Sample these Cajun seafood dishes, classic soul food, and creative twists on beloved regional traditions.
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Can you find great southern food in Boston? “Bless your heart,” is the response you might get from some locals from New Orleans, Nashville, Savannah, and other cities steeped in their respective region’s culinary traditions. Well, look – we disagree. Boston may not be the bayou, but we don’t have to be either. We have a number of excellent restaurants that put their own twist on Southern cuisine, as well as some traditional soul food establishments that will stand up to even the toughest taste test. (Oh, and because it’s such a specific subcategory, we didn’t even include BBQ spots. If that’s what you’re looking for, head here.)
If you’re looking for a family-style dinner to share with relatives, it’s hard to top the South End’s signature Cajun seafood dishes at Bootleg Special: bowls of lobster, shrimp, spicy sausage and more , sprinkled with garlic. Butter or other sauces, and gobbled up together with your (plastic gloved) hands. Just brunch with your best friend? Bootleg’s Southern specialties — like pancakes with banana casserole, crab and avocado toast, and clove-spiced sangria — make for a very happy crew of two.
400 Tremont St., Boston, 617-451-1800, bootlegspecial.com.
Buttermilk & Bourbon
Blue-haired Hell’s Kitchen star Jason Santos is taking New Orleans-inspired dining in creative, colorful directions at his Back Bay restaurant and even larger, more boisterous new location in Watertown. This is where the Hurricane cocktails flow with rum and fruit on tap; the fried chicken is served hot in Nashville or served with Alabama-style white BBQ sauce; and the out-of-this-world honey-glazed biscuits deserve a touch of pimento cheese spread. It’s everything you need to celebrate any day of the week like Mardi Gras.
160 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, 617-266-1122; 100 Arsenal Yards Blvd., 857-760-7128, Watertown, buttermilkbourbon.com.
The Seaside Cafe
Since 1997, Southern-style soul food has carved its way into the heart and, well, soul of the area’s dining scene in this Cambridge mainstay – one crispy fried chicken drumstick at a time. In fact, the birds are the word here, whether you’re getting them as grilled wings, paired with Belgian waffles, or in the form of a fried or grilled sandwich. But don’t snooze on pork ribs, catfish, smoked turkey salad, or homemade coconut miracle bars (which, if you’re smart, you’ll stock up on for hunger pangs).
233 River St., Cambridge, 617-354-7644, coastsoulcafe.com.
Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen
More than just a destination for shrimp and grits, seared Cajun salmon, Creole jambalaya and famous blackened catfish, Darryl’s is a long-standing Boston institution for live jazz music. (In fact, tunes have populated this South End address under various names for decades.) Meanwhile, as founder of the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition, owner Nia Grace is the perfect person to lead Darryl’s into the future as a cornerstone of hospitality. Entertainment and fair business in Boston.
604 Columbus Ave., Boston, 617-536-1100, dcbkboston.com.
Home delivery & catering
You don’t need to plan a party to visit Down Home: Despite its delivery and catering-specific name, there’s some seating at this steadfast Southern spot. So stop by and sample seared pork chops, gravy-dripping baby back ribs, some of Boston’s best baked mac ‘n’ cheese, and delicious desserts like sweet potato pie – piece by piece for your perfect party.
2 Bowdoin St., Boston, 617-288-0813, downhomedelivery.com.
The jukebox never stops booming at this energetic Somerville favorite, where the Southern underpinnings — such as blacked catfish po’ boys, spicy jambalaya with duck confit, and pulled pork sandwiches with North Carolina-style cue sauce — are rounded out regionally, too -agnostic dishes. (Anyone for a Cuban Reuben or a bowl of Pappardelle Bolognese?) Another tie? Friendly bartenders pouring excellent renditions of Dark ‘n’ Stormys, Mai Tais and more.
150 Highland Ave., Somerville, 617-625-1131, highlandkitchen.com.
Jäger’s Kitchen & Bar
As the latest addition to Boston’s southern-inspired dining scene, this South Boston entry already stands out. For one thing, the place looks like a million dollars — or at least a million dollar hunting lodge in Appalachia. More importantly, the food is great: apple butter-accented hushpuppies, family-style brisket, fried chicken with cheddar waffles, and habanero lavender honey. Need more spice in your life? Try Triple Six Mafia, a tequila with ghost pepper, pineapple and sage.
110 Dorchester St., Boston, 617-221-4200, hunterssouthboston.com.