Locavorism, that culinary buzzword, seems to be everywhere these days. But a restaurant's dedication to regional cuisine can mean more than having a relationship with local farms and purveyors. Here are a few spots around the country that celebrate their stamping grounds in ways that go beyond ingredients.
BELTON, S.C. | Grits & Groceries
If you happen to be in the northern slice of South Carolina known as the Piedmont, you will want to drive by the Peachoid in Gaffney, which recently had a star turn in the Netflix political drama "House of Cards." It's a peach-shaped water tower that brings out the middle schooler in everyone because it looks like a pair of big orange buttocks.
And if you like to eat, you will most likely continue west to Greenville, where new locavore restaurants take regular turns in the pages of Edible Piedmont magazine. But push the car just 40 minutes farther south and you will come upon Grits & Groceries, the area's true destination for regional cuisine.
Finding it can be a bit tricky: you head through increasingly rural countryside where cows and horses fill the pastures and farms offer collard greens at $3 a bunch. When you get to the point where the gardens are so bountiful signs advertise free collards, you will hit the junction of Due West Highway and Trail Road.
There, inside an old country store with tables covered in colorful oilcloth, Heidi and Joe Trull present the kind of Southern meal you want to eat. It's largely a spot for a late breakfast or a long lunch. But the doors are also open Thursday for dinner, when the special is sometimes fried chicken with green beans and potato salad or a salad made from expertly breaded fried green tomatoes.
At lunchtime, your order should include a piece of Hattie Mae's tomato pie, perhaps accompanied by the sweet-salty hit of praline bacon, thick strips pressed with pecans, caramelized and with just the right balance of crisp and chew. Ms. Trull also puts out a sophisticated salad of duck confit. Shrimp po'boys and gumbo show up regularly, reflecting the Trulls' time in New Orleans: she was a chef at Elizabeth's; he made desserts at Nola, Emeril Lagasse's French Quarter restaurant. They left just after Hurricane Katrina to raise their son back home and open the restaurant.
Pay particular attention to the glass pastry case, which Mr. Trull loads up daily with fried hand-pies stuffed with apples or, if you're lucky, soft Southern strawberries. They come to the table with a heap of homemade vanilla ice cream. -- KIM SEVERSON
Grits & Groceries, 2440 Due West Highway, Belton, S.C.; (864) 296-3316; gritsandgroceries.com. Lunch for two is about $30.
GRAND MARAIS, MINN. | Dockside Fish Market
From the shore, you can see the little skiff skittering over the surf on Lake Superior. The locals in this tiny port -- the last real town between Duluth and the Canadian border -- know that Harley Toftey is returning with the day's haul of lake trout and lake herring.
Around 10 a.m., Mr. Toftey, 57, will tug a plastic tub on a handcart to the Dockside Fish Market. Drop by the deli counter a few hours later, and his wife, Shele, will serve up the morning catch in a fish-and-chips basket.
Ms. Toftey, 56, has installed seven tables on the back deck and another seven inside for when the weather is uncooperative, which is often. She also knows her way around fishing nets: the couple first met in Alaska, she said, where she was harvesting salmon "on an all-woman boat in Bristol Bay."
These maritime rituals were once common in Grand Marais. Until the mid-1920s, and the completion of the coastal highway, packet ships delivered passengers and fresh fish around this vast inland sea.
Today, the North Shore fishing fleet counts perhaps 10 vessels.
"It's a dying thing," Ms. Toftey said. "It's a great livelihood, but it's a hard livelihood. You're doing the commercial fishing, you're processing the fish, you're smoking the fish."
This last routine takes place every couple of days in a small plywood smokehouse in the parking lot, where fish smokes to a golden hue after 12 hours of brining in a brown-sugar bath.
The lake trout, a type of char, holds the most flavor in the fatty bites near the bottom. The smoked herring (or cisco) is finer-fleshed, but you'll need to tease out the meat from tiny bones.
The fried herring fillets make easier quarry. These curled strips (delivered over fries) bear a thin coating of panko, cornmeal and breading mix. The wedges of fried whitefish taste similar, but they originate from the rockier coast near Bayfield, Wis.
The real local delicacy actually hides in the freezer case: jars of herring roe called Superior Gold Caviar -- miniature orange orbs that burst with a mild, briny tang. The shop processes about 30 tons of the stuff during the fall herring run.
You could say the Dockside produces the best caviar on the lake. But then, Ms. Toftey said, "to my knowledge, it's only us." -- MICHAEL TORTORELLO
Dockside Fish Market, 418 West Highway 61, Grand Marais, Minn.; (218) 387-2906; docksidefishmarket.com. The average price of a meal for two, without beer or tip, is about $25.
KANSAS CITY, MO. | Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange
Time can be a confusing thing at the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange.
Splashed on one side of the building's brick and terra-cotta facade is a giant mural advertising circa-1877 J. Rieger & Company Monogram Whiskey. Inside the nearly century-old building, rugged original subway tile shares space with a wood-paneled bar. A small plaque over the chest-high urinal in the men's bathroom notes that Al Capone once relieved himself in that very spot.
But just as you've settled into early-20th-century mob-era Kansas City, you are yanked into a more modern age by forward-thinking plates of artichoke pasta dumplings with sautéed veal brains or a red-wine-infused goat stew.
The chef, Howard Hanna, 37, opened the Rieger two and a half years ago hoping to create a brand of food that was reliably Midwestern yet pushed the boundaries of middle-American comforts. If the consistently packed dining room is any indication, his concept has caught on.
Mr. Hanna's chance to open a restaurant in the Rieger came about in 2010 when Ryan Maybee, who owns a bar in the basement, floated the idea after a previous restaurant on the ground floor had closed. Mr. Hanna saw the Rieger as a perfect platform to experiment with tradition.
"Try to take what this region and our culture produce and say, 'Hey, it doesn't have to be greasy, it doesn't have to be factory farm chicken or commodity pork,' " Mr. Hanna, a native of Manhattan, Kan., said of his philosophy.
The smoked Campo Lindo chicken, for instance, uses the French technique of chicken ballotine -- deboning, pounding, stuffing and rolling -- but also adds a cold smoke to the process; the dish is topped with a chicken stock-based barbecue sauce and accompanied by a side of braised cabbage to appeal to the Midwestern palate.
"You can use high-end ingredients and still pay respect to the traditional methods and traditional flavors and do things with them that really show off the amazing products we're able to source now," Mr. Hanna said. -- JOHN ELIGON
Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, 1924 Main Street, Kansas City, Mo.; (816) 471-2177; theriegerkc.com. The average price of a meal for two, without drinks or tip, is $70.
MIAMI BEACH | Florida Cookery
Among the towering hotels along Collins Avenue in Miami Beach, it's been hard to find a restaurant that's neither a New York import nor an outpost of an international chef's brand. And until recently, anyone looking for a spot that actually celebrates Florida cuisine would be out of luck.
Enter Florida Cookery, opened in November in the James Royal Palm hotel. Kris Wessel, its chef, has developed dishes inspired by the many influences in the state's culinary mix -- the Caribbean, South America and the American South -- and uses local products like blood oranges and wild boar.
But don't call it fusion. The menu's eclecticism is homegrown, said Mr. Wessel, a 42-year-old Florida native. Reading his grandmother's 1940s community cookbook, which gave the restaurant its name, he came upon recipes from Cubans and Brazilians alongside Georgians and Louisianians.
"Back then they were all trying to figure out what to do with mangoes, sapodillas, canistel," he said. "I looked at doing a Florida statement that way."
Which is not to say Mr. Wessel sticks solely to tradition. His barbecued shrimp over grits, a Creole classic he learned from working at Mr. B's Bistro and Antoine's in New Orleans, had a tang I couldn't quite place. "Tamarind paste," he explained later -- a sweet and sour tropical accent used across the Caribbean.
The vinegary sweetness of the braised oxtail, with leafy callaloo steamed in coconut water, a popular Haitian dish, was slightly overwhelming. But anything that featured citrus, either as an accent (the grapefruit sections in a beurre noir sauce accompanying the crispy pecan-dusted grouper) or as the main event (Key lime pie), had a pitch-perfect tartness.
"If you're going to do a Florida state menu," Mr. Kessel said, "you better have citrus in it."
Down-home dishes like the pie or the habanero-spiced conch chowder could feel out of place in the restaurant's coolly modern white interior and reclaimed-wood patio, if not for the laid-back atmosphere the friendly servers and the '80s alt-rock tunes create.
Still, I wondered whether Mr. Wessel would continue traditions from his previous restaurant, Red Light Little River, like selling his Aunt Rita's mango pie every Friday during the summer.
Ever open to combining old ways with the new, he answered, "Why not?" -- EMILY BRENNAN
Florida Cookery, 1545 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach; (786) 276-0333; florida-cookery.com. The average price for dinner for two, without drinks or tip, is about $100.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.