There is a rich diversity in food preparation throughout the U.S. There are a few foods that predate colonization, and the European colonization of the Americas brought about the introduction of a large number of new ingredients and cooking styles. This variety continued expanding well into the 19th and 20th centuries, proportional to the influx of immigrants from additional foreign nations.
In this article, we will tackle the 33 iconic dishes synonymous with 33 different food-famous cities in the U.S. of A. So, read on!
Who would line up for 3 hours outside an establishment just to get briskets? Oh, well, those who love Franklin BBQ’s totally bonkers brisket. If ever fate brings you to Austin, Texas, and you decide to drop by Franklin’s, be there before 10am for any chance at eating (pro tip: bring beer and a lawn chair), but by the time the Texas Sun has risen to half-past scorching you’ll be at the counter sucking down a sample slice of the most meticulously smoked brisket in the entire world, and the next few minutes will be a blur of meat so moist and candied in fat that you’ll never think of barbecue the same way again.
Big Nasty Biscuit with fried chicken, cheddar, and sausage gravy among others – these are the many things to love at Hominy Grill in Charleston. But but but, you need to try their classic shrimp and grits! They take perfectly cooked cheese grits, and top it with sautéed shrimp, mushrooms, scallions, and salty, porky, crispy bacon! Yum!
The Chicago-style hotdog is no doubt that city’s most indispensable delicacy. And the best corner to grab your Chicago hotdog is at Hot Doug’s. A word of caution tho: YOu will have to wait in line (yeah, that’s how famous it is) but take comfort in the fact that all the critical elements — the steamed natural casing dog, neon relish, the surprisingly hot sport peppers, the fresh tomato slices, the yellow mustard, and the dash of celery salt – will all come together with impeccable balance and precision.
Faidley’s crab cakes have been around since 1886. And they are not your ordinary dainty, puck-shaped appetizers, they are baseball-sized, lumpy balls of fried crabby goodness! Also, you don’t need to go to Baltimore to have a taste of this crabby goodness, they ship frozen versions by mail!
Chef Michael Serpa of Neptune Oyster in Boston, Massachusetts and his crew serve the best oyster and seafoody goodness every day from lunch ‘til close.
Ghetto Burgers, a monstrosity of two patties hand-patted by Miss Ann herself (the owner) and loaded with chili, bacon, cheese, chili, onions, lettuce, and tomato, is a must-try in Atlanta. Resist the temptation to lean on the counter when you’re done (or you’ll be booted), but do feel free to talk about the Ghetto Burger. You won’t be able to help it anyway.
Reindeer sausage from the International House of Hot Dogs in Anchorage is the king of reindeer sausages. They come in a wide variety of toppings from bacon-wrapped to kraut-covered, but patrons of IHHD says you should opt for the chili dog, which packs enough spice to make your nose glow and your stomach grow three sizes. Sounds fun!
The Polish Boy? Hmmm. What’s that? Well, it’s Cleveland’s ‘official’ food. It’s a sausage upgraded with gigantic kielbasa into a bun loaded up with fries and slaw, then dousing it with hot sauce (this boy must be hot). And you can get these Polish boys at Seti’s. Also, Seti’s can load ‘em up with chili and cheese in the event that all that meat and spice wasn’t enough to send you into a coma.
Steuben’s in Denver, Colorado is featured on a popular Guy Fieri show. Now, it has become a tourist trap. Tourists flock at Steuben’s to get their taste of its famous Green Chile Cheeseburger. If you are planning to try it out, patrons suggest that the best time to enjoy it is at after 10pm, when you can get it with a cheap beer and fries for $7.50. The green chiles add a nice bit of heat, the burger’s well-seasoned and delicious, the American cheese is beautifully melty, and the challah bun brings it all together.
The Coney Island at Lafayette in Detroit has nothing to do with New York’s Coney Island (other than being its namesake). It is a ‘dog topped with a bean-less chili, raw onions, and mustard. Another thing that is special with this Coney Island from Lafayette is that it’s using Michigan dogs (the food, not the animal) which are made with real cuts of meat
If you happen to visit Honolulu, Hawaii, don’t forget to try the “salty pork in leafy goodness” of a delicacy they call Lau Lau. In Hawaii, it is tradition for pork and butterfish to be wrapped in taro leaf and ti leaves and cooked in a steamer oven – this is what Lau Lau is. Yama’s Lau Lau stands out for their pork or chicken lau lau, which combines delicious fatty pork with juicy chicken thigh and omits that butterfish.
So there’s this legendary oyster bar where they sell so many damn oysters that they don’t even bother icing them up — they just rip them right out of the bag and serve ‘em. It’s highly advisable though to grab a beer and get their classic namesake dish, in which they roast oysters that have been painted with garlic butter and sprinkled with Parmesan in a oak and pecan wood-fired BBQ pit until they have almost a creme brûlée like crust on top. Oh, God. This is a must-try in Houston, Texas!
Do you believe that a bun is merely circumstantial? That it is a formality without which a sandwhich cannot be called a sandwich? Well, in an old-school diner called Smitty’s, you will find a peculiar sandwich. At Smitty’s they emasculated buns by putting between them around a frisbee-sized hunk of breaded and fried pork tenderloin, which is hammered into a ridiculous portion that dwarfs the poor little bun. Perfectly seasoned, with a crunchy exterior and a juicy, tender interior. They call this “King Loin”.
St. Elmo STeakhouse is known for its fantastic steak. But it is also known for something else — the insane shrimp cocktail, a monolithic mess of five jumbo prawns swimming in a sea of fiery hot sauce and served up in an ice-filled silver chalice.
Yeah, I spelled that right, Jucy Lucy – a sort of cheese-stuffed burger at Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis. And as they say at Matt’s: “If it’s spelled correctly, you’re eating a shameless ripoff.” For 60 years, Matt’s Bar has perfected their delicious, juicy, and flavorful humongous burgers with melted core. They are served extra-extra-hot that servers have to warn patrons to let is cool before they eat it.
Chicken and waffles are said to have originated in Harlem, but you can find the most exquisite of such in Los Angeles, California. The no-frills dish includes half a friggin’ country-fried chicken, served bone-in atop a hot waffle with a shot of maple syrup. At Roscoe’s, just like in any other popular restaurant, there is a line and you’ll surely scald the roof of your mouth when you impatiently chomp into the chicken, but it’s worth it for that decadent mingling of sugar, butter, and grease. Yum-yum!
Miami, Florida, being close to the Caribbean and home to many Cuban exiles, is also a melting pot of American and Havana cuisine. Take Big Montana Cubano sandwich for instance. There are variations throughout the city — Cubans on a stick, Cuban clubs, Cuban clubs served in nightclubs. At Versailles you can feast on a perfectly assembled pile of ham, roast pork, swiss, mustard, and pickles served up on a smooshed baguette that’ll make you wonder how people in Miami can look so good with these suckers on the menu.
There is a debate as to who makes the ultimate and, more importantly, who makes the best burnt ends, those lusted-after chunks of charred ambrosia cut off halfway through the smoking process. For some, Arthur Bryant’s is the original, and still the best; while Oklahoma Joe’s is the runner-up. Arthur Bryant’s serves a limited supply of fatty, charcoaled bliss to the faithful who line up for the taste of the Kansas City original.
Another one of those tourist traps where you have to line up is Rendezvous. But don’t be discouraged! People are willing to line up cause they serve exquisite food! They make the best ribs in Memphis. Served up “Vous-style” — neither wet nor dry, but rather basted in vinegar and dusted in spices — the ribs are served up on the main floor or in the overflow basement.
The Milwaukee Brat House serves pretzel-bunned sausages with huge amounts of beer, plus sides of beer-cheese soup, fried curds, and Bavarian pretzels the size of pizzas. Patrons however, advise: YOU SHOULD GET “Fully Loaded”, which comes with giardiniera, red peppers, mushrooms, and kraut.
Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville, Tennessee prides itself for its uniquely cooked hot chicken – a delicacy people of Nashville love. The key to the unique, hot-fire deliciousness of Prince’s might have something to do with their cooking method, in that they fry up their chicken in cast iron rather than a deep fryer, but it’s also about the “appreciation of the simplicity of the Prince’s experience. No need to mess with sides — just chicken on white bread with pickles.”
Again, be warned: Long line of tourists, again. Well, that’s because Katz’ Delicatessen, which has been around for over 125 years now, is popular for many of its cuisine. And one of which is its Pastrami Sandwich. People have flocked to Katz’s for a taste of its legendary pastrami, which is cut to order and served up in exceedingly large piles on a flimsy piece of bread that never stood a chance against the drippings. Eating the sandwich without dissecting it requires you to unhinge your jaw like a python. So, eat slow. Take your time.
John’s Roast Pork is known for the best Philly Cheesesteak. But do get it with its best tandem – the ridiculously fresh, juicy roasted pork. This recipe gives John’s its name and its sterling reputation since people started lining up at the window in 1930. Score one with sharp provolone on a perfectly baked bun, then retreat to a picnic table and inhale it and your perfect cheesesteak before the juices totally destroy the bun.
The U.S. of A is dotted with many restaurants that specialize in burgers and sandwiches, but Primanti Bros’ in Pittsburgh is worthy of attention. It is a place that has caused serious lockjaw and waistline expansion for the good people of Pittsburgh. No matter what you get — cheese, roast beef, a burger, sweet sausage — your meat of choice comes stuffed between two thick cuts of Italian bread and topped with fries and a tangy coleslaw that adds a blast of cold to the hot meat (add an egg, it’s worth it).
Chislic is a staple in Sioux Falls- marinated beef chunks that are deep-fried and skewered with a toothpick – and not just a terrible misspelling of the name of the dude from The Shield. It is the perfect balance of tender and tough. And you can get the best of chislic from Acoustic.
Central Grocery’s Muffuletta is a handiwork of a Sicilian immigrant who, in the early 1920s, got tired of all the Cajun stuff and fired out a dense bread stuffed with layered olive relish, mozzarella, ham, salami, and cheese. The authenticity of this food is a tourist trap. The huge line of locals and tourists waiting to get one at the small Italian market in the French Quarter will gladly tell you why as you wait.
Portland, Oregon is known for its innovative cuisine. One example is Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce. It is a Vietnamese-inspired wing at the Thai street-food mecca which tastes unlike anything you’ve ever had, a sweet, garlicky, fishy piece of perfection that spawned a bi-coastal mini-empire for Pok Pok. You might think they’re even glowing when you get them… but that’s just the coat of caramelized sauce on top of the fried skin. You will soon be wearing this, and you will love it.
When you visit San Diego, don’t forget to try Oscar’s smoked fish taco – the best fish taco in the city. Try the surf and turf or the smoked fish version, which comes with shredded cabbage, cilantro, diced tomatoes, onion, and avocado, but isn’t perfect until you cover that sucker with their creamy chipotle sauce.
Who serves the best burrito in San Francisco? Two spots usually come to mind: El Farolito and La Taqueria. However, our friends in the U.S. and A says that La Taqueria has the edge over El Farolito for two major reasons: 1) La Taqueria don’t overstuff with rice, and 2) patrons claim that their carnitas is the best carnitas in world. It’s advised that you take La Taqueria carnitas and mix it with guac, salty soft beans, cooling sour cream, melty cheese, and just the right amount of that green salsa on the table. It’s guaranteed perfection.
In Santa Fe, New Mexico, there is a Tune-Up Cade that is like the Rainbow Coalition of sauces, soaking its Tex-Mex style enchiladas in both to make a Christmas-style commingling of sauces that gives you the best of both spicy worlds. Score your enchilada with a side of red chile-coated candy bacon and you’ve got one of the best one-two chili punches since a fight broke out in TLC’s dressing room.
They say that when you are in Seattle, you’ve gotta eat fish. And where is the best place to eat special fish delicacies in Seattle? Well, at Etta’s, you can watch the fishmongers toss your dinner around at Pike Place before sitting down for the joint’s specialty, which is hit with the restaurant’s signature spice rub (and, well, some love), grilled to perfection, and served up with cornbread pudding and shiitake mushrooms.
Charlie Gitto in St. Louis, Missouri is renowned for its toasted ravioli, a fancy cousin to the mozzarella stick that’s filled with either cheese or meat (or both), breaded and deep fried.
The half-smoke is common in Washington, DC. And the most beloved is that of Ben’s Chili Bowl. Ben’s Chili Bowl opened its doors in 1958, and since then it has become an oasis for bipartisan gluttony in the Shaw neighborhood. Basically like a hot dog on HGH, the spicy beef or pork half-smoke here comes covered in Ben’s namesake chili, plus mustard and raw onions. It’s actually named after Bill Cosby on the menu, since the comedian’s been spilling chili on his sweaters since the ’60s.