Food brings people together — to celebrate, experience culture, and feel at home. We asked 1,111 travelers about their most unforgettable epicurean experiences, and scouted out the best restaurants in the U.S. to sample locally loved American food culture. Eat your way through these 9 destinations, and get inspired with recipes from real-life foodies.
1. Whoopie pies — Lewiston, Maine
The whoopie pie is cakey, fudgy, and looks like a sandwich cookie, but it’s called a pie. Confused? Let the whoopie pie speak its truth, and you’ll discover it’s a decadent yet deceptively simple treat.
Feast on a favorite: The first bakery to sell whoopie pies in Maine, Labadie’s Bakery, has been whipping up famous whoopies since 1925.
Before you go, get inspired with this recipe for Classic Whoopie Pies from Love & Olive Oil.
2. Loco moco — Hilo, Hawaii
Steamed rice and seasoned hamburger, smothered with brown gravy and topped with fried eggs sounds like a hearty way to start the day. First ordered at the now-closed Lincoln Grill by a group of teen surfers in Hilo, loco moco has fueled many morning surf trips.
Feast on a favorite: Head to Café 100, which also started serving loco moco in 1949. They prepare the dish 13 ways. Now, that’s crazy!
Bring the island flavors home with this Loco Moco recipe from Trampling Rose.
3. Fish tacos — San Diego, California
Battered, marinated, or smoked, this handheld eat is inspired by the seaside cuisine of Baja, Mexico. Back in 1983, Ralph Rubio opened the first fish taco shop in San Diego, and today fish tacos are synonymous with America’s Finest City.
Feast on a favorite: The debate over San Diego’s best fish taco is hot and heavy. Favorites include Oscars Mexican Seafood, Pacific Beach Fish Shop, and of course, Rubio’s Coastal Grill.
Make them at home with this Crispy Fish Taco recipe from the San Diegans at Kitchen Konfidence.
4. Peach cobbler — Fort Valley, Georgia
Trying to find the “best” peach cobbler in Georgia is bound to start some debates. Cobbler is all about the fruit that bubbles up through a biscuit layer, making the perfect gooey and buttery bite.
Feast on a favorite: Visit the Peach Capital of Georgia! Each year, Fort Valley hosts the Georgia Peach Festival, which features the World’s Largest Peach Cobbler and plenty of vendors.
Make a gluten-free, vegan variation of this scrumptious dessert with this Easy Breakfast Peach Cobbler recipe by Jessica in the Kitchen.
5. Hotdish — New Ulm, Minnesota
Often topped with Tater Tots, Minnesota hotdish is like a cozy sweater for your taste buds, and New Ulm is the place to try the original. You bet you can’t go to a summer potluck without seeing at least a couple of these one-crock wonders.
Feast on a favorite: Many of the most popular American foods have unexpected origins. Born out of the need to use up chicken and Tater Tots, the first hotdish was the innovation of Margaret Scheid, a cook at Happy Joe’s in New Ulm, and the original recipe keeps winning awards.
Make your own Minnesota Tater Tot hotdish wherever you live with this recipe from NellieBellie.
6. Clam chowder — Monterey, California
Monterey stays true to its fishing town roots, and regional chowder recipes have survived the decades as well. In our survey, traveling foodies raved about Monterey-style clam chowder!
Feast on a favorite: Old Fisherman’s Grotto has been a waterfront icon since the 1950s, and their chowder has won multiple taste awards. It’s creamy with a touch of bacon and garlic to enhance the generous portion of clam. What’s not to love?
Get excited about your trip to Monterey with this recipe for the Best Clam Chowder from the Reluctant Entertainer.
7. Marionberry pastries — Salem, Oregon
Developed at Oregon State University, the marionberry is larger, sweeter, and juicier than other blackberries. All the better for baking with, my dear — and for making spectacular wine and vinaigrettes.
Feast on a favorite: Get your hands on a journey-worthy marionberry pie in Salem at the Willamette Valley Pie Co. What started out as a family cannery is now a bakery that uses local berries and simple ingredients!
Try this gorgeous marionberry cobbler recipe at home from Oregonian Your Homebased Mom.
8. Chile enchiladas — Las Cruces, New Mexico
Some of the best food in the U.S. is inspired by indigenous ingredients and traditions. Chiles thrive in the New Mexico climate. One of the classic ways to eat chiles is on saucy enchiladas.
Feast on a favorite: El Patrón Café recently won the title Best Green Chile in New Mexico in a poll hosted by USA Today. We think their red chile is just as amazing. Try the green enchilada plate and the brisket nachos with red chile and taste for yourself!
Spice up your life with this recipe for Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas from Barefeet in the Kitchen.
9. Alligator — Fort Lauderdale, Florida
When we asked travelers about their most memorable travel eats, alligator was the most commonly named dish on people’s minds, and Fort Lauderdale is the best place for it.
Feast on a favorite: Lulu’s Bait Shack serves battered tail pieces and fries with house-made lemon-pepper mayo. It’s rich, tangy, and crunchy as heck.
If you are sensitive to gluten, make this delicious recipe for gluten-free gator bites by Living Linda.
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