By Jenn Rice, Special for USA TODAY / Published on April 4, 2016


In Texas, two exceptional Southern staples make up the Louisiana Crawfish and Waffles dish at Brennan’s of Houston. Normally paired with fried chicken, chef Danny Trace adds a playful spin with crawfish and Andouille sausage served over a malted waffle with Creole-style corn maque choux.


When it comes to Southern cuisine, there are a variety of celebrated dishes that vary from state to state. Fried chicken and waffles, pimento cheese, hush puppies, fried green tomatoes, deviled eggs, cornbread, collards and boiled peanuts are a few that come to mind. To keep things current in the kitchen, chefs across the country are adding culinary twists to these classic staples. From boiled peanut hummus and a fried chicken burrito to pimento cheese-stuffed ravioli, this fresh new wave of Southern delights is not to be missed.

In Charleston, Magnolias has been offering award-winning Southern cuisine since opening in 1990. “More than 25 years later, our menu continues to evolve, featuring both classic and modern interpretations of Lowcountry fare,” says executive chef Kelly Franz. “This includes showcasing inventive takes on Southern cuisine while honoring local South Carolina ingredients. Two of our favorites include the Boiled Peanut Hummus and the Down South Egg Rolls. We think both local and visiting diners love seeing unique plays with traditional ingredients and southern flair.”

Executive chef Tim Humphrey at Tiburon Tavern in California merges his Southern roots with regional offerings. “My chicken fried quail dish at Tiburon Tavern is one of my first South meets California dishes,” says Humphrey. “On the plate, I serve the quail with our garden-herb ranch and a little side of pickled watermelon rind to cleanse your palate.”

“In the south we love to tell stories of food and family,” relays Humphrey. “It keeps our lost ones with us and teaches our young ones of our history. It is an amazing thing to watch chefs and foodies embrace our culture and show that Southern food can be refined and elegant.”

Whether adding a twist from another food culture or updating dishes based on available local ingredients, chefs are proving that the sky is the limit when it comes to new dishes. Browse the gallery above to see some of the most mouthwatering Southern dishes with a unique twist.