- Southern Living's Jennifer V. Cole traveled 24,000 miles in search of the South's best restaurants
- She found a new emphasis on casual dining, but that doesn't just mean burgers
- Restaurants on the list had to open between July 2013 and June 2014
- Cole's most important factor? Deliciousness
Southern Living's intrepid restaurant scout Jennifer V. Cole hit the road to determine the top 100 places to eat in the South now. The list leads with the South's 10 best new restaurants and continues with Jennifer's favorite restaurants for 2014, both new and old, in her most frequented towns. This list is always evolving, so follow @jennifervcole on Twitter for her latest stops.
Eatocracy asked Cole how she arrived at the larger and more pared down lists.
"The whole list is a mix of both established restaurants and newcomers in alphabetical order. For each restaurant in the top 100, I asked myself first and foremost 'Is the food delicious?' I then considered the restaurant's relevance in the modern food landscape. I took into account a chef's technical skill and his or her creativity with ingredients. Geography obviously played a role; I included restaurants within the Southern Living coverage area (17 states plus DC). And I factored in the overall experience," Cole explained.
For the 10 best new restaurants, Cole says the restaurant had to have opened between July 2013 and June 2014 to be considered. She visited each anonymously and Southern Living paid for all of her meals.
"I traveled nearly 24,000 miles while researching this list," said Cole. "Of course, I applied the same stringent criteria as with the overall list. In addition, I considered what each new restaurant contributes to the patchwork quilt of Southern food. How does it draw on and respect tradition? How does it reflect today's influences? How does it apply the flavors of the modern South?"
And Cole found some trends emerging throughout her travels, notably a relaxing from the white tablecloth, tasting menu, suit-wearing waiters that had been a hallmark of some Southern dining until recently.
So what did she find? "More open kitchens, exposed wood, and waitstaff in jeans and button-downs. That's not to say service is diminished or we're relegated to burgers. I just think we're in a period that's less about fine dining and one that's more about casual grace or fine casual."
And now that you know how the list-making sausage got made, let's get to the main course.
10. The Shack -- Staunton, Virginia