While Memphis isn’t home to a Southeastern Conference school, the Obsidian office sure is. Many of us Obsidianites earned degrees from these respected sports-loving institutions, which includes my alma mater, the University of Arkansas. After spending four years immersing ourselves in all the amazing things these culturally rich college towns have to offer, we know a thing or two about where to grab a bite.
If farm-to-table dining is your thing and you find yourself in Auburn, Alabama, you’re in luck. Acre, which has a recent Iron Chef winner at the helm (fancy!), has a crazy good brunch. Now, be careful not to get too attached to a menu item. Because it sources its ingredients from local farmers, the dishes Acre whips up can change daily.
Be still my heart. Fayetteville, Arkansas, is an incredible city, just ask me or the folks behind U.S. News & World Report who just ranked it in the top five places to live in America for the third straight year. Nestled in the Ozark Mountains, it’s a beautiful place to be when the leaves are changing colors and of course, when my Hogs are playing. Best of the best spot for a meal? Pesto Cafe. It’s a small, hole-in-the-wall restaurant serving up amazing Italian fare. Pro tip from a former college student who knows the “freshman 15” is a real thing: Sub spinach for pasta in any dish if you have a spring break beach trip on the horizon.
I can’t get down with Tennessee orange, but I can get down with the restaurants Rocky Top offers. I spent a summer in Knoxville, and the first place recommended to me was Tupelo Honey. Located on Market Square, this place serves up incredible Southern dishes made with ingredients responsibly sourced directly from farmers.
With Oxford being an hour away from Memphis, you’ve likely been there a time or two. A charming little city, it boasts a town square with a great atmosphere and even better dining options. Everyone knows about Bouŕ, City Grocery and Big Bad Breakfast, but what about Bacchus? With innovative chef specials and floor-to-ceiling doors that are opened up when the weather is nice, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Headed to Starkville for a big game? Fuel up at Bulldog Burger. The local staple ushers up some big and tasty burgers with a twist. Think toppings like fried mozzarella, spicy chorizo and Jack Daniels bourbon glaze — whoa. Come hungry and you will leave very happy. If you have room, grab a craft brew flight while you’re at it!
There you have it — a few of the best restaurants in nearby SEC cities. I’m unashamedly one of those annoying people who thinks the SEC is better than any other conference in the country. That greatness extends beyond just sports and scholastics, it includes food, too. Happy eating!