25 Things You Absolutely Must Eat Before You Die

Three Images of Bucket List Foods From Around the World

Cheapism / 400tmax/istockphoto / DianaHirsch/istockphoto / FilippoBacci/istockphoto

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Three Images of Bucket List Foods From Around the World
Cheapism / 400tmax/istockphoto / DianaHirsch/istockphoto / FilippoBacci/istockphoto

Foodie Feasts

Some people have bucket lists of places to see before they die. For foodies, it’s all about meals. Here are 25 dishes you absolutely must try in this lifetime. And hey, if accessing these flavors require a little travel, all the better.

Related: 30 Strange But Surprisingly Tasty Local Foods to Try

Fried Shrimp Po' Boy With Draft Beer, New Orleans
Rebecca Todd/istockphoto

1. Po' Boy

New Orleans

In a city renowned for its cuisine, it’s hard to go wrong. The po’ boy is the classic New Orleans sandwich. It can come with roast beef, fried catfish, chicken, oysters or even alligator, but I recommend starting with a classic fried shrimp po’ boy. The bread is perfectly crispy on the outside and the shrimp may have a kick to them. Bring a napkin.

French-Style Escargot on a White Plate

2. Escargot


Now we travel a bit further afield to France for the famous escargots. Before you turn your nose up at the idea of eating snails, take a whiff of the garlicky butter they’re cooked in. You probably will change your mind. It may take some practice to pull the meat out of the shells with a tiny fork but when you get the hang of it, you’ll be asking for more.

Related: 15 Classic, Budget-Friendly French Dishes

Paella Being Prepared in Majorca, Spain

3. Paella


Saffron rice cooked in a giant pan and sprinkled with seafood. What could be better? Add a glass of Iberian white wine, then follow it up with an almond cookie and you’ll be in cielo.

Stone Crab Served on a White Plate in a Restaurant, Miami
Kriste Sorokaite/istockphoto

4. Stone Crab


You’ve had crab before… but have you tried stone crab? With an extra-hard shell (thus called “stone") it may take a little work to get to the gold but the reward is sweet, tender meat. Have some at a table by the ocean with the locals’ favorite cocktail, the mojito.

Tonkotsu Ramen in Restaurant, Japan

5. Ramen


You’ve probably had ramen in the United States but nothing quite compares to eating the real deal in a cozy ramen-ya in Japan (the city Ichiran is a well-known ramen destination). Order the tonkatsu and slurp up the pork broth that’s been marinating for hours, if not days.

Related: This Is the Best Sushi Restaurant in Your State

Sliced Texan BBQ Beef Brisket

6. BBQ


Call it BBQ or barbecue but either way, Texans take it seriously. Whether you like your sauce sweet or spicy and whether you prefer pulled pork, ribs, chicken, sausage or all of the above there are plenty of barbecue joints aiming to please your tastebuds.

Related: Bucket-List Barbecue in Every State


Carbonara Spaghetti in a Classy Restaurant in Rome

7. Carbonara


Any dish you eat in Italy is going to be fantastic but some places are known for certain dishes. In Rome, cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper pasta) and carciofi (artichokes) are popular dishes but if you want something truly indulgent, try the carbonara. It’s misleading, actually. What seems to be unctuous creamy cheese is actually egg, carefully stirred in and heated slowly with cheese to create the creamy flavor. Topped with crunchy guanciale (pork cheek), it’s a flavor bomb. Oh, and a nap will be required after.

Chili Roasting Truck at the Hatch Chili Festival in Hatch, New Mexico

8. Anything With Hatch Chiles

New Mexico

Sure, you can get Mexican food anywhere in the U.S., but New Mexico is special because you can get Hatch chile peppers in any dish you order. You can choose red or green, or go for “Christmas” when you order enchiladas, tacos, chilaquiles, etc.

Related: The Best Food Truck in Every State

Raw Oysters in a Restaurant, Maine

9. Oysters


With more than 3,500 miles of coastline, Maine is an oyster-lovers' dream come true. Fans say the oysters are briny, crisp, buttery and sweet. Restaurants here serve them all kinds of ways, but the best way is simply with lemon and pepper, served with a crisp glass of white wine.

Ceviche With Salmon, Chile
Jaime Grajales Benjumea/istockphoto

10. Ceviche


Unlike the ceviche served in Mexico, ceviche in Chile often includes salmon (locally caught, of course). This raw fish is marinated in lime and/or grapefruit juice, accompanied by minced garlic, chili peppers and cilantro or mint.

Maine Lobster Roll on a Plate

Lobster Rolls

The Northeast

You may know lobster rolls are popular in Maine, but they can actually be found throughout the region including in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Whether you go for a quick and casual roll slathered and toasted in butter or a more elevated version, you can’t go wrong with fresh lobster.

Related: Try These Amazing Seafood Shacks Across America

Fish Tacos in a Restaurant, Baja, Mexico
Robert Patrick Briggs/istockphoto

12. Fish Tacos

Baja, Mexico

When it comes to fish tacos, go straight to the source. Fish tacos were invented in Baja and while they’ve been modified (some say bastardized) around the world, there’s nothing better than lightly fried, fresh-caught fish wrapped in a bed of cabbage and white sauce inside a corn tortilla. Well, maybe a beer to accompany it!

Crab Cakes Dish at a Restaurant Along the Harbor in Baltimore

13. Crab Cakes


While we’re on our seafood kick, head to Chesapeake Bay for some of the best crab cakes in the world. Fresh crab mixed with egg and flour can be served as an appetizer with horseradish, lemon, ketchup, remoulade, mustard or tartar sauce depending on your preference.

Cafe Du Monde Beignets and Cafe Au Lait, New Orleans

14. Beignets

New Orleans

Yes, we’re back to New Orleans, this time for dessert. Beignets are the sassy cousin of donuts; deep fried dough that puffs up and leaves a hollow chamber. Sprinkle powdered sugar all over and enjoy. Just don’t wear black!

Related: 45 Copycat Recipes You Can Now Make at Home

Pizza a Portafoglio, Napoli, Italy

15. Pizza

Napoli, Italy

If you haven’t had pizza in Napoli, you haven’t had pizza! Very flat and moist, this pizza may need to be folded in two (or eaten with a knife and fork) to enjoy. Margarita, four cheese, mushroom; every version is delicious.

Related: Best Hole-in-the-Wall Pizza Joints Across America


Poutine With Hot Dog on Tray in Restaurant, Montreal

16. Poutine


You already love french fries; but have you tried them smothered with cheese curds and gravy? No? Then get thee to Montreal, where this snack is eaten.

Grilled Halloumi, Cyprus

17. Grilled Halloumi


While you can find halloumi in Greece as well, this grilled sheep or goat (or both) cheese has its origins in Cyprus. Eat it with a fresh tomato and cucumber salad or with grilled veggies.

Closeup of Fried Green Tomatoes Appetizer in a Restaurant, Georgia

18. Fried Green Tomatoes


Yes, southerners really do fry green tomatoes and they’re a fine delicacy. They are a bit tangier than fully ripe red tomatoes. Green tomatoes taste great when dipped in egg and coated with breadcrumbs and/or cornmeal, then fried.

Related: The South Has the Best Food in America. Here's What You're Missing

Woman Eating Shave Ice, Hawaii

19. Shave Ice


This cool summer treat actually has origins in Japan. Early immigrants in the 1900s brought it to the Hawaii islands. Soft as snow, your shave ice can be topped with sweet, creamy or tangy flavors like pineapple, mango, cotton candy, tiger’s blood, wedding cake and more.

Woman Eating a Pastéis de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal
Ivar Østby Simonsen/istockphoto

20. Pastéis de Belém


Also known as pastel di nata, this egg custard tart pastry may be dusted with a sprinkling of cinnamon. They’re sweet, crispy and creamy all at the same time and go great with an espresso.

Related: 50 Beloved Hometown Bakeries Across America

Hand Holding a Bánh Mi With Street in Hanoi, Vietnam in the Background

21. Bánh Mi


Some sandwiches stand out above all others. The bánh mi is definitely one of those. It starts with a fresh, crunchy French baguette split to accommodate a variety of toppings. Yours might have shredded pork and pork skin, doused with fish sauce, ham, sardines or smashed pork meatballs.

Closeup of Pierogies on a Plate, Poland

22. Pierogi


These filled dumplings can be either sweet or savory. While potato and cheese may be the most popular filling, you can also get them stuffed with sweet cabbage, meat, sauerkraut and mushrooms, blueberry, or sweet cheese.

Related: Must-Try Signature Dishes From Cities Across America

Sachertorte Served From Hotel Sacher, Vienna

23. Sachertorte


Chocolate lovers, be warned. This decadent chocolate cake is no lightweight dessert. Served in Vienna’s historic cafes, it goes great with champagne!

Male Hand Holding a Waffle With Chocolate Drizzle in Brussels, Belgium
Katsiaryna Voitsik/istockphoto

24. Liège Waffles


Though these warm and sweet treats originated in Liège, you can now find the waffles throughout Belgium. You can eat them plain, top them with fresh fruit, Nutella or whipped cream.

Related: 25 Places to Find Amazing Waffles Across the Country

Two Plates of English Breakfast in a Hotel Restaurant, England

25. English Breakfast


Every country has its own special take on breakfast and in England it might be the best meal of the day. Laden with eggs (typically sunny side up), bacon, sausage, baked beans, toast, grilled tomatoes and black sausage, you’ll be fueled up for the day. And yes, black sausage is made with blood. Don’t judge it until you’ve tried it!

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