I am originally from Summit, New Jersey, but I am currently living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina as a student at Wake Forest University. As a born and bred northerner, there was definitely a culture shock in terms of the differences that appear in southern food. After living in the south for over half of a year, I have discovered many humorous and helpful tips about how to navigate eating southern food as a northerner.

1. Don't Swim in Your Salad

parsley, herb, salad, vegetable, broccoli
Elizabeth Layman

In my experience, you should always order your salad dressing on the side because southerners really love to dump it on.

While this may not seem like a big deal, I have never really had to worry about ordering my salad dressing on the side before. So, when I ordered a salad from a southern menu, I was pretty shocked to see a huge pool of oil at the bottom of my plate. Southerners really like extra flavor and are not worried about making salads less healthy with their dressing. 

2. It Ain't Cooked If It Ain't Fried

fish, chicken
Hannah Rote

I have found this stereotypical phrase to be quite true. One time I was ordering pasta, and I asked if I could add chicken to the dish. The waitress said yes, but then asked me if I would the chicken to be fried or grilled. Coming from the North, I never even considered even this option. I mean you definitely don't find a lot of fried food at Italian restaurants in the North. Chances are you will see fried chicken every where, and as an optional topping. 

3. Toast It 

In terms of bagels, do not even try to eat them without toasting them first. I definitely sound like an obnoxious northerner when I say that there is nothing quite like New York/New Jersey bagels. Southerners love their Einstein bagels on the weekends, and they really think they are the same as northern bagels. However, the taste, texture, and quality are completely different in the south, so as a northerner, I usually avoid bagels or toast them when necessary. 

4. If You Didn't Like Baked Beans, You Will Now

meat, vegetable, soup
Allison Curley

This is a typical southern comfort food that I can pretty much guarantee you will see on many menus as a side or in a southern campus dining hall. Almost every single night at the Wake Forest University dining hall, there is a pot full of baked beans. It is a pretty healthy option that you will always have, and that you will probably end up eating a lot of the time.

5. "Cookout," Does Not Mean They Want to Barbecue With You

You will always here someone talking about when they "went to Cookout," but this does not mean what most northerners might think. Cookout is a destination, not an event. It is like a southern McDonald's, only better. The milkshakes are better than Chick-fil-A in addition to their burgers, corn dogs, and other barbecue classics. It is the perfect pit stop for college kids because it is really cheap, and has really delicious, yet healthy food that people crave after midnight on the weekends. 

6. Beggin' For Bacon

If you like bacon, then the south is going to be your best friend because you can pretty much add it to any meal. I have seen it in the dining hall pretty much every morning for breakfast, and as a topping for mac n cheese, salads, and burgers. The south loves their bacon, especially when paired with cheddar cheese. 

7. Pizza, Pizza, Pizza

Pizza is a dorm life must, but you can probably guess that your pizza meal will either be Dominos, Little Caesars, or Papa John's. Southern pizza is way more chewy and thick than New York styled pizza. Again, like bagels, you really cannot compare or replace the two. 

8. Biscuit Breakfast

flour, pastry, sweet, scone, dough, bread, biscuits
Virginia Dodenhoff

This is the most popular breakfast food down south, and don't forget to add the gravy. Every single morning at our dining hall, there is a big basket of biscuits right next to a huge pot of gravy. When you look around, pretty much everyone is eating them too. There are also restaurants dedicated to biscuits down south like Biscuitville and Popeyes, where you can munch on this breakfast food during pretty much all hours of the day. 

9. International Cuisine?

The Chinese food, Thai food, and other foreign cuisines definitely taste different in the south. Coming from an area close to New York city, no international food will ever taste as good. But it's not only that because the menus are also just completely different. A lot of Chinese restaurants in the south don't have General Tso's Chicken or dumplings, which I found to be really surprising. Also, when eating Thai food, you can definitely taste more southern spice than Asian spice. 

10. Have No Fear

If you are feeling homesick, hit up a Panera Bread or a Starbucks, especially at Wake Forest, because those are the best food destinations that will taste exactly the same wherever you go. While unique restaurants are more fun and interesting to the area, chains are a great way to feel at home because they will never taste different, regardless of state or region.