The South is full of food festivals and wea��re in a tough spot. Choosing a top five is next to impossible. Ita��s like walking into the kitchen and having to fill just one plate with barbecue ribs, smothered pork chops, cornbread, collard greens and sweet potato pie. Ita��s only right to fill up and then double back for another plate when the first onea��s all gone. But dona��t think ita��s only traditional southern food dominating the festival world in this region. A�A�Some of these festivals serve up dishes from all over the world with the appropriate wine pairing. Wea��re going to cover it all — from backyard barbecue-style food to five-star restaurant cuisine — because someone has to take on the task. Someone has to sort through the deliciousness and come out with a list of the very best. So without further ado, here are our picks for theA�Best 5 Food Festivals in the South .
Best 5 Food Festivals in the South
Charleston Wine and Food Festival
Wea��re starting off our tour of the South in Charleston, South Carolina — a city with a vibrant and strong-rooted culinary community. The city puts on its very best for the Charleston Wine and Food Festival. a�?Dynamica�? would be the best word to describe this event.
Attendees can hit Culinary Village (the heart of the festival located in Marion Square) and purchase tickets to spend hours tasting food and wine, watching pro chef demos, and listening to live music. They can also head to the festival’s a�?signaturea�? events and dinners where local culinary culture is on full display. These are held in popular Charleston restaurants or outdoors at various locations throughout the city. Hands-on classes give attendees an up close and personal experience with experienced chefs teaching a little bit about their world.
The festival places a great deal of emphasis on giving back to the Charleston community. For one, the event boosts the local economy by attracting out of area attendees and providing temporary jobs. It also provides scholarships to local high school students looking to study tourism at a university, fellowships for students studying public relations at local colleges, and internships for college students interested in community event coordination. In short, the food and wine make up just one dimension of this festival.
Atlanta Food and Wine Festival
While Charlestona��s food and wine festival goes out of its way to focus on the city of Charleston, Atlantaa��s goes out of its way to give special love to the South as a region and community as a whole. Over 250 chefs from the southern states attend, so those looking for southern specialties will want for nothing.
The festivals break down into three different activity categories. The first is called a�?learning experiencesa�? where festival goers attend seminars on anything from cooking techniques to food and wine pairings. Described as a�?PhD-level programming for the food and drink lovera�? by one reviewer, these classes are no joke, and even if you think you know southern cooking, we bet you walk away with a whole new world of knowledge.
The second category is all about tasting. Attendees hop from tent to tent sampling everything from classic barbecue to sweet tea. Ita��s all you can eat and drink, so dona��t hold back! The third category is composed of dinners and lunches centered around a culinary theme. A Cajun lunch is just one example.
And for the fun of it, the festival likes to bring in food from other a�?southerna�? regions like Mexico, South America, Australia and Southern Europe.
New Orleans Wine and Food Experience
Of course we cana��t leave New Orleans out of this. From gumbo to beignets to crawfish, food from a�?New Awlinsa�? is legendary on its own. The New Orleans Wine and Food Experience naturally comes with high expectations and boy does it fill them. Restaurants open their doors for food and wine tasting, art galleries put on shows, jazz music fills the streets, and since ita��s New Orleans, therea��s a colorful parade.
The cana��t-miss event of the NOWFE is the Royal Street Stroll. Festival goers jump into a parade by parade marshals and browse the art and antique galleries of Royal Street. Each stop has wine and food tasting options. If youa��re truly into the festival spirit, be sure to pack a costume for this spectacle.
The second cana��t-miss event is the Louisiana Seafood Cook-off. Everything you love about southern, and specifically New Orleans seafood is all together in one place. Make sure your stomach is empty enough to take down a few bowls of gumbo.
Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest
Leta��s head up to Memphis where… well, the festivala��s name says it all. Imagine 82 tons of pork and the worlda��s best barbecue chefs competing to win over your taste buds. Wea��re not calling the Memphis in the May Cooking Contest heaven, but wea��re not not calling it that either. Delish.com named it A�the number one barbecue festival in America and the Guinness Book of World Records recognized it as the largest pork festival in existence.
Plates full of pulled pork and ribs arena��t the only show at the festival, however. With pork fans come some eccentric personalities. One of the festivala��s main non-food (well, depends on how you look at it) attractions is sauce wrestling. Two opponents cover themselves in barbecue sauce and then go after each other in a WWE-style ring, that is also, not surprisingly, covered in sauce. Dona��t believe us? Check out the eventa��s Facebook page. We recommend eating as much sauce-drenched pork as possible before this event as the sauces might not seem quite as appetizing afterwards.
If youa��re not on board with the sauce wrestling scene, youa��re free to stick to hopping from team to team running your own personal best pulled pork competition. The festival is set up alongside the Mississippi River and a nice walk along the river can do a lot of good after filling up on the cooking teamsa�� creations.
Taste of Soul Atlanta Food and Music Festival
We wouldna��t be doing justice to southern food as a whole if we didna��t carve out a space for soul food. Atlantaa��s Taste of Soul takes the cake (probably pie, actually) in that category. The festival covers some impressive and extremely appetizing ground. Therea��s a section dedicated solely to ribs, another to chicken and waffles, and yet another to pies. Once again, arriving with an empty stomach is strongly advised.
The festival is free to all those looking to enjoy the wonderful culinary world of soul food. Soul food has a way of bringing families and communities together and Taste of Soul does just that on a major scale. The festival organizers emphasize that their event caters to families. What better way to get the family out of the house than a few a plates stacked high with ribs?
As with the other festivals, food is by no means the only attraction. Fittingly, the soul food is accompanied by soul music. The lineup is always stacked, so expect the quality of music to match that of the food. The festival also puts on an art show and party to add another dimension to the fun.