Must-Eat Food in Every State

Must-Eat Food in Every State

BY Matt Meltzer | April 10, 2024

We can scream until we’re blue in the face about natural beauty and college football teams, but nothing solidifies a state’s identity quite like its food. A homegrown dish is the one thing a local can point to and say, “We do that here better than anywhere else.” Better might refer to the dining experience — just ask anyone who has had a lobster roll within earshot of the ocean in Maine — or it might refer to a local ingredient that’s hard to come by anywhere else, like moose liver in Alaska. And while some of these regional foods have gained popularity nationwide, they always taste best in the place they come from. Whatever state you find yourself exploring, here are the foods you need to try.


Barbecue with white sauce

Where to get it: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, Decatur

Photo courtesy of Jamie Newman | CC BY 2.0

While barbecue is frequently associated with tomato- or vinegar-based sauces, Alabama’s white sauce sets barbecue here apart. This creamy concoction of mayonnaise, vinegar and a blend of spices provides a delicious twist to the Southern barbecue tradition. Don’t expect to find it down on the beaches near Gulf Shores or even in Birmingham or Montgomery; white sauce barbecue is very much a North Alabama thing, most prevalent around Huntsville. The quintessential spot to try it is Big Bob Gibson’s in Decatur, slathered on ribs, pulled pork or grilled chicken.


Moose foie gras

Where to get it: Altura Bistro, Anchorage

Salmon is pretty fantastic in Alaska. Restaurants in Seattle, and a lot of other places, have Alaskan salmon in abundance. You know what they don’t have? Moose foie gras, which is exactly what it sounds like. Taking advantage of the rich, buttery liver of local game, this traditional French dish delivers a distinctively wild flavor profile that has the same rugged quality as the Alaska terrain. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of delicacy. Experience it at Anchorage’s Altura Bistro.


Sonoran hot dog

Where to get it: El Guero Canelo, Tucson

Photo courtesy of Kate C Hopkins | CC BY 2.0

Not many hot dogs can claim they’ve won a James Beard Award, but the Mexican American food cart snack nabbed El Guero Canelo an American Classics Award back in 2018, immediately turning the unassuming hot dog shop into a national culinary landmark. You’ll find a few varieties of dog on the menu, but best to stick with the classic, topped with pinto beans, pico de gallo, jalapeños, mustard and mayo in a warm bolillo roll.


Fried pickles

Where to get it: Gus’s Fried Chicken, Multiple locations

Photo courtesy of Benimoto | CC BY 2.0

Fried pickles are as much a staple on Southern menus as shrimp and grits and hush puppies. They got their start in Atkins, Ark., the self-proclaimed pickle capital of the world. And while the origin story is ambiguous at best, they were popularized by Bill “Fatman” Austin, owner of the Duchess Drive-In, who sold them for 15 cents a bag starting in 1963. Now, the combination of a crispy, seasoned coating and the unmistakable snap of the pickle is an Arkansas classic. 


Mission-style burritos

Where to get it: El Faro, San Francisco

Mission burrito – Mexican cuisine is very popular in San Francisco

California’s Mission-style burritos embody the fusion of Mexican and American flavors in the Golden State, creating a delicious and portable feast that has gained popularity far beyond the state’s borders. Characterized by their substantial size and healthy servings of Mexican rice, beans and salsa, they got their start in San Francisco’s Mission District, where you’ll still find a slew of shops. People will debate who slings the best burrito, but the ones from El Faro never fail to impress.


Rocky Mountain cookies

Where to get it: Mary’s Mountain Cookies, Multiple locations

Photo courtesy of Ralph Daily | CC BY 2.0

Colorado is often celebrated for its breathtaking mountains, but they aren’t the state’s only Rocky Mountain treat. Rocky Mountain cookies are food born from the region’s outdoor spirit and appreciation for hearty flavors. Various mix-ins, like oats, nuts and chocolate chips, give the cookies a texture reminiscent of the mountainous terrain. 


White clam pizza

Where to get it: Frank Pepe, New Haven

Photo courtesy of Ed Schipul | CC BY-SA 2.0

New Haven pizza can be polarizing. The wood-oven pies skew on the charred side, and the unfamiliar may send them back for being overcooked. But when in Connecticut, do like the locals and try “abeetz” at any number of shops in New Haven’s flavorful Little Italy, though Frank Pepe is one of the OGs. The tomato pie is a great choice if you’re not into seafood on your pizza, but New Haven’s most famous creation is the white clam pie, topped with fresh clams, garlic, Pecorino Romano and olive oil.



Where to get it: Apple Scrapple Festival, Bridgeville

Photo courtesy of WordRidden | CC BY 2.0

Do you enjoy miscellaneous pork parts ground up, delightfully seasoned and thrown on a roll or served next to eggs? Then you’re going to love dining in Delaware, where scrapple, a ground-up pork loaf, is a regular on menus across the state. Dogfish Head Brewing — the state’s most famous brewery — even made a beer out of the stuff a few years back. And every fall the Apple Scrapple Festival has local restaurants showcasing their takes on scrapple, plus a pageant and contests to see who can throw scrapple the furthest.


Pub sub

Where to get it: Publix, Multiple locations

Photo courtesy of Phillip Pessar | CC BY 2.0

It would be easy to go with Key lime pie or a stone crab claw here. But much like South Beach and Disney World, those are really for tourists. Real alligator-walking, Medicare-defrauding Floridians live and die by the Pub sub, a grocery store sandwich that Sunshine Staters will swear is better than any sandwich in the world. Why, exactly, they can’t explain. But order the iconic Publix chicken tender sub with crispy chicken tenders and a boatload of vegetables, and you may start understanding why it’s a statewide obsession.


Peach cobbler

Where to get it: Mary Mac’s Tea Room, Atlanta

Photo courtesy of Ralph Daily | CC BY 2.0

Served warm and accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice cream, Georgia’s peach cobbler is the quintessential comforting flavor of Southern hospitality. Each spoonful of pie from Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Atlanta delivers a taste of culinary traditions and sunny orchards that make the Peach State synonymous with this succulent, sweet indulgence. 



Where to get it: Pork Tamago Onigiri, Waikiki

Photo courtesy of Ewen Roberts | CC BY 2.0

Hawaii’s favorite on-the-go food dates back to World War II, when soldiers stationed on the islands began experimenting with more interesting ways to enjoy their SPAM rations. They added canned pork to onigiri — a Japanese rice ball popular in Hawaii — and musubi was born. Today, you’ll find it everywhere from gas stations to the ever-present ABC stores. And if you hit the annual Spam Jam in Waikiki you can try dozens of versions of it throughout the festival


Finger steaks

Where to get it: Trudy’s Kitchen, Idaho City

Homemade Deep Fried Idaho Finger Steaks with Fries

Chicken fingers have a massive cult following across the country. But finger steaks? Those are pretty exclusive to Idaho, where they apply the same process of seasoning, dredging and deep-frying to a thin-cut slice of sirloin. The result is a richer, more savory take on the fried-meat-strip concept that Idahoans will say is far more emblematic of the state than any baked potato.


Deep dish

Where to get it: Lou Malnati’s, Multiple locations

Photo courtesy of Marco Verch | CC BY 2.0

We know, Chicagoans: “Only tourists eat deep-dish pizza.” And locals treat it much like the observation deck at the Willis Tower: only going when they’ve got people in town. But the pizza is as associated with the Windy City as the Blues Brothers and the Cubbies, a gooey mozzarella-and-chunky-tomato-sauce dream. Since it’s a must-try, opt to get yours from Lou Malnati’s, a place steeped in historical significance that locals will say is the best…if they have to pick.


Smash burger

Where to get it: Workingman’s Friend, Indianapolis

Photo courtesy of Bex Walton | CC BY 2.0

Indiana’s smash burgers are a testament to simplicity. A ground beef patty skillfully smashed on a scalding flat grill achieves a perfect balance of crispy, caramelized edges and a juicy, tender center. They’re best enjoyed at Workingman’s Friend in Indianapolis, where quality ingredients and skillful preparation come together to create a delicious and timeless classic.



Where to get it: The Iowa Chop House, Iowa City

Photo courtesy of Stu Spivack | CC BY-SA 2.0

Don’t you dare confuse this inch-thick cut of pork loin with a simple pork chop. This porterhouse-like chop was a key part of women’s history in Iowa, advanced by a group of female farmers known as the The Porkettes in the 1970s. Their tireless volunteer marketing effort was the first large-scale women-led contribution to the state’s essential agricultural industry. The “Hop on the top with an Iowa Chop” campaign ultimately landed the Iowa Chop on the U.S. House of Representatives menu, and has become a mainstay in restaurants statewide. 


Bowl and a roll

Where to get it: Carriage Crossing Restaurant & Bakery, Yoder

Photo courtesy of Basheer Tome | CC BY 2.0

What, you didn’t grow up having chili and a cinnamon roll for lunch every Friday? Your loss, because kids in Kansas — and much of the Midwest — did. In addition to cafeterias, you’ll find this surprising combination in diners throughout the Plains region, but it has become symbolic of the Sunflower State in particular. When in Kansas, try this iconic duo at Carriage Crossing Restaurant & Bakery in Yoder, one of the first restaurants to incorporate the pairing as a regular menu item.


Hot Brown

Where to get it: J. Graham’s Cafe at The Brown Hotel, Louisville 

Homemade Baked Kentucky Hot Brown with Bacon Chicken and Cream Sauce

The Hot Brown, invented and still served today at the historic Brown Hotel in Louisville, consists of layers upon layers of sliced turkey and smoky bacon, smothered in a rich Mornay sauce and broiled to a golden, bubbling excellence. The nearly 100-year-old recipe is essential for anyone seeking a taste of Kentucky’s gastronomic heritage.



Where to get them: Café du Monde, New Orleans

Photo courtesy of Travis Wise | CC BY 2.0

These airy, deep-fried pastries, generously dusted with powdered sugar, have become a beloved insignia of Louisiana’s culture. Tourists and locals brave stifling humidity to wait in line for them at the legendary Café du Monde along the Mississippi River in New Orleans. You can find beignets that are just as delicious at local eateries across the state, including a much less busy Café du Monde outpost right in New Orleans’ City Park.


Lobster roll

Where to get it: Bob’s Clam Hut, Kittery

Photo courtesy amanderson2 | CC BY 2.0

The lobster roll is a coastal delicacy that takes the unrivaled taste of Maine lobster meat, lightly dressed in mayonnaise and cradles it in a browned buttered roll. This is a classic dish up and down the Northeastern coast, but the sandwich from Bob’s Clam Hut in Kittery, Maine, is the essence of a New England summer.


Crabs with Old Bay

Where to get it: Bo Brooks, Baltimore

Photo courtesy of vishpool | CC BY 2.0

Really, you could just put Old Bay on anything and it would be a quintessential Maryland meal, as locals have been known to use the savory spice in everything from cocktails to ice cream. However, the best way to enjoy it is with a big plate of boiled crab, preferably devoured while feeling a soft breeze off the Chesapeake Bay or Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.


New England clam chowder

Where to get it: Union Oyster House, Boston

Photo courtesy of Jen | CC BY 2.0

This food is so synonymous with Massachusetts that it’s impossible to say it without hearing the local accent. “Clam chow-dah” is a Bay State staple that traces its roots back to the pilgrims, who added the quahog to their traditional milk-based soups. Though it spawned a tomato-based variation in Manhattan, New Englanders trumpet their chowder’s superiority with a pride usually reserved for the Red Sox — another name that’s hard to say without the accent.


Coney Dog

Where to get it: American Coney Island, Detroit

Photo courtesy of Mack Male | CC BY-SA 2.0

With a hearty nod to cast-iron pan pizza, no food symbolizes the working-class grit of the Motor City quite like a Coney Dog. They’re basic, grocery-store-style hot dogs topped with chili, mustard and onions, an adaptation of Greek immigrants who moved through New York on their way to Detroit. Today, “Coneys” are both the name of the hot dog itself and the hole-in-the-wall shops that serve them, which you can find on street corners in almost every Detroit neighborhood.


Bundt cake

Where to get it: Eat Me Bakery, Minneapolis

Photo courtesy of Katrin Gilger | CC BY-SA 2.0

Bundt pans come in all shapes and sizes, and the bundt cake recipes are endless, but they have one thing in common: They are each at least a little Minnesotan. See, the bundt pan was invented in the North Star State, and the ever-popular cake even has its own national holiday. In Minneapolis, Eat Me Bakery benefits from the state’s unique Cottage Food law, allowing them to make an astounding assortment of bundt cakes at their at-home bakery. You may feel tempted to go for the classic chocolate, but do yourself a favor and branch out with grapefruit and toasted marshmallow.


Gas station fried chicken

Where to get it: King Chicken Fillin’ Station, Tupelo

Photo courtesy of Phillip Pessar | CC BY 2.0

If you haven’t driven through Mississippi, you’re probably not familiar with its penchant for gas station food. No, Mississippians don’t subsist on diets of smokehouse almonds and Slim Jims. “Fillin’ stations” statewide take pride in their culinary creations. You may stop in to grab a Gatorade and find a gourmet spread of fried okra, grits and other Southern delicacies alongside the usual gas station fare. If you don’t know what to get, fried chicken is almost always fantastic at these locally-owned joints. Mississippi has an entire trail of filling stations to try all around the state.


Toasted ravioli

Where to get it: Mama’s on The Hill, St. Louis

Photo courtesy of Timothy Boyd | CC BY 2.0

St. Louis isn’t the Italian food capital of the country, but it’s cornered the market on this American Italian dish, emphasis on the American. Nothing beats biting into a toasted ravioli, breaded, deep-fried and filled with a savory mixture of cheese, herbs and occasionally some ground beef. With a golden exterior and a warm, gooey center, toasted raviolis are served with marinara sauce for dipping and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. They’re great as a standalone treat or a prelude to a hearty Italian dinner at Mama’s on The Hill in St. Louis. 



Where to get it: Sweet Peaks Ice Cream, Kalispell

Photo courtesy of calamity_sal | CC BY 2.0

Huckleberries are so ingrained in Montana culture that they’ve become part of the lexicon.  Around these parts, “I’ll be your huckleberry” loosely translates to “I got you.” You’ll find all kinds of things, not just language, infused with huckleberry around Big Sky Country, from hot sauce to hamburgers. Most aren’t worth the adventure, so best to stick with huckleberry ice cream, which tastes just as good after a day on the slopes as it does at the end of a long trek through the Montana mountains. 


Reuben sandwich

Where to get it: Goldbergs, Omaha

Photo courtesy of Larry Hoffman | CC BY 2.0

The origin of the Reuben sandwich is a hotly debated one, a tug-of-war between the family of a New York City deli owner and the entire state of Nebraska. While the sandwich created at NYC’s Reuben’s Restaurant circa 1914 got the ball rolling, the version with corned beef and sauerkraut we know today was the product of an Omaha grocer looking to feed late-night poker players at the Blackstone Hotel in 1925. The hotel’s owner liked the sandwich so much he put it on the restaurant’s menu, and Nebraska-style Reuben began its reign. Though the Blackstone is no more, Reubens are as ubiquitous on Omaha menus as a Cuban in Miami.


Green chile

Where to get it: The Shed, Santa Fe

Photo courtesy of stu_spivack | CC BY-SA 2.0

New Mexico may be the only state in the nation with a quasi-official state question: red or green? It’s an inquiry into one’s preference of chile, and while the answer is a matter of personal preference, the green variety is a big part of the state’s cuisine. You’ll find it in sauces draped over everything from hamburgers to Native fry breads, and during certain times of year, the smell of roasting green chiles fills the air in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and everywhere in between.



Where to get them: Bar-Bill, East Aurora

Photo courtesy of Stu Spivack | CC BY-SA 2.0

You thought we were going to say pizza, didn’t you? Indulgent food in New York State, however, isn’t limited to its biggest metropolis. Enter Buffalo and its wings. You can find Buffalo wings literally everywhere in the world, from sports books in South Africa to Port Hercule in Monaco, but the hot-sauce-covered poultry appendages trace their roots to Anchor Bar in Downtown Buffalo. Every corner tavern and mom-and-pop restaurant in Nickel City takes special pride in making the best in town, yet to truly experience the city’s wing culture, you’ll want to pop into a neighborhood dive. While they’ll be happy to make them as hot as you want, don’t even think about ordering them with ranch.


Shrimp cocktail

Where to get it: Saginaw’s Delicatessen, Las Vegas

Photo courtesy of Stu Spivack | CC BY-SA 2.0

Nevada is famous for its lavish buffets, and really, what screams “I’m eating stuff just because it’s here” like a massive ring of shrimp served in a tulip glass? If you don’t want to take a gamble on desert casino shellfish, pop into Saginaw’s Delicatessen, which pays homage to the original version of the cocktail pioneered by its sister property, the Golden Gate. There, a 50-cent shrimp cocktail was first promoted and popularized in 1959, becoming as much a part of midcentury Vegas as Dean Martin and dirty martinis.


Apple cider doughnut

Where to get it: Cider Bellies at Moulton Farm, Meredith

Photo courtesy of Yanay Rosen

Coated in cinnamon sugar with a hint of apple sweetness, apple cider doughnuts are autumn if it were rolled out, looped and deep-fried, bursting with warm spices and flavors of the apple harvest. Of course, you have to try one if you find yourself leaf peeping in New England. They’re the perfect snack after a day at Moulton Farm spent traversing the corn maze and pumpkin patch.


Pork roll egg and cheese sandwich

Where to get it: Pascarella Bros., Chatham

Photo courtesy of Katherine Lim | CC BY 2.0

The Taylor ham and egg is a breakfast staple that holds a special place in Jersey locals’ hearts. It’s nothing fancy, with thin slices of pork roll (a New Jersey native deli meat), a fluffy scrambled egg and melted cheese on a soft bun, but try the sandwich from Pascarella Bros. in Chatham, N.J., and you’ll understand why the Garden State fell in love. 


Lexington-style barbecue

Where to get it: Lexington Barbecue, Lexington

This unique style of barbecue known for its pit-smoked pork shoulder got its start in the town of Lexington, N.C. It’s distinguished by its tomato-and-vinegar-based sauce, which gives the chopped pork a tangy and sweet flavor profile. If you want to try the epitome of what this style should taste like, hit up Lexington Barbecue and sink your teeth into a Piedmont North Carolina classic. 



Where to get it: Marge’s Bar, Fargo

You may call it “casserole,” but in the upper Midwest, this pan-based comfort food goes by a different name. How you make your hotdish can be part of a family’s identity; however, it generally includes a base of canned cream of mushroom soup and canned vegetables. It’s then topped with a starch and protein that can change dramatically depending on what’s available. Fargo, N.D., even holds an annual Hotdish Festival in February, where you can sample variations from across the region. If February in Fargo isn’t calling to you, go during the fall and head downstairs to Marge’s Bar, a cool little speakeasy with a killer hotdish.



Where to get it: Anthony-Thomas, Columbus

Photo courtesy of joyosity | CC BY 2.0

There’s no better treat to eat in the Buckeye State than, yep, you guessed it, buckeyes. This confection consists of a creamy peanut butter filling dipped in melted chocolate, perfectly resembling the buckeye nut. Take a tour of the Anthony-Thomas factory in Columbus, Ohio, and you’ll quickly learn that the only thing better than gray and scarlet in Ohio is peanut butter and chocolate. 



Where to get it: Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, Oklahoma City

Photo courtesy of Liz Lawley | CC BY-SA 2.0

The Sooner State is renowned for its cattle ranches and beef production, making Oklahoma THE place to enjoy a big, juicy steak. For the biggest and the juiciest of Oklahoma’s beefy bounty, head to Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, the city’s oldest eatery and an esteemed cultural institution. It can rightly claim some of the best steaks –– and lamb fries –– in the United States.


Pear and blue cheese ice cream

Where to get it: Salt & Straw, Multiple locations

Salt & Straw, a Portland-based ice cream shop, constantly tests the limits of flavor. Out of all of their zany innovations, though, their pear and blue cheese ice cream stands out above the rest. Each spoonful combines the sweetness of ripe Oregon pears with the tanginess of locally sourced blue cheese. We know, it kind of sounds like a salad topping, but, as an ice cream, it’s a testament to the state’s local ingredients and quirky spirit. 



Where to get it: Primanti Bros., Pittsburgh

Photo courtesy of sylvar | CC BY 2.0

Oh, we can hear the Philadelphia faithful screaming at us like we just called an errant charge on Joel Embiid. Yes, the Philly cheesesteak is a Keystone State classic, but you can probably find one in Antarctica if you look hard enough. The Pittsburger, however, is special to Steel City, a burger topped with french fries and coleslaw created by steelworkers who didn’t have time to savor three courses. You’ll find it all over the ’burgh, but it’s best enjoyed after a long night of bar-hopping alongside a slice and an Iron City at Primanti Bros.


Coffee milk

Where to get it: Dave’s Coffee, Providence

Yes, we’re well aware that technically this is a beverage, but you’d also find a hearty share of Rhode Islanders who’ve enjoyed coffee milk as a meal, especially after a long night out in Providence. What’s more, this milkshake-like creation crafted from sugar or coffee syrup and cold milk is more closely associated with our smallest state than any single food. 

The drink dates back to the 1920s, and in 1993 it was named as the state’s official drink.


Shrimp and grits

Where to get it: 82 Queen, Charleston

Photo courtesy of Edsel Little | CC BY-SA 2.0

This South Carolina culinary treasure pays homage to the state’s cultural roots, showcasing plump, succulent shrimp atop a bed of creamy, stone-ground grits. The fusion of flavors represents Lowcountry cuisine, a style of cooking forged from ingredients of the area and West African, English, Caribbean and French foodways. Enjoy shrimp and grits as a comforting breakfast, a hearty brunch option or a satisfying dinner at 82 Queen in Charleston’s Historic District. 



Where to get it: JD’s Lounge, Pierre

South Dakota is a place of simple beauty. So it only reasons the state’s most iconic dish would be similarly uncomplicated: a plate of salted-and-seasoned sirloin cubes deep-fried and dipped in any number of sauces. Chislic is the kind of dish you eat and like, but wonder why it’s a statewide obsession. Like with most things in SoDak, it’s best to just appreciate its greatness and not ask too many questions.


Hot chicken

Where to get it: Prince’s, Nashville

Photo courtesy of T.Tseng | CC BY 2.0

The official fuel of bachelorette parties, hot chicken is right up there with honky-tonks and hangovers as a fundamental part of the Music City experience. Nashville has dozens of outposts peddling this buttery, peppery dish around the city, and all serve it with a slice of toast and pickles. While Hattie B’s is the go-to for tourists, hit Prince’s in the Assembly Food Hall on Broadway if you’d prefer your hot chicken without an interminable line.



Where to get it: Smitty’s Market, Lockhart

Photo courtesy of Jonny Hunter | CC BY 2.0

As you might have guessed, the Lone Star State’s barbecue prowess stems in part from its abundance of longhorn cattle. Smoked brisket was originally created as a way for Texas butchers to use leftover meat close to its expiration date, cooking the less-desired cuts in an offset smoker, then slicing it and selling it with bread and pickles. Lockhart, Texas, about 35 minutes from Austin, has rightfully dubbed itself the barbecue capital of the world, and strolling this small town fills your nostrils with smoked brisket at every turn. While Smitty’s is our pick for the best brisket, nowhere in Lockhart will steer you wrong.


Fry sauce

Where to get it: Arctic Circle, multiple locations

The finest fusion of French and American cuisine isn’t steak frites or french fries. It’s the glorious blend of ketchup and mayonnaise that Utahns use as their fry-dipping condiment of choice. The sauce owes its existence to a burger-slinger named Don Carlos Edwards, who mixed up a mayo-based white sauce with ketchup in the kitchen of his eponymous Salt Lake City barbecue joint. That restaurant morphed into Arctic Circle, which is generally considered the birthplace of modern-day fry sauce. And while you’ll find it by many names in other places — salsa golf in Argentina, for example — nowhere lives and dies by its local condiment quite like the Beehive State.


Ben & Jerry’s ice cream

Where to get it: Ben & Jerry’s, Burlington

Photo courtesy of Qfamily | CC BY 2.0

What can we say, Vermont cows make great milk, especially for ice cream. Founded in Burlington, Vt., Ben & Jerry’s put Vermont’s dairy heritage and immaculate landscapes on ice cream lovers’ maps. The now-famous ice cream purveyor sells classic flavors, like chocolate and vanilla, as well as combinations of locally sourced ingredients, like maple syrup and fresh berries. Stop by the Ben and Jerry’s store on Church Street in Burlington and try as many flavors as you can.   



Where to get them: Chick’s Oyster Bar, Virginia Beach 

Photo courtesy of pointnshoot | CC BY 2.0

Virginia is for lovers — oyster lovers, that is. Cultivated along the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia’s oysters are a darling of Old Dominion’s thriving seafood industry and are sought after by seafood enthusiasts worldwide. Their plumpness, saltiness and exceptional flavor offer a taste of the local water’s unmatched quality and freshness. You’ll find some of Virginia’s best at Chick’s Oyster Bar along the shores of Virginia Beach.



Where to get it: Hot Teriyaki, Lakewood

Photo courtesy of Erik Junberger

Once upon a time, Seattle and its surroundings had a culture of immigrant-run teriyaki shops. You could stop in for a plate of hot grilled meat, veggies and sweet-spicy sauce over a bed of rice for less than $5. Amazon ate them all — figuratively — but you can still experience the area’s signature blend of Korean and Japanese flavors at a handful of surviving holes-in-the-wall around western Washington. Your best bet is to stroll University Avenue near the U-Dub, though low-key strip malls in the suburbs are a good place to look, too. For example: Hot Teriyaki is sandwiched between a Dollar Tree and a nail salon in Lakewood and has delicious food.


Pepperoni rolls

Where to get them: Colasessano’s, Fairmont

Photo courtesy of jeffreyw | CC BY 2.0

Much like the Cuban sandwich and the Pittsburger, West Virginia’s state food owes its invention to workers who needed to eat efficiently during their lunch breaks. Italian immigrants working in West Virginia’s coal mines combined sticks of pepperoni and fresh bread to create these convenient, fulfilling rolls that were first commercially sold in 1927. Today, pepperoni rolls have gotten fancier, more akin to rolled-up pizzas than field-expedient snacks. Still, they’re a must-try when wandering the mountains of West Virginia, and a way to taste what life was like during the state’s coal mining heyday.


Cheese curds

Where to get them: The Iron Horse Hotel, Milwaukee

Photo courtesy of m01229 | CC BY-SA 2.0

In Wisconsin, you’re more likely to find a meal without water than a meal without cheese. Like Marylanders with Old Bay, Wisconsinites will cover anything in cheese, but their love is best expressed through a single dish — in this case, deep-fried cheese curds. The curds are a little like bite-sized mozzarella sticks, except creamier and smoother. They’re easy to devour as you pop them in your mouth at a neighborhood sports bar, and go just as well with a meal at a supper club or at downtown Milwaukee’s Harley-chic Iron Horse Hotel.


Rocky Mountain oysters

Where to get them: Bunk House Bar, Cheyenne

Photo courtesy of jankgo | CC BY 2.0

You might think eating bull testicles is one of those Anthony Bourdain-style wacky food challenges you do just to say you did it. Then you try well-prepared Rocky Mountain oysters in the heart of America’s cowboy country, and you realize they’re actually pretty good. The tough, beefy texture tastes a little richer than liver and is especially delicious when slathered in hot sauce, though this may just prove that anything is good deep-fried and dipped. Regardless, try Rocky Mountain oysters at the Bunk House, a bar just outside Cheyenne, Wyo., where people literally ride horses to dinner.