The Food Network recently published “Partake of the Palmetto State: What to Eat in South Carolina,” a list of 26 foods that make this state “one of the most food-forward destinations in the country.”
Of those 26, we’ve selected six that are uniquely Southern – and have narrowed down some of the best places to try them in Columbia.
Yes, you will find them at just about every meat-and-three restaurant (looking at you, Lizard’s Thicket) and barbecue joint (Big T’s Bar-B-Que), done in the traditional boil-them-with-pork bits-and-vinegar (and maybe a bit of red pepper flakes). But Bourbon uses them in making boudin balls and braised as a side dish.
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Speaking of Bourbon, the restaurant takes the traditional recipe of pickled green tomatoes with onion, sweet and hot peppers, garlic and mustard seed, using it as the topping for the Fried Green, Eggs and Ham sandwich on the brunch menu.
Bourbon, 1214 Main St., www.bourboncolumbia.com
This long, green pod can be sliced and boiled, used as a thickener in soups and stews (because it does tend to get slimey in some preparation techniques), dusted in cornmeal and fried, or split longways and roasted with a bit of salt and pepper and garlic.
Lizard’s Thicket and Palmetto Seafood on Gervais have some of the best fried okra in town. The Thicket also does an okra and tomato side dish.
Who knew that a mix of cheddar cheese, pimento peppers, mayonnaise and cream cheese could become so popular? Let’s obsess for a moment ... who does it better? It depends on how you like to devour it.
As a dip: DiPrato’s sells a variety of flavors of pimento cheese with equally as addictive toasted garlic pita chips. On a burger: Legend has it that Rockaway’s was the first to put pimento cheese on a hamburger. In a sandwich: No Name Deli has the most generous portion, bordering on messy. Best alternative use: The Whig’s pimento cheese fries.
DiPrato’s Delicatessen, 342 Pickens St., www.dipratos.com; Rockaway Athletic Club, 2719 Rosewood Dr., www.facebook.com/Rockawayathleticclub; No Name Deli, 2042 Marion St., www.nonamedelisc.com; The Whig, 1200 Main St. basement, www.thewhig.org
Even within the state, the argument rages between the sugar/no sugar in the cornbread factions. There is only one point of agreement: true cornbread must be made prepared an iron skillet and the skillet needs to be hot enough so that when you pour in the batter, the batter pops and sizzles and forms a thin crispy layer that just gets better during the baking process.
Who does it better? Lizard’s Thicket. Oh, and Spotted Salamander makes cornbread croutons to sprinkle over salads. And rumor has it that Ray’s Diner on Two Notch is pretty great.
Carolina Gold rice
A better question might be where do you NOT find Carolina Gold rice on a menu? This grain, resurrected from near extinction by Glenn Roberts of Columbia-based Anson Mills, has once again become a staple on mid- to finer-dining establishments in the city.
The War Mouth has a delicious bog (a chicken and rice dish seasoned with sausage); and Motor Supply Co. Bistro uses Carolina Gold rice grits (the “busted” grains of rice created during the threshing or milling process – also known as “middlins”) as a base for fresh fish or just about anything with a great gravy.
Check out the rest of the list at http://www.foodnetwork.com/restaurants/packages/best-food-in-america/photos/what-to-eat-south-carolina.