Skip to site content
Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader

Souvenirs to Savor in the South

Having a delicious meal when you travel is a great experience. Finding a signature food product to take home with you can be even better.

The South is full of amazing food, from barbecue to seafood, grits, gumbo and other iconic calling cards. But many of these famous dishes don’t travel well. Luckily, visitors looking to bring their culinary memories home with them can do so with a wide range of packaged and bottled products that manage to encompass essential flavors of the region.

When your group travels throughout the South, give them opportunities to pack up the tastes of their travels by stopping to visit, taste and shop at these food sites.

McClard’s Bar-B-Q Restaurant

Hot Springs, Arkansas

In Hot Springs, Arkansas, nothing satisfies an empty stomach like a fresh order of brisket or ribs from McClard’s Bar-B-Q Restaurant. Each week, this fourth-generation, family-owned restaurant serves 250 gallons of spicy barbecue beans, 3,000 hand-rolled hot tamales, 3,000 pounds of homemade french fries and 7,000 pounds of hickory-smoked beef, pork and ribs.

“I get down here at 2 a.m. and start making the sauce from scratch,” said owner Philip McClard, who runs the restaurant with other family members.

That special sauce recipe goes all the way back to 1928, when McClard’s grandfather ran a small barbecue stand by a gas station.

“He had some cottages in the back that he rented to people, and the story goes that one man couldn’t afford the rent, so he offered the barbecue sauce recipe as payment instead,” said McClard.

Unlike sweeter barbecue sauces, McClard’s barbecue sauce has a spicy kick to it that mixes well with the meat, which is cooked in traditional brick ovens. Some other popular restaurant items include ribs, beans, coleslaw, fresh-sliced french fries and a tamale spread that comes with onions, cheese, meat and corn chips.

“We’ve got tamales that we hand roll, and they’re different from Mexican tamales. They’re bigger and spicier,” said McClard.

Bottles of the barbecue sauce are available for purchase, along with salsa, seasoning and pepper sauce.

Ale-8-One Bottling Company

Winchester, Kentucky

When G.L. Wainscott first founded the Ale-8-One company during the 1920s, he held a regional naming contest for his new product. “A Late One” emerged as the winning slogan, meaning the latest trend in soft drinks.

Now celebrating 90 years, Ale-8-One (also known simply as Ale-8) has developed into a staple product in Kentucky, which is a rare feat for a family-owned soft drink company. Today, it is carried throughout Kentucky and Indiana, as well as parts of Ohio, Tennessee and Illinois.

“We have a pretty unique flavor profile, being ginger with a hint of citrus,” said Samantha Jackson, marketing coordinator at the bottling plant. “It’s a lot smoother going down, without the bite of your typical ginger soft drink, and that’s what makes us stand apart from a lot of other brands.”

Factory tours are held on Thursdays and Fridays by appointment only. An Ale-8 representative begins the tour with a video about the history of Ale-8 and then leads guests through several key areas of the building to observe the production.

Afterward, visitors receive a free bottle of Ale-8 for the road and can peruse the T-shirts, bottle openers and other drinkware in the gift shop. Several other Kentucky Proud products are available in the shop, such as barbecue sauce, spicy salsa and sweet salsa, which are made with locally grown onions, peppers and sorghum.

In addition to supporting local business, the company participates in annual events like the Winchester Pioneer Festival and the Beer Cheese Festival, though its biggest impact on the community stems from the donations it makes to more than 900 organizations statewide.

Ale-8 also practices a returnable glass bottle policy with longneck bottles that may be returned and reused.