Southern Food Road Trip: How To Eat Your Way From Atlanta To Charleston

Besides New York City — and possibly Las Vegas, which I fondly refer to as "the world's greatest food court" — there's probably no place in the country with more great dining per capita than the southeastern corner of the United States. Of course, the area is less densely populated than other parts of the country. After all, we need to keep farmland free to raise all the wonderful vegetables and pigs you will find on the menus. If you're looking to head to the source to experience authentic Southern cuisine, here's an eatinerary that should get your mouth watering and put a close-to-home road trip on your Fantasy Travel agenda. Heck, it may be the most attainable fantasy on there.

Thursday AM | Atlanta, GA

It's a truism that when you die in the South that you may go to heaven, or you may go to hell, but you will most certainly go through the Atlanta airport. So you might as well book a flight to Hartsfield-Jackson. Choose a flight to get you there early enough to pick up a rental car with unlimited mileage and a comfortable driver's seat.

Thursday PM | Greenville, SC

Clearly if you're looking for a Southern culinary adventure, you want to point your GPS toward Charleston, SC, but don't miss out on this little gem of a dining city on the way that's only a couple hours from Atlanta. This dining guide will give you plenty of good ideas, but two easy choices are the chef's tasting menu at Deveraux's or a trip around the Mediterranean at The Lazy Goat. Both restaurants feature high-minded cooking with continental twists — and always made with the freshest of local ingredients. Spend the night in Greenville and plan to wake up early and hungry for a busy day of traveling and eating.

Friday AM | Columbia, SC

It's only about 100 miles to the capital of the state, so you should be able to make it in time for a quick breakfast at Café Strudel. Don't be put off by this European diversion on your Southern road trip. Their world-famous Hangover Hashbrowns are Southern as a corn cob, and along with their unlimited coffee bar will power you down the road.

Friday PM | Hemingway, SC

It's critical that you stay on schedule because you're headed to Hemingway, SC to visit Rodney Scott's epic barbecue joint. The restaurant is only open Thursday-Saturday and they close whenever they run out of whole hog. Don't forget to ask for a bag of crispy kettle-fried pig skins to extend your dining experience down the road, because as Rodney says, "It's made with love."

Friday PM | Charleston, SC

You've finally reached mecca, and you'll certainly want to try to hit those restaurants you've been reading about in your favorite food magazines. But your odds of getting a reservation for a weekend dinner at Sean Brocks's Husk or McCrady's or Mike Lata's FIG are pretty slim without planning ahead, so consider aiming for a Saturday lunch at Husk if you can't snag a table for the evening meal. Instead, consider a dinner at Cypress, where Craig Diehl might well be the next Queen City chef to win a James Beard award like Lata and Brock. Diehl is known for his charcuterie and butchery skills, as well as his dedication to the slow food movement. If red meat isn't your thing, get the Carolina wreckfish with clams, farro verde, leeks and cabbage.

Saturday AM | Charleston, SC

If you're an early riser, Hominy Grill is an excellent choice for breakfast. It opens at 7:30, and Robert Stehling is known for his baked goods from healthy banana bread to The Big Nasty Biscuit, a special treat topped with a fried chicken breast, cheddar cheese and sausage gravy. There's even a walk-up window if you want to grab and go instead of dining in.

For those who prefer brunch over breakfast, take a walk down King Street for low country classics at Virginia's on King. In addition to bottomless mimosas, brunch at Virginia's revolves around three different takes on the traditional eggs Benedict. The first features spinach, ham and tomatoes; the second is topped with country ham and collard greens; and the final version is served with a local crab cake and asparagus.

Saturday PM | Charleston, SC

Just in case those Husk reservations didn't come through, it's important to have a back-up plan. The Glass Onion is a little off the beaten track, but this unpretentious little casual eatery is a hidden gem in the Queen City's crown. The three chef/owners met at various cooking gigs around the South and decided that they absolutely had to team up to bring their approach to simple food with soul to the people of Charleston. Influences from Louisiana to the low country make appearances on their ever-changing menu, or you can just take advantage of their advice and order "The Power Move," which is a suggestion of what the staff recommends off the menu and an accompanying drink to go with the dish.

For dinner, there's nothing wrong with being a snob in Charleston at Slightly North of Broad. Frank Lee, the executive chef at S.N.O.B., was one of the first professionals to popularize low country cuisine when he combined local ingredients with fine French techniques almost 40 years ago. Today, his kitchen still puts out some of the most magnificent seafood and vegetable dishes that you'll find anywhere in Charleston.

Sunday AM | Atlanta, GA

Oh, Mama, can this really be the end? If you have to drive four hours to catch a plane home out of Atlanta, you might as well at least be well-fed when you drop off that rental car. Diners arrive at the bar of Holeman & Finch hours early to begin to butter up their servers or elbow their way to the front of the line for the restaurant's famous "10 o'clock Burgers" prepared by Linton Hopkins. Since they only make 24 of these hand-crafted double-patty grass-fed triple-hyphenated beauties, the scrum is totally worth it. However, those in the know are aware that the kitchen prepares 72 of the exact same burgers for their weekend brunch menu, so odds are much better that you'll be able to experience this beauty while still maintaining some degree of decorum and dignity for your flight home. It sure beats the hell out of a pack of Delta peanuts. Although those Biscoff's are pretty addictive...


25 E Court Street

Greenville, SC


The Lazy Goat

170 River Place

Greenville, SC


Café Strudel

300 State St

West Columbia, SC 29169


Scott's Bar-B-Que

2734 Hemingway Hwy.

Hwy. 261 Brunson Cross Road

Hemingway, SC 29554



167 East Bay Street

Charleston, SC 29401


Hominy Grill

207 Rutledge Avenue

Charleston, SC 29403


Virgnia's on King

412 King Street

Charleston, SC 29403


The Glass Onion

1219 Savannah Highway

Charleston, SC 29407


Slightly North of Broad

192 East Bay St.

Charleston, SC 29401


Holeman & Finch Public House

2277 Peachtree Road Northeast

Atlanta, GA 30309