apple pie, but in reality there’s nothing more American than cornbread, whether in the form of Rhode Island’s johnnycakes, Maine’s sweet corn muffins, New Mexico’s tortillas or Georgia’s skillet-baked version. From cornbread dressing to casserole, there’s really no form of this staple we don’t like. These spots serve up my picks for the best cornbread (and its close relatives). Vote for your favorites in the AJC’s Best of the Big A cornbread search through the weekend; winners will be posted on Monday.
406 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur. 404-378-4900,
The vegetable plate at Watershed becomes the ideal setting for a slice of the restaurant’s dreamy spoon bread, inspired by the late, great Edna Lewis. Part cream, part cornmeal: all heaven.
Harold’s Barbecue not rated
171 McDonough Blvd., Atlanta, 404-627-9268
The barbecue at this classic joint in Atlanta’s West End has left me scratching my head the last few times I’ve been, but the Brunswick stew and cracklin’ corn bread are still worth the trip. Rendered pork fat and cornmeal make a match better than peanut butter and chocolate, and the crisped-edged goodness sis just right for dipping into the hearty stew.
Thelma’s Kitchen not rated
302 Auburn Ave., Atlanta, 404-688-5855
Atlanta’s queen of soul food, Thelma Grundy, keeps right on truckin’ with her soulful Southern favorites, from fried chicken to collard greens. But you’re going to need something to sop up that pot liquor, right? That must be why her cornbread — a simply made version that will remind you of your grandmother’s — is so good.
Rincon Latino ***
5055 Buford Highway, Doraville, 770-936-8181
Something magical happens when masa is formed into a thick tortilla, stuffed with cheese and sealed on the griddle. The undeniable flavor of corn mixed with soft, white quesillo — a stringy cheese similar to mozzarella — forms a flatbread singed with welcoming flavor. In El Salvador, the result is called a pupusa, and served with a pickled slaw of cabbage, onion and carrots called curtido, it reigns as Central America’s most popular lunch and street food.
866 West Peachtree St. N.W., adjacent to Hotel Palomar, Atlanta, 678-412-2402
Polenta takes cornmeal to a different level, and a visit to Pacci should certainly include Georgia native and chef Keira Moritz’s elusively tender duck confit. It falls from the bone with just enough (but not too much) fat, yet sports an ethereally thin, crisp crust, over gorgonzola and polenta studded with a contrast of fat blackberries in a sweet preserve.