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9 Things You Can Only Find in the South

Sweet tea with lemonThe South is serious about its food. Influenced by European, Native American, and African cuisine, the fare you’ll find below the Mason-Dixon line is truly one of a kind. If you’re going to be travelling in the Great Smoky Mountains, be sure to spend some time sampling the local flavor! Here are nine Southern foods you need to try before you leave the Smokies:

(See Related: 6 Reasons to Drop Everything and Catch a Flight to the Smoky Mountains)

1. Sweet Tea

Sweet tea is synonymous with Southern Hospitality. Whether you’re visiting a restaurant or someone’s home, your host is guaranteed to offer you a nice tall glass of this delicious drink. Made by adding sugar to bags of black tea in boiling water, sweet tea is always served ice-cold. There is no better way to cool off on a hot summer’s day, than with a big pitcher of the South’s most refreshing beverage.

2. Barbecue

Barbecue Ribs

When Southerners talk about barbecue, they don’t mean burgers and hotdogs cooked quickly on a backyard grill. Completely different than grilling, Southern barbecue (or BBQ) refers to meat that has been smoked for several hours at low heat. This incredibly tender meat is slathered in a sweet and tangy sauce and can be served as a sandwich or on a plate with side dishes. You haven’t truly lived until you’ve tried slow-cooked pulled pork!

3. Beans and Cornbread

Sometimes the simplest dishes are the tastiest. Nothing hits the spot like a warm bowl of simmered pinto beans and a generous square of fluffy yellow cornbread. This match made in heaven is a staple of Southern cuisine.

Shrimp and grits4. Grits 

Whether you like savory or sweet, grits have got you covered! Invented by the Native Americans, grits are a porridge made from ground cornmeal. When eaten for breakfast, grits are often prepared with butter and sugar, for a sweet tasting dish. For dinner, you can enjoy grits mixed with cheese, beef, sausage, or shrimp. Whatever time of day you eat them, grits never disappoint.

5. Moonshine

Also known as “white lightning” or “hooch”, moonshine is unaged whiskey traditionally made by the light of the moon. In the past, this strong liquor was distilled by unlicensed “moonshiners” who did their work at night in order to avoid the long arm of the law. Today, there are a number of legal moonshine vendors in the South that sell the same whiskey that was distilled in secret for hundreds of years. We recommend trying moonshine with some of the special flavor mix-ins that make your drink taste like strawberry, blackberry, or even apple pie!

6. Fried Okra

Fried okraTalk about an addictive snack! Fried okra is also known as Southern Popcorn, because once you start munching on these crispy little bites, it can be hard to stop. If you like fried okra, we also recommend trying two other popular appetizers: fried green tomatoes and fried pickles. Vegetables are always better when they’re battered and golden brown!

7. Biscuits and Gravy

On their own, buttermilk biscuits are a thing of beauty. But when these light  and flaky biscuits are smothered in savory sausage gravy they become absolutely irresistible! Often served over a bed of home fries, biscuits and gravy is a key part of any authentic Southern breakfast.

8. Hushpuppies

Hushpuppies are deep fried balls made from cornmeal batter. These tasty fritters were originally fed to dogs in order to “hush the puppies” at fish fries and other outdoor parties, but folks decided this snack was just too good to give to the pooches! Today, hushpuppies are a popular side dish for barbecue or seafood dishes.

Moon pie9. Moon Pie and RC Cola

This classic combo is the ultimate Southern treat. A Moon Pie is a fluffy dessert made from two round graham cracker cookies with marshmallow filling and a chocolate coating. Since the 1930s, folks have washed their Moon Pies down with a glass bottle of RC Cola, the South’s favorite soft drink. If you want to sample this sweet snack, just head on over to an old general store or a local supermarket.

Ready to try some genuine Southern food for yourself? All of these delicious meals are waiting for you in the Great Smoky Mountains. To help you make the most of your time in the South, we’ve put together a list of the area’s best restaurants and coupons. We look forward to seeing you in the Smokies!