Top 10 Fried Foods to Try in the South
No matter the season, there’s something comforting about popping a big bite of fried food into your mouth, and here in the South, we love our fried food. Just like the many different styles of barbecue served up around these parts, the oil and the coating used during cooking can be unique to a state, a city or even a small town. So, whether you’re taking a road trip or just looking for the best fried food in your neck of the woods, here are the top 10 fried foods to try when you’re down south.
1. Fried Green Tomatoes
The acclaimed 1991 movie Fried Green Tomatoes was filmed in Juliette, Georgia, where the cafe set used in the film became an actual restaurant known as The Original Whistle Stop Cafe. Located several miles off Interstate 75, the restaurant serves this namesake dish as an appetizer (ask for the radish sauce), as a salad (chunks of fried green tomatoes on top of a salad of regular ol’ tomatoes, Vidalia onions, celery and lettuce), and as a sandwich (on rye with bacon and Swiss). Peruse the history and movie memorabilia—and if you’re lucky, you’ll hear the local train whistling as it pulls on through.
2. Fried Apple Pie
Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, Georgia, has been around since 1943 and has pick-your-own seasonal fruits, a farm market, a cafe and a winery/cidery. Come here for the fried apple pies, and delight in the perfect mix of sweet fruit, flaky golden dough, light glaze and warmth (you can also eat them cold). Fried pie is definitely a Southern thing, and Mercier Orchards makes some of the best around.
3. Fried Okra
“Fried Okra” (CC BY 2.0) by thebittenword.com
If you never met a vegetable you didn’t fry, then you’re likely already a fan of fried okra. The Pecking Order Fried Chicken & Catering, not far from Tarpon Bay on Sanibel Island, Florida, makes some of the best fried okra around. These little balls of deep golden fried goodness are the perfect size to just pop into your mouth, with or without dipping sauce.
4. Fried Catfish
“GBD Catfish” (CC BY 2.0) by ViNull
About 14 miles out of Jackson, Mississippi, going south along U.S. 49, you’ll find Jerry’s Catfish House. This dome-shaped restaurant serves some mighty fine fried catfish, all farm-raised in Mississippi. Get it by the plate or as an all-you-can-eat option, paired with sides like hush puppies, French fries and coleslaw. Order your fish extra crispy, just like the locals do.
5. Fried Gator
You may have to be from the South to truly appreciate the alligator, both as resident wildlife and as a dish on restaurant menus. If you’re looking to fill your belly, head to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where Shuck N Dive serves up some of the best around, either Southern-style or flash-fried.
6. Fried Donuts
You can get donuts in every state in the country, but some of the very best are made here in the Southeast. Visit the TatoNut Shop in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, for homemade donuts made with potato flour (hence, the “tato”) and frosted or filled with a variety of delicious ingredients. Wash them down with your choice of coffee or cappuccino.
7. Fried Dill Pickles
“Fried Pickles” (CC BY 2.0) by Will Folsom
The Hollywood Cafe features a smiling, sunglasses-wearing dill pickle as its logo—a hint that the restaurant is known for its fried dill pickles. The story around Robinsonville, Mississippi, is that a cook—who had just run out of catfish—created the dish in hopes of appeasing a hungry Hollywood Cafe crowd way back in 1969 . Try the fried pickles alone; with fried green tomatoes, onion rings and jalapeños on an appetizer platter,; or as a side for an assortment of burgers, fried food platters and other dishes.
8. Hot Fried Chicken
Nashville, Tennessee, is the epicenter of the “hot” fried chicken scene—a designation that has nothing to do with temperature and everything to do with spiciness. For decades, Hattie B’s has been the place to get hot fried chicken, and you can wash it all down with a gallon of sweet tea.
9. Turnip Fries
“turnip quads” (CC BY 2.0) by ali graney
Sweet potato fries, zucchini fries, green bean fries—the list of alternatives to regular ol’ potato (French) fries seems to grow yearly. Next time you’re in Fairhope, Alabama, consider turnip fries, an edgy and delicious take on regular ol’ Southern turnips presented with flair at Dragonfly Bar. The fries are coated in tempura batter before frying, for a lighter taste.
10. Frog Legs
Huck Finn’s Catfish sits in the center of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, doling out all sorts of Southern comfort food to a continuous crowd of locals and tourists. In addition to fried catfish, shrimp and chicken, Huck’s is known for its fried frog legs—truly an acquired taste. They’re accompanied by the restaurant’s “All ‘U Can Eat Vittles,” which includes coleslaw, baked white beans, potatoes (mashed or fried) and hush puppies.