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Around the US in 50 Dishes: The Best Things To Eat in Every State

Eat your way across the US with this insider guide to the top dishes in each and every state.

Pie with American flag design baked into it
Hi, I'm Lauren!

Lauren is a Mexico City–based writer, editor, and translator from Yorkshire with bylines at CNN, BBC Travel, and Al Jazeera. She’s currently working on her first full-length literary translation in between harassing her cat, drinking smuggled Yorkshire Tea, and blogging about Latin American literature at leyendolatam.com.

American cuisine is often pigeonholed into a box that might as well be labeled "diners and drive ins"—think: hamburgers and fries, short stacks of loaded pancakes, and supersized sodas. But there's actually a wealth of culinary treats to uncover the length and breadth of the Land of the Free. From midwestern casserole classics to dishes inspired by the US' immigrant past and present, here are the top 50 dishes—yes, really—that you must try if you find yourself in the U S of A.

Alabama: Fried green tomatoes

"Fried green tomatoes are the signature dish of Alabama," according to Chris Andrews from Bienville Bites Food Tour. Enjoy them topped with sauce, dipped in dressing, or as they come—with just the batter. From eateries located on the white sandy beaches to restaurants in the hills of north Alabama, spots across the state serve up this iconic dish.

Alaska: Salmon

"In Alaska, salmon is king," according to our Fairbanks resident source, whether that's Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, Chum (or “dog”), or Pink salmon. More than a regional dish, salmon is part of the local identity, sustaining communities of both fishermen and grizzly bears through generations. Find it in chowder, sausage, and curry; or smoked, grilled, and "stripped"—a traditional method of preserving long fillets in brine.

Fried green tomatoes from Alabama and Alaskan salmon.
Fried green tomatoes and Alaskan salmon.Photo Credit: Stephanie Frey (L) and Ron Hall (R) / Shutterstock

Arizona: Chimichangas

The chimichanga⁠—a signature dish of Tucson, "the cultural capital of Arizona," per local Nancy Unklesbay⁠—⁠is a deep fried burrito comprised of a meat, cheese, bean, and veggie stuffed flour tortilla. "Topping it with sour cream and guac is optional but recommended," she adds.

Arkansas: Fried dill pickles

Although Arkansas is known for its unique food scene—including possum pie and cheese dip—visitors shouldn’t leave the Natural State without trying those signature fried pickles. Served with ranch dressing or ketchup, these deep-fried dill pickle slices originated in 1963 when Bernell "Fatman" Austin of the Duchess Drive-In battered up his first batch in Atkins, Arkansas.

An Arizonan chimichanga and fried dill pickle slices from Arkansas.
An Arizonan chimichanga and fried dill pickle slices.Photo Credit: OLOZANO (L) and Iryna Pospikh (R) / Shutterstock

California: Burrito

Cali local Danielle Thayer defines the Cali burrito as "a carb-lover's dream—and beloved by everyone from San Diego to San Francisco." Enjoy it stuffed with traditional Mexican carne asada, along with French fries, guacamole, cheese, sour cream, and more.

Colorado: Rocky Mountain oysters

"A hot basket of Rocky Mountain oysters is essential for any Colorado visitor," says former Colorado resident Laurel Steele. Don’t let the name fool you though. This deep-fried and seasoned appetizer is actually made from bull testicles ... and best enjoyed with an ice-cold beer.

A hefty Cali burrito and fried Rocky Mountain oysters from Colorado.
A hefty Cali burrito and fried Rocky Mountain oysters.Photo Credit: xhico (L) and Margaret L Dubbin (R) / Shutterstock

Connecticut: New Haven–style pizza

"Tourists from all over make a point to stop in New Haven to try pizza cooked in the exclusive style," per Connecticut local Mark Watson. Known for its charred thin-crust base baked in coal-fired ovens, several restaurants dishing up this delicious regional favorite have been voted as the best in the country.

Delaware: Scrapple

A cornmeal-fortified pork “meatloaf,” scrapple is a breakfast meat unlike any other, beloved for its crunchy and savory goodness. This peppery treat demands proper preparation and must be sliced thin and crisply fried (preferably in a cast iron pan), before being served with eggs, though debate sizzles over the preferred accompaniment—ketchup, syrup, or apple butter?

New Haven–style pizza from Connecticut and Scrapple served solo in Delaware.
New Haven–style pizza and Scrapple served solo.Photo Credit: Fanfo (L) and Hope Phillips (R) / Shutterstock

Florida: Cuban sandwich

The best thing to try in Florida, particularly on a Little Havana walking tour, is the iconic Cuban sandwich. Made with crunchy, freshly baked Cuban bread, the filling is juicy mojo-marinated pork, savory ham, piquant pickles, oozing melted cheese, and a good smear of tangy yellow mustard. As Robyn Webb of Miami Culinary Tours says: "It's a must when visiting the Sunshine state."

Georgia: Peach cobbler

"In the late summer, everybody’s grandmama has a peach cobbler on her table," says Georgia local Mary Kay McBrayer. For the truly tangy-sweet, juice-running-down-your-chin version, she recommends ordering it in August at any soul food restaurant, diner, or hole-in-the-wall—or trying it at the landmark Paschal’s restaurant in downtown Atlanta.

In Miami, a Cuban sandwich which is classic Florida fare, and peach cobbler and ice cream in Georgia.
Cuban sandwich and peach cobbler and ice cream.Photo Credit: Maridav (L) and Kendra Reeder (R) / Shutterstock

Hawaii: Hawaiian plate lunch

The Hawaiian plate lunch is a quintessential Hawaiian meal that's cheap, filling, and available everywhere, from roadside stalls to diners. "Brazenly carb-heavy," in the opinion of former resident Karen Gardiner, it's comprised of three parts—the protein, which might be a chicken or pork cutlet, or loco moco (hamburger patty topped with a fried egg and gravy); the mayonnaise-based macaroni salad; and two scoops of steaming white rice on the side.

Idaho: Finger steaks

"Hefty slices of sirloin steak that are battered then deep fried, finger steaks are an Idaho classic," notes Idaho enthusiast Jen Rose Smith. And since the potato is Idaho’s state vegetable, it’s only fitting that finger steaks come atop a golden pile of crispy French fries, sometimes with a side of buttery toast. Order like the locals do: with fry sauce—ketchup, mayo, and spices.

Hawaiian plate lunch and Idaho finger steaks.
Hawaiian plate lunch of rice and meat and Idaho finger steaks with fries.Photo Credit: Brannon_Naito (L) and Brent Hofacker (R) / Shutterstock

Illinois: Deep-dish pizza

Former resident Claire Bullen is all about the "hearty, saucy, and unabashedly cheesy" Chicagoan deep-dish pizza, which is the perfect antidote to the region's frigid winters. Her advice? Head to Pequod's for a deep-dish pie with signature caramelized crust, or opt for Nancy's or Giordano's if you want to try an even-deeper-dish variant: stuffed pizza, where the cheese and "toppings" are layered between two sheets of dough, and the sauce is ladled right on top.

Indiana: Sugar cream pie

Nicknamed "Desperation Pie," Indiana's beloved sugar cream pie will satisfy any sweet tooth. In true Hoosier State fashion, the creamy dessert is best (and most authentically) made at home, but Locally Grown Gardens in Indianapolis or Storie's Restaurant in Greenburg will hook you up with the no-egg, deep-dish sweetness, according to writer Jacqueline Kehoe.

Chicago deep-dish pizza in Illinois and sugar cream pie in Indiana.
Chicago deep-dish and sugar cream pie.Photo Credit: Supitcha McAdam (L) and Brent Hofacker (R) / Shutterstock

Iowa: Tenderloin sandwich

"Though Hoosiers may disagree, the tenderloin belongs to Iowa," says Jacqueline Kehoe. It’s here where the sandwich goes by one word; where it’s understood that it’s pork, not beef; where it’s barely a sandwich at all. The bun might as well be a garnish—the slice of breaded and fried pork (served with the standard condiments) has been beaten so thin, it’s the size of your dinner plate.

Kansas: BBQ

Sink your teeth into slow smoked meats or portabello mushrooms covered in sweet and peppery barbecue sauce in Kansas City. As local tour guide Lisa Pena says, this is a dish that dates from the city's 20s and 30s jazz heyday, when local jazz legends fueled their all-night jam sessions with smoked meats. The rest, as they say, is history, and over the decades local pitmasters have been perfecting their secret sauces statewide.

Iowa tenderloin and sticky Kansas BBQ.
Iowa tenderloin and Kansas BBQ.Photo Credit: Paul Orr (L) and Ivana Lalicki (R) / Shutterstock

Kentucky: Kentucky hot brown

Created at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, the decadent open-faced hot turkey sandwich—a variation of the traditional Welsh rarebit—is made with a thick slice of toasted bread topped with sliced turkey, tomato, a creamy mornay sauce, and bacon. While you can still dig into the original, the sandwich can also be found at eateries all around the state, per Kentucky resident Michele Laufik.

Louisiana: Jambalaya

Sometimes known as "rice surprise," the popular Louisiana rice dish jambalaya comes in many forms—red or brown; Creole or Cajun. However, staple ingredients include green bell peppers, long grain rice, chicken, sausage, ham, or seafood, all well seasoned with herbs and spices. As New Orleans tour guide Julie Cavignac says, though: "It's all about how your mama does it."

Kentucky hot brown and Louisiana jambalaya.
Kentucky hot brown sandwiches and Louisiana jambalaya stew, popular across the state.Photo Credit: Brent Hofacker (L) and Philip Stridh (R) / Shutterstock

Maine: Lobster rolls

A few other states might try to claim lobster rolls as their own, but everyone knows Maine lobster is superior. Or at least Maine aficionado Mirela Baric does. While some people prefer the Connecticut version—buttery lobster served on a toasted bun—the classic Maine lobster roll features chunks of lobster meat tossed in mayo and served on a buttered bun.

Maryland: Steamed blue crabs

Nothing says Maryland like a plate of steamed blue crabs freshly plucked from the Chesapeake Bay, served with lashings of Old Bay seasoning and a bucket of Natty Boh beer. "You can barely swing a mallet without hitting a crab house in Maryland," says former resident Karen Gardiner. "But some sure bets are Bo Brooks and Schultz's Crab House in Baltimore, Cantler's Riverside Inn in Annapolis, and Mike's Crab House in Riva."

Maine lobster roll and steamed blue crabs in Maryland.
Maine lobster roll and steamed blue crabs.Photo Credit: Tracey Patterson (L) Robert F. Leahy (R) / Shutterstock

Massachusetts: Clam chowder

Although technically known as clam chowDER, this Mass favorite is more commonly pronounced chowDAH and served near the harBAH. Most local restaurants have their own chowder recipe, but they rarely stray from the classic combination of a milk or cream base, an abundance of clams, and potatoes, according to resident Mirela Baric.

Michigan: Pasty

"Succulent beef, potatoes, rutabaga, onions, and at least half a dozen spices are baked into a golden crescent shaped crust to create the Michigander pasty," says former resident Laurel Steele. "Originating in Cornwall, the portable pie was brought to the Great Lakes State by British miners in the 1800s. Almost exclusively sold in northern Michigan, the best pasties are found in the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) and prepared by resident Yoopers."

Clam chowder in Massachusetts and Michigan pasties.
Clam chowDAH and Michigan pasties.Photo Credit: Cindy Goff (L) and Lulub (R) / Shutterstock

Minnesota: Tater tot hotdish

"Sure, it may not be classy, but one bite of Minnesota's classic tater tot hotdish, and you won't care," says Jacqueline Kehoe. Combining crispy tater tots, ground beef, cheese, onion, and the all-powerful Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, it's comfort food taken to the next level. If you can't convince a local to whip up their family recipe for you, head to somewhere old-school like Minneapolis' Grumpy's Bar & Grill.

Mississippi: Fried catfish

Per Visit Mississippi: "As one of the country’s top catfish producers, Mississippi restaurants proudly serve up mouthwatering fried catfish, with signature sides such as hush puppies and coleslaw." Keen to try fried catfish? They recommend checking out restaurants including Jerry’s Catfish House in Florence and Taylor Grocery in Oxford, who source their catfish from the heart of the Mississippi Delta.

Tater tot hotdish in Minnesota and fried catfish and cornbread in Mississippi.
Tater tot hotdish and fried catfish and cornbread.Photo Credit: Brent Hofacker (L) and Elena Veselova (R) / Shutterstock

Missouri: Gooey butter cake

"First made by accident in a St. Louis bakery in 1930—allegedly—this ooey, gooey treat is typically made from only four ingredients: flour, butter, sugar, and eggs," advises butter cake enthusiast Maggie Bennett. Don’t let its simplicity fool you: butter cake is the perfect combination of rich, sweet, and delicious and you can find it at restaurants and grocers throughout Missouri.

Montana: Bison

"Bison is a staple on most menus in Montana, because the state is home to the largest free roaming herd left in the US," according to local tour guide, Derek Draimin. He recommends enjoying bison short ribs braised in red wine and topped with a Montana huckleberry reduction, served over a bed of Yukon gold mashed potatoes.

Gooey butter cake in Missouri and bison tenderloin in Montana.
Gooey butter cake and bison tenderloin.Photo Credit: Brent Hofacker (L) and ARSTI (R) / Shutterstock

Nebraska: Runza

Eastern European in origin, the runza is a yeast dough sandwich-of-sorts stuffed with cabbage or sauerkraut and steak, which you'll find served in Runza restaurants across the state of Nebraska.

Nevada: Buffets

Buffets are the don't-miss Nevada dish, according to Las Vegas resident Jenny Crossling: "Buffets are just like Las Vegas—extravagant and over-the-top." The Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace is among the best (and biggest) in the city, although most every hotel dishes up their own.

Runza restaurant, Nebraska, and Vegas buffet plate.
Runza restaurant onion rings in Nebraska, and a Las Vegas buffet plate in Nevada.Photo Credit: EWY Media (L) and Usa-Pyon (R) / Shutterstock

New Hampshire: Apple cider donuts

New Hampshire is known for a lot of the typical New England delicacies, but the classic sugared apple cider donut is a particular stand-out. It doesn't hurt that the state is overflowing with apple orchards, either.

New Jersey: Pork roll sandwich

"It’s kinda like bologna or Canadian bacon, but yet nothing like them at all," explains former resident Michele Laufik. Pork roll, the salty-sweet processed meat product (that’s also known as Taylor ham) is made, smoked, packaged, and sold almost exclusively in New Jersey. Typically served with egg and cheese on a roll, the Garden State grub can be found at practically any deli or diner throughout the state.

Apple cider donuts in New Hampshire and New Jersey pork roll.
Apple cider donuts and New Jersey pork roll.Photo Credit: Photo Spirit (L) Ezume Images (R) / Shutterstock

New Mexico: Frito pie

Duran's Pharmacy in Albuquerque, New Mexico is the place to sample the state's comfort food classic—Frito Pie. It's just as it sounds: Frito brand corn chips doused in chile con carne and cheese, although lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, beans, and jalapeños are common additions.

New York: Bagels

Generously rotund, with a perfect balance of crisp and chew (and dozens of schmears to go with), New York bagels really are special—"just ask the locals, who credit the city’s tap water as the secret sauce," says former resident Claire Bullen. Old-school joints such as Russ and Daughters are ever-popular, while relative newcomers including Black Seed are good at hype-baiting—but for the very best, take a trip up the Upper West Side to Absolute Bagels.

Frito pie in New Mexico and New York bagels.
Frito pie and New York bagels.Photo Credit: Brent Hofacker (L) and John A. Anderson (R) / Shutterstock

North Carolina: Krispy Kreme doughnuts

"This one’s a toss-up," for former resident Jacqueline Kehoe. "There’s Cheerwine—a fizzy, non-alcoholic, cherry-flavored soda—made in Salisbury, North Carolina since 1917. Then there are Krispy Kreme doughnuts, founded in Winston-Salem in 1937." So, don't pick; instead, double down and go for a Cheerwine cream–filled Krispy Kreme doughnut. (Fittingly, it’s only available in North Carolina!)

North Dakota: Knoephla soup

With roots in German immigrants from Russia, knoephla soup is "a creamy, buttery soup including dumplings and potatoes typically served with bread," according to North Dakota Tourism. In fact, "the word 'knoephla' comes from the German word 'knopfle' that translates to 'little button.'" Small town diners make some of the best around, including Krolls Diner, Little Cottage in Bismarck, or the Depot Café in Jamestown.

Krispy Kreme doughnuts in North Carolina and knoephla soup in North Dakota.
Krispy Kreme doughnuts and knoephla soup.Photo Credit: Little Adventures / Shutterstock (L) and North Dakota Tourism (R)

Ohio: Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream

The artisanal flavors of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams can now be found in 'scoop shops' and grocery store freezers around the country. But, as former resident Karen Gardiner points out, "when visiting Columbus, Ohio, a visit to the place where it all began is a must." The downtown North Market is where founder Jeni Britton Bauer first set up shop and drew inspiration for such surprising flavors as goat cheese with red cherries and sweet cream biscuits with peach jam.

Oklahoma: Chicken fried steak

"Smothered in skillet or creamy gravy, Oklahoma’s iconic dish is tenderized, breaded, specially seasoned, and deep-fried to perfection daily," according to the tour guides from Alley Kat Adventures. "Pair it with homestyle sides of mashed potatoes, fried okra, or green beans; served in a breakfast biscuit; or atop a cheesy jalapeño potato waffle." You can tuck into this OK classic at nostalgic roadside diners or trendy steakhouses across the state.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream in Ohio and chicken fried steak in Oklahoma.
Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream and chicken fried steak.Photo Credit: Cory Woodruff (L) and Brent Hofacker (R) / Shutterstock

Oregon: Marionberry pie

Developed in the mid–20th century at Oregon State University, the marionberry—a cultivar of the blackberry—is a quintessentially Oregonian fruit; in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find these sweet-and-tangy berries outside of the state. While marionberry jam, sauce, and even vinegar are shelf staples at souvenir stores across Oregon, locals are most likely to enjoy their beloved home-state fruit baked into a pie. "And Willamette Valley Pie makes some of the finest," adds local Margot Bigg.

Pennsylvania: Cheesesteaks

The Philadelphia cheesesteak is a sandwich that’s greater than the sum of its parts; an example of bread, cheese, steak, and onions coming together to form some higher alchemy. And follow former resident Claire Bullen's advice: "There are hundreds of delis and steak joints across the region, but for the best examples, skip tourist traps including Pat’s and Geno’s and head to in-the-know spots such as Angelo’s (a South Philly cult classic) and Woodrow’s (whose homemade truffle cheese whiz takes the cheesesteak to the next level)."

Marionberry pie in Oregon and Philly cheesesteak in Philadelphia.
Marionberry pie and Philly cheesesteak.Photo Credit: Anna Hoychuk (L) and Igor Dutina (R) / Shutterstock

Rhode Island: Stuffies

"A large clamshell filled with clam, linguiça sausage, breadcrumbs, and spices—stuffies are a Rhode Island staple that honor the state's Portuguese fishing community," says resident Alex Maddalena.

South Carolina: Shrimp and grits

"Shrimp and grits is the defining dish of the South Carolina Low Country," according to Charleston tour operators, Bulldog Tours. What started life as a humble 2-ingredient English breakfast has since become a complex, multi-ingredient dish served in restaurants in Charleston and beyond. However, the stars of the dish are always local sweet shrimp and stone-ground grits.

Rhode Island stuffies and shrimp and grits in South Carolina.
Rhode Island stuffies and shrimp and grits.Photo Credit: Ezume Images (L) and Lulub (R) / Shutterstock

South Dakota: Chislic

Everything's better when it’s bite-sized and deep-fried, right? That’s the idea behind South Dakota’s beloved chislic, salted cubes of deep-fried, medium-rare lamb ... or beef or venison, if you’re part of the modern-day chislic revolution. The dish originated in tiny Freeman, and there’s nowhere better to tuck in than at the town’s late-July South Dakota Chislic Festival, according to frequent visitor Jacqueline Kehoe.

Tennessee: Meat and three plate

"Forget about hot chicken, Tennessee's true pride and joy is the meat and three plate," says Tennessee local Isabel Simpson-Kirsch, of the meat-and-three vegetables dish. Although it's a staple across the south, the dish originated in Nashville and it's the perfect way to sample all of the best sides on one plate. "And let it be known that in Tennessee, mac and cheese is considered a vegetable."

Chislic in South Dakota and a Tennessee vegetable.
Chislic and a Tennessee vegetable.Photo Credit: Pixel-Shot (L) and Marie Sonmez Photography (R) / Shutterstock

Texas: Fajitas

Fajitas (strips of grilled skirt steak) are a Tex-Mex fave famously served on sizzlingly hot skillets alongside pepper and onion. You can tuck in with soft flour tortillas and the toppings of choice at Tex-Mex spots across the state, according to Texas resident Beth Shook.

Utah: Dirty soda

"Customizing off-the-shelf soda with creative, non-alcoholic mixers is an art form in Utah, where the resulting “dirty soda” is a state-wide favorite," says Utah enthusiast Jen Rose Smith. Stop by a dirty soda shop (or cruise into a drive-through) to choose from popular add-ins such as flavored syrup, fresh fruits, purees, coconut cream, or half-and-half.

Sizzling fajitas in Texas and homemade dirty soda in Utah.
Sizzling fajitas and homemade dirty soda.Photo Credit: Iren Key (L) and Brent Hofacker (R) / Shutterstock

Vermont: Maple creemees

Vermont is known for its maple syrup ("take several seats, Canada," says Vermont local Christina Brunette) and this love of said liquid gold means it's often added to a few of the region's favorite foods. Enter: the Maplee creemee, a rich and delectably sweet soft-serve ice cream that will have you forgetting all about two gentlemen named Ben and Jerry.

Virginia: Country ham

A dry-cured (then, typically, smoked) ham that's especially popular in Virginia, country ham is best enjoyed in a ham biscuit—a thin slice nestled between two halves of a flaky biscuit, served with condiments such as mustard, jams, or relishes—according to local Fairuz Maggio.

Maple creemee  in Vermont and ham biscuit in Virginia.
Maple creemee and ham biscuit.Photo Credit: lovelypeace (L) and ButtermilkgirlVirginia (R) / Shutterstock

Washington: Alderwood smoked salmon

A treat in the Northwest, Alderwood smoked salmon is Washington's most must-try dish. As per Eat Seattle tour guide Lisa Philpot, preparing salmon in this way "stems back to [Indigenous] methods" involving hot smoke and cedar planks.

West Virginia: Ramps

"Ramps, also known as wild leeks, are native to the state of West Virginia where they are considered a true delicacy," according to the West Virginia Department of Tourism. Blending the taste of onion and garlic, ramps are only briefly in season, but "during the short 'ramp season,' there are many festivals and community dinners held throughout the Mountain State to celebrate this prized ingredient."

Smoked salmon in Washington and ramps in West Virginia.
Smoked salmon and ramps.Photo Credit: CL Shebley (L) and Malachi Jacobs (R) / Shutterstock

Wisconsin: Fish fry

"When Prohibition plugged Milwaukee’s taps, taverns needed to keep those good German Catholics coming in," explains local Jacqueline Kehoe. "Enter: the Friday fish fry, served with potato cakes and a slice of rye bread." The tradition still holds strong today, and Friday fish fries can be found on every corner, although Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery and Kegel’s Inn in West Allis are stalwart stand-outs.

Wyoming: Chili

Wyoming is true cowboy country (and the state mammal is the bison), so it should come as no surprise that the state’s signature dish is chili. "All types of chili are made in Wyoming, from pork and beef to elk and bison, and some chefs even create their own variations of white chili using a cream-and-white-pepper base," says frequent visitor Diana Fleming.

Friday fish fry in Wisconsin and chili in Wyoming.
Friday fish fry and chili.Photo Credit: Jennifer Tepp (L) and Jim Bowie (R) / Shutterstock

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