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"Destination" Restaurants in the Southeast?

I'm looking for restaurants that are "destination" restaurants in the Southeast (let's add in Virginia and Tennessee/Kentucky).

I hate the phrase destination restaurant but I couldn't come up with anything better..but basically any place that people from all around will drive to (fancy or not).

On my short list to go to:

McCrady's in Charleston, SC
Townhouse in Chilhowie, VA

Any others?

McCrady's Restaurant
2 Unity Alley, Charleston, SC 29401

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  1. VA, TN, KY are on different boards. I think this question has to have a specific distance parameter...i.e., 50 miles, 100 miles, etc.

    1. There are tons. I like the Pink House in Savannah, High Cotton in Charleston and Atlanticville on Sullivan's. FIG, Hank's, Amen, and Peninsula Grill in Charleston are also great.

      Peninsula Grill
      112 N Market St, Charleston, SC 29401

      Atlanticville Restaurant
      2063 Middle Street, Sullivan's Island, SC 29482

      1. Townhouse Grill is certainly worth a trip. Also, we recently enjoyed the Inn at Little Washington. One of the top three meals I have had in a restaurant, and the service is wonderful as well. You could do a road trip with the Inn at Little Washington, Townhouse Grill and finish at The Fearrington House in Pittsboro NC which is also a Relais & Chateau property like the Inn. It has been a few years since we have eaten at Fearrington House. The last time we thought the food had slipped a notch but I think there is a new chef since then. I have high praises for The Chef and The Farmer in Kinston NC. I think that is where I would begin or end my trip. There is not much going on in Kinston, but I am sure you would find a suitable B&B. I think there are few threads on this board with other's reviews.

        Fearrington House Restaurant
        2000 Fearrington Village, Pittsboro, NC 27312

        1. One not yet mentioned is The Admiral in Asheville. Very devoted to local, energetic and willing to take chances. They consistently have interesting twists while maintaining deliciousness. A bit like finding a pearl in an oyster - the outside doesn't reflect the promise of what the kitchen delivers!

          14 Replies
            1. re: Sue in Mt P

              The kitchen does deliver--but often very slowly. When we were there 2 nights ago--it took over 45 minutes to deliver the three small plates we ordered. The air conditioner wasn't working well that night, and the restaurant was uncomfortably hot. My 85 year old mother was suffering. We arrived there at 6 to avoid the crowds--to no avail.

            2. re: meatn3

              Yep. Just got home from the Admiral an hour ago. FAN TAS TIC. Really nothing better in the Carolinas that I'm aware of. Fig the closest , IMO.

              It is a bit slow, don't be in a hurry. Owner (tending bar) said he just put $1000 in the a/c plus put tint on the windows to keep it cooler. Also said they fill up about 3 days out now. We called 2 pm sat to ask for a 5 oclock res, no go. Got the last 2 seats at the bar at 5:15.

              Peach-tomat gazpacho w/ crab and avacado. Lamb chops rare as can be , charred on the outside, divine. Scallops w/ foraged milk cap mushrooms, corn/vanilla bisque, pea tendrils. I can't TELL you how fabulous that was. Stopped and considered one really should say grace before eating something like that. Foie w/ chocolate and wild mushrooms and banannas. Fudge torte w/ coconut powder and dried strawberries. All insanely good. All those luxury ingredients, plus coffe and 2 glasses of wine (as if you can't tell from this post) $91. BARGAIN.

              1. re: danna

                Is it as good as Daniel and Babbo.............

                1. re: Littleman

                  Interesting question. While the answer is "obviously not"...let me qualify. Daniel and Babbo are "better" because of the glorious surroundings, excrutiatingly perfect service, stellar wine lists, fabulous bread service and more expansive menu. BUT...if you boil it down to: did the best taste in my mouth Sat night equal the best taste in my mouth at either B. or D.? Well...actually yes.

                  Funny you should ask because when I forced my husband to taste my foie gras, he asked me if it were as good as Daniel. He doesn't like foie, but he said it reminded him of the taste explosion he had at Daniel, which was apparently the first and last time he's enjoyed any foie. (I told him it had been a long time since I'd been to Daniel and he would need to take me back soon to help me recall)

                  1. re: danna

                    Thanks Danna. Good luck. I hope you return to Daniel soon.

                2. re: danna

                  We must have overlapped - we were there this evening too! One of our dishes was the scallops. It was very hard to resist lapping up the remaining bisque.

                  It was warm for me. My friend is always cold, so she was very comfortable.

                  Zeisel, the pacing this evening suited us. We were served water immediately and that tided us over while we made our decisions. This was our event for the evening, so we enjoyed a chance to eat and talk without having the experience feel rushed. Our server was lovely, perfect blend of friendly accessibility and professional ability to ascertain our needs. Food was exceptional. Delicious, inventive and visually pleasing. Portion are generous too - often with food of this caliber the portions are on the petite side.

                  I remain incredibly anguished that they opened after I had relocated.....had they opened a few years earlier I might have insisted my SO move west rather than me moving east!

                  1. re: meatn3

                    Maybe we caught the Admiral on a bad night. I'm used to waiting for 30 minutes for the small plates, but 45 minutes seemed over-the-top--especially when we saw other tables who arrived later being served their entrees ahead of us. What made it especially hard was that my elderly mother was obviously suffering because it was so hot. Live and learn--next time we'll take her to Fig for that special meal.

                    1. re: Zeisel

                      I can see were the heat would be very taxing for her. Discomfort can make a wait much worse. Give them a try again (when the air is fixed)!

                      I wonder if the time of your seating was an issue. Most times I go a little before the more in demand hours. Sometimes just a slight difference in arrival times can make a difference in how busy a kitchen is.

                  2. re: danna

                    Shhhh! re The Admiral. (These days my greatest fear is that someone will spill the beans to Tony Bourdain or The New York Times, and none of us locals will ever be able to get a reservation again... )

                    1. re: Jeff C.

                      I don't think that Bourdain is much of a fan of the South, so no worries there.

                      1. re: Naco

                        Actually, he LOVES New Orleans--no surprise there. And also seemed quite fond of Charleston and Key West, although the latter doesn't really qualify as "southern," I guess.

                        But you're right: He has made it a point of steering clear of places like Atlanta and Birmingham, both of which have pretty vibrant dining scenes these days. (On the other hand, I never thought he'd go for Buffalo, NY, so who knows? There's only so many times you can go to Vietnam, after all.)

                        1. re: Jeff C.

                          I didn't see the fondness in the South Carolina episode, which is one of the poorer ones, to my mind. Kind of like the Scandinavian ones- he didn't like it there, ergo, a poor show.

                          They have done several Rust Belt shows, on the other hand.

                    2. re: danna

                      Ah, yes...the hierloom tomato & peach gazpacho...

                      Last--and best--taste of summer. (Get it while you can.)

                  3. The Rendezvous in Memphis has been a destination for ages. Many consider it a tourist trap, but to me, if a place can bring in their own tourists, then it qualifies as a destination rather than a trap.

                    There are several places in new Orleans that certainly qualify as a destination, though the only time I have gone there specifically to eat somewhere, it was just to eat oysters at Acme. I have driven to LaPlace for andouille and tasso before, but brought it home.

                    Mississippi has a lot of great places to eat, but the only place I can think of that might be a destination is Taylor Grocery, though the chicken and cobbler (not to mention the entertainment) at the Old Country Store in Lorman is coming up fast...

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Clarkafella

                      I have lived in MS all my life but there are no "destination" restaurants here IMO. A "destination" in Mississippi IMO would be 2 weeks between Oxford, Clarksdale, Greenwood, Greenville, Jackson and Natchez. I would spend several nights at The Alluvian Hotel in Greenwood and dine at Giardinia's, Lusco's and Crystal Grill. Close to a destination would be Doe's Eat Place in Greenville. I would dine at Madidi's, Ground Zero, Abe's and Hick's in Clarksdale. I would dine at Taylor Grocery, City Grocery, Ajax, Waltz and Snack Bar in Oxford. I would dine in and around Natchez then head to the Gulf Coast and NOLA. That's a destination.

                      1. re: Littleman

                        Hey Littleman,

                        I know that you have tried a lot of places- ever been here:


                        I'm thinking that it might be on its way to becoming a destination if it isn't already...

                    2. I would definitely say SeeWee in Awendaw/McClellanville, SC. It is a seafood meat and three which is indigenous to the south specifically.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: BlueHerons

                        Agree about SeeWee, what a funky place with great seafood. This is an old south diner that serves great seafood along with country cooking items. Ate there twice in May, will definitely go again.

                        1. re: fredb2548

                          thanks guys. great list here. anything else in NC?

                          1. re: wreckers00

                            I would recommend Madison's at Old Edward's Inn and Spa in Highlands, NC a destination restaurant because of the Inn and Spa. And also because Highland's is a beautiful city with many fine restaurants as well. Have dinner at Madison's one night then walk across the street the next night to Wolfgang's. Madison, Old Edwards Inn and Spa, Highland's and the city would be a destination of great magnitude for me.

                            Madison's @ Old Edwards Inn and Spa @ 445 Main Street, Highlands, NC 866 - 526 - 8008.

                            Wolfgang's Restaurant @ 474 Main St., Highlands, NC 828 - 526 - 3807. * FD/D.

                            1. re: wreckers00

                              I would recommend The Dining Room at The Greystone Inn and Spa at Lake Toxaway, NC a destination restaurant. The food is outstanding, the scenery is unbelievable, the inn is wonderful and my wife likes the spa. It would be a destination for me to travel to Lake Toxaway for a few days to dine and stay at the inn.

                              Greystone Inn and Spa @ Greystone Lane, Lake Toxaway, NC 828 - 966 - 4700.

                              Greystone Restaurant
                              3039 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28209

                              1. re: wreckers00

                                I recommend The Left Bank Restaurant at The Sanderling Inn and Spa at Duck, NC a destination restaurant. It overlooks the Currituck Sound and has outstanding cuisine. There are numerous fine restaurants in Duck, Corolla and nearby. A few days at the Inn and Spa and dining at the restaurants there would be a destination treat for sure.

                                The Sanderling Inn and Spa @ 1461 Duck Road, Duck, NC 800 - 701 - 4111.

                                Left Bank
                                1461 Duck Rd, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949

                          2. The Eseeola Lodge in Linville, NC has a nice dining room. The atmosphere is wonderful...jackets required, live piano, dimmed lights...