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6 Must-Try Restaurants Serving Inventive Southern Food

Experience fresh takes on classic Southern fare at these restaurants around Georgia.

In these acclaimed kitchens, global techniques and ingredients mingle with familiar flavors, and chefs settle for nothing less than the best proteins and produce. For these award-winning cooks, the job isn’t to simply prepare a tasty meal; they are reviving forgotten ingredients, supporting local farmers, and proving that even the most established dishes benefit from a little dressing up. With cherished recipes and traditions (hello, meat and three) as their foundation, the minds behind these cutting-edge restaurants are breathing new life into Southern food, and it’s never tasted better.

Mussels at Frog Hollow Tavern in Augusta, Georgia

Frog Hollow Tavern in Augusta, Georgia

Frog Hollow Tavern in Augusta

Wild striped bass over Carolina Gold risotto with toasted pecan brown butter is just one example of how Augusta restaurateur Sean Wight gives Southern classics the white tablecloth treatment at Frog Hollow Tavern. Regionally grown ingredients are the star of the menu at this affordable yet stylish restaurant in downtown Augusta.

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The bar at Liam's Restaurant, Lounge and Cheese Shoppe in Thomasville, Georgia

Liam's Restaurant, Lounge and Cheese Shoppe in Thomasville, Georgia

Liam's Restaurant, Lounge and Cheese Shoppe in Thomasville

Don’t let the good-time vibe fool you — this familial haunt has a serious menu. At Liam's, you'll want to kick things off with a cocktail and a cheese plate; this is the hometown of famed cheesemaker Sweet Grass Dairy, after all. Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere in downtown Thomasville and the menu built around sustainably sourced, natural, organic foods.

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Table full of food at Revival in Decatur, Georgia

Revival in Decatur, Georgia

Revival in Decatur

"Top Chef" Kevin Gillespie's latest venture, Revival, pays homage to Sunday suppers, albeit with chef-driven techniques fueled by farm-fresh ingredients. Think cornmeal fried catfish with a creamy horseradish sauce, charred local broccoli with citrus and spices, and Grandma Gillespie’s warm butternut pound cake.

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Egg on toast over a bowl of grits at Miller Union in Atlanta, Georgia

Miller Union in Atlanta, Georgia

Miller Union in Atlanta

Steven Satterfield looks to Georgia fields when whipping up his much-talked-about sides and starters at Miller Union, which range from tarragon-tinged sweet corn to red pea and benne hummus, served in an elegant dining room with one of the best wine lists in town. Wine Enthusiast magazine has recognized Miller Union as one of the top 100 lists in the country, specifically praising its commitment to sustainability.

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Front porch at Five & Ten in Athens, Georgia

Five & Ten in Athens, Georgia

Five & Ten in Athens

House-made pickles and fried chicken skins are right at home alongside duck liver mousse and grilled octopus at celebrity chef Hugh Acheson's flagship restaurant, Five & Ten, housed in a 1913 home in Athens with small, cozy dining rooms and a deep front porch. The menu blends contemporary Southern food with French and Italian influences, and the atmosphere remains relaxed and casual.

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Buttermilk biscuit with bacon, lettuce and tomato at Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia

Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia

Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah

Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah turns out sandwiches and sweet treats, but owners Cheryl and Griffith Day are best known for perfecting the buttermilk biscuit. Enjoy one unadulterated, or add bacon, pimento cheese or pepper jelly.

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Published: July 2019