Scouted Culinary Destinations: 4 Foodie-Forward Cities in the South

Thanks to forward thinking chefs, proximity to artisanal ingredients, and a captive audience of diners ready to be delighted, New Orleans, Atlanta, Nashville, and Charleston, rank among the top destinations for food-centric travelers. Whether you’re on the hunt for the perfect po-boy, mouthwatering barbecue worth queuing up for, or fresh off the boat fish, you can find it all—and more—in these scrumptious locales. Though they share the distinction of top-ranked culinary destinations, we encourage you to plan a trip to all four, as each city has a distinctive vibe that makes it shine all on its own. Pack your bags, reserve your table, and most importantly, get those appetites ready for an epicurean adventure in the south. Bon appétit!

Charleston, South Carolina

The Darling Oyster Bar. Photography courtesy of The Darling Oyster Bar.

Charleston’s made its name with their Lowcountry charm and historic architecture, but thanks to an impressive group of chefs and regional favorites such as incomparable shrimp and grits and she-crab soup, The Holy City is known for more than just its good looks. “Besides amazing traditional southern fare accompanied by more foodie legends than you can imagine, Charleston has become a hub for adventurous epicureans,” explains Julie Hubert, co-editor of The Scout Guide Charleston. “Here you can sample an array of distinct cuisines from Brazilian to French to Indian, something you’d never expect out of a relatively small town.”

Hubert urges visitors to add “2nd Sunday” to their trip itineraries. This monthly downtown event, where a portion of King Street is blocked off from traffic, is a wonderful food-centric adventure that must be experienced at least once. The Charleston Wine and Food festival is an annual event held every March, attracting big names in the culinary scene from across the country. This huge festival features cooking demonstrations, classes, wine tastings, and a culinary village for all to enjoy.

To plan your Charleston getaway, check out the Charleston Dining Guide, Charleston Shopping Guide, Charleston Activity Guide and Charleston Lodging Guide. And for additional recommendations for what to do, see, and experience in Charleston, South Carolina, follow The Scout Guide Charleston on Instagram and visit The Scout Guide Charleston website, where you can browse or buy the latest volume of The Scout Guide Charleston.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Napoleon House. Photography by Sara Essex Bradley.

When it comes to southern foodie destinations, the Crescent City is often top of mind, and rightfully so. The convergence of many diverse culinary influences—French, Cajun, Spanish, African, and Vietnamese—has resulted in a delicious melting pot of restaurants and unique dishes. Of those dishes, New Orleans lays claim to the creation of po-boys, muffulettas, Bananas Foster, and Oysters Rockefeller, all of which continue to be sought-after staples of the city’s food scene. But if you had to name one cuisine that’s put NOLA on the map, it would be its unique creole/cajun food with its delicious—and fiery— seasoning. “One of the best parts about dining in New Orleans is that you can always discover something new,” shares Taylor Morgan, editor of The Scout Guide New Orleans. “You can even order the same dish at two restaurants, like gumbo at Commander’s Palace and Liuzza’s by the Track, and get two totally different, mind-blowing executions.” 

You’re guaranteed an amazing epicurean experience any time you visit New Orleans, but if you’re looking for a truly gourmet excursion, Taylor recommends visiting when one of the city’s renowned food festivals are happening. Of course, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is an annual celebration of music and culture, and some of the city’s best restaurants offer their signature dishes throughout the weekend. Also not to be missed, the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience, where chef’s pair their signature dishes with wines from around the world. According to Taylor, other standouts include, Hogs For The Cause, a lively BBQ festival that raises funds for for pediatric brain cancer; National Fried Chicken Festival, featuring the best fried chicken in the city and neighboring regions; and Oak Street Po-Boy Festival, an opportunity to try dozens of po-boys from around the city. Finally, Taylor adds that the Crescent City Farmers Market is a tried and true local favorite, offering the best produce, fish, and meat in the area.  

To plan your New Orleans getaway, check out the New Orleans Dining Guide, New Orleans Shopping Guide, and New Orleans Lodging Guide. And for additional recommendations for what to do, see, and experience in New Orleans, Louisiana, follow The Scout Guide New Orleans on Instagram and visit The Scout Guide New Orleans website, where you can browse or buy the latest volume of The Scout Guide New Orleans.

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville hot chicken. Photography by Blake Guidry/Unsplash.

From farmers markets in Franklin to award-winning restaurants all over Nashville, you will easily find something droolworthy in Music City. “Nashville’s country music influence is known, near and far,” explains Sara Garner, editor of The Scout Guide Nashville & Franklin. “However, it’s safe to say the quality of southern food and hospitality here matches the importance of the music.” And while the list of must-visit restaurants is long, you cannot leave town without trying the famous, original Nashville Hot Chicken. Sara recommends Prince’s, Hattie B’s, or Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish for your first (or fiftieth) foray into the fiery goodness.

Make your way to Franklin Farmers Market on Saturdays to stock up on farm fresh produce, fruit, dairy products, delicious baked goods, and specialty meats. Sara also recommends carving out enough time to spend an afternoon at the Nashville Farmers Market, open daily and year round, popping between the various restaurants, catching a chef demo, and shopping for all the fresh produce you can imagine. Fabulous food events such as the Nashville Food & Wine Festival or Franklin’s Wine Down Main Street are also great draws for those who want to taste (and sip) the best of what Nashville and Franklin have to offer. 

To plan your Nashville getaway, check out the Nashville & Franklin Dining Guide, Nashville & Franklin Shopping Guide, and Nashville & Franklin Lodging Guide. And for additional recommendations for what to do, see, and experience in Nashville, Tennessee, follow The Scout Guide Nashville on Instagram and visit The Scout Guide Nashville & Franklin website, where you can browse or buy the latest volume of The Scout Guide Nashville & Franklin.

Atlanta, Georgia

Krog Street Market. Photography courtesy of The Krog District Atlanta.

It’s not all sweet tea and “meats and three” in Georgia’s capital city—though if you are interested in those types of restaurants Atlanta has many that fit that bill. “Thanks to a diverse population and an active hospitality market, our bustling metropolis provides the perfect setting for a stand-out dining scene,” explains Katie Newton, editor of The Scout Guide Atlanta. “While you’ll find your share of restaurants serving up southern classics like The Busy Bee Cafe or The Colonnade, you can also find almost every other conceivable cuisine, from Asian and Latin, to vegan hole-in-the walls and eight-course tasting menus.” Another hallmark of ATL’s restaurant offerings? Thanks to temperate weather, outdoor dining can be enjoyed almost year-round.

If you’re looking to plan your trip around one of Atlanta’s many food-centric events, Katie recommends checking out the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, a four-day celebration of southern food, wine, beer, and spirits. You’ll also find a cadre of marvelous farmers markets, revealing the secret to where the Atlanta food scene is pulling all their fabulous local ingredients from. Katie is partial to the Peachtree Road Farmers Market and the Grant Park Farmers Market, as well as the open air Municipal Market, fondly referred to as the Curb Market by locals.

To plan your Atlanta getaway, check out the Atlanta Dining Guide, Atlanta Shopping Guide, and Atlanta Lodging Guide. And for additional recommendations for what to do, see, and experience in Atlanta, Georgia, follow The Scout Guide Atlanta on Instagram and visit The Scout Guide Atlanta website, where you can browse or buy the latest volume of The Scout Guide Atlanta.

Feature photo: La Petite Grocery in New Orleans. Photography by Sara Essex Bradley.