Culinary experiences speak of the vibrant culture and tradition in the authentic U.S. South. Famous for smoky barbecues, delectable seafood and heartwarming soul food, the South will fill not just your clients’ bellies, but their appetite for the authentic Southern experience.
From food tours and trails to farmers’ markets and award-winning restaurants, here are six not-to-be-missed culinary experiences in the South.
Kentucky is also known as Bourbon Country – and most of this famous alcoholic spirit is produced mainly in the southern part of the state. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is the best way to taste Kentucky’s famous bourbon and see how distilling is done.
The journey starts in Louisville at the Frazier Museum, the Official Starting Point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail that will take travellers to some of the most iconic Bourbon distilleries in the world. This culinary experience features 18 distilleries that define Kentucky Bourbon as the world knows it. Take behind-the-scenes tours, meet master distillers and taste select bourbons you can’t find in stores. Kentucky Tourism also offers a Bourbon Trail Passport and Field Guide that you can get stamped for extra bragging rights when you return home.
“Kentucky restaurants serve up a bounty of home-style favourites celebrating the treasured ingredients, recipes, and flavours of the bluegrass – incredible treats with fascinating stories. From burgoo, Kentucky’s signature meat stew, to the iconic Hot Brown. You’ll dig into crispy fried fish and famous fried chicken. Of course, we have to mention how Kentucky makes over 95% of the world’s Bourbon! With nearly 70 distilleries, from historic to state-of-the-art, visitors have the opportunity to tour, taste, and experience the product that the US Congress named America’s Native Spirit. Savour gourmet and casual cooking for days as you embark on a foodie adventure found on many of the distillery grounds. From family style at The Kitchen at James B Beam to small plates at Willet, you’ll experience unique tastes and great stories on your culinary journeys,” says Mike Mangeot, Commissioner, Kentucky Department of Tourism.
Immerse in the sights, sounds, and most importantly, tastes of authentic Cajun culture at Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou. Located just 45 minutes south of New Orleans, Louisiana, Cajun culture is narrated through cuisine, outdoor adventures, and festivals & events.
The Cajun Bayou Food Trail is definitely one of the most unique culinary experiences in the South. It comprises 22 restaurants, festivals and events along the 100-mile stretch of the bayou. Enjoy culinary experiences from a selection of homey diners, roadside fast-food joints, bars and cafés.
“In Louisiana, you can not only Feed Your Soul with our incredible music, culture and outdoors, but also with our amazing food. Our Cajun, creole and soul food all incorporate our fresh seafood straight from the waters of Louisiana. You can taste the cultural influences of France, Spain, Germany, Africa, Italy and more in every dish we make. From five-star dining, to back road diners, Louisiana will take your tastebuds on the journey of a lifetime,” says Doug Bourgeois, Assistant Secretary – Louisiana, Office of Tourism.
Mississippi is home to more award-winning pitmasters than any other in the nation, and travellers will find it easy to find ribs, chicken, pork, and brisket smoked to perfection everywhere they go.
As just one example, a trip to Cleveland, Mississippi is never complete without a visit to the Delta Meat Market.
Opened by Chef Ellis in 2013, Delta Meat Market began by selling just specialty meat, cheese, and artisan goods. As the venue gained both community fandom and national acclaim, the humble grocery grew into a lunch counter with a daily rotating menu
Building on its laddered success, Delta Meat Market marks its continued growth with a new home in Cotton House Hotel, serving counter-style breakfast and lunch, and full-service dinner seven days a week in addition to an on-site food stall offering grab-and-go soups, salads and sandwiches alongside a selection of grocery items such as house-made charcuterie, jerky and pimento cheese.
Few know that there is an ongoing debate on the two different styles of barbecue found in the state of North Carolina. On one side there’s the Eastern style, which uses a vinegar and pepper base and utilizes the whole pig. Then there’s the Lexington style, which adds ketchup and other seasonings for dipping and uses only the pork shoulder. We think both are pretty amazing!
Lexington has become almost synonymous with North Carolina barbecue at its best.
Take your clients to this small town and you’ll find no shortage of restaurants serving hickory-smoked pit-cooked barbecue.. Plan your trip for the end of October and you can sample a smorgasbord of meticulously cooked meats at the Lexington Barbecue Festival.
In South Carolina, do not miss the Soda City Market, which is Columbia’s weekly street stall event inspired by traditional European street markets. It is a producer-only market pooling vendors who make or grow their own products (including out-of-season/exotic fruits and vegetables, antiques, and vintage items). Everything sold is unique, hand-crafted, and produced in the Southeast of the state. The market fields an average of 150 authentic vendors per week and over 400 unique vendors throughout the year!
Soda City Market is a microcosm of South Carolina, a melting pot of cultures, and an inviting community experience.
If Kentucky is known for bourbon, Tennessee is known for whiskey. Tour 25 distilleries when you travel the Tennessee Whiskey Trail and hear about the extensive history of Tennessee as a leader of spirits distillation throughout U.S. history.
Witness the craftmanship behind the popular Tennessee liquor through visits to the many distilleries found throughout the state.
Most importantly, don’t forget to drop by the world-famous Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, where you can take a free tour and sample the whiskey straight from its birthplace. And while you’re in Tennessee, don’t forget to include unique boutique distilleries like Old Dominick Distillery in Memphis and Knox Whiskey Works in Knoxville. There’s so much to sample!
Want to win a trip to experience the South for yourself? In celebration of the launch of Travel South USA’s global consumer content campaign with Vacaay, they’re giving one lucky agent the chance to win a trip to the South to experience it all in person. Click here for more details on how to win!