The Best New Restaurant in Each Southern State (A Rooftop Garden? Yes, Please!)

Southern-style food is often called soul food for a good reason.
Updated May 8, 2024
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Southern culture is often described as warm and hospitable — and the food isn’t too bad either. Whether it’s creole or BBQ, the South has some of the most desirable food in the country.

Southern Living recently announced the winners of the eighth annual South's Best Awards, including the best new restaurants in every southern state. The winners — compiled from a survey asking readers to rate their favorite places across the South — will have your mouth watering.

So, if you’re looking for a new tasty restaurant to enjoy, whether on vacation or in your own city, grab your favorite cash back credit card and check out these 15 best new restaurants in the South.

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1856 (Auburn, Alabama)

Monkey Business/Adobe african american waiter serving at restaurant

This stunning restaurant is a culinary teaching establishment working in conjunction with Auburn University students. The produce and herbs come from the rooftop garden, created and managed by Auburn University’s Horticulture Program.

Students work to build a lunch and tasting menu alongside the resident chef to offer patrons an exquisite dining experience.

Nosh NOLA (Bentonville, Arkansas)

cherryandbees/Adobe happy man having lunch in restaurant

Nosh NOLA brings New Orleans flavor and flair to Arkansas. Located inside Bentonville Brewing, Nosh NOLA is elevating pub fare. The menu has everything from salads to burgers to po-boys — all with Cajun spices to take you right back to the French Quarter.

Norman's (Orlando, Florida)

Mirko Vitali/Adobe beer at brewery bar restaurant

Norman’s delivers a fine dining experience where the ever-changing menu reflects the freshest fish, herbs, and produce available. Whether you’re looking for drinks and tapas or a chef-tasting menu experience, Norman’s offers a wide variety of dining experiences.

With a terrace and two private dining areas, there’s plenty of room for everyone to enjoy the seafood fusion fare.

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Brochu's Family Tradition (Savannah, Georgia)

Rido/Adobe female cafe owner posing at restaurant

Do you think fried chicken and fancy seafood don’t go together? Think again. Brochu’s serves sublime renditions of southern favorites like shrimp glazed and grilled with oranges or mahi mahi with capers, clam butter, and chilies. End your meal with a dish of banana pudding topped with bourbon bananas,

House of Marigold (Louisville, Kentucky)

uckyo/Adobe shrimp and grits with green garnishing

What started as a husband and wife catering duo has blossomed into a farm-to-table experience where guests are treated like family. They serve up New American food (as they call it) for breakfast and lunch, with delicious plates of challah french toast to shrimp n’ grits. Don’t forget to try the homemade pop tarts or biscuit chips.

Miss Shirley's Chinese Restaurant (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Joshua Resnick/Adobe chinese vegetable fried rice with chopsticks

A friendly neighborhood spot, Miss Shirley’s serves Chinese-American favorites, dim sum, and even some Cantonese specialties. You can get Chinese staples like lo mein with hot and sour soup or try something exotic like spicy squid in a black bean sauce.

Little Donna's (Baltimore, Maryland)

Magdalena Bujak/Adobe plate of pierogi with garnishing

Little Donna’s gets its name from Chef Robbie’s beloved grandmother, who stood just 4.5 feet tall and taught him how to cook. Only open for dinner, Little Donna’s is a go-to for bar fare, small plates, and tavern pies. Many of the dishes, like pierogies or Serbian pancakes, are influenced by Little Donna’s Yugoslavian heritage.

Sambou's African Kitchen (Jackson, Mississippi)

Jacob Lund/Adobe happy couple having lunch in restaurant

Serving up soulful dishes with fresh ingredients and bold flavors, Sambou’s features Gambian-style cuisine. If you stop in on a weekend, you can try the goat curry, along with other dishes like Gambian meat pie or oxtail mac and cheese. It even offers house-made beverages like freshly squeezed ginger juice to delight your taste buds.

Salted Melon (Charlotte, North Carolina) senior couple eating breakfast at restaurant

Salted Melon is all about elevated convenience, offering delicious eats with quick service. You can get breakfast, lunch, and dinner, enjoying a sprouted salmon wrap or tuna poke nachos. It has less exotic dishes for kids or those with picky palates. Salted Melon isn’t just an eatery; it’s a market, too. You can grab ready-made meals, local sauces, and even ice cream.

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Nātv (Broken Arrow, Oklahoma)

Friends Stock/Adobe chef assistants cooking a new dish in a restaurant kitchen

Nātv combines Oklahoma’s native ingredients sourced from local tribes into modern, casual Native American cuisine. Executive chef Jacque had dreamed of opening a Native American restaurant since she was a little girl. She is living the dream, serving up plates of bison sliders, smoked pumpkin salad, and pork belly succotash.

Vern's (Charleston, South Carolina)

Syda Productions/Adobe happy friends enjoying at lunch

Vern’s is a neighborhood joint that is way more concerned about the food it serves than what you wear to dinner. The menu changes frequently, but the sample menu shows a variety of in-season appetizers, proteins, and handmade pasta. The focus of the food and wine offerings is organic, sustainable, and quality.

The Pink Hermit (Nashville, Tennessee)

VisualProduction/Adobe happy friends eating dinner in restaurant

Taking inspiration from Italian cafés, The Pink Hermet is an all-day cafe that serves Italian-inspired cafe cuisine. Tucked inside The Heritage Hotel, diners can enjoy locally roasted coffee and pastries for breakfast or salads and pizzas throughout the day.

Veracruz Fonda (Austin, Texas)

Joshua Resnick/Adobe couple eating tacos at mexican restaurant

Started by sisters, Veracruz Fonda is authentic Mexican food with a modern flair. Patrons can enjoy Mexican food all day, starting with breakfast tacos in the morning and mole enchiladas in the evening. The coffee and juice bar offers locally roasted coffee, smoothies, agua frescas, and more.

Birdie's (Richmond, Virginia)

anaumenko/Adobe family having summer lunch with seafood

Known for craft cocktails, East Coast oysters, and homemade pastries, Birdie’s is confident you’ll come and want to stay awhile. While its craft cocktails are the star of the show, the food menu includes yummy seafood specialties like lobster rolls, blue crab dip, and, of course — oysters.

The Vandalia Co. (Charleston, West Virginia)

elnariz/Adobe friendly waiter serving food to friends

One part boutique and one part cafe, The Vandalia Co. brands itself as a quick and comfortable Appalachian cafe. While grabbing a homemade scone or soup, you can walk around and shop for wares from local vendors.

Bottom line

Drazen/Adobe Happy couple toasting with wine during lunch in a restaurant

The best new restaurants in the South prove what a melting pot America really is. There are so many different types of cuisine to enjoy — and truly food for every palette. 

Even if you can’t visit one of these fine establishments while stepping up your travel game, take a look at what up-and-coming spots are in your neighborhood the next time you need a break from the grocery store.

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Holly Humbert Holly is a writer who recognizes that there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to personal finance. She is passionate about entrepreneurship, women in business, and financial literacy. With more than four years of experience, her work has been featured on MarketWatch and The Ways to Wealth.

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