Caroline Vaughan

Southern Plates and Places

At Red Dirt Productions, we love to travel, and we love to eat. Our film on the roots of southern food has been a boon to both these loves, leading us down thousands of miles of backroads across the South, from courthouse squares to county strip malls. We were looking for a way to share our favorite places to eat when we discovered a Google program Tourbuilder through our friends at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

The restaurants on this map satisfy not only bodily hunger but also the pangs of a southern soul longing for the flavors of family and place.
While food writers may be giving southern food some love, the old school formica table restaurants with their lunch plate specials are getting harder and harder to come by.  These are the places we are drawn to––where the tea is sweet, the menus handwritten, and the staff happy to see you.

Most of the restaurants are plain. Some are fancy. Each has given us a memory to savor, whether collard greens as tender as velvet or rutabagas as opaque as stained glass. At a few—Bully’s in Jackson, Mississippi and the Brown Derby Number 2 in Orangeburg, South Carolina for example—every bite tells you the pot was stirred with love.One we included solely because its view of the river is one of the most soothing scenes we know of—especially if you have a cold martini to sip with it.
Many of the places we came across by ourselves, led by our natural inclinations.  Others we heard about from like-minded travelers or helpful locals. Some we even found on social media. (A word of caution about that strategy: internet critiques are much like real estate ads or online dating profiles, they must be deciphered.)

In the time we have been making this film, several have shut their doors for good, among them Peggy’s in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the Garden of Eating in Savannah, Georgia and Weaver D’s in Athens, Georgia.  Our list is by no means complete, and we are always on the lookout for new places to visit. We welcome your suggestions. Pull up a chair and join us.