The winner was determined by an online vote held from January 10th to February 28th. Cities included were Asheville; Atlanta; Austin; Charleston; Durham; Greenville, South Caroline; Louisville; Memphis; Miami; and New Orleans.
According to rep Jennifer Zawadzinski, the contest drew in some 300,000 votes. While she would not provide specific numbers, she did say the votes were close between Durham and Memphis.
According to Southern Living executive editor Hunter Lewis, Memphis was included because of a "new energy" in the culinary scene brought about by chefs like Kelly English.
Lewis says throughout South, chefs are mixing old and new and breaking old perceptions.
Regarding the makeup of the list, Lewis says they do get feedback from readers. Some argue that Miami is not part of the South, while others argue that Texas is not part of the South.
"That's one thing we love -- the passionate response, the beating of the chest," Lewis says.
Local food enthusiasts campaigned hard (harassed) on Twitter and other social media to get folks to vote for Memphis daily. "Get Out the Vote" parties were held at local restaurants including Hog & Hominy, Sweet Grass, and Boscos Squared.
The results will be covered in Southern Living's May issue, which hits the stands on Friday, April 19th. Featured in the issue are Restaurant Iris, Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Hog & Hominy, and Muddy's Bake Shop.
This is the second year Southern Living has held the contest. Last year's winner was Lafayette, Louisiana. Once a city is named the Tastiest Town, it is retired, says a Southern Living editor, like Miss America.
It was by happenstance that I stopped by Bar Louie just hours into its opening day. The staff was pumped, and the manager went to each table to greet everyone.
The restaurant takes up a space at the southwest corner of Madison and Cooper and is dominated by a large bar in the center. There are TVs aplenty, positioned so to be in view of just about every seat in the house. A stretch of tables along the windows at Madison are ideal for people-watching.
The menu is pretty extensive, opening with a few pages of cocktails, martinis, wines, etc. Boxed items indicate signature drinks and dishes, including the Diva martini with pineapple vodka and pomegranate liquor. (Prices weren't included on the drink menu, so I was scairt ... at $11, probably warranted.)
Other intriguing cocktails on the menu include a Coconut Mint Lemonade and the Bloody Louie, their version of the Bloody Mary jacked-up with Guinness stout.
Regulars will notice the new paint. The once-tiny kitchen has been expanded and equipped with new ovens, a deep fryer, and walk-in freezer and fridge.
The restaurant/coffee bar has moved into space at the side of the building and along the back, with dry-cleaning equipment from University Cleaners removed to make way. (University Cleaners still operates a storefront for pick-ups.) There's also an upstairs area being eyed for future expansions.
What this means for the consumer is that chicken and waffles are now part of the menu. There's also a new fried chicken sandwich, which Cafe Eclectic's Rachel Boulden describes as "homemade Chick-fil-A." There are new vegetarian options as well with vegan pancakes being a regular offering.
Boulden says they spent the first day post-renovations working out hiccups. They had initially planned to be closed for 4 days for the work but the Easter holiday pushed back the re-opening.
"A whole week!," says Boulden. "That was a little traumatic."
• The Memphis Farmers Market downtown kicks off its season this Saturday, April 6th.
• The Whitehaven Farmers Market at Methodist South opens Monday, April 15th.
• Farmers Market at the Garden, at the Memphis Botanic Garden, has its opening day set for Wednesday, April 24th.
• The Farmers Market at Agricenter International opens on Wednesday, May 1st.
• The Millington Farmers Market has an opening date of Saturday, May 4th.
• Collierville Farmers Market is set to return Thursday, May 16th.
• Construction is ongoing at the South Memphis Farmers Market site. Organizers hope to have the market open by late May. There's also no set date for the return of the Urban Farms market, at Tillman and Sam Cooper, but they are shooting to have the market open in June.
• The Cooper Young Community Farmers Market is open year-round on Saturdays near First Congo. On this Saturday, April 6th, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., they are hosting a crawfish boil to kick off the market's spring/summer season.
• In a related event, Paul and Angela Knipple are signing their latest book Farm Fresh Tennessee at the Booksellers at Laurelwood on Thursday, April 4th at 6 p.m. The book is a guide to Tennessee-based farmers markets, u-picks, farms, food festivals, and more.