by Anjali Balakrishna
Photography by Angela Wang
Discussions about Southern food tend to generate images of stereotypical country fare, such as chicken-fried anything and steak. While that does constitute a large portion of Southern cooking, there is much more to the immense world of flavor that is Cajun and Creole cuisine.
When venturing into the Deep South, a different kind of culture appears. Accents are slightly different than the typical Texan twang and the architecture and scenery change, but the most prominent of differences is in the food. With many French influences, the food in the Deep South is flavorful, rich and decadent.
To start this readable road trip and guide to tickle Southern taste buds, let us begin in Shreveport, Louisiana: home of The Blind Tiger Bar and Grill.
Buffalo wings are common everywhere, but The Blind Tiger takes a step away from the traditional wing with their voodoo shrimp. One can definitely feel the witchcraft of Louisiana in fried shrimp covered in spicy “voodoo” sauce.
Nearby in quaint Mobile, Alabama, the Southern cuisine feels deeply authentic. The real catch of this small town is Felix’s Fish Camp. Overlooking Mobile Bay, with some ’gators making infrequent appearances, it is a perfect place for a home-style meal.
A highlight from their menu is the crab soup. Its rich and buttery cream base compliments the lump crabmeat so, well, it does not matter how fattening it is.
Another bestseller is their shrimp and grits. Grits are essentially standard cream of wheat, but more texturized—hence “grit.” They may sound bland, but they are a southern staple. When paired with food as flavorful as a rich sauce and shrimp, grits become a delicacy.
For India Smith (CAS ’18), grits are her favorite Southern dish. According to the Atlanta native, there is a multitude of ways to dress them up, from cheese and egg to bacon and hot sauce.
Continuing to Florida, the cities of Destin and Sandestin are must-visits. Besides the beautiful beaches, the restaurants are top notch.
Acme Oyster House is a popular choice for Southern classics. To start, try their gumbo, the so-called “clam chowder of the South.” Gumbo is similar to a seafood stew: full of crab, shrimp and celery, all blended in a flavorful sauce and typically accompanied with rice.
To all Southerners, flavor is “all in the roux.” Roux, the base for the savory dish, takes hours to perfect, and Acme definitely takes their time perfecting their dishes.
If one is looking for a delicious sandwich, po’boys are a classic choice. Usually served on French bread with a bit of flavored or spiced mayo and tomato slices, the abundance of seafood options to complete the po’boy is what makes the sandwich so special. Fried or grilled catfish, oysters and shrimp are all potential options. If seafood is not your favorite, many places provide other meat and poultry options.
Jackacudas is a sushi and seafood restaurant that overlooks the Destin Harbor and strays a bit from traditional Southern cuisine. Options are plentiful and include Creole-inspired dishes such as blackened or grilled fish sandwiches, chicken and waffles and shrimp tacos. No matter what is ordered, the view of the harbor seems to make it taste even better.
To satisfy that Southern sweet tooth, look no further than bread pudding. While it may sound odd to those unaccustomed with Southern desserts, it is essentially pieces of sweet bread soaked in a sugary sauce. A common flavor is rum raisin, but some restaurants make bread pudding from Krispy Kreme Donuts.
If this ‘road trip’ has you ready to feast, there are some Southern-inspired options in Boston that are worth a try.
A Boston favorite for meat-lovers is Sweet Cheeks. While the menu is more barbeque-oriented, it is definitely Southern comfort food.
Claire Jacquelyne (Questrom ’18) is enthusiastic about the restaurant’s authenticity and quality.
“I always go for the pulled pork sandwich or fried chicken,” said Jacquelyne. “Whatever you do, get the bucket of biscuits with a side of gravy.”
Another option is Summer Shack in Back Bay. Summer Shack adds a Southern flair to typical Northeastern food. Seafood is central in both cuisines, and Summer Shack does well to cater to both regions, serving dishes such as po’boys and gulf shrimp with remoulade and coleslaw.
So to all of the Northerners, go grab a bowl of true gumbo and see how it compares to ‘clam chowdah.’