Greensboro’s Ten Best hush puppies
Bert’s Seafood Grille
4608 W. Market St., Greensboro, 336.854.2314
Almost every restaurant relies on a pre-made mix for hush puppies (I hate to break it to ya, but it ain’t gourmet), but Bert’s uses grated onion to enhance the flavor. They go with House of Autry mix, by the way. The puppies, molded to the size of a fat finger, plunged into hot peanut oil, which boils at a higher temperature, says co-owner Mary Lacklen. The result is a crisp crust encasing a steaming, fluffy interior. Bert’s specialty sauce is their house-made jalapeÃ±o catsup, a mix of roasted peppers, garlic and onions. ‘“It’s hot to most people, but not to me,’” Lacklen says. ‘“But I’m a number-nine kind of girl.’” As for the puppies themselves: ‘“They certainly don’t work with the Atkins diet because they’re really, really good.’”
2812 Battleground Ave., 336.288.9275; 2206 High Point Rd., Greensboro, 336.299.9888
Stamey’s is one of the rare restaurants that fixes their puppies up from scratch, throwing together a simple recipe of cornmeal, fresh onion and buttermilk. Owner Chip Stamey says his grandfather was instrumental in introducing the hush puppy to the barbecue menu, which up until then had relied mainly on white bread and rolls for carb requirements.
‘“Ours aren’t real sweet,’” he says. ‘“It’s a compliment to the barbecue. Because barbecue pork is a sweeter meat we don’t have to make the hush puppies as sweet as the fish houses do.’”
Customers also remark on the crescent moon shape of Stamey’s hush puppies, which is the result of producing them with a donut machine instead of hand-rolling them.
Libby Hill Seafood restaurants
Multiple locations in Greensboro and High Point
Not too tight or too loose is how Libby Hill assistant manager Diana Hubbard describes the water-to-mix ratio for the chain’s hush puppies. She describes their puppies as ‘“similar to cornbread but with a slight onion taste.’” The mix comes from the Libby Hill warehouse. Hubbard rattles off the ingredients listed on the bag: bleached wheat flour, cornmeal, sugar, onion salt, flour and eggs, among other elements. ‘“People like ’em,’” Hubbards says. ‘“There’s not too much to it for us.’”
1304 N. Main St., High Point, 336.884.1021
Onions seem to come up a lot in conversation with restaurateurs who traffic in hush puppies, so perhaps it’s the not-so secret ingredient. ‘“Ours are made with cornmeal, flour and buttermilk,’” says Kepley’s manager Dennis Carroll. ‘“Our hush puppies use onion salt, and that helps give them a more unique flavor.’”
For YES! Weekly columnist Ogi Overman, there’s another factor that pushes Kepley’s hush puppies over the top. ‘“Theirs are a lot greasier than the other ones,’” he says. ‘“To me, that is not a bad thing. ‘Grease’ is the golden word.’”
Charleston Crab House
1211 Battleground Ave., Greensboro, 336.272.2665
All things being crab here, the folks at Charleston Crab House throw some shredded crab meat ‘— along with pureed celery, sugar and black pepper ‘— into the mix. They scoop the batter out with a small melon scooper and drop it into hot soybean oil. The elements are mixed so finely that the crab flavor merely suffuses the flavor of the puppy rather than compete with the more hefty cakes. ‘“We call ’em ‘crab puppies,”” says Executive Chef Matthias Hartmann. ‘“We give those away for free on every table with the water.’”
Carter Brothers Barbecue and Ribs
2305 N. Main St., High Point, 336.869.9948
I’ve said there’s not that much to hush puppies, but now Tim Carter, the owner of Carter Brothers Barbecue and Ribs, makes a liar out of me. The ingredients in theirs are a trade secret. ‘“They’re kind of sweet with a little onion,’” is all he’ll say about them. ‘“They go great with barbecue and ribs, and people like to dip them in our rib sauce.’”
Bayside Seafood Family Restaurant
3512 E. Wendover Ave., Greensboro, 336.954.8006
It’s pretty basic at Bayside, an eastside restaurant that’s been open for eight years. They use the Betsy White Hush Puppy mix (Ingredients: cornmeal, flour, sugar, phosphates, soda, salt, milk, eggs, onion and riboflavin ‘— in that hierarchy of quantities), which is mixed with water and cooked in the fryer for about two or three minutes. The response from customers, according to cashier Lisa Vaquera, is: ‘“Most of them, they’re good comments like ‘They taste good.’ They’re served with the seafood platter and [as] side orders.’”
Multiple locations in Greensboro
This corporate restaurant chain, celebrated for its barbecue, chicken and milkshakes, also does hush puppies. ‘“They’re really, really crispy and light with lots of onions,’” YES! Weekly graphic designer Lisa Ellisor says approvingly.
Bonnie Kay’s Seafood
222 Spur Rd., Greensboro, 336.674.8001
A woman who identified herself as Dianna answers the phone at this restaurant. When she hears we were paying homage to the hush puppy, she gushes: ‘“You’ve got to be kidding me! My grandfather ‘— it’s his recipe, and it’s one of the best.’” Luther Oliver came up with the hush puppy recipe when he opened the restaurant in 1957, she says. It takes some clarification to discover she means he came up with his own recipe, not that he invented the hush puppy. After all, Stamey’s claims to have been serving hush puppies since around 1945. And YES! Weekly publisher Charles Womack says he believes hush puppies originated with the pirates. At any rate, Bonnie Kay’s Seafood is a busy place ‘— too busy in fact for Dianna to be interviewed for this story ‘— and this particular debate is likely to remain shrouded in mystery. Your best bet is to just go to the restaurant and try ’em out for yourself.
103 Muirs Chapel Rd., Greensboro, 336.808.0202
‘“They love my hush puppies,’” says Chef David Katz. ‘“They’re crispy on the outside and soft on the inside with a sweet onion flavor.’” Bohog’s puts out baskets of the greasy delicacy for customers as a pre-appetizer. Katz, a self-described ‘Yankee,’ sheds a little light on the origin question, although he stresses that there are no solid facts, so the story remains in the realm of myth. ‘“An older African-American woman told me about where years ago there was a black slave,’” he says. ‘“He tried to escape, and he made the food before he left. He threw it at the dogs and said: ‘Hush, puppies.””