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tastiest town

Step aside, New Orleans and Charleston. The tastiest town in the South isn’t one of those culinary capitals but is instead right here in the Triangle – Durham.

Southern Living magazine announced on Tuesday that Durham is the “Tastiest Town in the South.”

The region’s new culinary capital is featured in the May issue of Southern Living, hitting newsstands April 19.

“I knew people were voting hard,” said Amy Tornquist, owner of the Watts Grocery restaurant. “It’s exciting that we won. But that’s surprising to beat out New Orleans and Charleston — but I love it.”

Southern Living editors identified 10 of the most compelling food destinations across the region and let consumers decide the winner. Consumers could vote once per day from Jan. 10 to Feb. 28, and about half a million votes were cast. Durham came in first, followed by Memphis, Tenn.

“We were all participating in it,” said Seth Gross, owner of the Bull City Burger and Brewery. “We had signs up, were Facebooking and tweeting to please vote. It was a big grass-roots campaign.”

“It’s great. It’s great for us, but more importantly it’s great for Durham,” said Gray Brooks, co-owner and chef at Pizzeria Toro. “I feel like, in a sense, we all, all of the restaurants that are doing well are kind of riding on each other’s success.

“So, the more restaurants that do well, the better we all do. And, the better it is for Durham.”

Among the criteria, Southern Living looked for the growth of a culinary-minded community, diverse cuisine, access to hearty, flavorful meals at any budget and hot chefs on the rise.

“With a reverence for life’s everyday pleasures (we’re talking coffee, beer, pizza and pie here), a passionate mix of chefs, farmers, brewers, bakers and baristas have quietly transformed Durham into one of the hottest food destinations in the South,” reports Southern Living.

“The town’s top tastemakers are also drawing national attention. Durham recently scored four James Beard Foundation Award semi-finalist nods, including one for Scott Howell at Nana’s for Best Chef Southeast,” according to Southern Living. “But it’s not white tablecloth restaurants driving the scene here. Instead, it’s artisans committed to crafting their own to-die-for takes on simple culinary delights.”

Other 2013 James Beard semi-finalists include Phoebe Lawless with Scratch for Outstanding Pastry Chef; Sean Wilson with Fullsteam for Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional; and Mateo Tapas for Best New Restaurant.

“The South’s culinary scene has become richer and more diverse than ever,” said Southern Living Travel and Features Editor Jennifer Cole. “Whether you’re a native or a tourist, there’s an endless variety of dishes, restaurants and local flavors to discover across our region.”

In this month’s issue, Southern Living editors share the culinary vibe of each destination, identify its star tastemaker, and cite where to go for the best bites and the best nightcap.

The Southern Living 10 “Tastiest Towns in the South” are:

Asheville, N.C.: Intrepid casual fare from a tight-knit, indie-chef community

Atlanta: Tradition infused with global punch thanks to heritage-minded chefs

Austin, Texas: Where smoke and swagger meet urban ethnic style with a twang

Charleston, S.C.: Hyper-attention to local sourcing and indigenous heirloom ingredients

Durham:  Artisans devoted to coffee beans, brews, and the craft of humble foods

Greenville, S.C.: Internationally inspired food with a locally owned, Main Street sensibility

Louisville, Ky.: Refined fare without pretense, in a town where bourbon is king

Memphis, Tenn.: A bountiful crossroads of ‘cue, crops and rising culinary stars

Miami: A culinary Mrs. Robinson (mature, refined, sexier than ever) with a Southern accent

New Orleans: A masterful, provocative gumbo of oysters and innovators

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