A Road Trip Through the American South Worthy of Dame Helen Mirren
What happens when Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren takes a food-centric road trip through the American South? “I didn’t really know about real Southern cooking until my husband and I took a road trip from Nashville to Charleston,” Helen Mirren says. “He taught me about the enormous pleasures of the all-you-can-eat buffet. When you find those places, they’re usually called Ruben’s, or Mama’s, and the food is just fantastic.”
For a road trip through the South worthy of Dame Mirren, we asked Roadfood co-author Michael Stern—who specializes in exactly those sorts of stops—to share the ultimate buffet-lover’s itinerary.
1. Hermitage House Smorgasburg, Nashville
The motto here is “While we are not gourmet, we are homemade,” so you’ll find a roster of kitchen-fresh Dixie delights, ranging from fried chicken to warm peach cobbler.
2. Miss Mary Bobo's, Lynchburg, Tennessee
For 75 years, Miss Mary fed lodgers family-style at her friendly antebellum home, purchased by the Jack Daniel Distillery after she passed. Enjoy unique feasts such as meatloaf and baked whiskey apples.
3. Fried Tomato Buffet, Kennesaw, Georgia
This family-friendly restaurant in a shopping center isn’t pretty, but the buffet of handsome, cooked-from-scratch dishes is a sight to behold, from fried chicken and corn bread to collard greens and banana pudding.
4. Blue Willow Inn, Social Circle, Georgia
Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell often stayed at this stately Greek Revival home; today it’s one of the grandest buffets in the land. Pile a plate high with pork chops, legendary biscuits, and fried green tomatoes.
5. Sweatman's BBQ, Holly Hill, South Carolina
Get the essential South Carolina barbecue experience at this old farmhouse. It’s a Friday-and-Saturday-only affair where the buffet features a whole hog, slow-cooked over oak, hickory, and pecan coals. Don’t miss the crisp smoked pigskin.
6. Bowens Island, Charleston
This ramshackle restaurant serves steamed oysters from local beds. Sweet and quietly briny, they are placed under wet burlap and cooked over an open fire. The swankiest seafood restaurant on earth cannot compare to this primal experience.