7 Southeast Restaurants Worth Trying

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Colorful creations spice up Epic’s tasting menu at Uptown Columbus. Courtesy of Visit Columbus GA

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Colorful creations spice up Epic's tasting menu at Uptown Columbus.  Courtesy of Visit Columbus GA

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Colorful creations spice up Epic’s tasting menu at Uptown Columbus. Courtesy of Visit Columbus GA

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Epic

Tea-brined pheasant, pistachio-crusted lamb and bread pudding made with waffles and peaches are among the sweet and savory creations that spice up the tasting menu at this upscale spot along the Chattahoochee River in the downtown columbus. Chef Jamie Keating and his wife Melissa run this fine dining establishment where the decor –– marked by opulent banquettes and ethereal pastel paintings by local artist Teil Duncan –– is as sophisticated as the food. For the ultimate fine dining experience, book the Chef’s Table, an eight-course dinner for eight served in the kitchen where Keating explains the ingredients and inspiration behind each dish. Epic welcomes all consumers, including vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free, and diners with allergies and other dietary restrictions. (Epic, $45-$70 tasting menu; $150 per person Chef’s Table. 1201 Front Ave., Suite E, Columbus. 706-507-9909, epiccuisine.com)

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Elegance meets the Old South at Charleston Grill, a fine-dining restaurant located at The Charleston Place. Courtesy of Charleston Square

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Charleston Square

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Elegance meets the Old South at Charleston Grill, a fine-dining restaurant located at The Charleston Place. Courtesy of Charleston Square

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charleston grill

Elegance meets the Old South at this classic restaurant for special occasions located at The Charleston Place, a luxury hotel in historic Charleston, South Carolina. Veteran chef Michelle Weaver’s contemporary southern cuisine shines alongside impeccable service, for which the Charleston Grill has been awarded several prestigious designations such as AAA Four-Diamond and Forbes Four-Star. Specialties include Colorado lamb chops, melt-in-your-mouth rib eye, and seasonal seafood, such as sturgeon, scallops, snapper, and succulent crab cakes. An award-winning wine list recognized by Wine Spectator, live jazz music every night, and a romantic ambiance make the Charleston Grill one of the Southeast’s most beloved restaurants. (Charleston Grill, between $32 and $60. 224 King St., Charleston, SC. ​​843-577-4522, www.charlestonplace.com/#food-beverage)

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At Vestige, chef Alex Perry often prepares local seafood dishes such as Gulf red snapper with canned currants, wild onions, nasturtiums and oroshi pepper. Courtesy of Vestige

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At Vestige, chef Alex Perry often prepares local seafood dishes such as Gulf red snapper with canned currants, wild onions, nasturtiums and oroshi pepper.  Courtesy of Vestige

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At Vestige, chef Alex Perry often prepares local seafood dishes such as Gulf red snapper with canned currants, wild onions, nasturtiums and oroshi pepper. Courtesy of Vestige

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Vestige

Located in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, four miles across Biloxi Bay, the cuisine at this unpretentious Gulf Coast restaurant is an unexpected departure from the usual southern cuisine. Ocean Springs native and chef-owner Alex Perry and his Japanese wife Kumi Omori marry their backgrounds to create South Asian dishes using local produce and sustainable seafood caught in local waters. Vestige’s market-driven tasting menu is based on what’s in season and available. Sample dishes include whipped cheddar cheese with canned peach and black sesame, and Gulf red snapper with canned gooseberries, wild onions, nasturtiums and oroshi pepper. A James Beard semi-finalist in 2019 and 2022, Perry has helped shape, if not redefine, the gastronomy of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. (Vestige, $88 tasting menu. 715 Washington Ave., Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 228-818-9699, www.vestigerestaurant.com)

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Belgian chef Philip Krajeck creates plates to share at Rolf & Daughters in Nashville, Tennessee. Courtesy of Melissa Corbin for Tennessee Tourism

Credit: Melissa Corbin

Food at Rolf and Daughters in Nashville, Tennessee.

Credit: Melissa Corbin

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Belgian chef Philip Krajeck creates plates to share at Rolf & Daughters in Nashville, Tennessee. Courtesy of Melissa Corbin for Tennessee Tourism

Credit: Melissa Corbin

Credit: Melissa Corbin

Rolf and his daughters

Chef-owner Philip Krajeck’s Rigatoni and Heritage Pork Stew with Tomato and SarVecchio Parmigiano-Reggiano are perhaps the best noodles with meat sauce you’ll ever eat. The handmade pasta at Rolf and Daughters in Nashville is the draw, but everything — from the homemade bread to the pastured chicken — is excellent. Natural wines and craft cocktails with pithy names like None of Your Business (rye, amaro, amaretto, lemon, cinnamon) pair well with the chef’s sharing plates. The atmosphere is laid-back: bar seating and communal tables run down the center of the restaurant, and private tables hug the perimeter. Thanks to a friendly and knowledgeable staff, the service rivals more formal restaurants. It’s no surprise that this restaurant landed third place on Bon Appétit’s 2013 list of America’s Best New Restaurants. (Rolf and Daughters, entrees $23-$50. 700 Taylor St., Nashville. 615-866-9897, www.rolfandaughters.com)

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The 18-ounce bone-in rib eye fills Helen’s plate in Birmingham, Alabama. Courtesy of Caleb Chancey

Credit: Caleb Chancey

The 18-ounce bone-in rib eye fills Helen's plate in Birmingham, Alabama.  Courtesy of Caleb Chancey

Credit: Caleb Chancey

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The 18-ounce bone-in rib eye fills Helen’s plate in Birmingham, Alabama. Courtesy of Caleb Chancey

Credit: Caleb Chancey

Credit: Caleb Chancey

Helen

Ranked as one of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants in America for 2021, Helen in Birmingham, Alabama is an ode to chef Rob McDaniel’s grandmother and the smoky hot coals over which she cooked. It’s the perfect place to unleash your inner carnivore while dining on a juicy 22-ounce, 45-day dry-aged Kansas City Strip, 18-ounce bone-in rib eye, or lamb T-bone. But there are plenty of options for vegetarians and a special dish for vegans too. Be sure to save room for the braised button mushrooms, celery and blue cheese salad, and warm and moist angel biscuits with whipped cane syrup. Set in a two-storey shotgun-style house in downtown Birmingham, the welcoming interior is distinguished by artwork by local craftsmen that contributes to a dining room and bar that is both rustic and modern. chic. (Helen, entrees $20-$100. 2013 2nd Ave. N., Birmingham, Alabama. 205-438-7000, www.helenbham.com)

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Owner J. Byron Long showcases one of Blue Dot’s greasy burgers and barbecue sauce. Courtesy of Visit Pensacola

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Owner J. Byron Long showcases one of Blue Dot's greasy burgers and barbecue sauce.  Courtesy of Visit Pensacola

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Owner J. Byron Long showcases one of Blue Dot’s greasy burgers and barbecue sauce. Courtesy of Visit Pensacola

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Blue Point BBQ

While you won’t find white tablecloths in this cash-only hole-in-the-wall in Pensacola, Florida, you’ll potentially discover one of the best burgers in the state, if not the country. Run by J. Byron Long for nearly 40 years, Blue Dot has been a Pensacola landmark since 1946, churning out sloppy barbecue sauce burgers with no cheese or fries. These are fatty beef patties, most often accompanied by a bag of chips and a soda. The kitchen also serves ribs, but only on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. The limited menu, no-frills decor, and counter seating don’t deter crowds. It’s not uncommon for people to line up around the block before Blue Dot opens and for the joint to sell out its famous dripping burgers before closing time. (Blue Dot BBQ, $5.58-$26.88. 310 N. DeVilliers St., Pensacola. 850-432-0644, www.restaurantwebexpert.com/BlueDotBarbecue)

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