It doesn’t get more traditionally southern than buttery, crumbly cornbread. This dish, however, has origins that trace back long before the Americas were colonized by Europe. Corn, or maize, has long been used in ground format for many dishes by Native Americans, and settlers in the United States soon adapted their traditional bread recipes to include ground cornmeal.

Cornbread saw an uptick in popularity in times of war, most notably during the Civil War, when the affordable and easy dish lent itself to meager supplies and hastily concocted meals for soldiers in battle. Though cornbread did also come into favor in the northern states, the composition is notably different depending on the region where it was made.

In the north, most cornbread is sweeter and reminiscent of cake, while in the south the dish is usually made with little or no sugar and less flour. When made in the south, the dish also commonly employs buttermilk and white cornmeal. Meanwhile in Texas, cornbread developed a richer flavor, which included whole creamed corn kernels and sprinkled with jalapeños. In the north you’re more likely to find cornbread served alongside honey, while in the south you’ll get funny looks if you add anything to the dish beyond butter or molasses.

Today, it’s common to find cornbread on the menu of many top restaurants. The recipe has been adjusted and modified so much over the years that it can just as easily belong alongside a meal at a diner as it does at a fine dining restaurant.

So, what makes cornbread great?

In my humble opinion, I think it’s all about balance. Sure, there’s a time and a place for sweet cornbread, but there are also times when I’d prefer the salty, spicy kick of jalapeño cornbread to go with my chili or my barbecue. Considering of course the widespread success and popularity of this dish, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of delectable offerings in this city. Here are some of my favorite spots in town to get this crumbly and buttery bread dish.

Fox Bros BBQ
1238 DeKalb Ave. NE, 30307 or (404) 577-4030


Revival Decatur
129 Church Street, Decatur, 30030 or (470) 225-6770


Sweet Auburn BBQ
656 North Highland Ave. NE, 30306 or (678) 515-3550


The Colonnade
1879 Cheshire Bridge Road, 30324 or (404) 874-5642


Mary Mac’s Tea Room
224 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE, 30308 or (404) 876-1800

Isadora Pennington

Isadora Pennington is a freelance writer and photographer based in Atlanta. She is the editor of Sketchbook by Rough Draft, a weekly Arts newsletter.

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