This itinerary guides you through the American South. Our journey will take you to some of America’s most unique flavors: you’ll taste melt-in-your-mouth barbecue and spicy Cajun cuisine. Wake up to a cup of chicory-flavored coffee and a fresh beignet. Some of the places we’ll visit are world famous, others are local favorites known to very few. This is a culinary adventure that will energize and inspire. Are you ready?
Day 1 – Little Rock, AR
Little Rock is a lively town and the state capital of Arkansas. The city’s most popular attraction is the William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum. But, a number of the city’s excellent restaurants are attractions in their own right. Our day will begin with breakfast at a stately civic landmark, followed by a visit to the Clinton Library and then, appropriately, lunch at the former president’s favorite barbecue spot. After lunch, we’ll explore an Arkansas gem filled with natural-spring spas and other great attractions. Then, for dinner, we’ll return to Little Rock to enjoy one of the South’s finest steakhouses.
Breakfast: Ashley’s at the Capital Hotel, Little Rock
Local ingredients abound at this upscale restaurant located in Little Rock’s Capital Hotel. The chef at Ashley’s, Joel Antunes, is one of the best in the world. Whatever is on the menu when you walk in is sure to be extraordinary.
Morning: Tour of Little Rock and the Clinton Library
Drive to Hot Springs, AR (1 hour)
Lunch: McClard’s, Hot Springs
This was President Bill Clinton’s favorite barbeque spot. This venerable barbeque joint has been serving up the sweetest, most delectable meat since 1928. You’ll find beef and pork smoked and slathered with sauce. Have their “Ribs and Fry” (ribs covered with fries) or their chopped pork plate with coleslaw and beans. You’ll also find tamales.
Afternoon: Explore Hot Springs
Dinner: Sonny Williams’ Steak Room, Little Rock
Located in Little Rock’s downtown River Market District, this great steakhouse serves up an interesting mix of Southern specialties and succulent steaks. For a true taste of the South, try their fried boudin and crawfish tails with remoulade and hot chile honey glaze. Or, sink your teeth into some crispy frog legs with garlic herb butter. For the main course, have one of their incredible steaks or Sonny’s seafood platter (crab legs, fried shrimp, crab cake and scallops). For dessert, try the bread pudding with whiskey sauce, a Southern specialty.
Day 2 – Little Rock, AR
Little Rock is full of culinary surprises. We’ll start the day with an apple fritter at a bright cheery neighborhood bakery. Then, we’ll tour a brewery producing beers using time-honored traditions and follow that up with lunch at one of the South’s best barbecue joints. In the afternoon, we’ll sample spirits at Arkansas’ first legal distillery since Prohibition. Then, we’ll dine at a restaurant that serves hearty portions of steaks, chops and more.
Breakfast: Community Bakery
Start your day with fresh pastry at this bright, cheerful bakery. You’ll find fresh-made donuts, Danish, croissants, muffins, bagels and more. Try their apple fritter. Indulge and have their sausage roll – a yeast-roll filled with sausage, egg and cheese.
Morning: Tour and tasting at Diamond Bear Brewing Company
Lunch: Whole Hog Café
World-renowned barbecue is what you’ll find at the Whole Hog Café. Enjoy juicy and delicious pulled pork, beef brisket, smoked chicken and ribs. You’ll also find smoked sausage. Sides include baked beans, potato salad and coleslaw. Finish it off with a fudge brownie and you’ll have one satisfying meal.
Afternoon: Tour and tasting at Rocktown Distillery
Dinner: Arthur’s Prime Steakhouse
Day 3 – Jackson, MS
Jackson is the capital of the state of Mississippi and sits at the heart of the Old South. The Southern cooking traditions run deep here. Our breakfast spot specializes in some hearty Southern dishes. After breakfast, we’ll explore some of Jackson’s fun attractions, including the Jackson Zoological Park, the Medgar Evers Home Museum and more. For lunch, we’ll feast on po’ boys and fried-green tomatoes. After lunch, it’s off to Belzoni, the Catfish Capital. Then, for dinner, we’ll enjoy a classic Mississippi feast topped off with what might be the most delectable dessert in the South.
Drive to Jackson, MS (4 hours)
Breakfast: Broad Street Bakery
This casual restaurant serves up some Southern-style masterpieces for breakfast, including buttermilk chicken biscuits, cheese grits and hashbrown casserole. Their fresh-baked bread is excellent.
Morning: Explore cultural and historical attractions in Jackson
Lunch: Walker’s Drive-In
Don’t be fooled by the name: this is no drive-in restaurant. Chef Derek Emerson concocts a delightful array of dishes, including some Southern specialties. Enjoy a fried Gulf shrimp po’ boy or a fried green tomato BLT. Have the grilled redfish sandwich or enjoy the unforgettable fried barbeque oyster po’ boy.
Drive to Belzoni, MS (75 minutes)
Afternoon: Catfish Museum and Welcome Center Belzoni, MS
Return to Jackson (75 minutes)
Mississippi specialties abound in this excellent restaurant. Have the crab, shrimp and Andouille gumbo and their “NO FILLER” crab cakes. Try their fried-green tomatoes or their spinach crisp (flour tortilla topped with spinach, bacon and mozzarella, served with baby greens and a tomato-basil relish). Their pecan-crusted blackfish is sure to please. Their steaks are outstanding. Or you can opt for the CHAR burger. Top it all off with their incredible pecan caramel butter crunch topped with vanilla ice cream and cinnamon-braised Granny Smith apples.
Day 4 – Biloxi/Gulfport/Ocean Springs, MS
The culture of the Biloxi-Gulfport region is unique. The region’s cuisine draws much from New Orleans as well as rural Mississippi. Seafood is at the heart of nearly every great menu in Biloxi and Gulfport. Our breakfast spot is a fine example of the region’s culinary diversity. We’ll follow breakfast with a trip aboard a fishing boat to see firsthand harvesting Gulf shrimp. For lunch, we’ll dine on seafood from the Gulf, a fine prelude to our afternoon spent at a museum focusing on the seafood industry. At dinner, we’ll be presented with everything from frog legs to alligator sausage – an exciting feast in the nearby city of Gulfport.
Drive to Biloxi, MS (2 hours 30 minutes, 264 km)
Breakfast: Le Café Beignet
There are many tasty treats at Le Café Beignet, including fluffy beignets, pecan praline pain perdue and the Lump Crab Stack (crab stacked above egg and veggies and served on ciabatta lined with smoked Gouda and drizzled with remoulade sauce).
Lunch: Dine in the elegant courtyard at Mary Mahoney’s Old French House
Afternoon: Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum
Dinner: Half Shell Oyster House, Gulfport
What better place to sample delicious seafood – including fresh, hand-shucked oysters – in the American South than this restaurant in historic downtown Gulfport. Don’t miss their delectable Gulf oysters, which are served raw or charbroiled over an open flame. There are plenty of other Southern specialties on the menu, too, including po’ boys, seafood, gumbo and more.
Day 5– New Orleans, LA
The cuisine of New Orleans combines a variety of culinary traditions, including African, French and Spanish. The food is characterized by bold combinations of spice, rich sauces and succulent meats and seafood. We’ll kick off the day with a brunch featuring live jazz, followed by a walking tour of the French Quarter. We’ll have lunch at one of the finest butcher shops in America and then take a boat tour of the swamps. Finally, we’ll enjoy dinner at what might be New Orleans’ most famous restaurant.
Drive to New Orleans, LA (90 minutes)
Breakfast: Court of Two Sisters
A jazz brunch is served daily at the Court of Two Sisters. Enjoy made-to-order omelets, Eggs Benedict and other breakfast standards, as well as grits and grillades. Cold offerings include boiled shrimp, ceviche and pates. Top it off with bread pudding with a whiskey sauce.
Morning: Walking tour of the French Quarter
Lunch: Cochon Butcher
Among butcher shops, Cochon Butcher is in a class by itself. Sandwiches are basic but absolutely delicious. Try the Le Pig Mac (their version of a Big Mac), Cubano (roasted pork, ham and Swiss cheese), pork belly with mint and cucumber, Cochon muffaletta and the Buckboard Bacon Melt. Sides include a duck pastrami slider, a pimento cheese slider, macaroni and cheese and a charcuterie plate. Finish off the meal with bacon pralines.
Afternoon: Pearl River Eco Cruise
Dinner: Commander’s Palace
Experience the magnificence of this one-of-a-kind restaurant. Menu highlights have included Louisiana shrimp and grits, Gulf seafood courtboullion and The Creole Nacho (beer-glazed pork belly over Louisiana red-bean puree, Creole bread pudding soufflé, pickled okra, corn chow chow, pepper-jack cheese, Creole spiced hog cracklins and smoky trotter jus).
Day 6 – New Orleans, LA
There’s no doubt that some of the best chefs in the world ply their trade down in New Orleans. Our day begins with a stop at a New Orleans original for a traditional breakfast treat, followed by a hop-on-hop-off tour of the city. For lunch, we’ll learn how to cook some of the food that has made New Orleans famous. After that, we’ll tour a museum dedicated to the food and drink of the South. We’ll end our day of dining on Bourbon Street and feast on the city’s very best dishes.
Breakfast: Café du Monde
A simple breakfast of café au lait and beignets is the perfect way to begin a day in New Orleans. Brought to the region by the French settlers from Canada, beignets have become a symbol of the city. Café du Monde is famous for its unique coffee flavored with chicory, which comes from the root of the endive plant.
Morning: See New Orleans on a self-guided walking tour.
Lunch: Cooking demonstration and lunch at Langlois Culinary Crossroads
Afternoon: Southern Food and Beverage Museum
Dinner: Bourbon House
You’ll find classic New Orleans dishes at this very special restaurant on Bourbon Street. Enjoy oysters on the half shell or go all out and sample “Fruits de Mer,” which includes oysters, caviar, boiled Gulf shrimp, mussels, crab fingers and seafood salad. The menu also includes catfish, barbecued duck and chicken. Finish your meal with a savory Bourbon Milk Punch. Every dish is prepared to perfection, and it’s the ideal place to cap off a tour of the best restaurants of the southern Mississippi River states.