A Fork in the Southern Road
At Red Dirt Productions, we love to travel, and we love to eat. Our film on the roots of southern food has led us down thousands of miles of backroads across the South, from courthouse squares to county strip malls, in our search for the southern vegetable plate.
While food writers may be giving southern food a lot of 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. The restaurants on our map satisfy bodily hunger as well as the pangs of longing for the flavors of family and place.
Most of the restaurants here 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 stumbled across led by our natural inclinations. Others we heard about from like-minded travelers or helpful locals. Some we found on social media. (A word of caution: internet critiques are much like online dating profiles, they must be deciphered, not read.) 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 “Automatic for the People” in Athens, Georgia.
We were looking for a way to share our favorite places to eat when we discovered Google Tourbuilder through our friends at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Click on our map above to see the places we have been along with menus and directions.