Friday, June 22, 2012

Eating Out in the South

It's probably not news to most that Southerners are fiercely protective of our reputation as fine, if provincial, cooks. I say provincial just because most of us gag at the thought of fois gras, but we have wars over cobbler or meatloaf. I myself have major reservations about giving up my great-grandmother's recipe for cornbread. So rather than reaching for new heights of culinary imagination, we take what we know and make it better, ad infinitum. No matter what part of the country (possibly the world?) you're from, it's fairly common knowledge that we know what we're doing in the kitchen. Just ask us (but be sure you have a comfy seat and have recently visited the john). So what I'm about to say maaaayyy get me murdered. But please, hear me out before you organize the torches and pitchforks. Ok, here we go:

We have a lot of really, embarrassingly, crappy restaurants.

It's not that there aren't a few decent restaurants around here that I patronize with relative frequency. It's that of these, there are none that sell really good food. Most tend to capitalize on their patrons' lack of cultivated palate and weakness for bargains, and as a result sell the same New Orleans/MS hybrid-style fare, with very little imagination and very much heavy cream and butter. And God help you if you're watching weight, cholesterol, blood pressure...

Please don't get me wrong. I would have little use for this world without heavy cream and butter.

But it is an abuse to these such delicate and rewarding indulgences to use them and other shortcuts as masks for otherwise dull, flavorless, out of season food. Boo, chefskies. For shame.

I won't be naming any names on account of my mama taught me better than that. But if, by one in one-millionth chance, an owner or chef happen to pass by, I do hope they are inexplicably inspired to step it up a notch. I hope somebody takes the risk that we are more than our hushpuppies and crawfish etouffee. Because Lord do we need a good restaurant.

Now, it's probable that I'm being horribly unfair, but off the top of my head I can't think of anywhere that I'd call a good eat (copyright Alton Brown?). So, fellow Coast Trash, any recommendations? I'm begging you to make a fool of me.

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