Find Yourself at Home at These Southern Cooking Hot Spots

Story By: Rachel Gossen

Sometimes, after a long day of class or work, you need a little taste of home to pick you back up. While not everyone is from the South, there’s something about southern food that rejuvenates the soul, wherever you’re from.

Southern comfort food can be described as basic, hearty home cooking, a trait that has made it a popular food choice across the United States.

“Even though I’ve never been to the South, I always feel like I’m part of someone’s family when I eat at a southern food restaurant,” said junior journalism major Caroline McNally. “It’s nice when you’re away from home to be able to get food that tastes like a home cooked meal.”

From classic fried chicken to collard greens to grits, southern food can be found all around Orange County, but which restaurants have some of the most authentic and delicious dishes?

Take a look at these five that have been popular with Chapman students.

Ritter’s Steam Kettle Cooking– 1421 W. MacArthur Blvd., Santa Ana

Jambalaya from Ritter's Steam Kettle Cooking

Food is an interactive experience at Ritter’s. The restaurant uses a quick form of cooking, known as “steam kettle cooking,” to make your entree right in front of you. Because everything is made in large kettles, portions of their delectable Cajun cuisine are huge and shareable among friends. Chefs give customers a spice scale from 1-10 so diners can customize their meals to the level of spice they’d like.

Smoqued – 128 N. Glassell St., Orange

The most accessible restaurant featuring southern food for Chapman students is Smoqued, located in Old Towne Orange. While Smoqued is technically a barbecue restaurant, they have some entrees and side dishes that qualify as southern food, such as the Pitmaster’s Meatloaf, a brisket meatloaf topped with barbecue sauce and crispy onion rings. Smoqued is a favorite for senior business major Valerie Reid when she’s craving a hearty meal.

“I always get the pulled pork and cornbread because it’s insanely delicious and I seriously love cornbread,” she said.

Georgia’s Restaurant – 440 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim

Located in a small corner in the back of the Anaheim Packing District, Georgia’s offers a menu full of dishes that have been passed down through owner Gretchen Shoemaker’s family. Between buttermilk cornmeal fried chicken, BBQ ribs, and fried catfish, Georgia’s has brought well-known deep-south entrees to California. Junior screenwriting major Sarah Levin had only great things to say after her first trip to Georgia’s.

fried chicken and mac & cheese
Fried Chicken and Mac & Cheese from Georgia's

“Hands-down, Georgia’s has some of the best mac and cheese I’ve ever tasted,” Levin said. “Also, the mix of spices in the crust on the fried chicken is so unique, I wish I could eat it every day.”

Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen Downtown Disney, Anaheim

A New Orleans themed restaurant in Downtown Disney, Jazz Kitchen serves up delicious food with a fun ambience. The building was created as a two-story replica of French Quarter architecture, while the interior is decorated with Mardi Gras beads and bright colors, to reflect the easy going, fun loving city the food they serve comes from.

Ralph Brennan's Gumbo Ya-Ya

According to Angela, a waitress at the restaurant, one of the most popular items on the menu is the Gumbo Ya-Ya, a classic southern dish of chicken, Andouille sausage and a dark roux. The restaurant also serves authentic Café DuMonde beignets—deep fried dough covered in powdered sugar—for dessert.

Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles – 2110 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim

Fried chicken and waffles is a fairly new concept to most Americans, but in the Deep South, the combination has been a popular item for years. Now, Southern Californians can get a taste of the classic at Roscoe’s. Started by Herb Hudson in Hollywood, the restaurant has grown into a chain, but hasn’t lost the authentic flavor and soul. The closest location to Chapman, located in Anaheim, is a small, friendly place with servers who have as much soul as the food. Junior screen acting major Kiera Quealy loves the concept of dinner and breakfast in one dish.

“I never imagined that chicken and waffles would taste good together, but the combination is so tasty, and the people at Roscoe’s are so friendly they make me feel like family while I’m eating there,” she said.

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