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The Lee Brothers Share Their Southern Classics

The Lee Brothers Share Their Southern Classics
The Lee Bros. Photo by Squire Fox

Who are
the Lee Brothers?

As profoundly popular cookbook authors, Matt and Ted Lee also regularly lead seminars on how to write successful cookbooks. This detail reveals so much about these two gentle souls, who share their encyclopedic knowledge of Southern food with quiet passion and consistent generosity. Growing up in Charleston, Matt and Ted have long wanted the world to understand what is special about their regional cuisine, and through The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen, and The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern they more than effectively put their compelling message (and recipes) out there. Credited with being pioneering ambassadors for the nation’s obsession with Southern food, they are friends to celebrity chefs and culinary wallflowers in equal measure. They are real folks, sharing their love for real food. Check out any spot on this list: they are all the real deal.

Smitty’s Market
of Lockhart / Texas

Although Smitty’s distinguishes itself from other Texas ’cue shops by offering smoked prime rib, what you want to order here is the holy trinity of Central-Texas barbecue: brisket (and not the lean sort), peppery beef sausage links, and pork ribs. And then there is this detail: the cashier and the pitmaster work side by side. If you can brave the smoky line at Smitty’s, you prove you’ve got some skin in the game. website / 208 South Commerce Street / Lockhart TX

Smittys Kitchen
Smitty's Market. Photo courtesy of Smitty's Market.

Fuller’s Old Fashioned Bar-B-Q
of Lumberton / North Carolina

Some barbecue joints are content to deliver only the shredded, sauced pig, but Fuller and Delora Locklear’s buffet line at Fuller’s Old Fashioned Bar-B-Q is a veritable grand tour of Southern dishes. Yes, they have a deliciously smoky pulled pork chopped up very finely and spiked, North Carolina–style, with red-chile vinegar, but they also serve a few rare delicacies. One such is the crisp, buttery corn cakes that are a specialty of the Lumbee Tribe, native to this corner of the South. website / 3201 N. Roberts Avenue / Lumberton NC

Dave’s Carryout
of Charleston / South Carolina

At Dave’s, the simple seafood platter is elevated to a thing of beauty—your shrimp, whiting, and flounder sports a crackly, shattering crust that is perfectly salty and lusciously golden. That fried flounder is monumental, an icon of Charleston’s food culture as heroic as shrimp and grits or she-crab soup: the whole fish stretches over the edges of the Styrofoam clamshell, preventing the container from closing. Despite what the name suggests, we recommend you eat in at one of the two tables because the buttery fish, hoppin’ John—bacon-riddled rice and small red field peas—and creamy lima beans deserve your full attention. 843.577.7943 / 42 Morris Street / Charleston SC

Heirloom Tomato Salad - Highlands
Heirloom Tomato Salad From Highlands Bar & Grill. Photo courtesy of Virginia Highlands.

Highlands Bar and Grill
of Birmingham / Alabama

French ideas and Southern ingredients have melded effortlessly since 1982 at this elegant brasserie, whose owner, the James Beard Award-winning Chef Frank Stitt, has set the standard for hospitality in the New South. Start with selections from the raw bar and then allow yourself to be blown away by the vegetables—onions, tomatoes, corn, and okra, especially. The produce preparations are every bit as essential to the experience as the flat iron steak and Gulf grouper on your plate. website / 2011 11th Avenue South / Birmingham AL

Sally Bell’s Kitchen
of Richmond / Virginia

The menu at this bakery is a tribute to the luncheon foods served in the South in the 1950s: country ham sandwiches, pimento cheese sandwiches, beaten biscuits, tomato aspic, macaroni salad, and pretty cupcakes. Almost every element in a Sally Bell’s “lunchbox” is made from scratch that morning, from the mayonnaise in the potato salad to the zest-flecked orange icing on the cupcake. Half a deviled egg and a pecan cheese wafer complete the box, which is tied with candy-striped baker’s twine. website /  708 W Grace Street / Richmond VA

Lilly’s Bistro
of Louisville / Kentucky

Kentucky native Kathy Cary is, hands-down, the pioneer of Louisville’s contemporary farm-to-table movement. Since 1988, her Bardstown Road restaurant, Lilly’s Bistro—named for her daughter—has been turning out refined comfort food tweaked with creative usage of ingredients from the Southern larder: sorghum, stone-ground grits, country ham. Like Cary herself, who picked up French training in Washington, DC, Lilly’s has a global outlook but a resolutely Southern soul. website / 1147 Bardstown Road / Louisville KY

Casamentos Restaurant Oysters
Casamento's Restaurant of New Orleans. Photo by Jennifer Hitchcock.

of New Orleans, Louisiana

It seems everyone who has dined there has a personal affinity for New Orleans’ Casamento’s, that seasonal superstar where memories are made as swiftly as oysters are (theatrically) shucked. The Lee Brothers share their tale…

It’s a tradition in our family to plan trips to New Orleans around the hours of operation of Casamento’s on Magazine Street. Because the restaurant is always our first stop, the one we head straight for immediately after arriving at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. Here’s our order: oyster stew, a dozen on the half shell, an oyster soup, full oyster loaf, fried blue-crab claws, and ice-cold Abita beers. When you make this your family tradition, you will thank us. Welcome to New Orleans! website / 4330 Magazine Street / New Orleans LA

Cashion’s Eat Place
of Washington / DC

Jackson, Mississippi, native Ann Cashion, drawing upon her training in kitchens from San Francisco to Italy to France, opened Cashion’s Eat Place in DC in 1995. And though some might quibble about labeling it “Southern,” we always find it ineffably so—something about the effortless sense of hospitality, the correctly prepared shrimp and grits, the lacing of buttermilk and comeback sauce throughout the menu. When Cashion sold the place to her veteran chef and general manager nearly ten years ago, they had the good sense to keep its spirit—and cooking—intact. website / 1819 Columbia Rd NW / Washington DC

Charles’s Country Pan-Fried Chicken
of New York, New York

If you’ve even wondered whether authentic Southern food exists in New York City, hustle yourself over to Harlem, to Charles’s Country Pan-Fried Chicken. Charles Gabriel, who grew up on a farm in Huntersville, North Carolina, learned his skillet sorcery from his mother at the age of ten and moved to New York to work in restaurants in the early 1960s. For the last twenty years, he’s been cooking truly perfect chicken, with a crackly-crisp crust and moist, brothy meat. If you sit down to a plate of it, along with sides of
righteous collard greens and candied yams, you’d swear you were home. 212.281.1800 / 2841 Frederick Douglass Blvd #1 / New York NY

Crook’s Corner
of Chapel Hill / North Carolina

Under founders Gene Hamer and the late Bill Neal, Crook’s Corner was the training ground for a legion of outstanding Southern chefs helming the next generation of classic Southern restaurants, viz., Emily Tornquist, John Currence, Robert Stehling. Under the stewardship of Bill Smith, who’s been leading the Crook’s kitchen since 1992, the commitment to fresh, seasonal home-style cooking hasn’t flagged for one second, and there are new originals in the mix, like Smith’s sublime honeysuckle sorbet and “Cheesepork” (the former is very seasonal, so satisfy your sweet tooth with his famous Atlanta Beach Pie, but the latter you just have to try!). website / 610 West Franklin Street / Chapel Hill NC

Featured in the upcoming issue of The Local Palate.

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