The history of cornbread, the bread most native to American soil, stretches all the way back to the Aztecs and Mayans, who used corn for tortilla and tamales. But, the version of cornbread most of us are familiar with actually originated with Native Americans in the South.
Cornbread was born from necessity as growing wheat was difficult in the South, and wheat flour was a luxury item, as it would quickly go bad in the heat. The sturdy corn grain, which had been used by natives to make a thick meal, was emulated by poor colonists. They would create a mixture of cornmeal and water that was baked on the hearth for sustenance. And, of course, they then started looking for ways to make it taste better, by adding bacon drippings and butter.
The caky, sweeter version most of us know came later, according to Serious Eats. As technology evolved, processing cornmeal evolved from stone mills to steel roller mills in the early 20th century, and it changed the composition of the cornmeal, reducing the particle size. To adapt, sugar, wheat flour, and baking soda were added to make the more cake-like bread we enjoy today.
Since then, the popularity of cornbread has never waned, whether made from scratch, or from that trusty Jiffy box, it's a family favorite. For those times you don't feel like baking, you're on the run or just having a craving, there are plenty of fast-food spots, barbecue restaurants, and family-style restaurants around the U.S. serving the treat. Here are a few of the best.
The go-to spot for a fast, hearty homestyle meal, Boston Market operates in over 300 locations around the U.S. and all of them offer an adorable cornbread loaf as a side to the restaurant's plated meals. You can also order a side of this simple, sweet loaf, if you're looking to dine on cornbread alone.
The popular fried chicken chain is probably where many head when they need a cornbread fix. With over 3,000 locations, it sometimes seems like there's a Chick-fil-A on every corner. This sweet treat is served muffin style, which makes it easy to munch while on the go.
You had to know there would be a few great barbecue spots on this list, because not much pairs better than cornbread with good 'cue. With locations in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin, City Barbecue is serving up generous portions of both. You can get a piece of its scratch-made cornbread as a side, or order a baker's dozen to take home.
This barbecue chain has over 150 locations all over the Midwest, and you can get a cornbread muffin as a side to an indulgent platter of barbecue meats at any one of them. This sweet little round of bread is also available as a standalone item, but you really ought to mop up your sauce with it.
Another national chain with hundreds of locations, this down-home restaurant with porch rockers out front serves up many southern-style comfort-food classics like country fried steak and Mac 'n' cheese, many of which pair well with a side of cornbread. The chain's cornbread is so popular that the restaurant sells boxes of the mix right in its famous country store.
This casual bar and grill focuses on great barbecue and fire-grilled favorites like ribeye and salmon. Among the many sides you can pair with these dishes is cornbread. Each order comes with four pieces, so you can share or enjoy all by yourself, along with sweet pecan butter.
This small, Florida based chain (with one location in Pennsylvania!) makes the most poppable version of cornbread we've seen. Their corn nuggets are served as a shareable starter by the basket. Crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside, these nuggs a true crowd pleaser.
The Smoke Shop
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This New England-based barbecue chain—yes, you can get great 'cue in Boston—knocks it out of the park with a fresh-baked slice of cornbread that's glazed with sea salt honey butter.
Cornbread Farm to Soul
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This emerging chain has cornbread in its actual name, so you know the bread is going to be amazing. Hit up the New Jersey and New York locations for made-from-scratch cornbread, along with fried chicken and fried fish meals.