If you’re planning a trip to the United States, you could be forgiven for thinking that its cuisine won’t be much to write home about, with hot dogs, pizza and burgers repeatedly topping the vast nation’s list of most popular foods. However, there’s so much more to this fascinating and varied country for the true foodie to sink their teeth into than just fast food culture.
A trip to the States is a wise option for even the most refined palate. Below we consider some of our favorite regional American dishes that are packed with history and flavor. They are bound to delight your taste buds as you roam from state to state. And check out some of our top picks on where to devour them.
American Dishes by State
Key Lime Pie in Florida
There’s simply no food that defines a trip to Florida more than a perfect slice of delicious key lime pie. Named after the small limes that are found throughout the Florida Keys, this simple but incredibly tasty dessert is the perfect accompaniment to a relaxing sunny afternoon beneath the trademark palms or beside the sparkling coastline.
Its irresistible tang and creamy texture have made it popular across the globe. However, if you’ve become accustomed to key lime pie that’s green or topped with meringue, then you’ve never savored the real McCoy. The best and most authentic pies are at the Key West Key Lime Pie Co. or South Beach’s Joe Stone Crab—though be prepared for an understandable wait!
Clam Chowder in New England
When seeking the authentic gastronomic experience in New England, you absolutely have to sample at least one bowl of traditional clam chowder. While many states, particularly in the east, pride themselves on their own special version of this particular delicacy, New England—and especially Boston—is championed as this special dish’s true home.
Thicker and creamier than most other regional styles, the New England variety of this indulgent comfort food is a simple blend of creamy broth, clams, potatoes, onions and celery, and is traditionally served with crunchy hexagonal oyster crackers.
For an authentic chowder experience, head to one of the Legal Sea Foods restaurants across the region, which have been serving up perfect chowder since the 50’s. If you want to add a bit of comparative fun to your culinary journey through the States, be sure to try the different varieties in Manhattan, Rhode Island, Delaware and Florida too, all of which bring their own delicious customs and flavors to this much-loved dish.
Po’ boy in Louisiana
Headed to New Orleans? You won’t be able to walk down one of its characteristic creole streets without passing at least one vendor of its most widely-consumed and most famous culinary treats: the delicious po’ boy sandwich.
Served in almost every restaurant and on the streets across the city, the po’ boy is the perfect gastronomic encapsulation of Louisianan culture. It combines fresh seafood, the state’s obsession with deep frying and a range of special hot sauces, all served on the region’s signature New Orleans French bread, known for its perfectly crisp crust and wonderfully fluffy centre.
Though shredded beef and suckling pig options are also popular, in our opinion you can’t beat a classic fried oyster or fried catfish po’ boy, sourced locally from the city’s surrounding fruitful bayous. The competition is stiff, so we recommend sampling as many different varieties from as many places as you can (though here’s a good list to get you started). Whichever you choose, be sure to order it ‘dressed’ with mayo and veggies for the ultimate po’ boy experience.
Joe’s Z-man BBQ sandwich in Kansas
While the other delicacies on this list can be found in a range of restaurants throughout their respective states, this historic sandwich has become so famous as to almost define the cuisine of Kansas City. Ask any local what meal you must try while there and you’re likely to get just one reply—the Z man BBQ sandwich at Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que.
It consists of succulent strips of melt-in-the-mouth juicy beef brisket, perfectly smoked layers of rich provolone cheese, two crispy onion rings and Joe’s mouth-watering secret BBQ sauce all piled on a perfectly-baked soft kaiser roll. You’ll immediately see from your first bite why this sandwich has been praised by numerous celebrities and sports stars alike and continues to be raved about by locals across the state. Don’t let the 45-minute wait put you off—when you finally sit down we know you’ll agree that it was well worth it.
Shrimp and Grits in South Carolina
Shrimp and grits is a dish with a fascinating history that’s popular throughout the south. It’s a must-try regional delicacy with a subtle blend of sweetness and crunch that packs an almighty punch.
Grits are a staple breakfast food of Native American origin; they area sumptuous blend of boiled hominy or cornmeal, butter, milk and often cheese that’s delightfully rich and creamy. When topped with meaty, perfectly sautéed shrimp and the option of mushrooms and crispy strips of bacon, it becomes a winning morning combo that can’t be beaten.
With so many different variants offered throughout the region, be sure to order this favorite on more than one occasion as you travel throughout South Carolina and Georgia.
And there you have it: five of the most delicious and fascinating regional dishes across America, each as irresistible as the next and each as American as apple pie. Whether you’re hoping to jive to jazz bands in New Orleans, soak in the rays on the Florida coast or explore the islands and coast in South Carolina, now you’re fully equipped to ensure that your adventure in the States is as tasty as it is exciting.