I grew up in the Deep South, so of course I grew up with Southern food. When I was a little girl, we traveled back and forth between Savannah and Atlanta (and we lived in both these cities at different points). A highlight of all trips up and down Georgia was stopping at little Southern diners. There was one I recall near Milledgeville called Tick Tock.
I have been vegetarian for a long time (27 years!), but long before I went vegetarian, I loved a veggie plate. Thankfully, one of the things that Southern diners specialize in is veggie plates. If you are vegetarian, you have to make sure you go to diners that do not season vegetables with meat, or they have a "V" for vegetarian on the menu for veggies that are cooked vegetarian style. Thankfully, there are several great Southern diners in my city that serve vegetarian vegetables. Hooray!
If you go to a Southern diner, the menu may be printed, or it may be a simple xerox page that lists the veggies of the day. It may be posted on the wall (also easy for diner owners to change daily). There may be a little serving line, like a mini-cafeteria, where you pick the vegetables you want.
A veggie plate is typically three or four veggies. My meal above has fried eggplant, corn, and applesauce. You will always find a wide variety of vegetables, like: fried okra, fried green tomatoes, squash souffle, tossed salad, collard greens, blackeyed peas, fruit salad, potato cakes, corn-on-the-cob, baked beans, stewed apples, cheese grits, tomato pie, sweet potato souffle, and more. Most of the diners I go to serve cornbread on the side. Of course, the beverage of choice is sweet tea (iced tea that is sweetened with sugar immediately after brewing, so it is perfectly sweet). I rarely get desserts at a diner because I am too full from vegetables! The most common dessert at Southern diners is fruit cobbler (peach, cherry, blackberry, etc.).
The restaurants vary, but the atmosphere tends to be casual and cozy, often with old photos or vintage items on the wall. (Many of these places have been in business for years and years.) Service is casual and friendly.
Do you like Southern cooking? Any favorite Southern diner stories or meals to share? I'd love to hear from you in the comments, below.