Southern Food Road Trip
This past weekend, my girlfriend, Chloe, and I took a whirlwind trip to the Carolinas, tasting tons of delicious Southern food along the way. Before I begin with our itinerary, I’d like to note that this would be a great trip to spread out into five to six days, rather than the three days we had (but this is definitely do-able).
Before we go any further, here are the main stops we made on this trip: Nashville, TN | Asheville, NC | Charleston, SC | Raleigh, NC | Mount Airy, NC.
After getting a bit of shuteye, we left bright (maybe not too bright) and early at 3:00 am CST from Southeast Missouri. We arrived in Nashville just in time for breakfast at Biscuit Love in The Gulch. This restaurant, as the name suggests, focuses their menu on biscuits (though they do have some dishes without biscuits). I ordered the East Nasty, a buttery biscuit topped with fried chicken, cheddar cheese, and white gravy (pictured below). The fried chicken was juicy and crispy, working well with the sausage-packed gravy. The star of the show, though, was the biscuit: warm, flaky, and buttery; crispy on top, soft on the inside- this biscuit is nothing to sneeze at.
As for the other dish we tried, we weren’t overly impressed. So, I would definitely recommend the East Nasty if you come here!
Next, we drove to Asheville, North Carolina, where we ate even more southern food at Tupelo Honey. Tupelo Honey has multiple locations, which made me slightly hesitant on trying it versus a small, single restaurant.
We started with the fried green tomatoes. The tomatoes were coated in panko breadcrumbs, which gave them a nice crunch, and served over grits and a roasted red pepper sauce. The grits had a nice tang from the goat cheese and were very creamy. A bite of the tomato, grits, and roasted red pepper puree together made for a great bite!
I ordered the “famous fried chicken” dusted in “bee dust,” which was a slightly sweet and spicy mixture of dry spices. I had been informed they “went over their allotted amount of chicken for the day,” but they still served it to me. The meat itself didn’t have much flavor, which led me to believe they served some un-brined or less-brined chicken since they ran out of the other. The chicken was still good, and if the meat had more flavor, it would’ve been great.
Chloe ordered the Creole Caesar. The Caesar was spicy and had crunchy biscuit croutons, which she wasn’t fond of (but I enjoyed).
After a decent lunch, we drove on to the ultimate southern food city… Charleston, South Carolina. In addition to its spectacular food, the city itself is beautiful, with no shortage of impressive buildings or scenic surroundings. Upon arriving, we checked into the hotel, cleaned up, then headed to dinner at Husk. Husk is one of the best upscale southern food restaurants we have been to. If you are in Charleston, you MUST try it!! Everything from the pimento cheese appetizer, to the pork belly and shoulder with butter beans entree, to the cookies are amazing. You can see my full review of the restaurant here.
After dinner, we walked around downtown, but shortly headed back to the hotel, as we were tired after the long day of driving.
After getting some sleep, we got ready and headed out to breakfast. Our first choice restaurant was not open at the time, but luckily there are tons of restaurants to choose from in Charleston. We decided to try Big Bad Breakfast, a small chain that specializes in southern fare.
I ordered the breakfast crumble, which consisted of grits, bacon, poached eggs, crumbled biscuits, tomato gravy, and green onions. The grits were creamy and buttery, while the crumbled biscuit and chunks of salty bacon added a different texture element. The eggs were poached to perfection and the tomato gravy gave a slightly spicy, tangy kick of flavor to the dish. We really enjoyed our whole meal here.
Once we ate breakfast, we went on downtown to walk around. There’s a ton to see in a small area- Rainbow Row, Pineapple Fountain, churches, and gorgeous homes near the water. If you are staying more than a day, you should check out some of the nearby lighthouses and plantations, as they are stunning.
After sightseeing, we had to decide where to eat lunch. After much deliberation, we decided we had to return to Husk for their brunch menu (offered Saturday and Sunday).
Husk Part II
I ordered the fried chicken and Chloe ordered the burger. The fried chicken was juicy, packed with flavor, and had a fantastic crunch from the breading. It was served with chilled corn, which consisted of sweet corn, onions, and some type of red pea all tossed in a mayonnaise-based dressing. The sweet corn was (obviously) sweet, creamy, and a wonderful contrast to the warm chicken.
We tried the burger last year on their patio and already knew it was delicious, and we were equally as impressed this time around. It was topped with slightly sweet house-made pickles, cheddar cheese, and thinly sliced caramelized onions. The burger itself was insanely juicy and flavorful. It was served with barbecue spiced wedge fries that were also delicious. I cannot stress to you enough that you must try Husk if you are in Charleston!!! Oh, don’t forget to order a sweet tea!
After an early lunch, we hopped in the car and headed north. We made it to Raleigh, North Carolina in time to check in and rest before dinner. We met some friends at the Angus Barn, a famed steakhouse on the northern end of Raleigh. Everything we had here was enjoyable, but the chess pie was the true star of the show. If you’re interested in more details, you can see my full review of the Angus Barn here.
On the third and final, day of our trip, we all drove west to Mount Airy, NC. Mount Airy is Andy Griffith’s hometown, and his inspiration for the beloved “Mayberry.” We stopped at Pilot Mountain State Park on the way. If you’re an Andy Griffith fan, you may think Pilot Mountain sounds familiar. Well, it is: “Mount Pilot” was mentioned often in the TV series. We really enjoyed this small detour- the two mile drive to the top, plus a short walk to a viewing point made for a very quick, easy excursion. The scenic views from this mountain are breathtaking!
After our detour, we arriving in Mount Airy. It’s a quaint town with replicas of the Mayberry courthouse, jail, service station, squad car, and more. There is also an Andy Griffith Museum in the town. If you’re in a time-crunch like we were, a few hours touring the town and seeing the museum is adequate, but more time could definitely be spent here. After touring Mount Airy, we began our long drive home.
This was an extremely quick trip. Would I do it again? Yes. We had already visited Charleston once before, so we knew what we wanted to see/what we didn’t. If you’ve never been to Charleston, I’d recommend staying at least two full days, preferably a little longer. Mount Airy requires a few hours, maybe a day if you are a huge fan and love to see every aspect of the small town. This was a great trip with a lot of great food, and I encourage you all to visit these places, even if you’re short on time!
A few tips:
Spring or fall would be more pleasant in the Carolinas, but summer is do-able. Just be prepared for extreme heat and humidity in Charleston.
The beaches near Charleston are not the prettiest or most enjoyable, so I wouldn’t call this area a beach destination.