The Fourth of July is a time for fireworks, family, and food. Each year, we’re dazzled by colorful explosions while talking to in-laws and crossing our own personal Rubicons in the how-many-hot-dogs-can-a-human-eat-in-an-hour department. And though those hot dogs are delicious, Southerners are about as content with traditional Fourth fare as the colonists were with British rule. Sure, we like our hot dogs, ribs, and the like well enough. But we like to kick things up a notch. Here are a few kicked-up versions of the classics and where to find them.
The Lowly Hot Dog
It may be a staple of competitive eating competitions, food-shaped cars, and, of course, grilling on the Fourth. But perfection is never attained, only striven for. That’s why the good people at Birmingham, Alabama‘s newest beer bar/restaurant/trivia venue The Paramount have dressed the dish up by stuffing its signature hot dog with pimento cheese before topping it with several tomato hats.
And let’s not forget the folks at the Baltimore, Maryland institution Stuggy’s. The dogs themselves range from classic beef to less classic bison to far less classic wild game. You can wrap ’em bacon before choosing which style. Because stranger than the dogs themselves are the toppings. You probably haven’t smothered a hot dog with lump crab meat mac and cheese or pineapple salsa, but after trying them, you probably won’t order one any other way.
The Highfalutin Beef Rib
This is the Cadillac of grill meats. Show up at a bar-b-que to find ribs sizzling on the grill is like winning a scratch-off. It’s not life-changing, but it’ll sure make your day better. No, the beef rib doesn’t need to be kicked up a notch, but you can’t have too much of a good thing. Right? Well, the folks at Atlanta, Georgia‘s Fox Bros. BBQ–home to some of our favorite tots–certainly hold an epicurean worldview, and from that philosophy comes deep fried ribs. Its chicken fried ribs are battered and fried, served with white BBQ sauce.
The American Hamburger
It’s probably pretty hard to remember the last cookout you attended without having the option to chow on some chuck. Burgers are a staple, and people have been trying to improve this American standard for years, such as Food Drunk (an aptly named New Orleans food truck) placing the patty on king cake slices. But sometimes simple is the way to go. Atlanta’s Buttermilk Kitchen pairs two perfect foods, and the result is as patriotic as driving over state lines to pick up fireworks. A buttermilk waffle with a hamburger patty on top, a hunk of butter and maple syrup on top of that. All right then.
The Elusive Crab
For the folks who have settled near water, the only thing more exciting than celebrating the nation’s existence is the beginning of crab season. The Fourth offers a great excuse to celebrate both, and crab comes in many forms: steamed, boiled, broiled, fried, cake-form, ball-form, and many more. But if you really want to overwhelm your taste buds (in the best way possible), check out Crabs To Go in West Ocean City, Maryland. Don’t let the name fool you: you can dine there, and there are more crab choices than political parties. Go with the Crab Pretzel, a soft pretzel drenched in crab dip and cheddar cheese.
The Always-the-Bridesmaid Corn
Poor, lonely corn. It never gets to be the center of attention, and it’s only company tends to be be butter or salt and pepper (all of which make great company, but let’s be honest: they cavort with almost everyone!). That’s why Nashville, Tennessee‘s Southern-style restaurant Monell’s works its corn into a fine pudding–a southern classic–before placing it on the table in heaping gobs for diners to pass around. As delicious as that corn pudding is–and it’s easily the most delicious corn this reporter’s ever had–Monell’s fried chicken steals the show, and that the poor corn remains a bridesmaid, albeit an absolutely stunning one.
What’s the strangest kicked-up take on a Fourth of July classic you’ve ever had?