Foods I’m Still Mostly Convinced the South Can’t Do Right

I was near a shall-not-be-named food truck a few Saturdays back that had delicious-looking wings. They smelled great (and hot), were super saucy, and got rave reviews from the couple eating them. Not wanting to push things after a stomach bug, I opted to forgo wings that night and settle (well, not settle, as it’s a fav) for a hotdog from HiWire. However, I returned the next day and ordered these wings for Super Bowl Sunday. 

Readers…the sights and smells of these wings were misleading. They weren’t good. They weren’t bad. They were fine. As I despondently texted a friend later, “I just paid $20.00 (sidenote: the price of wings lately is appalling) for a plate of wings I could’ve gotten at Pizza Hut for…$22.50 (sidenote: the prices of wings at Pizza Hut is doubly appalling…they’re weirdly still cheap under the Ingles heat lamps…). I’m not above a Pizza Hut Wing, but, like, there’s a marked difference between good wings and Pizza Hut wings, is all I’m saying, and now wings are on my list of foods I’m convinced the south can’t do well. 

I’ve had plenty of decent wings down here (more decent than bad) and plenty of good wings when they have a bbq or Asian twist (I recently had, and loved, the wings at Gan Shan West), but when it comes down to a good old buffalo wing, nothing is blowing me out of the water, aside from the Barrelhouse, which I’m not counting since the owner hails from PA. I just think wings, like some of the other foods I will list in this post, can’t do great outside the Northeast.

An Incomplete List of Foods the South Just Can’t Be Great at, (with notably exceptions sprinkled in):

Sicilian Pizza

There’s plenty of decent pizza in Asheville, but I’ve yet to find any good thick-crusted Sicilian-style pizza, which is my favorite kind. I’ve had a few places that claim to be Sicilian-style, but I’m not just settling for square. I want a slice the thickness of a cake. I’m open to all suggestions. 

Chicken Parm Sandwiches/Hot Wing Hoagies

This one has been partially satiated, but I’m still including it since I’ve only found one good example of one of these, and only one. Back home, chicken parm sandwiches and hot wing hoagies were a staple of my diet and readily available at almost any bar/restaurant. 

As soon as the pandemic restrictions started loosening, I began my search for a chicken parm sandwich and was shocked not that I found only bad versions, but that it’s just not something that’s not appearing on many menus.

I was elated, finally, to find a chicken parm sandwich on the menu of The Piazza, a very underrated Italian joint near my apartment complex. I was disappointed when I found that the sandwich was just not very good (I feel comfortable shading The Piazza publicly because most everything else I’ve had from there—the chicken piccata, caesar salad, house salad, cacio e pepe pizza, and pork cutlet sandwich—has been delicious: not everyone gets to be good at everything). 

However, I finally found the chicken parm hoagie of my dreams at Pizza Mind in West Asheville, which, like…they have the kind of red cups that are the hallmarks of all great fast-casual Italian eateries, so I should’ve known.

Now, I should say there are plenty of decent buffalo chicken sandwiches (shoutout to the U-Joint, which has my favorite), but not proper hoagies that I’ve found yet. 

Italian Hoagies

Italian hoagies are another Northeast staple I miss (and don’t “sub” or “hero” me, please…I’m from the land of the HoagieFest®). Now, I’ll say this: even in the Northeast, there are a lot of subpar Italian hoagies, and there’s not even one specific recipe or technique that makes them great…you just know when you find a good one, a perfect mix of meats, cheeses, good bread, plenty of condiments, and always shredded lettuce. 

I haven’t found a good restaurant for Italian hoagies yet. Still, last summer, I discovered the Deli Volv Food Truck, which serves a mayo-based version that surprised me with how good it was (I historically prefer an oil-and-vinegar-based Italian hoagie). I’m hoping they park at Whistle Hop Thursdays again this summer. 

Chocolate Milk

I know that technically chocolate milk is a drink, but maybe because of its heft, maybe because of its versatility (salving spicy foods, as a post-workout drink), maybe just because of how god-damn delicious it is, I consider chocolate milk my favorite food. If I had to exist on only one thing for the rest of my life, it would be chocolate milk, and YET, I cannot find a great, local, readily available chocolate milk the way I could at any Turkey Hill or Wawa around Pennsylvania. Do better, North Carolina!

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