Chef Edward Lee Dishes About His Favorite Southern Food in DC
Where he goes for fried chicken, barbecue and bourbon in the capital city
At his restaurant Succotash Prime, Korean-American chef Edward Lee has conquered the hearts and palates of Washingtonians, marrying influences from both Seoul and the longtime Kentuckyan’s beloved American South. With a menu boasting such imaginative offerings as Nashville-style hot fried oysters, gochujang-spiced dirty chicken or kimchi-laced collards, Succotash Prime boasts a fusion approach that’s particularly well-suited to the capital — and it’s truly some of the best Southern food in DC.
“DC is a part of the South, and there are plenty of people living here with Southern roots,” Lee says. “But it is also an international city, and I really enjoy introducing them to the delights of Southern food and hospitality.”
While the Top Chef alum maintains multiple addresses in Louisville — including 610 Magnolia, MilkWood and the newly opened Nami — when he’s in DC, his cravings for Southern comfort do not wane. “All of Southern food is comfort food,” he says. “Most days, I am craving fried chicken, a warm biscuit and some pimento cheese.”
And thankfully, Succotash Prime isn’t the only place he goes to get his fill. While some dishes, he says, are so “hyper-regional” that “it is no wonder that you don’t see a lot of it in DC” — think mutton hash barbecue or rice stew purloo — other classics are easier to come by, especially if you know where to look. The chef has been kind enough to share his little black book of the top Southern spots in the city where he goes when the craving strikes.
For Tried-and-True Classics: Florida Ave Grill
When he’s looking for the most stalwart of Southern staples, Lee’s all-time favorite in DC is Florida Ave Grill. Open since 1944, it purports to be the oldest soul food restaurant in the world. “It is open limited hours, so you have to know when to go,” he says. “The pigs feet and fried chicken are sublime.”
For Superior Sides: Oohh’s and Aahh’s
For top-notch Southern sides like sticky yams and a truly dope mac and cheese, Lee’s go-to is Oohh’s and Aahh’s. Positively drenched in yellow cheddar, the restaurant’s mac is a bona fide best seller, which beat out the iteration at fine dining restaurant Vidalia in a taste test carried out by the Washingtonian back in 2005. More recently, it garnered high praise from the Post’s Tim Carman, who also gave a nod to the spot’s garlic-spiked green beans, elevating the veggie to a whole other level.
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For Barbecue as Good as Lockhart’s: 2Fifty Texas BBQ
For great barbecue in the capital, there’s nowhere better for Lee than 2Fifty Texas BBQ. As its name suggests, the restaurant takes a decidedly beef-forward approach, with American wagyu and Black Angus joined by pork spare ribs, house-made sausage and whole smoked chicken.
Still, the beef is unsurprisingly where this spot shines. “I haven’t had better brisket in DC,” Lee says “And it’s as good as anything I’ve had in Texas.”
For Modern Twists on Southern Classics: Dauphine’s
When he wants a dish that toys with tradition, Lee often finds himself scratching the itch at his own restaurant. “As many times as I’ve eaten it, I am still in love with the fried catfish with lettuce slaw and the hot fried oysters, and of course the collards and kimchi,” he says.
But sometimes, you just want someone else behind the range. In that case, Lee puts himself in the capable hands of Dauphine’s chef Kristen Essig, where NOLA classics get a contemporary reboot. Chargrilled oysters are served with horseradish and pecorino, while classic bananas foster is transformed into a brunchtime parfait.
To Wash It All Down: Jack Rose
Of course, when it comes to recreating the flavors of the South, dining is just the beginning. “I am from Kentucky, so we consider bourbon an essential food group,” Lee says. “And there is no better place to enjoy a glass of rare bourbon than at Jack Rose.”
The saloon is known for its whisk(e)y “book”: a list of no fewer than 60 pages of offerings from around the world, including a “Bourbon Bonanza 2017” from Willett Distillery so ultra-rare, it comes out to $350 for a one-ounce pour. “They do a pretty good biscuit there too,” Lee says.
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