Culinary Road Trip – USA

This list originated at the beginning of the 2020 pandemic lock-down when travel started to increasingly become a pipe dream until safety returns and the Corona Virus has been contained.

I participate in lots of food-obsessed groups online and I often throw the question out: Where do you live, and what dish uniquely defines it? This often sparks so much fun discussion, debate, and delight.

I am learning about all kinds of interesting dishes from every corner of the US. From sea to shining sea, from border to border, region to region, states, cities, towns, and even specific restaurants where certain dishes just define the place.

So many people have weighed in on this list, and I hope you’ll keep it coming! Comment with your spot on the map, what dish it is known for, and what you think of this list.

My hope is that we’ll all learn something about history, geography, people, and the foods that uniquely emerge from our country be it small-town, big city, roadside gas station, church social, street food, merging of cultures, or whatever it may be. Let’s celebrate this country through food!

See the notes at the end of this list.

  • Moonpies

I need more feedback! What else belongs here? Any particular Salmon dishes? Something else?

  • Coffee
  • Sourdough Pancakes
  • Sourdough Bread
  • (Yuma) Potato Tacos
  • Sonoran Dog
  • Chimichangas
  • Fried food, gravy (More feedback requested! What else is specific to Arkansas?)
  • Biscuits and Chocolate Gravy

I lived in Northern and Southern California for a total of ten years. California, as a coastal and HUGE state that spans from Mexico to the Pacific NW, is also home to epic amounts of Thai, Japanese, Ethiopian, Korean, Chinese, and so many more international cuisines.

  • (SoCal) Big Burritos/Burritos with french fries inside
  • Wet Burritos
  • Walking Burritos
  • Baja-style (al fresco) Mexican food (fish tacos, queso fresco, soft corn tortillas)
  • (Los Angeles) Street Dogs
  • Carne asada fries

I grew up in Colorado, and have written about dining there here before. While Colorado and New Mexico both claim green chili, I argue they have individual claims. Technically, both states used to be part of Mexico, so my observation has to do with how green chili is served. Leave your thoughts in the comments!

  • Pork Green Chili
  • Pueblo Green Chilies
  • Smothered Burritos
  • Tex-Mex
  • Huevos Rancheros smothered in green chili sauce, cheddar
  • Rocky Mountain Oysters
  • Bison/Big Game
  • Steamed Cheeseburger
  • New Haven Pizza (white clam pie Pepe’s, cinco pie DaLegna)
  • Hot lobster roll (as opposed to Maine’s cold mayo-based version, this is hot and features butter)
  • Maple iced
  • Scrapple
  • (Keys) Key Lime Pie, Fresh Conch
  • (Miami) Cubanos
  • Cheese and Guava Pastelitos
  • Pub Subs (Publix subs)
  • NW FL Fried Mullet
  • Gator bites
  • NE FL Minorcan Chowder
  • Boiled peanuts
  • Spicy boiled peanut
  • Lemon pepper Hot wings
  • Brunswick – Brunswick Stew
  • Spam Musubi
  • Poke
  • Fry sauce
  • Finger steaks

Chicago is an amazing culinary city, walking city, and has architectural history that spans so much American history one can barely take it all in. Chicago is just one spot in Illinois, however. So much to explore.

  • Chicago Italian Beef
  • Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (my favorite is Lou Malnati’s)
  • Springfield “Horseshoe”/breakfast shoe
  • Cozy corn dogs
  • Corn Casserole
  • Fried Tenderloin Sandwich aka pork fritters
  • Corn fritters
  • Sugar Cream Pie
  • Fry sauce (this seems to be a bit of a mid-western regional thing)
  • Hoosier Fries
  • Fried pork tenderloin sandwich

So far I’m missing any input about what Kansas identifies with. Help me out! Comment or email with your thoughts.

  • Hot Brown
  • Bourbon Balls
  • Spicy beer cheese
  • Maysville Transparent Pie
  • Derby Pie
  • Benedictine
  • Burgoo

One of the most fascinating culinary places in the US, if you ask me. The history, blending of cultures, and place on the water (world trade/seafood/river life) makes Louisiana, and obviously New Orleans, a fascinating and delicious destination for anyone who likes food.

  • Gumbo
  • Jambalaya
  • Boudin/boudin balls
  • Etoufee
  • Alligator
  • King Cake
  • Po Boys
  • Crawfish boil
  • Turtle Soup
  • Cajun and Creole food…honestly too many dishes to possibly name)
  • Lobster Roll (mayo-based, cold as opposed to the hot version in CT)
  • Crab cakes
  • Old Bay
  • Snowballs
  • Baltimore Berger cookies
  • Thrasher Fries
  • Lemons w/peppermint stick straws

I lived in Massachusetts for four years, just outside of Boston. In general the region offers great Italian, Irish and German food. Excellent little Ice Cream spots, and farm stands everywhere. Fenway Franks are the best stadium hot dog I’ve ever had (but I don’t want to fight you…I’ll leave that to the other fans).

  • North Shore Roast Beef Sandwich (onion roll, James River BBQ sauce, mayo, American cheese)
  • Boston Cream Pie
  • Boston Cream Donuts
  • Boston Baked Beans
  • Fluffernutter
  • Dirty water dogs
  • Pasties
  • Vernors Floats
  • Faygo
  • Better Made potato chips
  • Rock and Rye
  • Coney Dog (no bean chili, yellow mustard, diced onion)
  • Pickled Balogna
  • Rural thumb area Dough balls
  • Big John’s Pizza
  • Paczki
  • Detroit style pizza
  • Tater Tot Hot Dish
  • Goulash
  • Juicy Lucy
  • Minnesota pinwheels (tortillas, cream cheese, ham, pickle in the middle)
  • Chicken wild rice soup
  • Tunica gas station pizza
  • Pork Steak
  • Toasted Ravioli
  • Provel Cheese
  • Gooey Butter Cake
  • Springfield Cashew Chicken

For two summers in college, I worked and lived in Glacier National Park, MT. My main takeaway is that if you can put huckleberry ice cream in your morning coffee everyday, and hike all the time, life is paradise.

  • Bison burgers
  • Huckleberry Pies, Ice Cream, etc
  • Omaha Steaks
  • Chili with Cinnamon Rolls
  • Runzas (click for recipe)
  • Buffets (I’m reaching here…I need more feedback!)
New Hampshire
  • Cider Donuts
  • Maple candies
New Jersey
  • Grinders
  • Pork rolls
  • Taylor ham
  • Disco fries
New Mexico
  • Hatch Chilies
  • Green Chili
  • Red Chili
  • Christmas Style
  • Green Chili Burgers
  • Sopapillas
  • Pork adovada
  • Navajo tacos
  • Chili rellenos
New York
  • (Rochester) Garbage Plate
  • (Buffalo) Buffalo Chicken
  • Pizza slice (fold)
  • Matzo ball soup
  • Chopped cheese
  • Bagels/lox
  • Pastrami
  • BEC/SECon a roll
  • Southern tip of NY Spiedies
  • Utica NY Greens
  • Utica chicken riggies
  • Zwiegels hots
North Carolina
  • Bbq pork (pig pickings)
North Dakota

Help me out! What foods are associated with ND?

  • Cincinnati Skyline Chili
  • Cincinnati Graeter’s ice cream
  • Cleveland Polish Boy – kielbasa on a bun with coleslaw fries and bbq sauce
  • Polish girl, same with pulled pork
  • Stadium mustard
  • Barberton Chicken fried in lard with hot rice
  • Cincinnati Chili cheese coney dogs
  • Onion burgers
  • Chicken fried steak
  • Calf or lamb fries
  • Bandon Vampire Slayer cheese add crab
  • Marionberry Pies, Pastries, Jam
  • Primanti Brothers sandwich (fries and slaw)
  • Philadelphia Wawa’s
  • Philly Cheesesteaks
  • Pork and sauerkraut
  • Read filling
  • Pierogi’s
  • Pittsburgh Fries on steak salad
  • Pennsylvania Dutch
  • Shoofly Pie
  • Flat noodle pot pie
  • Isaly’s BBQ chipped ham
  • Ham salad
  • Gobs
Rhode Island

For a tiny state, Rhode Island has a big list of unique foods. I lived there for three years, but my husband was born there and my married extended family is there, or from there. So I got a fast education in things like “Awful Awfuls” and Pizza strips.

  • Clam cakes
  • Chowder
  • Hot wieners
  • Del’s lemonade
  • Coffee cabinets
  • Awful awfuls
  • Pizza strips
South Carolina
  • Boiled peanuts
  • Low country boil
  • Shrimp and grits
  • Pimento cheese
  • Crab soup
  • Bird Dogs
South Dakota
  • Chislic
  • Nashville Hot Chicken
  • Memphis BBQ dry ribs
  • Goo goo clusters

I lived in Austin (Central Texas) for seven years. What an awesome culinary town (check out my dining guide to Northwest ATX here). People love to cook…smokers are epic, sometimes the entire back of a car. Texas showcases a unique culinary crossroads of the south, Mexico, immigration, ranching, farming, passion for bbq, and lots of land for all of it. Did you know that Houston has a huge Viet Namese population? Also a ton of people who have fled New Orleans (Katrina)…which mingle into a very unique and amazing American cuisine called “Viet Cajun”? You could spend a year traveling Texas and never run out of interesting foods to try including Ramen with a BBQ influence (Kemuri Tatsu-Ya). I could go on…

  • Brisket
  • Hot links
  • Kolaches
  • BBQ
  • (Houston) Viet Cajun
  • Queso
  • Tacos/Breakfast Tacos
  • Frito Pie
  • King’s Ranch Casserole
  • Texas Spaghetti
  • Red Chili (no beans, but you don’t have to say that part there)
  • Funeral Potatoes
  • Maple Cremee
  • VB orange crush
  • DC mambo sauce
West Virginia
  • Pepperoni rolls
  • Deep-fried cheese curds
  • Frozen custard
  • Cheddar brats
  • Northeastern Booyah
  • Friday fish fry


  • Regional stuff: I understand that many of these dishes are regional. I’d love to narrow down who thinks what about dishes they feel strongly about, so I welcome your feedback.
  • I’ve lived in Colorado, Montana, California (north and south), Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Texas (central), Washington. My exposure to the different regions gives me certain biases and insights alike. I’ve lived in rural and urban places. I’m always struck by the connection between geography, food, and people.
  • This is compiled from over 1500 responses I received from all over the country. I am delighted to have such a dedicated and engaged readership. If you contributed, THANK YOU. What a great experience to share our nation through food.

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