The heat is on down South this summer, when seasonal dishes emerge on plates as fast as fat red tomatoes ripen on the vine. Southern chefs, cooks, and diners relish the fresh flavors of the fertile growing season, whether from the garden or the sea. We’ve gathered nine dishes that will leave you hungry for more, so pick up your fork and order a sweet tea. It’s going to be a tasty summer.
Barbecue ~ In the Deep South, barbecue is a noun, not a verb. Pitmasters slow-cook succulent meats over wood fires and the smoky aroma lures like the Pied Piper’s song, drawing the hungry to claim a plate of pulled pork, ribs, and brisket. The best way to pick a fight down South is to claim that one style of barbecue is better than another, and pitmasters vie for bragging rights as the king of ‘cue at competitions across the region. Barbecue changes in different areas, from North Carolina’s tangy vinegar-based sauce to South Carolina’s mustardy sauce, from Alabama’s thick red sauce to Memphis’ finger-licking dry rub. Give Southerners a summer holiday—be it the 4th of July, Labor Day, or any other—and they’ll celebrate it with barbecue.
Where to Go: How do you find a good barbecue joint? Easy. Look for two ingredients: smoke rising out of the chimney, and pickup trucks and Cadillacs side by side in the parking lot. A top spot is Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama. Here you’ll see trophies from past Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contests and tables topped with bottles of the porcine palace’s signature tangy white sauce.