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10 day road trip: Chi, Mem, Oxford, NO, Savanna, Charleston, Atlanta, Chattanooga/Nashville, Louisville, Chi

  • l

My husband I are embarking on a 10- day road trip (first ever) from November 21-30 with our Bernese Mountain Dog, Bentley from chicago, to Memphis (Inn at Beale Street), to Oxford (Taylor grocery), to NO (Royal Sonesta), to Savannah (Bellamonte), to Charleston (Indigo), to Atlanta (Ritz), to Chatannooga or Nashville, to Louisville (unsure) back home. Also thinking about putting in Asheville, if the drive is that breathtaking and dropping out something else.

I am a huge foodie from Chicago. We need some great food recs from the fun, unique and fun (Taylor Grocery) to romantic, gorgeous, quaint, settings for upscale food. (My husband prefers the former). We love all types of food...prefer local in the know spots, places we can dine on farms and interesting things like that (although something like the New south or Lady & sons in savannah sounds great). We also love wine, so if there are any fun wineries, or cool bars, we'd appreciate input for those as well....looking for recs in places above, including those out of the way spots on drives from one place to the other..any thoughts are greatly appreciated!!!

Thank you!!

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  1. Charleston downtown:
    Pennisula Grill

    Mount Pleasant:
    Boulevard Diner
    Mama Browns

    Sullivans Island

    1. Itta Bena upstairs from BB Kings on Beale is a great lil' restaurant. It has been open a year and is still a "hidden gem". They, like many Memphis area restaurants, have half price wine by the bottle on Mondays. This includes the Cakebread.

      As for local bar, I suggest Bardog Tavern on Monroe.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Its Still Mooing

        I'd be remiss if I didnt mention Earnestine & Hazel's, there's nothing else like it in Memphis.

      2. Wow, you're spending a lot of time driving! I'd consider Charleston to Asheville (I-26 all the way, 4 hours tops) and skipping Atlanta, Chattanooga/Nashville. Asheville has many great restaurants and is very dog friendly.

        11 Replies
        1. re: NANCY

          thank you for the emails!

          Yes, I just realized that we were a bit ambitious. Revised schedule: chicago to nashville, natchez trace to natchez, ms, to st. francisville, to lafayette (maybe), to donaldsonville, to nola, to oxford, to memphis, home.

          We are looking for great BBQ, and unique places, such as an out of the way rest on the bayou, rest. on a farm, etc with great food/fun ambience. To indulge me for our anniv, as a foodie I like a few places more upscale, too, but not stuffy...thank you!

          1. re: ljero

            We just got back to Nashville from a trip to NO and Lafayette. Worked too hard and didn't have enough time to play. We did make time for some good eats in NO though. If you're an olive lover don't miss the Muffuletta at Central Grocery on Decatur. It might be the best sandwich I ever had. The begnets at Cafe Du Monde, also on Decatur, were better than all the hype that surrounds them. Real good gumbo at the Gumbo House. I don't get the big deal about poor boys though. Didn't have the time to do much hounding in Lafayette but heard tales about great cajun food. Hopefully someone will chime in with suggestions. We also took the Trace from Natchez to Nashville. We pulled off in Tupelo looking for some local favorites. Didn't do our research before and didn't stumble across anything Tupeloish but found a good Italian restaurant on the far end of town called Papa V's. Great stromboli and very good chicken parmagiana, pasta and salad. They saved us from the Waffle House (not that there's anything wrong with the WH). Nashville is rife with great restaurants. Search this forum for recos. You'll find some great ___________ (insert whatever you really like). Report back on the trip.

            1. re: ljero

              Such a shame you are skipping Charleston. Probably the best small town for food in the US and most certainly the lovliest. You cannot beat the shopping, dining, and attractions in Charleston.

              1. re: BlueHerons

                Agreed! My boyfriend and I are going to be in Charleston for Thanksgiving weekend. Thanksgiving day anywhere presents a challenge though. Any suggestions other than the typical hotel options? It doesn't have to be a traditional Thanksgiving day dinner -- seafood or fried chicken will do us just fine!!!

              2. re: ljero

                Oxford: you mentioned Taylor Grocery. Also try Yocona River Inn, Big Bad Breakfast (terrible name, but brought to you by the folks at City Grocery) or Bottletree for breakfast. A few new places in town that I haven't been too.

                Memphis: Best BBQ hole in the wall is a toss up between BBQ Shop (sandwich or ribs, open at night and on Sundays and serves beer), Paynes on Lamar (sandwich) or Cozy Corner Downtown (various other stuff cornish game hen, rib tips).

                Favorite bar in Memphis is the Cove. Decent bar food (best oysters in town) and fantastic (if a little small) cocktails. Pirate atmosphere, but in an "up and coming" area. Avoid Itta Bena if you like good food. It has a great atmosphere and is probably the best place to eat on Beale, but most people who like good food don't eat on Beale (unless it's a fried Dyers burger). Encore in Peabody Place knows how to make a cocktail too.

                Be sure and hit Cochon and August in nola.

                Enjoy and would love to read about your trip.

                1. re: tater

                  I'll second on The Cove and Cochon, but still take exception to Itta Bena.

                  I'll have to add Emerald for Thai, and Asiana Garden for great Korean.

                  For breakfast, don't miss Brother Juniper's.

                  No trip to Memphis is complete without trying BBQ spaghetti. I like the BBQ and Interstate.

                  1. re: tater

                    Yocona River Inn in Oxford unfortunately burned down and has not yet reopened. In the battle of Grocery's, I prefer City to Taylor, but I have never really been a big fan of catfish. I ate at City House in Nashville last week, and it was fabulous.

                    City House
                    1222 4th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37208

                    Yocona River Inn
                    842 Highway 334, Oxford, MS 38655

                  2. re: ljero

                    1. The Castle at Dunleith: Upscale and very good. They have a new chef since I've last been there, but experience is worth the trip alone. One of the coolest settings in the South (old stables of a beautiful plantation).
                    2. Fat Mama's Tamales: While they don't make their tamales on site anymore, they are still very good. Go with the Gringo Pie and a Knock-You-Naked margarita.
                    3. Biscuit and Blues: a good casual lunch and dinner spot

                    New Orleans and the rest of LA:
                    too many to mention, but don't pass up Cochon. Be sure to post on the New Orleans forum.

                    1. Taylor Grocery: This is a can't miss. Be aware that they are only open Thurs-Sun nights and brown bag is a must (most people bring a fifth of their favorite bourbon, but there are plenty drinking wine too).
                    2. City Grocery: I haven't eaten there in years, but it should still be great.
                    3. Ajax: quality Southern cooking
                    4. Big Bad Breakfast
                    5. L&M's Salumeria: chef was a protege of Mario Batali's
                    6. Bottle Tree Bakery: best bakery in the South

                    1. BBQ: Cozy Corner, BBQ Shop, or Payne's
                    2. Felicia Suzanne's (upscale Southern)
                    3. Stella
                    4. Restaurant Iris

                    If you stop in Jackson, you can't miss Walker Drive-In

                    1. re: tennreb

                      thank you all so much! the castle at dunleith looks great..maybe I'll stay/eat here prior to beginning Natchez Trace trail rather than Myrtles Haunted Plantation, and looking for food around there. Thinking about spending a night in Jacksonville to stay at Lafitte's Plantation and eat at their restaurant.. is it worth it? any eating outside or too cold in those parts around Thanksgiving?
                      Also, should we skip Clarksdale/Shack Up Inn for Abe's Bar-B-Q to dine/stay in more interesting/better foodies places? thanks so much for the help!

                      1. re: ljero

                        Don't pass up the Shack Up Inn- just add more days if necessary! It sounds like you guys did your research- I predict a wonderful trip!

                        Couple more suggestions:

                        Natchez- try the Eola for lunch or dinner- eat in the bar (or the courtyard if the weather is nice) and get the catfish with crawfish etouffee.

                        Memphis- all of the places mentioned are good- I would also add Central BBQ for their ribs. Also for breakfast, nobody beats Bryant's Breakfast on Summer Avenue. A country ham, egg and cheese biscuit is about as good as food gets, and if you are really hungry, try the sampler- you have my personal guarantee that you won't need lunch!

                      2. re: tennreb

                        L&M's in Oxford is one of my top 5 places ever and I would have mentioned it #1, but it's closed as of July. Dan is working on a new project in Birmingham.

                  3. If you are driving between Memphis and Louisville, you will pass by Bowling Green, just 60 miles NW is my favorite restaurant in the country. The Moonlight BBQ in Owensboro. MUTTON, There are many mutton restaurants in Owensboro and none yet have been bad. Makes all other Q somewhat less by comparison. Sides at Moonlight are great as well. Always take the detour if in neighborhood. Fast highway connects the two points.

                    1. Charleston
                      Peninsula Grill - very pricey but food is fabulous and desserts are to die for
                      Swamp Fox - fried green tomatoes and crab cakes are SO SO good!!
                      Hominy Grill - great breakfast in cute house

                      Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House - favorite of Savannah hands down...the best Southern food in my life!
                      Firefly Cafe - hidden gem..try the Cranberry Pecan Spinach salad...we went two nights in a row for dinner while in town


                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Heyteacher

                        I had the well-reputed shrimp and grits from the Swamp Fox and, this being my first shrimp and grits, it was much different than I thought it would be. It presented itself much like a thick soup with a flavor that was very unique, nearly Asian in flavor, and scallions scattered on top contributed to this. The sauce was a salty/sweet/spicy blend that merged with grits so rich and smooth it was like eating thickened cream. Five large crumbly-tender shrimp punctuated the mixture occasionally, with green peppers and onions popping up also, as well as some tender pieces of bacon-like pork. It was accompanied by some hot crusty bread and this was a hearty dish that left me completely stuffed, but the saltiness of it still affects the palette and the richness was almost overwhelming. Overall, obviously tasty but too salty and very rich.

                        Swamp Fox Restaurant
                        387 King St, Charleston, SC 29403

                      2. On your first day you will have a chance at two great chicken places. One, only slightly out of the way, is the Bon Ton carryout in Henderson Ky, just across the river from Evansville Indiana. Call ahead as they cook to order. Also good chess pie. In Nashville is the justly famous Prince's Hot Chicken. Also advisable to call ahead. Both these places are holes in the wall, and that's being generous. Both, however, are rated by the natives as the best anywhere around at what they do.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: johnb

                          Great, except you're a year late. The Dining Room at the Ritz in Buckhead (ATL) has also closed.

                        2. In Louisville you might consider Le Relais. It is in a terminal of a small art deco inspired airport.


                          Also Proof on Main is next to the contemporary 21c Museum and hotel. Other high end options in town include 610 Magnolia and Corbett's.

                          Just outside Lexington there is the castle in Versailles.


                          Proof on Main
                          702 W. Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202

                          610 Magnolia
                          610 W Magnolia Ave, Louisville, KY 40208

                          Le Relais Restaurant
                          2817 Taylorsville Rd, Louisville, KY 40205

                          1. For BBQ in Memphis there are a few choices, yeah right, a few.

                            My choices are Tom's BBQ on Getwell at Raines, Interstate BBQ on Third, and Neeley's on Mt. Moriah.

                            Cozy Corner does nothing for me.
                            Central BBQ is ok, nothing special.

                            1. unique and fun : these are all old school Savannah places: Mrs Wilkes Boarding House for lunch - long waits, boarding house style seating, wonderful fried chicken and a dozen or more bowls of other meats and vegetables, excellent sweet tea; Crystal Beer Parlor for lunch or dinner, (Crystal just re-opened under new owners, haven;t missed a beat from what I've heard) at Crystal you want to try the shrimp salad sammich and the onion rings; Johnny Harris on Victory Drive (recommend for lunch although they're also open for dinner) - excellent BBQ pork and lamb sammiches, fantastic onion rings, delicious egg custard and coconut cream pies for dessert.

                              romantic, gorgeous, quaint, settings for upscale food; first and forremost, Elizabeth's on 37th Street, in an old mansion, simply magnificent food and superior wine selections; the tasting menu is spectacular if you've an appetite. Alternate: Noble Fare, the only true competitor to Elizabeth's for my money, is closer to downtown, also in an old house. Very exciting dishes top to bottom from a superb chef.

                              1. This sounds like a fun trip!! Asheville should be added in, it is such a cute little town, tons of great restaurants, even if you were on your own, you would find a great spot. Some of my favorites are Early Girl Eatery, Laughing Seed, Salsa's and I love Over Easy Cafe for breakfast.

                                For ATL.. You have to go to Abbatoir, we only had cocktails one morning, bloody marys and maple doughnuts with bacon dust.

                                Atlanta, GA, Atlanta, GA

                                Early Girl Eatery
                                8 Wall St, Asheville, NC 28801

                                Laughing Seed Cafe
                                40 Wall St, Asheville, NC 28801

                                1. With regard to Memphis, I concur with others that Itta Bena is not where you want to go for good food. Service is untrained, food isn't great. The atmosphere is excellent esp. if Susan Marshall is playing. Unfortunately that is not enough for us to spend money on food there. I would recommend: for BBQ, head to Central BBQ in midtown; great lunch at the Brushmark at the Brooks Museum in Overton Park, dinners downtown at Circa or Flight, dinner in midtown at Restaurant Iris (also check out a play at Playhouse on the Square just across the street - right now they are doing Santaland Diaries - a hoot!), or Bari in midtown which is also by the theatre. In Cooper Young area of midtown, check out Tsunami.