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What's the furthest North you have ever found grits?

  • johnb Mar 14, 2009 05:44 PM

Other than in the private homes of displaced Southerners, how far north have grits been spotted being offered, for sale or at least for consumption? I know they have been regularly served in student cafeterias of Syracuse University (New York being the grits hotbed that it is :-) ). How much further north than that have grits been seen?

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  1. The local, small, greasy, urban diner with very long lines serves either grits or home fries. I'm in Boston.

    1. I've never had them. What's the appeal?

      8 Replies
      1. re: rememberme

        They taste good! :)

        1. re: Boudleaux

          They're delicious! Addicting, really, with butter and freshly ground pepper...yummy.

          1. re: bayoucook

            I'll second that. This RI-born hound would much rather have grits with my eggs than the crappy potatoes most eateries dish out.

            1. re: Bob W

              I agree -NY hound here-but even in the south, i've been served watery slush. So it varies a lot. In near by (for the winter at least) Boca Raton a popular place serves the grits sooo watery ... But then Florida is not true south so I have to excuse them and order differently.

            2. re: bayoucook

              I like grits with velveeta cheese melted in and then a fried egg or two (fried in bacon grease) slapped on top. Then I violently mash my eggs and stir in the yolks leaving semi firm yolk pieces. MMMMMMM. When we had our restaurant I would go in every morning and get a bowl of grits and then dump sausage gravy over the top and then flat top a biscuit top until it was crisp and crumble it over the top.

              I will probably die early and I am sure some people's faces while reading that were all full of holier than thou smirky bad food joojoo recrimination. Others who know what is good are smiling in affirmation.

              1. re: Sal Vanilla

                Sal- that's what my husband does with his grits and eggs, then a ton of butter and black pepper. We love our grits!

                1. re: bayoucook

                  I have grits and eggs about 3 times a week. Salt, pepper, butter and runny yolks.

                  I however, live in a Velveeta free zone. That stuff looks as if someone melted down a traffic cone.....

                  1. re: bkhuna

                    bkhuna, down your way, waffle house has some nice grits -- on the coarser side, as i like them.

        2. There are several places in Central Vermont (and I think one or two in northern Vermont) that have grits as regular items on their menus. Though I'm a heathen, I prefer adulterated versions of grits with cheese or chipoltle powder, and I make mine with broth, not water. ;D

          10 Replies
          1. re: Morganna

            I can buy them at almost all of the grocery stores in northeastern Indiana and cook at home. However, I don't recall seeing them on restaurant breakfast menu here. Funny, friend cornmeal mush is almost always there and it's not really that much different from grits, just thicker.

            1. re: Morganna

              Relax, Morganna. Cheese grits are in no wise an adulterated version, but rather an enhanced version. Stir in lots of sharp cheddar cheese, some butter, a dash of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce, and a dash of Tabasco, salt and pepper, and you are in cheese heaven. Great with fried fish. You are hereby absolved by this life long southerner.

              1. re: steakman55

                Thank you, father! I shall go and sin no more! ;D

                1. re: steakman55

                  As a fellow life-long southerner myself, I totally agree with steakman. Grits isn't just breakfast food for us. Try a shrimp and grits recipe or two - so delicious. And we add all kinds of things to them, plus bake, souffle, and fry them. Grits can replace polenta.
                  You can cook them in broth, milk, or a combination with canned tomatoes. I would never move away from here if I couldn't find grits where I was going!

                  1. re: steakman55

                    from a fellow southerner, we would never have had cheese grits with fried fish -- just plain grits, salt, pepper, butter. and hush puppies.

                    1. re: alkapal

                      MMMMmmm hush puppies! I like my hushpuppies with honey. I'm in Penna and they used to have grits at my favorite breakfast buffet. Creamy, yummy and soothing grits. Alas no more. I like my grits with a bit of butter.

                      1. re: givemecarbs

                        pups with honey? hmmmm. they are too easy to eat, aren't they?

                        great....now i'm craving them with some fried grouper!

                      2. re: alkapal

                        You mean no cheese grits with fish? But you would have cheese grits without the fish right?

                        I saw someone above put cheddar in theirs. I know lots do, but The texture bugs me. As does chicken broth - unless I am eating them with lunch or dinner.

                        God I'm weird.

                        1. re: Sal Vanilla

                          I am not a snob when it comes to delicious comfort food: bring out the Velveeta! Use cheddar or other cheese only if baking grits. Velveeta for cooking in grits and for cheesy scrambled eggs. Mmmmmmm.

                      3. re: steakman55

                        Butcha forgot Konrico!

                    2. I used to live in Indiana and Illinois as a child and we ate grits. I didn't think they were only a southern thing. I remember they were a PITA to make, though, but worth it.

                      1. When my family lived in Plattsburgh, NY (Canadian border) quick grits were available in our base commissary.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Candy

                          Military installations shouldn't count. By that measure, I'm sure they serve grits at the chow hall at Thule AB in Greenland :)

                          1. re: dpan

                            Well they weren't serving them, they were just available for sale. At the same time we could also get canned corn tortillas from Old El Paso, forget anything close to fresh.
                            A coffee shop I worked in, in HS also served grits. It was connected to a Greyhound bus station. There were daily requests for grits. The owner finally decided to put them on the breakfast menu.

                            1. re: Candy

                              When I moved to S. FL. in the 70's they only had canned torts. An abomination! I was from CA where I took good Mex for granted.

                            2. re: dpan

                              As a matter of fact, I have it on good authority that they do serve them there. I meant to exclude military bases from the OP for that reason, but neglected to do so. My bad.

                              Carry on.

                          2. What is the furthest North location of Cracker Barrel? They serve grits, but I don't eat them.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: rich in stl

                              I didn't think about Cracker Barrel having grits. There is one about 20 miles from me but I've only eaten lunch there a couple of times. I can cook everything they serve better at home and save money. lol

                            2. South Florida? sorry couldn't resist it but it's hardly the south down here.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: smartie

                                Sorry, The Rupublica of Baja Florida doesn't count :)

                                I live in Central Florida and there are no stores that sell real grits, only the quick and instant abominations.

                                I have to mail order stone ground grits from other places up in the South proper.

                                1. re: smartie

                                  "south florida" includes the southwest coast, too (although those on these chowhound boards think only the miami-and-north-coast is "south florida"). i am a native of fort myers, born of a panhandle native. i am a southerner.

                                  1. re: smartie

                                    Maybe the S. Florida you know is not the south you envision. My dad grew up in Goulds Florida and buddy, it is still old South down there. Not all plantations, hoop skirts and mammies, but he ate grits and fish every day as a kid. Ate grits most weekends as an adult... even when we lived in CA. His sister sent them to him.

                                  2. In downeast Maine, grits is what you throw under your tire for traction, when you're stuck in a snowbank. Spudliness is next to godliness. Oooo corny.

                                    1. A couple places in Toronto serve them, but they're not great. Otherwise, had some good ones at a diner in Westfield, NJ.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: piccola

                                        Was just gonna say- I used to live near a place called Southern Accent in TO (though I moved away in 2000) and they had grits. No idea if it still exists.

                                        For a city that gets unfairly branded as "American," Calgary (where I've lived since 2000) has basically zero regional American food. So no, no grits.

                                        1. re: John Manzo

                                          If you a desperate, you could scrape the cornmeal off the peameal bacon. :)

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            That style of back bacon is pretty thin on the ground in the west.

                                            1. re: John Manzo

                                              That may be true. The only time I've bought it, while camping in BC, was at a small grocery on the Queen Charlotte Islands.. Though to be truthful, I don't recall why it caught my eye there, and not elsewhere, whether it was the price, lack of anything else, or curiosity. Back bacon without the meal is common enough.

                                              Back to the question of grits; I'd be hard pressed to identify a difference between the White Lilly grits that I just cooked for breakfast, and polenta I prepared several days ago. Sure there's the color difference, but there are yellow grits (though not common outside the South). I've read of differences in preferred grind (grit size), and the differences in preferred corn (dent v flint), but few of us have the depth of experience in either Italy or the American South to taste these differences.

                                          2. re: John Manzo

                                            Still exists, as far as I know. Never tried the grits there, but their pickled okra is nice.

                                        2. What a silly question. You will find them all the way up and down the West Coast, from Bellingham to San Diego. A more interesting question, at least in my experience in the US, would be where they are *not*.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: tmso

                                            Maybe the real question is "where have you ever seen them in the Midwest?" I only ever saw cheese grits once the whole time I was living in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, and Minnesota. Never saw them in Alaska, either. And the one time I saw them was because I was props mistress for a community theatre play, and the script was a southern script, and called for grits as part of the meal. Fortunately the mother of one of the actors knew what they were and how to make them, so we got 'em. :)

                                            1. re: Morganna

                                              I've only ever been to Chicago and Cleveland in the Midwest, but they seemed to be pretty common. Then again, this was in a black milieu in both cities, and given how deeply segregated they are, it could very well be that it varies by ethnic/racial enclave.

                                            2. re: tmso

                                              In central New Hampshire my fav breakfast place states on the menu "We're Northerners, don't ask for grits!!" And I don't..but I can't handle the baked beans they serve for breakfast either.

                                              1. re: tmso

                                                Yep, I've seen them here in the 'Ham, 30 miles from the border.

                                                1. re: tmso

                                                  I have never seen them served in WA. I guess I do not get out enough.

                                                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                    Working class diners in Seattle have/had them. As should any establishment whose name ends in "Soul Kitchen".

                                                    1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                      I grew up in the Washington / Portland area and I never even heard of grits, much less seen them on a menu.

                                                  2. Toronto. There's a Cajun store that carries them and I think even serves them.

                                                    DT

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: Davwud

                                                      Toronto isn't that far north ... it's 2° south of Portland, OR.

                                                      1. re: tmso

                                                        They were a lunch special in the Cafe in Banff when I was there.

                                                      2. re: Davwud

                                                        Which place? I thought Cluck, Grunt and Low served them, but they're not on the menu...

                                                        1. re: piccola

                                                          Maybe Cajun Corner?

                                                          1. re: piccola

                                                            piccola, "Cluck, Grunt and Low" needs to be listed on that funny restaurant names thread.

                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                              No kidding. I don't know what they were thinking.

                                                              I actually can't stand the place - fast-casual mock-Southern food. But all would be forgiven if they had good grits.

                                                        2. I ate them in Caribou, Maine. Of course that was over 40 years ago and it was in an Air Force base chow hall.

                                                          1. They are available several days a week in the cafeteria at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee.

                                                            1. I saw them on a menu in Talkeetna, Alaska.

                                                              1. I think the question should be not if they are offered, but if they are good.

                                                                8 Replies
                                                                1. re: roro1831

                                                                  I spent a couple years in Flint, Michigan and saw grits in diners around town (and in the cafeteria of the hospital I worked in...). I thought they were as good as I would get in any Waffle House down south.

                                                                  1. re: zamorski

                                                                    Questions is, who cares, it is still cornmeal mush!!!!

                                                                    1. re: nyfoodjoe

                                                                      The baked version of mush with molasses, Indian pudding, is strongly associated with New England and Boston.

                                                                      1. re: nyfoodjoe

                                                                        No, it's not just "cornmeal mush". Some of the fancy brands are like a very coarse polenta, but what I think of as grits are ground from dried hominy, and have that tell-tale alkaline whang. I like both kinds, but given the choice I'll go with hominy grits every time.

                                                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                                                          The distinction between hominy grits and 'plain' white grits is lost in much of the country.

                                                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                                                            Hominy grits can you eat?

                                                                            1. re: bkhuna

                                                                              No, no, the joke in the boy's big book of jokes was more like:

                                                                              Customer: I'll have some grits
                                                                              Waitress: Hominy?
                                                                              Customer: Oh, 3 or 4.

                                                                              but it doesn't make much sense if you are not aware that grits can be made from both treated and untreated corn, and that some people prefer one over the other.

                                                                              Speaking of grits - Bobby Flay is doing a shrimp and grits throwdown. Regarding this thread, Bobby says he serves this dish at his NY restaurant.

                                                                              His explaination of grits focused on the grain size - the coarse grind that does not pass through the sieve.

                                                                          2. re: nyfoodjoe

                                                                            Are you just looking for a fight? ;D Phew, that statement will lead to some controversy! At least you didn't call it polenta! ;D

                                                                      2. We in Boston certainly don't eat grits, call them what you will.

                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                        1. re: rememberme

                                                                          The above poster does not speak for me.

                                                                          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                            Or me! I had them recently at a bakery/cafe on Main St in Hyannis. Cape Cod may be south of Boston but that's still pretty far north.

                                                                            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                              OMG crack me right up.

                                                                            2. re: rememberme

                                                                              Check out the famous Mike's diner on Washington - they're (the place and the grits) are very popular.

                                                                              1. re: rememberme

                                                                                That is a "collective" reply...... "we"..... How do you feel about Italian Polenta?

                                                                                1. re: rememberme

                                                                                  I can think of at least four Boston restaurants offhand that serve grits. But mostly fancy places, not diner-type places. Grits are trendy around here.

                                                                                  1. re: Pia

                                                                                    The cheese grits you can get as a side dish at Hungry Mother are among the best I have ever had.

                                                                                2. I enjoyed some good grits last summer at the Empire Grill in Skowhegan, Me. My sister tells me it recently changed hands and no longer serves them. The next time I'm there I'll give them a piece of my grits loving mind!

                                                                                  1. Have never looked for them, after tasting them once (in Southern California)

                                                                                    1. I had them when I was in Alaska !

                                                                                      1. (Reuters,Inc. March 20 - exclusive to Chowhound.com)

                                                                                        Scientist Find What Look Like Grits Near to the North Pole!

                                                                                        A team of scientists from the University of South Carolina at Aiken have discovered what they believe are the northernmost grits ever found in either the New or the Old world. The team was originally formed to track and study the path of Admiral Robert E. Peary. Peary, an American, was believed to be the first man ever to reach the North Pole.

                                                                                        Leading the team was Professor Josiah Carey, Professor of Psycho-ceramics of Brown University in Providence RI, who is doing a three year rotational intra-collegiate assessment at the University of South Carolina at Aiken. They have been studying a way-camp that alledgedly Peary's camp used. The camp is located about 100 miles due South of the Pole. Peary was one of the first men ever to ascend the North Pole, although the claim is now in dispute by historians in Iran, Romania and Tonga who claim that there were native explorers from their countries who first achieved the Pole.

                                                                                        "We were incredibly surprised to find the artifacts this far North", said Professor Carey at a recent press conference in Lower Buttfinck, New Foundland, the base camp for the expedition. "Previously, we had suspected that the entire team was composed of Northern Gentlemen, and we knew most of the "help" was either drawn from locals or nearby. Now, we have to question that!"

                                                                                        The perfectly preserved grits were rescued by the team from a cache that had been buried under a meter or more of snow and ice. Also found in the cache was a single dessicated hush-puppie and a small piece of maroon and grey cloth. Controversy in the group erupted when Yvana Werlkspiller of Upslanti University contested the finding and claimed it was the excrement of the Hudson Bay Huranimous, a mouse-like creature that used to live in the area just south of the Artic circle and ate lots of snow in addition to its diet of small fish. The Hudson Bay Huranimous has thought to be extinct for over a thousand years, due to Global Cooling. Werlkspiller claimed the rodent must have survived and gotten into the cache somehow.

                                                                                        The resulting arguement was finally settled when a small sample was separated and cooked up for the group. Arlow J. Boniface, a Professor of Culinary Cultural Restoration at the University of South Carolina at Aiken, well known for his seminal work, "Low-Jo's BBQ, Grits, and Corn-Pone of the Lower Delta Carolinian Diet 1697-1743" was able to finally make the definitive statement.

                                                                                        "Yep," Professor Boniface said, "It tastes like SH#T!. It's gotta be Grits! Y'all know that that mousy stuff tastes better than this - even without butter"! Not to be deterred, Professor Casey is having other samples air-lifted back to the University of South Carolina at Aiken for further testing , before issuing a statement.

                                                                                        Copyright March 2009, Reuters, Inc. All rights reserved. Dana-Do Pettyweather and Bobby-Lou Marrymount contributed to this article

                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                          Must have been Matthew Henson's doing. Wiki says he was a farm boy from Maryland (Charles County, outside DC). :)

                                                                                          1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                            I've heard Dr. Boniface speak on a numberof occations and I have to say he does know his sh#t. I understand that he's currently expanding his work to include the northern delta and has discovered a shift in the proportions of grits and corn-pone consumed by the settlers. As an aside, Dr. Boniface is a really lousy home cook - if invited, plead the flu!

                                                                                            1. re: alwayscooking

                                                                                              LOL.I will be sure to remember that!

                                                                                          2. I was a power specialist for AT&T in Michigan and spent several years on the road working in literally every city in the lower peninsula. Always had a rule to search out the local mom n pop places to eat. Over the years I might have seen grits in only about half a dozen places and every one had a clientel with lots of southern roots, usually all African American.

                                                                                            1. Just saw this post, am amazed at provincialism. Right here up north in Western MA, Great Barrington, Martin's Diner (most popular ever) with GREAT grits at breakfast (served all day) as an alternative to hash browns for the free-spirited. Including me, among lots of others. Go Patriots! Go Grits!

                                                                                              1. I had eggs & grits in Newbury Massachusetts! It is not at all unusual to find grits on a menu up there!

                                                                                                1. Grits are available here in Oakland, CA in many forms. I usually make the ones that take about 5 minutes to cook. One time a bunch of my kid's friends (high school boys) spent the night and they wanted the big southern breakfast, but I was out of grits, so I used polenta instead. One kid commented on the grits being yellow, but everybody kept eating until all the food was gone. No problem!

                                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: pcdarnell

                                                                                                    that spurs another questions. Why do you only see white grits at restaurants. only seen yellow grits in the south an then mostly stone ground. Where did the preference for white come from?

                                                                                                    And for all those who like instant or quick you aint had grits til you had them stone ground

                                                                                                    1. re: quazi

                                                                                                      stone ground from flint or dent corn? hominy grits or not?

                                                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                                                        Grits are ground from dent corn. Hominy is a different shape kernel that is dried for a longer period of time and can be treated or not with lye before grinding.
                                                                                                        Flint corn is used for polenta and also for the type of meal used in the NE for johnnycakes and cornmeal mush.
                                                                                                        http://ansonmills.com/grits.htm

                                                                                                        Paul, you probably ate mote in Latin America. Hominy.

                                                                                                      2. re: quazi

                                                                                                        All the grits I've ever seen in the south (my experience of which is not extensive) were white grits. I've primarily seen them in Florida and North Carolina, though. I wonder if that makes a difference.

                                                                                                        1. re: quazi

                                                                                                          White grits were preferred in the Coastal South, yellow in the inland, more rural South.
                                                                                                          Restaurants tend to use quick grits which are pretty much white.
                                                                                                          Stone ground come either way. Then you get into individual preference.

                                                                                                      3. I've found grits almost everywhere I've ever been Sabbatus Main to Key West Florida to Vancouver BC. Grits are one of my favorite foods I like them almost every way Shrimp& grits is fantastic cheese grits are special but my favorite is grits with crumbled sausage scrambled eggs a biscuit on top and pepper gravy lots of pepper gravy. I suspect a heart doctor would tell you not to eat it but he wouldgiven the chance. I took grits to Korea they loved themwith dried smoked fish can't say I don't do dried smoked fish.

                                                                                                        1. Manhattan. But then it's also where I had the best fried okra with very spicy pork sausage gravy. Odd place, which at least years ago had some good Southern diner type places, where food was prepared with the same skill that goes into any other ethnic cuisine there.

                                                                                                          http://www.thecitizen.com/node/8494

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: Cinnamon

                                                                                                            I had the best grits ever recently in Manhatten, for breakfast in the Lower East Side.

                                                                                                            And I grew up eating grits in the south.
                                                                                                            Actually never liked them then, because they typically were the watery kind you'd get in restaurants (with a pat of margarine). And my mom made instant (uggg!).

                                                                                                            Having good grits was an epiphany!

                                                                                                          2. We should consider the effect of Joe Pesci's character in My Cousin Vinnie 1992. On his visit to the South, as he grew from comprehending the singular "grit" to the collective "grits", he reportedly developed an appreciation for said milled corn.

                                                                                                            His subsequent role in the dispersal of grits to the North was nothing short of the Diaspora effect. In true New Jersey gangster style, he allegedly hijacked a truckload of Quaker grits in the parking lot of a Southern diner. As he barreled north with the contraband, his accomplice has testified that Pesci said "Well, hey, with a name like Quaker, we can at least unload them in Pennsylvania, if we can't sell them off the back of the truck back in Jersey".

                                                                                                            Given the early 90's timing of the event, and the concomitant rise of the popularity of grits in the North, we must consider Pesci's role. Co-star Marissa Tormei, a dedicated fan of farina, remains mute on the subject.

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: FoodFuser

                                                                                                              That breakfast scene is hilarious. But when he questions the guy on the stand about the "magic grits" I can't contain myself.

                                                                                                              1. re: bkhuna

                                                                                                                that's one film i can watch again and again. it was just run again on tbs, i think, and i thought of this thread.

                                                                                                            2. Delicious grits in E. Harlem at Friendly Diner! Also in Juneau,Alaska-not as good, but decent.