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Road Hog: Catching up with Rodney Scott

The day before Thanksgiving, the pit house at beloved Scott’s Bar-B-Que in Hemingway, SC went up in flames. Almost immediately, owner/pitmaster extraordinaire Rodney Scott had temporary pits fired up, the holiday season being by far the busiest for the store. (They sell from 45-60 turkeys per week around Thanksgiving). Following the holidays, Scott has taken his mobile barbecue rig on the road, serving whole hog across the South to raise money to rebuild the pits with the “Rodney in Exile Tour.”

10 Deliciously Weird Dishes across the Country

For the following iconic bizarre dishes, beauty is in the eye (or tastebuds) of the beholder. They may not win any Instagram competitions, but they're a testament to American ingenuity and display a devotion to creativity with comfort food. These dishes exist because some visionary chefs and restaurateurs across the country were unafraid to say "YES" to more gravy, French fries, chili and anything else for the sake of inventing some messy and indulgent, but brilliantly weird foods.

The Best of Dallas Dining

DFW Skyline

Good news, dining devotees of the Big D. We’ve revised and updated our list of the best locally owned restaurants in Dallas. Mind you, this was no mere small shuffling of restaurants. Our Top 100 Dallas Restaurants list got a major makeover to the tune of 30+ restaurants representing multiple cuisines, price ranges and neighborhoods. New to the Dallas Top 100 are the following restaurants.

 As always, you can find these great Dallas restaurants on our iPhone and iPad apps, but we’d be remiss not to mention that LocalEats is now available for Android devices. Take it for a spin at Google Play

Birmingham's Top Dining Spots

We're thrilled to announce that we've released our revamped and expanded list of Birmingham's best restaurants of 2013. Birmingham may not possess as many restaurants as Atlanta or get the "Nowville" acclaim of Nashville from trendy magazine spreads, but it's inarguably one of the South's best dining destinations (if not the best), boasting some heavy hitters in the restaurant world with serious Southern chops. From superstar restaurateur/cookbook author Frank Stitt's acclaimed restaurants (Highlands Bar and Grill, Bottega, Chez Fon Fon) to fantastic barbecue (Big Daddy's, Saw's, Bob Sykes and more), great pizza (Bettola) and contemporary Southern dining (Hot and Hot Fish Club), the Ham has enough excellent options to make any dining decision difficult. For our complete list of great locally owned restaurants, follow the link. Below is a small selection from our press release, which can be found in its entirety here

Birmingham, AL (PRWEB) May 06, 2013 

LocalEats®, a critically acclaimed iPhone and iPad app, online dining guide (, and the publisher of the Where the Locals Eat series of dining guides, has released its 2013 list of the best locally owned restaurants in Birmingham, Alabama. Restaurants selected include everything from established fine dining destinations and cutting-edge contemporary hotspots to the best barbecue joints, diners and purveyors of country cookin’ alike. Whether upscale or down-home, these restaurants are beloved by locals and compose the distinct dining fabric of Birmingham. LocalEats has also designated category winners by cuisine and chosen the city’s “Top 100 Restaurants,” which are searchable on the website and mobile apps.

All selections are made by the LocalEats editorial staff, who research local media and relevant dining blogs, monitor social media, survey food-savvy locals and travelers, and take into account their personal dining experiences. There are no national chains listed, and restaurants cannot pay for inclusion. Unlike most restaurant apps and websites that rely on user comments and contributions for content, LocalEats is one of the only curated restaurants guides.

“The restaurants we feature in Birmingham display why it’s such a desirable dining destination,” says LocalEats editorial director Pat Embry. “We’ve attempted to capture the diversity of this truly unique dining culture, and we’re proud to present our picks for the best independently owned restaurants in Birmingham.”


Photo Credit: Earthsound (David Gunnells).

Given B-ham's great restaurants, Vulcan should eschew the hammer and spear for a fork and knife. 

Noshing in Memphis

The Beale Street Music Festival just announced its lineup a few day ago, so we figure this is as good a time as any to call attention to our recently revised and updated list of Memphis's best restaurants. With only two months until Memphis in May, it's important to start thinking about your eating itinerary while in town. After all, one cannot live off corn dogs, funnel cake and other festival foodstuffs alone. Restaurants new to our Memphis Top 100 include The Brass Door, Cafe 1912, Fuel Cafe, Hog & Hominy, Local Gastropub, and Rizzo's Diner. We've also added a handful of local favorites: Aldo's Pizza Pies, DeJavu, Marlowe's Ribs & Restaurant, Sakura Japanese, Sekisui, The Slider Inn, Stone Soup Cafe & Market, and Tom's Bar-B-Q

Bbq Shop 1

Post list-creation, I stopped through Memphis on a 20-hour whirlwind trip the weekend before last. The reason for the visit was attending the swan song of beloved (yet dilapidated) Midtown music venue, the Hi-Tone. As per usual, my real motive remained cramming in as much food tourism as possible during my brief stay. My travelling companion and I squeezed in a couple Memphis classics around the concert. Upon arriving in Memphis we wasted no time at all, driving directly The Bar-B-Q Shop. This Midtown institution, which lays claim as "The Home of the Dancing Pigs," gets an A+ for exterior and signage alone, with cute window drawings of the aforementioned upright swine tango-ing. But kitsch value aside, the barbecue is the star of the show here and no secret among Midtowners - even at 3:30 in the afternoon, most tables in the joint were occupied. Their signature barbecue spaghetti is well worth a try (order it as a side if you don't want to commit all the way), as are their excellent chopped or pulled pork sandwiches on buttery Texas toast. This time around, I went ribs - there's no better city on the planet for ribs, so when in Rome ... Unable to resist the option which let me try a little of both, I opted for a half-wet/half-dry rack. The wet ribs were solid, but the dry were in a class of their own, heavily seasoned and not needing an ounce of sauce for additional flavor. 

Ribs Bbq

Dancing Pigs

I'd gladly eat barbecue consecutive meals while in Memphis and have accomplished just that on previous occasions, but this time around we visited our favorite Memphis seafood spot, Half Shell in East Memphis (there's a Winchester location as well). It may not be the type of restaurant to make a New York Times 36-hours piece or other lists of the city's trendiest restaurants, but Half Shell truly is where the locals eat. Thematically, Half Shell's decor is some bizarre hybrid of tropical tiki bar, Mardi Gras, and cozy, wood-paneled lodge. When it comes to the food, they excel with fresh seafood and some of the best Cajun cuisine I've had outside New Orleans. Their etouffee (often a risky order outside Louisiana) did not disappoint, with an impressive depth of flavor. The fried oyster po' boy was exemplary as well, with a substantial French roll that held together nicely and sizeable fried oysters. Alas, there was no more time for eating adventures. Finishing at the Half Shell, which I might also mention has great access to I-240, was a wonderful way to conclude the stay. 

Oyster Po Boy

Roadside Attractions: Barbecue at McClard's


Almost every great barbecue joint comes with a great origin story. There's usually a secret technique or recipe transcribed in an ancient rural dialect and handed down by a grizzled great uncle who never slept for tending the pit. McClard's Bar-B-Q in Hot Springs, AR proves to be no exception. A hotbed of illegal gambling in the late 19th century and a favorite hangout of Al Capone and other gangsters in the '30s and '40s, Hot Springs was not a place unfamiliar with shady deals and unorthodox business transactions. Though the origins of McClard's were by no means criminal, they were certainly unusual. Alex and Gladys McClard weren't in the food business at the time. Rather, they ran a small hotel near Hot Springs National Park. As the story goes, a traveler who was unable to pay the $10 for his two-month stay offered the McClards alternative compensation: a recipe for the "the world's greatest barbecue sauce." The rest is history. They transformed the hotel into a barbecue restaurant in 1928 - goat was the centerpiece of the menu - and moved to their current location in 1942. While passing through Hot Springs on scenic highway 7, I couldn't resist stopping in for some of their legendary barbecue.

A full parking lot at 11 am on a Friday afternoon came as no surprise. As my dining companions and I entered what was likely the incorrect door, we were greeted by all sorts of Clinton-related paraphernalia - Bill and Hillary always made it a point to stop in McClard's when in the area (that is, before Slick Willy surprised us all by going vegan). The bustling restaurant had no available tables, and we definitely drew a few "y'all ain't from around here, are ya?" looks as we stood awkwardly, attempting to decipher the seating system, which is somewhat non-existent. Turnover is pretty quick at McClard's, so it wasn't before long until our party of five was seated in a huge booth, after a friendly elderly couple offered to give up their sizeable table and sit at a smaller one (Arkansas friendliness is a special thing).  

As for the barbecue, the menu offered a wide variety of options, from ribs and sandwiches to pork and beef, both available chopped and sliced. I've long held that Arkansas is somewhat of a barbecue no-man's-land. It's not far from Memphis where pork is king, and it shares a border with Texas, where the cow dominates the 'cue scene. Even St. Louis is only a few hours away. This might explain why I grew up eating soiee-moiee sandwiches -- that's both pork and beef bbq on the same bun --at a barbecue restaurant in my grandparents' home town in Northwest Arkansas, but I digress. We decided to try a little of everything and were not disappointed with the results. I opted for the rib and fry plate, which is about what it sounds like: a pound of ribs absolutely covered in French fries. I eventually needed an additional plate to pile fries upon just so I could get to the ribs unimpeded. Generally, I'd prefer a dry rub, but since the sauce is the specialty at McClard's (the recipe currently resides in a safety deposit box elsewhere) I opted for sauce on the ribs. This was not a regrettable decision: the thin, peppery vinegar sauce with a touch of sweetness and a late spicy kick absolutely lived up to the hype. As for the ribs themselves, they were heavily seasoned, tender and quite meaty, albeit slightly fatty - not that I'm complaining about this. 


Perhaps the most unique item available at McClard's however, is the Tamale Spread. This monstrous creation consists of two open-faced tamales covered with Fritos, beans, chopped beef bbq, and a ton of cheese and onions. Somewhat akin to a Frito pie, but from a barbecue angle, it carries an intense combinations of flavors. Strange as it may sound, it's an absolute must try at McClard's. 


As we staggered back to the car after our heavy meal -- with "lard" in the title, we weren't expecting a light lunch -- I couldn't help being impressed and relieved that a place with such a colorful history and reputation was keeping the quality at such a high level. Some spots coast on their name and know they'll draw enough tourists so that it doesn't matter. But as is often the case with barbecue, it's a matter of pride. And shortcuts are not taken by the country's best pitmasters. For further reading, take a look at our selection of the country's 20 best barbecue restaurants


The 20 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America

In case you were otherwise unaware, May is national barbecue month. Not that we need a designated time to celebrate barbecue (which we do multiple times per week, year-round), but we thought it was a good enough excuse to introduce our list of the 20 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America. From the German-style meat markets in Texas to whole-hog shacks in eastern North Carolina, with stops along the way in Kansas City, Memphis, and even up north, a variety of regional styles and smoked meat preparations are represented on the list. Narrowing the selections down to 20 proved to be quite a undertaking, so we also included 42 additional honorable mentions which many 'cue enthusiasts - usually a contentious bunch - could make an argument for. The barbecue slideshow begins here. Cheers and may you all have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend. And when your neighbors inevitably invite you over "to barbecue," and all you are greeted with is charred burgers and a few sad little hot dogs, remind them they are merely "grilling out." Barbecue refers to a food far more sacred. 


Divine pulled pork sandwich from Central BBQ (Memphis)

The World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest

The sultans of swine, the kings of 'cue, the czars of char will gather today at Tom Lee Park on the riverfront for Memphis in May's World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. Hundreds of competition barbecue teams will compete for cash, prizes and glory at this fantastic festival lasting from Thursday until Saturday evening (free admission between 11 am-1 pm Thu-Fri and $9 otherwise) If you've never been, it comes highly recommended. Cheekily themed competition booths, grown men in porcine costumes, live music, beer, barbecue and all the pork puns you can stomach are among the highlights. Just a sample of some of this year's best (and simultaneously worst) team names: The Bastey Boys, Crispy Critters, Reservoir Hogs, Serial Grillers, Slab Techs, Chauvinist Pig, and so on, and so forth. Technically, you're not allowed to sample the competition 'cue from these teams (unless you know someone or can schmooze your way in), but you can purchase barbecue from a number of great vendors. Make a point not to miss the Miss Piggy Idol Contest, a costumed singing competition between the teams. 

Big Pig

For the best food festivals and shindigs in the country, visit our food events homepage. And if the BBQ festival leaves you craving more barbecue - this will happen - take a gander at our list of the best barbecue restaurants in Memphis.


How many slabs of dry-rubbed ribs can we fit on there?


One of many punnily named teams: The People's Republic of Swina

Local Tweats Roundup

Despite the overwhelming dominance of shameless plugs, humblebrags and baffling tweetspeak that only 12-16 year-olds understand, Twitter still hosts an abundance of relevant, useful and humorous food and restaurant related content. Here's a handful of this week's best tweets. Speaking of self-promotion, feel free to follow us @LocalEaters

Sarah J. Gim (@the delicious): "New kitchen has two ovens. it's like theyre mocking my inability to bake." Sort of a first world problem, but we've all felt like our kitchen appliances are taunting us at one time or another.

Paul F. Tompkins (@PFTompkins) live tweeted the Oscars: "The mac & cheese commercial with Seymour Cassell is the best movie of the year so far." No argument here. Watch it.

Andrew Zimmern (@andrewzimmern): The host of Bizarre Foods tweeted drool-worthy photos of not-entirely-bizarre foods at one our favorite Memphis restaurants, The Bar-B-Q Shop. "BBQ bologna cheese sausage peppers saltines at BBQ Shop."

Kyle Kinane (@kylekinane): On yipster dining habits: "Hipsters are the new yuppies then, right? 'Hot new' music sounds like Phil Collins and everyone wants to go to vegan fusion restaurants."

Sam Sifton (@SamSifton): The NY Times editor mourns his favorite rapper with some choice food-related lyrics. "RIP Biggie: 'Come to spread the butter lyrics over hominy grits.' "  Another user's follow up is worth noting: "that was method man though, old white guy." Close enough … Biggie's name is still on the song (and he clearly was no stranger to butter).

Anthony Bourdain (@noreservations) weighs in on the Olive Garden review that went viral. "Very much enjoying watching Internet sensation Marilyn Hagerty triumph over the snarkologists (myself included)." We laughed and rolled our eyes. We reconsidered when we realized everyone reacted the same way. We now have her back. An emotionally taxing day on the interwebs. 

Lucky Peach (@LuckyPeach): "I think I just got criticized by a fortune cookie." It bodes better than the dreaded empty fortune cookie.

Scotty L. (@MarylandMudflap): "I'm lookin for capitalists to invest in a new restaurant! No 'menu' yet, but every night I'm gonna fall down stairs with a full tea service." This would be the first legitimately entertaining dinner theater in the world. 

Tim Siedell (@badbanana): On the lack of advancement in breakfast innovation: "We have enough breakfast items for the toaster now, food scientists. Move on to the car heater vent." 

Twitter Bird

Updated: The Best Raleigh-Durham Restaurants

When we envision the Raleigh-Durham area, we think of lush rolling hills, tobacco fields, rampant college basketball fanaticism, Cheerwine out of the bottle, and of course, fantastic Carolina cuisine. Some of the country's best barbecue and Southern cooking can be found at the likes of iconic restaurants such as Clyde Cooper's and Mama Dip's. The region is also producing some of America's most dynamic and well-regarded chefs, including Andrea Reusing of Chapel Hill's Lantern (winner of the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef: Southeast in 2011), and Ashley Christensen of Poole's Diner in Raleigh, who recently threw down with Bobbly Flay on Iron Chef. Christensen just recently opened two adjoining casual Raleigh restaurants,  Beasley's Chicken and Honey and Chuck's. We've revised and updated our list of the Top 100 Raleigh-Durham restaurants.

Among the new additions to our list are Acme Food & Beverage Co., An, Bella Mia, Blu Seafood and Bar, Coquette, Federal, Kitchen, Glasshalffull, Mez, Mint, Neal's Deli, Queen of Sheba and Revolution


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Since 1995, "Where The Locals Eat" and LocalEats dining guides have featured locally owned restaurants across America. From the finest steakhouses and sushi bars, to classic burger joints and roadside barbecues, LocalEats recommends unique restaurants to suit every taste and price range. More
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