Variations on a Theme: Southern Picnic

A new batch of down-home restaurants is serving up plenty of southern hospitality right here in the Hub.

Photograph by Toan Trinh, styling by Monica Mariano


“It doesn’t matter what or where I cook—it’s going to have some kind of southern influence,” says chef Nicolas Swogger, who spent his teen years in Mississippi, where he landed his first kitchen job and later a stint at James Beard Award–winning chef John Currence’s Bouré. At the new B3, where Berklee students play acoustic music nightly, that translates into dishes such as the classic Hoppin’ John (1): black-eyed peas and Carolina Gold rice garnished with scallions, hot sauce, and fall-apart-tender braised pork cheek. Swogger uses a variation of his grandmother’s recipe for B3’s ham biscuits (2), slathered with house-made pimiento cheese and hot honey.

160 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, 617-997-0211,

Shaking Crab

When Kevin Duong moved to Boston for a job in finance, he couldn’t find a place to satisfy his craving for Louisiana-style boils. So he and his partners opened Shaking Crab in Newton in late 2015, expanding on their success with a second location in Quincy this April. Shrimp, crawfish, and other seafood overnighted from Louisiana—plus essential accoutrements such as corn on the cob and Andouille sausage—are boiled in aromatic water, then shaken in a plastic bag with a buttery Cajun sauce (3). The mixture is served in the bag to keep the contents warm while you’re peeling and cracking away—but it’s also okay to dump it all out on the restaurant’s paper-covered tables, as they do in the South.

18 Cottage Ave., Quincy, 617-481-0054; 203 Adams St., Newton, 617-795-1630;

Buttermilk & Bourbon

Jason Santos fell hard and fast for New Orleans when he first visited the rollicking city a few years ago. “I was instantly in love with its food and hospitality,” says the chef, who soon started visiting every month. Now he’s bringing Big Easy fare—and other southern flavors—to the Back Bay with his new restaurant, Buttermilk & Bourbon. Santos puts his stamp on New Orleans’ signature beignets (4) with a lighter, more buttery version of the dough and a mascarpone dipping sauce. Another decadent offering: his umami-rich deviled-egg toast (5), with thinly sliced country ham, crab-fat butter, lemony aioli, and slightly yolky chopped eggs layered on springy grilled focaccia.

160 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-266-1122,

Southern Kin Cookhouse

Brined in a spice-flecked buttermilk mixture for 24 hours, chef Bill Brodsky’s fried chicken (6) is an upgraded version of the takeout classic. But the real secret to his So’Kin Bucket, he says, is pressure-frying the pieces to create a light, nearly greaseless batter. “We have a machine for it…it’s not really something you can do at home,” he says. Michael Boughton’s cocktail program follows the restaurant’s “pan southern” thought line with a whiskey-focused menu, including peach sweet tea (7) with house-infused “peach cobbler” bourbon. “I basically make a peach cobbler, but instead of throwing it in an oven, I throw bourbon on it,” he says.

500 Assembly Row, Somerville, 617-764-5966,