8 of the South's Best Veggie Plates
Spring has sprung and the warmer weather is serving up fresh vegetables around the South. Here’s a sampling of where to find creative plates that ditch the soggy green beans and wilted lettuce and instead offer roasted, sauteed, fried and carmelized garden goodies.
San Antonio, Texas
Southtown’s Bliss is the special kind of place that bakes their bread in house and focuses on the details of each dish, from buttermilk onion rings to fiddlehead ferns, so it’s no surprise that their vegetable plate is equally inspired. The Vegan Platter ($25) is a salad’s heartier (and happier) cousin, with roasted butternut squash, caramelized cauliflower, grilled artichokes and sundried tomato farro filling the plate.
Food at Sean Brock’s Nashville outpost starts with a simple rule: If it’s not from the South, it’s not going out of the kitchen. Menus draw inspiration from the historic house itself and focus on what’s in season. Anything that goes unused in the kitchen gets pickled, preserved or smoked for future dishes. The Plate of Southern Vegetables ($25) isn’t overthought or unneccessarily complicated, just fresh and flavored like Husk’s garden out back.
Just outside Birmingham, the original Whistlestop Cafe lets fans of “Fried Green Tomatoes” taste the famous title for themselves. When the movie premiered in 1992, crowds of customers clamored for a plate of crispy tomatoes. Today, Irondale Cafe serves around 600-800 slices of fried green tomatoes every day, along with a simple menu that hasn’t changed in 30 years. The 3 Vegetables Plate ($5.99) lets you fill up on the famous tomatoes, creamed corn, sweet potato souffle, fried okra and other downhome favorites that will leave you whistling their praises.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Chef John Besh’s popular ode to the days of New Orlean’s Franco-German brasseries has made its way around the Southern food circuit with tales of carnivore-friendly dinners that go heavy on the creativity. To taste a lesser known star of Besh’s show, try the Crespelle of Spring Greens ($21), which treats diners to a variety of texturs and flavors with wild mushrooms, charred tomatoes, asparagus and herbed ricotta cheese.
Charleston, South Carolina
Jeremiah Bacon plates vegetables in a practically perfect way that leaves little questioning as to how he became a three-time James Beard semifinalist. Drawing inspiration from the lowcountry and local waters, the kitchen’s menu changes daily. Expect to find favorites like the Winter Vegetable Plate ($26), which Anson Mills Carolina Gold Rice Grits, mushrooms quinoa and seasonal vegetables or start with Spring Vegetables ($12), a colorful array of arugula, asparagus, radish, beets, pickled spring onions, farro and banyuls.
Chef Steven Satterfield, responsible for imaginative pairings such as Confit Duck Leg with sunchokes and dandelion greens, offers a Seasonal Vegetable Plate ($21) that features the best of Atlanta’s local veggies at their prime. With accloades for the restaurant (from Martha Stewart to Food & Wine and The New York Times) flying in as fast as the ice cream sandwiches appear at lunch, this is one vegetable plate you won’t want to pass up.
Greenville, South Carolina
Soby’s invites diners to pull up a chair and settle down for a true farm-to-table experience. Chef Shaun Garcia grows many of his own vegetables on his 10-acre farm and the rest come from local farmers and foragers. The Plate of Southern Vegetables ($18) features swiss chard, asparagus and braised mushrooms ragout, garlic crusted potatoes and stewed Sea Island red peas sure to entice even the pickiest of vegetable eaters.
Although the restaurant is a local favorite for bowls of smoky shrimp and grits, Table 100 offers a tasty rival that cures that same craving for comfort food. The Seasonal Vegetable Plate ($11) allows you to pick your favorite goods from the garden, choosing from options that include spinach smothered in garlic, roasted cauliflower and turnip greens. If carbs are calling your name, add mac and cheese, roasted potatoes or mashed potatoes to the mix.
For vegetarian recipes from Southern chefs and restaurants, click here.
Photo credits, from top: Bliss platter courtesy of Bliss, The Macintosh vegetable plate by Andrew Cebulka, and Miller Union seasonal vegetables from Miller Union Facebook page.