It’s a Southern Thing has a list of the top food festivals in the South. I’m not a big food festival person, although I do like small-town celebrations. Mainly I don’t like to wait in line, having done little else while I was in the Army. I especially don’t like to wait in line for food and beer, which I like, or portable toilets, which I don’t like. But some of these festivals do look good.
I recommend going to New Orleans for any reason at all, and their Wine and Food Festival looks like a fine opportunity. Even the beignet festival is worth attending, if only for the chicory coffee. (Wear a white shirt whenever you plan to eat a beignet.) Barbecue aside, New Orleans has the best food in the United States. Easily. I was there with Bob Popper, who comes from the New York area and was wined and dined by big New York law firms. At every place we ate in New Orleans, Bob said, “I can’t believe how good this is!” And Bob isn’t a demonstratively enthusiastic guy, unless you’re discussing free markets or the evils of rent seeking, which he does turn to now and again.
I went to a food festival once in New Orleans and absolutely loved it. Admittedly, this was not too long after Katrina and there weren’t a whole lot of people there, but it was great. The food was sensational, and everyone was happy to get back to normal, i.e., eating and drinking. So you should try the festivals in New Orleans and, if it gets too crowded, Uber on over to Commander’s Palace or one of hundreds of other great places and have a wonderful meal.
Likewise, if the gumbo lines get too long at Episcopal Place, you can head to Carlile’s or one of the many other outstanding brick pit barbecue places in Birmingham, or head to one of the high end James Beard Foundation award-winning restaurants. Likewise in other venues. If Gulf Shores is too crowded, there’s always Flora-Bama. Actually, Flora-Bama is usually too crowded. That’s part of its peculiar charm.
A couple of the festivals seem like they can’t get over-crowded. How many people, after all, can find a place to park within walking distance of Blowing Rock? And it’s a beautiful place. You can’t tear my brother Jim away from Blowing Rock with anything less than eight convicts and a log chain, and that only works half the time. The crowds at the festival in Palmetto Bluff should be kept down by the local ordinance denying entry to anyone wearing artificial fibers.
So go ahead. Get out and see the South and eat some good food. But be prepared. Scout out some fall-back locations in case the lines are too long.