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Eating Across America: Must-Eat Foods In All 50 States

Some people travel far and wide for a taste of regional dishes. From burritos in California to lobster in Maine, there’s no better way to get the lay of the land than by chowing down on the regional speciality.

Must-Eat Foods

For the very best in every state, this handy guide of must-eat foods will help steer you, and your stomach, in the right direction.

Alabama: Fried Green Tomatoes

The Southern dish of fresh green tomatoes fried in cornmeal went mainstream when the novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café became a hit movie. Visit the original Whistle Stop Cafe (Irondale Cafe) and chow down on a plate of you own.

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Alaska: King Crab Legs

For the best King Crab Legs stop by Tracy’s King Crab Shack in Juneau where the slogan “Best Legs In Town” isn’t an exaggeration. Try them doused in butter, in a creamy crab bisque, or blended and fried as a tasty little crab cake.

Arizona: Chimichangas

Must-Eat Foods

Rumor has it that these deep-fried, meat-filled tortillas were invented in Tucson after a cook accidentally dropped a burrito into the fryer at a local restaurant called Mayco’s. Visit one of their locations and try the accidental dish for yourself.

Arkansas: Cheese Dip

Whether you like your cheese dip Mexican or BBQ style, Arkansas has got it covered. Follow the Cheese Dip Trail and try them all.

California: Mission Style Burritos

Made famous in the Mission district of San Fransisco, this massive burrito is known for its giant size. One of the best places to get yourself a beast of a burrito is at Taqueria Cancun on Mission Street in San Fransisco.

Colorado: Denver Omelet

As the self-proclaimed “Home of the Denver Omelet”, you can’t go wrong at the Delectable Egg where they serve up fluffy, farm fresh eggs filled with ham, peppers, onions, and cheese.

Connecticut: New Haven Pizza

Must-Eat Foods

Super thin crust pizza charred crisp in a coal fired-oven and served up piping hot. If you really want to eat like a local, try the white clam pizza that originated at the now famous, and always busy, Frank Pepe’s.

Delaware: Vinegar Fries

Sliced potatoes soaked in vinegar, refrigerated and then fried to golden perfection. For the original be sure to visit Thrasher’s on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk.

Florida: Key Lime Pie

What could be better than a sweet and tangy custard in a crisp crust topped with a perfect layer of meringue? From Ma’s Fish Camp in Islamorada, to Derek’s Bake Shop in Miami, this iconic pie is easy to find and even easier to eat.

Georgia: Chicken and Waffles

Must-Eat Foods
Arnold Gatilao/
Chicken and Waffles by Arnold Gatilao is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This perfect combination of sweet and savory can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Treat yourself to a heaping plate at Gladys Knight’s Chicken & Waffles in the Atlanta area.

Hawaii: Kalua Pork

A succulent pork shoulder rubbed with sea salt, wrapped in ti leaves, and slow cooked for hours. Find yourself a Luau and enjoy this delicacy with a side of Taro bread and fresh Poke.

Idaho: The Mighty Potato

You can boil them, mash them, serve them au gratin, puree them into a creamy chowder, or slice them up and fry them! Visit the Boise Fry Company where they have perfected the crispy fried treat.

Illinois: Deep Dish Pizza

With its thick crust, reverse order toppings (cheese on the bottom, sauce on top), and not-for-the-faint-of-heart serving size, this hearty dish is a must have when visiting Illinois. Head on over to Pequod’s Pizza in Lincoln Park for a thick slice of cheesy goodness.

Indiana: Sugar Cream Pie

Must-Eat Foods

A simple pie made with sugar, heavy cream, vanilla, and cinnamon. The next time you’re in Indiana get yourself a slice at Mrs. Wick’s Pies in Winchester.

Iowa: Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

For the very best visit the Augusta Restaurant where you’ll find a giant serving of pork tenderloin, pounded thin, battered, and served on a bun with house made pickles.

Kansas: Cinnamon Rolls

They don’t call this part of the country the Bread Basket for nothing. Pick up a sack of these yeasty, sticky, cinnamon crusted rolls at Stroud’s.

Kentucky: Kentucky Hot Brown

Must-Eat Foods
Jessica Dillree/

First served at the Brown Hotel in Louisville in 1926, and still considered the best place to get yourself the famous open faced turkey sandwich topped with bacon and smothered in a creamy mornay sauce.

Louisiana: Gumbo

For over a century, Galatorie’s in New Orleans has been serving up classic french-creole recipes including multiple versions of the thick spicy stew called gumbo.

Maine: Lobster Rolls

Maine lobster roll (Image: Shutterstock)
Maine lobster roll (Image: Shutterstock)

Everywhere from gas station delis, to posh Portland restaurants serves up these famous sandwiches of chilled lobster meat inside a buttered, grilled hot dog bun. Whether you prefer it with just butter, or a smear of mayo and topped with celery, you will find it in Maine.

Maryland: Crab Cakes

Must-Eat Foods
Richard Fraley/

Take a stroll through the Faidley Seafood Market and indulge in a jumbo patty of lump crab mixed with a tasty filling and cooked golden brown.

Massachusetts: Clam Chowder

Head on over to the Chatham Pier Market for a steaming hot bowl of thick, creamy stew filled with potatoes, plenty of fresh clams, and topped with bacon

Michigan: The Pasty

Traditionally a Cornish-style handheld pie filled with beef and potatoes, today Pasties are made with every filling imaginable. The best way to try them all? Attend the Pasty Fest held in Calumat every June.

Minnesota: Juicy Lucy Burger

Must-Eat Foods
Kim, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Picture this: a ground beef patty stuffed with gooey cheese that oozes out with every bite. This is the Juicy Lucy. Two Minneapolis bars claim to be the inventors of the sandwich (Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club). In the name of research you should probably try both.

Mississippi: Mississippi Mud Pie

This decadent dessert with its layers of chocolate cookie crust, rich chocolate cake, and chocolate pudding finished off with whipped cream, is a chocolate lover’s dream. Satisfy your craving at the down home roadside joint, Doe’s Eat Place.

Missouri: Ribs

The next time you find yourself in Kansas City, MO do yourself a favor and visit Arthur Bryant’s for a plate of thick cut ribs cooked low and slow and slathered in sauce — Kansas City style.

Montana: Bison Burger

Billed as a sweeter, lower fat alternative to beef, the bison burger is abundant around Montana. For a juicy half pound buffalo burger grilled to perfection, stop by The Corral Bar.

Nebraska: Corn

Must-Eat Foods

Corn abounds in Nebraska, and the best place to enjoy this sweet starch is at Doc and Eddie’s BBQ in Omaha where you can eat it on the cob, in a fritter, or blended into a sweet slice of corn bread.

Nevada: Shrimp Cocktail

Rumor has it that the fist shrimp cocktail was served in 1959 at the Golden Gate Casino. The Las Vegas casino is still serving up this classic seafood-in-a-glass appetizer today.

New Hampshire: Pumpkins

Sure you could carve them up in to scary faces, or you could get a taste of this autumn treat at Just Like Mom’s Pastries where they bake up a mean pumpkin whoopee pie, pumpkin pecan pie, apple pumpkin strudel, and of course, traditional pumpkin pie.

New Jersey: Pork Roll

A traditional spiced and smoked pork product sliced thin and served on a breakfast sandwich with egg and cheese. Word on the street is that Frank’s in Asbury Park has the very best.

New Mexico: Hatch Chilies

basket of Hatch green chiles
basket of Hatch green chiles (Image: Shutterstock)

Sometimes mild, sometimes hot, and always robust in flavor, these locally grown peppers are fire-roasted and served over everything from enchiladas to burgers. Stop at The Pantry in Santa Fe and order up a plate of “Christmas style” enchiladas served with both red and green chili sauce.

New York: Buffalo Wings

Enjoy a heaping plate of deep-fried, un-breaded chicken wings slathered in a spicy sauce at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo where the original Buffalo wing was invented.

North Carolina: BBQ Pork Sandwich

North Carolina BBQ is all about succulent, slow-cooked pork that is chopped or shredded and then smothered in sauce. Choose from either the sweet, ketchup infused Western-style sauce, or the tangy vinegar and pepper based Eastern Style.

North Dakota: Knoephla

It gets cold in North Dakota, which explains the popularity of the German inspired Knoephla soup filled with potatoes and dumplings. Stop in at one of the four Kroll’s Diner locations for a big bowl of warmth the next time you find yourself in the frozen north.

Ohio: Cincinnati Chili

Bowl of chili (Image: Shutterstock)
Bowl of chili (Image: Shutterstock)

For an experience like no other head on over to Skyline for a plate of thick chili spiced with cinnamon and cloves and spooned over spaghetti, then covered with kidney beans, diced onions, and grated cheddar cheese.

Oklahoma: Chicken Fried Steak

It doesn’t get much more Oklahoma than a tenderized steak coated in flour, fried, and smothered in a thick gravy. Visit Tally’s Cafe in Tulsa for a plate of their world famous Chicken Fried Steak.

Oregon: Hazelnuts

Bet you didn’t know that Oregon produces 99% of the U.S. hazelnut crop. For a taste of this sweet and meaty nut visit Ken’s Artisan Bakery in Portland and pick up a variety of hazelnut baked good including pond cake, croissants, and butter cookies.

Pennsylvania: Philly Cheesesteak

Must-Eat Foods
Kimberly V/
Pat’s King of Steaks Philly Cheesesteak by Kimberly Vardeman is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Making its debut in Philadelphia during the 1930s, the famous cheesesteak is now beloved by many. While it’s nearly impossible to choose just one cheesesteak joint, many agree that the best come from either Geno’s or Pat’s.

Rhode Island: Johnny Cakes

At The Commons Lunch in Little Compton order up a heaping plate of these cornmeal based breakfast cakes slathered in melted butter and dripping with maple syrup.

South Carolina: Shrimp and Grits

You can find shrimp and grits all over South Carolina, but for some of the best check out the Hominy Grill in Charleston where they serve them topped with bacon and scallions.

South Dakota: Kuchen

Sample a slice of this tasty cake with fruit or custard filling at the annual Kuchen Festival, or head on over to the Eureka Kuchen Factory where they bake numerous styles of the official state dessert.

Tennessee: Hot Chicken

Must-Eat Foods
Jeffrey W./
Mmm… hot wings by jeffreyw is licensed under CC BY 2.0

If chicken coated in a spicy paste and fried to perfection gets your taste buds working, then a visit to 400 Degrees Hot Chicken in Nashville is a must.

Texas: Brisket

BBQ is king in Texas, and when it comes to true Texas BBQ nothing beats the brisket at Franklin Barbecue in Austin. Sure, you’ll have to wait in line for most of the day, but that only gives you more time to build up an appetite.

Utah: Pastrami Burger

Steve's Been There
Steve’s Been There

The state snack of Utah might be JELL-O, but the famously meaty Pastrami burger served at Crown Burgers in Salt Lake City win for taste and innovation.

Vermont: Maple Syrup

Must-Eat Foods
Raffi Asdourian/
Vermont Maple Syrup by Raffi Asdourian is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Try this sweet, sticky nectar on everything from pancakes to ice cream. For all things Maple visit Dakin Farm and pick up a variety of maple infused products like sausage, barbecue sauce, and so much more.

Virginia: Ham Biscuits

Take a trip to Padow’s Hams & Deli in Richmond and order up a sandwich filled with thick slices of salty, smoked to perfection Virginia ham between two fluffy biscuits.

Washington: Cedar Plank Salmon

Salmon is prevalent around the Pacific Northwest, but no state does it better than Washington, where it’s roasted atop a fragrant cedar wood plank for a rich smokey finish. For the best fresh cedar plank salmon visit Chinook’s in Seattle.

West Virginia: Pepperoni Roll

Must-Eat Foods
Jennifer Murch

While these meat and cheese filled rolls can be found in nearly any convenience store around the state, for a sack of a dozen the Country Club Bakery in Fairmont is the place to go.

Wisconsin: Bratwurst
User:Jarlhelm, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Get your fill of this Wisconsin classic at the Charcoal Inn where they serve up the Double Brat Sandwich with two bratwursts piled high with onions, pickles and all the fixin’s.

Wyoming: Beef Jerky

Beef jerky can be found in nearly every gas station, general store and road side shack across the state. For some of the best visit Cowboy Jerky in Rock Springs where they have 10 flavors to choose from.