Tennessee is home to the sort of eats that people make pilgrimages for. In Nashville, that means spicy fried Nashville Hot Chicken. In Memphis, the city's own style of pit barbecue draws legions of smoked-meat connoisseurs. Throughout the state, you'll find Southern staples, mostly steeped in American soul food (chicken and waffles, collard greens, fried catfish). Don't miss Tennessee originals like sweet potato pancakes, Goo Goo Clusters and Moon Pies.
Nashville Hot Chicken
Nashville's famous hot chicken is a succulent, gorgeous bird fried golden brown in a typical batter before being slathered in a paste heavy with cayenne pepper. Underestimate your tolerance level and you'll be disappointed, overestimate and you'll be wallowing in a tingling pool of sweat and tears, begging for a glass of milk like a teething toddler. Either way, it's likely to be some of the best damn fried chicken you have ever had. For old-school hot chicken, head straight to Prince's Hot Chicken; for the hipsterized but equally awesome version, head to Hattie B's. What the heck? Go to both! You only live once.
Memphis-style pit barbecue is some of the best 'cue you'll ever eat. Slow-cooked in a pit for hours on end, ribs generally come dry (dry-rubbed with spices but no sauce) or wet (brushed with a sauce often consisting of ketchup, vinegar, sugar, Worcestershire, pepper, hot sauce, onion and garlic powders and mustard, among other variations). Pork sandwiches come chopped, as they do so famously at Payne's Bar-B-Q; or pulled, as they do equally famously at Central BBQ. For life-changing dry ribs, head straight to Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous.