T+L contributing editors Matt Lee and Ted Lee share a few of the restaurants that inspired their new cookbook, The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern.
Housed in a former fish market, Crook’s Corner (dinner for two $60) has trained many of the South’s top toques. The current chef, Bill Smith, is an expert at dishes with ethereal, rustic ingredients, such as honeysuckle sorbet made from flowers he collects on bike rides.
The Lees’ hometown Hominy Grill (dinner for two $40), in Charleston, puts a contemporary spin on traditional fare with specialties like a fried-green-tomato BLT topped with ancho chile–lime mayonnaise prepared by chef Robert Stehling.
A converted garage is the setting for Watershed (dinner for two $80), where chef Scott Peacock creates innovative vegetable platters: intensely flavorful gingered beets; okra pancakes with yellow squash and cucumber salad. Don’t be put off by the simple décor at Five & Ten (dinner for two $60). The main focus here is the food, which is why die-hard fans drive hours for the restaurant’s imaginative fall fruit–harvest preparations.
Emily Saliers—otherwise known as one half of the Indigo Girls—and friends launched this terrific southern-comfort-food restaurant in what used to be a gas station in 2000. The building's original rolling glass-paned garage doors and pipe-covered ceiling now look over a cheery dining room painted in citrus colors and lined with capacious wine racks (the first-rate wine list is heavy on boutique and hard-to-find labels). Chef Scott Peacock (a 2007 James Beard award-winner) whips up a menu of down-home favorites using seasonal, local (and often organic) ingredients: whole-roasted chicken with wild mushrooms and stone-ground grits; salmon croquettes; juicy grilled pork chops with collard greens and—natch—mac-'n'-cheese. Under no circumstances should you skip dessert; the cream-cheese pound cake and shortbread-crust pecan tart might make you gain 10 pounds just by looking at them, but they're worth every extra hour you'll spend at the gym.
Five & Ten
Don’t be put off by the simple décor; the main focus here is the food, which is why die-hard fans drive hours for the restaurant’s imaginative fall fruit–harvest preparations.
Chef Robert Stehling may not be a Lowcountry local, but his "highrise" biscuits and breakfast shrimp are as authentic as Nana used to make, and the buttermilk pancakes are paired with apple maple syrup and pecan butter. On a corner of Rutledge Avenue in an up-and-coming district of this genteel Southern city, Hominy Grill has been serving a gracious plenty to Dixie diners since 1996. Other regional brunch specialties include a fried green BLT or she crab soup. And you can't beat the pitchers of sweet tea poured by waitresses with equal doses of Southern charm.
Best sides: Sausage gravy and cheese grits.
Housed in a former fish market, this restaurant has trained many of the South’s top toques. The current chef, Bill Smith, is an expert at dishes with ethereal, rustic ingredients, such as honeysuckle sorbet made from flowers he collects on bike rides.