Here's Where to Find Nashville Hot Chicken and Other Fabulous Southern Foods Up North

When a craving for hot chicken hits you and you're nowhere near Nashville, here's where to go.

A Southern-food craving can and will strike anytime—and anywhere. Luckily, satisfying your urge for some of the most intensely flavorful, hardest-to-find Southern dishes just got easier, even if you don't have a trip down South coming up. Here are five new, buzzed-about restaurants—all hundreds of miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line—that hit the spot with their super-Southern dishes: Some are classics, others curios, many of them passed down through generations. From skillet cornbread to Nashville hot chicken to apple “roly poly” for dessert, these’ll definitely do the trick the next time you’re dying for some down-home grub.


Skillet cornbread at Luella’s Southern Kitchen, Chicago

Luella’s fans rave about the restaurant’s Southern staples, like fried chicken, crawfish etouffee, and shrimp and grits—but there’s only one menu item for which patrons patiently wait 20 minutes, since it’s made to order: the skillet cornbread. Chef and owner Darnell Reed got the secret recipe from his great-grandmother, for whom his restaurant is named. “The cornbread is our number-one item,” Reed says. “When I was making my first cornbread, I actually had to pick her brain because mine wasn’t coming out like hers. I took what she said and made measurements and made a recipe, because she never wrote it down.”


Nashville hot chicken at Sisters and Brothers, Seattle

When Jake Manny returned to his native Seattle after spending years in the Nashville bar business, he knew he had to bring the city’s signature hot chicken home with him. “People are very surprised in Seattle. They’re not accustomed to a real spice level, especially with all the cayenne-y flavor going on,” Sisters and Brothers general manager Anthony Barletta says about the new eatery’s specialty item. In fact, customers can choose a bird with one of four spice levels: Naked, Mild, Hot or Insane. “Everything is layers of spice, and each stage has independent spices in it,” Barletta explains. “It’s not like just a cooked wing in hot sauce.” It's worth heeding the restaurant's words of advice: "If you're coming for chicken, we highly recommend you call us to check that we haven't run out." Those with milder palates (or who miss out on the chicken) can opt for some smoked gouda mac and cheese or a fried green tomato sandwich dressed with cole slaw and pimento cheese. 


Apple “roly poly” at Butterfunk Kitchen, Brooklyn

Although he’s from Pennsylvania, chef and owner Chris Scott calls his Butterfunk menu a “heritage throwback” to relatives who spent seven generations in Virginia. His playful take on apple dumplings comes from his grandmother, who “would prepare this for her seven children, and then for her 27 grandchildren,” he says. “You knew when she was making it because the whole house would smell like baked apples and cinnamon.” Scott serves it today doused with a warm, vanilla-spiked creme anglaise. But wait, you want to eat dinner first? Dive into Scott's whiskey-and-Coke meatloaf, fried catfish with jalapeno jam and—for meatless diners who want to get a taste of Southwestern-style "chicken-fried" dishes—there's even chicken-fried tempeh.


Hush puppies at Toutant, Buffalo, NY


Believe it or not, you can even find delicious down-home cooking if you shuffle all the way up to Buffalo in upstate New York. Toutant chef and owner James Roberts’s Louisiana upbringing shines through with menu items like his killer shrimp and grits, pork rind cracklins, and charred ribeye with bourbon butter, but most of the raves are saved for his hush puppies. On various nights, they may come stuffed with bacon and chives, brisket or seafood and habanero, and they’re always paired with a to-die-for dipping sauce.

 

Braised oxtail at SavannahBlue, Detroit

Motor City’s newest soul food restaurant serves up sophisticated takes on Southern staples in a super-swanky, urban-chic environment. (The second-story, loft-like space even features a baby grand piano.) Likewise, the braised oxtail entrée serves up the rich, meaty flavor of slow-cooked beef on a bed of creamy risotto with Wisconsin cheddar cheese and crispy root vegetables. Still hungry? Try the special house fried chicken with maple-pecan sauce, collard greens and roasted sweet potatoes, or the fried seafood cakes made with lump crab, shrimp or catfish.

 

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