Valdosta is known for a lot of things: For example, it’s the Azalea City, home of an annual azalea festival that draws visitors from around the world. It’s also Title Town USA, home to some of the winningest high school and college sports programs in the nation. But what people may not know about this city on the Georgia-Florida border is that it’s home to a surprisingly diverse array of cuisines – among them Spanish/Cuban, Italian, Mediterranean, Mexican, Korean and more.
This eclectic assortment smartly caters to the taste buds of not only locals, but also travelers who come to see the sights and people who just pass through on I-75. Here are some of our favorite Valdosta eateries, listed in alphabetical order:
- Austin’s Cattle Co – A menu that showcases a passion for grilling – steaks, fish, chicken, ribs and seafood specialties – and a sweet tooth for irresistible desserts. We saddled up with the Wilmington Island Shrimp (battered in a crunchy coconut breading, and served with a sweet-and-sour marmalade sauce) before hitting our stride with Austin’s Famous Prime Rib, rubbed with a special blend of herbs. If you’re in the mood for poultry, don’t miss the Santa Fe Chicken, smothered with BBQ sauce and topped with bacon and two kinds of cheese. For dessert, the Chocolate Cobbler was simply out of this world (next time, we’ll have to try the Fried Cheesecake).
- The Bleu Café – Something different, offering a quaint atmosphere with a casual menu of specialty pizza, sandwiches, gourmet tacos, nachos and salads, plus a host of craft beers. Dig in to a dish of Memphis Nachos – pulled barbecue with spicy homemade coleslaw and black beans. The menu changes periodically, but if you can get your hands on the Savannah or New Orleans Taco, you’ll be in for a treat.
- Bubba Jax Crab Shack – As the name might suggest, you’re in for a feast of fried seafood when you pull up a chair. There’s a definite Southern flavor to the menu, populated with such items as po’ boys, hush puppies, grits and fried pickles. The Crab Cakes make for a delectable appetizer (though we’d hardly blame you for hitting the Shrimp and Grits), and we suggest the Shrimp Dinner, which you can have fried, blackened or grilled. Comes with Bubba Jax cocktail sauce, two hush puppies and two sides. A veritable banquet!
- Cheddar’s (pictured) – A family-friendly chain serving American comfort food with a Texas twist – with cooks standing by to make things fresh. The creamy Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad sets the stage for a showdown between the spicy (New Orleans Pasta, in Cajun Alfredo sauce) and the sweet (Key West Chicken & Shrimp, with pineapple pico de gallo). Our stomach was the clear winner!
- The Egg & I – A dynamite way to kick of the day, as a hearty breakfast beckons. It’s hard to resist a menu that begins with “Sweet Indulgences” (breakfast favorites with fruit). However, we found our way under “Favorites,” and proceeded to tackle the Colorado Jack Scramble – three eggs with ham, peppers, tomatoes, onions, pepper jack and green onions. (It also comes with bacon or sausage, an English muffin and a side of salsa – Viva la comida!) If you’re looking for something lighter, we recommend the Chicken Apple Sausage Scramble with egg whites and – you guessed it – chicken apple sausage. Plus mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, spinach and Gouda cheese.
- Passage 2 India – A delightful change of pace, specializing in the North Indian Cuisine and Halal, where cooks typically use rich spices and aromatic herbs to transform intricate conjurations of vegetables, lentils, and rice into tasty meals that are as fulfilling as they are filling. While fans of Indian food will certainly find their favorites, there are plenty of exotic, less familiar options to choose from, including our choice of Chicken Bhuna (an onion-based curry dish with ginger and spices) and the Lamb Roganjosh (with a sauce made from yogurt, tomatoes and spices). Lots of rice and vegetable dishes to complete the experience, too.
- Sam’s Carry Out BBQ – Sometimes, comfort food is just what you’re after… and Sam’s is a place to get your fill of savory, smoky satisfaction. The place itself is straightforward, and the menu is simple, but the flavors are exceptional. From rib and chicken sandwiches to sausage, from slabs of ribs to whole chicken, you’re in for a succulent treat. Plus such traditional sides as corn on the cob, green beans and Southern potato salad.
- Smok’n Pig B-B-Q – A gathering place with a Southern tradition of old-time barbecue – freshly prepared country cooking, just like Grandpa used to do it back in the day. They use the finest quality pork, chicken, turkey and Sterling Silver beef, with all their meats slow-cooked daily with pecan wood, so it’s always lean and juicy inside. A massive assortment of sides (called “Trimmings”) accentuates all the selections – and we chose the Roasted Red Potatoes and Corn on the Cob to go with our Texas Beef Brisket. Like most entrees, it also came with salad bar and dessert (homemade cobbler and ice cream), so we were plenty full when we finally pushed away from the table.
- Steel Magnolias – Taking the roots of classic Southern cuisine and showing a new way of looking at them, Steel Magnolias serves “urban Southern” fare with an old familiar smile, where patrons are surprised by a new approach, yet still know the secret handshake. It’s a place where you can find a Southern staple like the fried green tomato, mixed with sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese, arugula and peach aioli – a combination that’s at once familiar and surprisingly new. The dinner plates are similarly conceived, and we marveled at the blending of the Steel Magnolia Shrimp & Grits, with andouille sausage and red pepper gravy.
- 306 North – Featuring a blend of Southern sophistication in a classic and comfortable environment, 306 North provides great food using locally provided ingredients, including fresh produce, cheese and farm-raised meats. Kick things off with the Crispy Braised Bacon (with Gouda Grits and Cane Syrup Drizzle) for an incredibly scrumptious start, then go for a specialty of the house: Louisiana Red Fish, served with sausage, “dirty” orzo and salad. Most entrees come with two sides, and we highly recommend that the Grilled Honey-Truffled Sweet Potatoes take a place of honor on your plate.
To learn more about Valdosta, visit our website at www.takethreenights.com. For help planning a culinary tour of Title Town USA, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. To explore and get additional information about all of our delicious destinations, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!