Bucket List Food Experiences in Every State


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pork barbecue baby ribs at a street food market
Photo credit: Aleksandr_Vorobev/istockphoto

The United States is a big country with even more food cultures than there are states. Packed with regional specialties, each area has unique offerings that are specific to that land and its people. Whether you are on a road trip and just passing through some of these states, or if you make each adventure the destination itself, there are delicious and educational edibles to be had all over this great nation.

Krispy Kreme Hamburger in Alabama National Fair, Alabama
Photo credit: Luther burger: Krispy Kreme bun, cheeseburger and chocolate bacon by 1SarahSmith (CC BY-ND)

Alabama is known for down-home American cooking, and there's arguably no better place to sample the bold flavors than the state fair. Some of their intense and one-of-a-kind creations, like donut-burger hybrids, have been intriguing foodies nationwide, and the state fair is the place to find these wacky edibles.
Reindeer Dog at Tiki Petes Island Dogs in Anchorage
Photo credit: TikiPetesIslandDogs/facebook.com

Reindeer is one of the more unusual meats enjoyed regularly in Alaska. This one-of-a-kind sausage is an inexpensive way to sample local flavor. Where better to give it a try than a seasonal hot dog truck in Anchorage that's been named among the best in the state.
The Fry Bread House in Phoenix, Arizona
Photo credit: Mel G./yelp.com

The Southwest has a rich history full of many different cuisines, and one of the most-loved fusion foods has got to be fry bread tacos. Combining native fry bread with Mexican-inspired fillings for a taco-style snack, it's a local delicacy not to be missed at places like The Fry Bread House.
Pink Tomato Festival in Arkansas
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The official state fruit and vegetable of Arkansas is the pink tomato, and the festival to celebrate it is the oldest continuous festival in the state. In a food culture otherwise saturated with stick to your ribs fare like chicken-fried steak and potato salad, this produce-focused festival held during the second full weekend of June is a balanced way to enjoy the local flavors.
Farmers Market in California
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California is America's garden with a rich variety of organic fruits, vegetables and grains and the homemade foodstuffs that come from them. The state's farmers markets are also full of food vendors from all different cultures. California's typically good weather means that during any given season, there are plenty of options for fresh locally grown organic produce and herbs, and freshly harvested shellfish and other seafood from the coast — often accompanied by live music and lots of good vibes. (Check out these unique farmers markets elsewhere, too.)
man fly fishing in the water of a river in Colorado
Photo credit: skibreck/istockphoto

Colorado trout is some of the most highly prized fish in the nation. Enjoy it as fresh as possible by going fishing for your own trout that you can cook up later. Catching your own dinner is an experience many folks miss out on. If you're not an angler or the big one got away, you'll have good luck at a restaurant like Silverheels in Frisco, too.
New Haven Pizza at Sally's Apizza in New Haven, Connecticut
Photo credit: Julian Z./yelp.com

New Haven style pizza is a recognized culinary category, locally referred to as "apizza." The style is thin-crust Neapolitan and was loved by the likes of Frank Sinatra, among other celebrities. Even many New Yorkers admit that the pizza is great, and that's saying a lot. There are a few good places to try the classic, but Sally's is a favorite among aficionados.
Scrapple, Lucky's Coffee Shop in Wilmington
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Though often associated with Pennsylvania, scrapple has been here since the Colonial era — making use of every part of the pig by grinding it into slurry and shaping it with cornmeal. Lucky's Coffee Shop in Wilmington sells it as a side for $3. With its miles of shoreline, Delaware is also a hot spot for blue crabs. For the adventuresome, catching your own is fairly easy, requiring little more than some strong string and some spare chicken parts. If live claws scare you, places like The Blue Crab in Bethany Beach offer a no-pinch solution.
Sobe Wine & Food Festival in Miami, Florida
Photo credit: Attend the Sobe Wine & Food Festival by August Burrichter (CC BY-NC)

The South Beach Food & Wine Festival is one of the hottest festivals in the country, thanks to Miami's fun loving vibe and celebrity-chef-driven food scene. Days filled with waterfront dinner parties, intimate wine tastings, and plenty of drinks on the beach are something every food lover should experience at least once.
Georgia Peach Festival
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The peach is Georgia's most iconic food item, and the state has a blast celebrating them every summer. The annual peach festival will likely spoil any peach lover for life, with an abundance or ripe juicy peaches and infinite treats from ice cream to pies that make the most of the sweet season.
Poke Bowl at Da Poke Shack in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
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As if being on the beaches of Hawaii weren't already perfect, they are also dotted with stands serving fresh poke, or marinated raw fish bowls. Poke has become a trendy meal in international cities as far away as New York, but nothing beats the authentic seaside version fresh on the beach. Mahalo.
Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot, Idaho
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Learn about one of the world's most loved foods, the potato, at the museum in Blackfoot. There are ample opportunities to snack on fried and baked specimens at the museum, as well as a giant potato that is sure to delight the entire family.
Deep-Dish Pizza at Bartoli's Pizzeria in Chicago, Illinois
Photo credit: Michael H./yelp.com

Regardless of the controversial origins of deep-dish pizza, and whether or not true Chicagoans enjoy it more than thin crust, it is a delicious regional meal that is not to be missed. Choosing a place that offers the classic deep dish by the slice keeps cost down while also letting you save room for other local specialties, like loaded Chicago-style hot dogs.
Persimmon Festival in Mitchell, Indiana
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Persimmons are one of the most underappreciated fruits, but not in Indiana, where they have an annual festival in Mitchell to celebrate this deliciously sweet and creamy fruit. Persimmon pudding is a regional specialty, and well worth a special trip. Once you get a taste, you'll crave it every persimmon season.
Maid-Rite Sandwich in Iowa
Photo credit: Sam R./yelp.com

Americans love a good sandwich, and one of the original loose-meat sandwiches, a classic from Maid Rite, was born in Iowa. These inexpensive delicacies are easy to come by while driving through the state at any Maid Rite location.
Massive Tenderloin Sandwich at Christy's in Kansas City, Kansas
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This state full of American staples has its own legendary sandwich, and it's worth its own adventure. One of the most famous versions of a tenderloin sandwich comes from a humble restaurant in Kansas City called Christy's and it comes in comic proportions. The tenderloin itself is at least four times bigger than a normal-sized bun, which is just how they like it.
Hot Brown in Kentucky
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This unfortunately named meal is a stick-to-your-ribs turkey dish with many versions statewide. Hunting down the best version is an adventure all in itself. Open-faced and topped with gravy, this regional specialty sandwich is almost like Thanksgiving.
Muffuletta, Central Grocery & Deli in New Orleans, Louisiana
Photo credit: Deanna W./yelp.com

Louisiana is home to so much good food, it would be a shame to pick just one thing to try. Instead, make an afternoon of it and sample as much as you can. Start with some famous beignets near the open-air French Market, sample a gator sausage, try a po' boy, and don't forget a muffuletta. Stroll around and take in the sights and sounds between bites.
Nonesuch Oysters in Scarborough, Maine
Photo credit: Courtesy of tripadvisor.com

Oysters are a sustainable seafood with a sizeable industry in many places in the U.S. Maine's beautiful natural environment makes for an ideal backdrop to take a tour and see first-hand how oysters are cultivated and harvested. Of course eating plenty of the freshest oysters along the way is half of the fun.
Captain Chris' Crab Shack in North East, Maryland
Photo credit: Marybeth M./yelp.com

The Chesapeake Bay is famous for its sweet, tender blue crabs, and Maryland is famous for crab shacks, where hungry customers can crack into fresh crabs alongside cold drinks. A rural all-you-can-eat shack provides the most traditional setting and some of the freshest specimens, likely served with a healthy dose of Old Bay seasoning.
Lobster Roll
Photo credit: lobster roll by Michael Newman (CC BY-NC-ND)

Lobster rolls are an indulgent food, with rich lobster meat doused with creamy mayonnaise (or butter if you're in Connecticut) and served up on a buttered roll. The slight but important variations between each lobster roll is what makes them unique, and New Englanders tend to have strong opinions about who makes the best. With no shortage of seafood restaurants and roadside lobster stands in Massachusetts — especially in coastal towns — it's easy to plan your own lobster roll crawl and find your own favorite.
National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Michigan
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Cherries have a relatively short season, and are best enjoyed fresh when they are still plump and juicy. This yearly festival is full of fresh farmers markets, breakfasts, picnics, and all around cherry goodness. It's the one time of year you can get your cherry fix with all the cherry flavored delights you can imagine.
Cardigan Donuts in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Photo credit: Jennifer N./yelp.com

Craft doughnut shops are popping up all over the country, but if you want to get your fill, Minnesota is home to an all-you-can-eat donut brunch this summer. Cardigan Donuts offers some of the most creative and highly rated donuts around, and every Saturday they have a deal that cannot be beat, unlimited donuts for $10. How many can you eat?
Pig Ear Sandwich at Big Apple Inn in Jackson, Mississippi
Photo credit: Rachel L./yelp.com

Food and history are intertwined in a special way in Mississippi, and one long-standing deli is serving up traditional sandwiches that are every bit as tasty as they are culturally significant. The pig ear sandwich at the Big Apple Inn in Jackson has a cult following, and is well worth a detour next time you are nearby.
Clementine's Naughty & Nice Creamery in Saint Louis, Missouri
Photo credit: Clementine's Naughty & Nice Creamery/yelp.com

This St. Louis outpost is famous for its inventive flavors and carefully sourced ingredients that churn out some of the best ice cream in the nation. Clementine's gooey butter cake — which is a riff on a local dessert — offers a nice flavor, while chocolate milk stout and maple bourbon options represent the naughty side of things.
Rocky Mountain Oysters
Photo credit: Colorado - Morrison: The Fort - Rocky Mountain Oysters by Wally Gobetz (CC BY-NC-ND)

These seasonal delicacies are not bivalves, but rather bull testicles, and are usually served fried. Offered at local sports bars and restaurants all over Montana, you can find them in the late spring, which is the time that bulls are harvested for their meat.
Eggplant Curry at Biji's Best in Lincoln, Nebraska
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The best food often comes from humble outposts, and this unlikely gas station stop might have the best Indian food in the state. Made by a real Indian grandmother, the small menu of curries, breads, and chutneys at Biji's Best changes daily, and is one of the best deals in town.
Sushi Pier Midtown in Reno, Nevada
Photo credit: Terri K./yelp.com

Nevada is a fun-loving state where people like to go big and dine in style. One of their most famous restaurant attractions are the myriad places for all-you-can-eat sushi. Since they are known for it, the demand is high which keeps supply fresh. There are plenty of options, especially concentrated in and around Reno, like Sushi Pier.
Lobster Trip with Sunrise Adventure Charters in New Hampshire
Photo credit: Courtesy of sunriseadventurecharters.com

Lobster fishing combines a relaxing and beautiful coastal adventure with the pride in catching your own meal. Included in the price of a lobstering trip, you get to take home and enjoy your very own fresh catch, which is sure to be the tastiest and freshest lobster you will ever eat.
Cheese Samples at Bobolink Dairy in Milford, New Jersey
Photo credit: Hector M./yelp.com

New Jersey has no shortage of sports bars and East Coast staples like submarine sandwiches, hot wings, and even bagels that give New York a run for its money. However, the real attraction in the Garden State is the sprawling farmland. Touring a dairy farm that includes a sampling of cheese is a unique and memorable experience.
Hatch Chile Festival in New Mexico
Photo credit: HatchChileFestival/facebook.com

Hatch chiles are known all over the country for their mild heat and deep flavor. Chile lovers absolutely need to get to the Hatch festival at least once to experience the transformation of the town, which is overrun by the smell of roasting chiles and creative offerings of savory and sweet treats.
2nd Ave Deli in New York City, New York
Photo credit: Hannah B./yelp.com

New York has no shortage of food adventures to offer, but one of the ultimate experiences is eating at an authentic Jewish deli. The quality and the portions almost always lead to overeating, which some argue is part of the experience. While there are very good modern options, you can't go wrong with a classic like Katz's or the 2nd Ave Deli.
Boiled Peanuts
Photo credit: Boiled peanuts by Like_the_Grand_Canyon (CC BY-NC)

Boiled peanuts, often pronounced "boil peanuts," are a delicacy that have long been enjoyed as a snack in North Carolina — and throughout much of the South. Soaked and boiled green peanuts turn into a soft and salty treat that are offered at roadside stands. Driving on the state roads between towns, you are sure to see a large sign with an arrow. Asking at local gas stations will also lead you right to them. While it can be a bit of a hunt, it's well worth the adventure to find these one-of-a-kind legumes.
Norsk Hostfest
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The Scandinavian cultural roots are strong in North Dakota, and once a year, the community gets together for a celebration where food takes on a major role. Mouth-watering traditional dishes like meatballs, bread pudding, waffles, and more are on offer throughout the festival. Serious foodies will want to arrive early, as many vendors sell out of their delicacies.
Cincinnati Chili at Camp Washington Chili
Photo credit: Jose C./yelp.com

As is the case with many regional foods, it sounds weird if you are unfamiliar with it, but it always tastes best when enjoyed locally. Cincinnati chili is a dish that most Americans can enjoy since it's basically a combination of two classics: spaghetti and meat chili. It has a cult following, and it's worth a shot when you find yourself in Ohio.
Leo's Barbeque in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Photo credit: Eddie M./yelp.com

The official state meal of Oklahoma is made up of barbecued pork, chicken-fried steak, sausage with biscuits and gravy, fried okra, black eyed peas, a dessert with strawberries, and more to yield a generously full and hearty plate. If you're in search of the state's famous chicken-fried steak, look no further than Kendall's Restaurant. Or chow down on some of the best barbecue in the state — along with fried okra and the famous strawberry banana cake — at Leo's in Oklahoma City, where the food is humble, traditional, and filling.
Spicy Mac & Cheese at Tillamook Creamery in Tillamook, Oregon
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Tillamook, the noted cheddar producer, has a brand-new visitors center that includes tours of their production, interactive features, and of course, loads of cheesy treats. In addition to some of the finest grilled-cheese sandwiches, they have ice cream, burgers, mac 'n' cheese, and more for an indulgent dairy-filled experience.
Amish Meals at Home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Photo credit: Courtesy of discoverlancaster.com

The Amish community flourishes in Lancaster, where families will invite you into their homes to enjoy a communal meal. The food is locally-grown and made with care — with highlights that include homemade bread, strawberry preserves, and pie — and sure to be an unforgettable meal. Small groups are appreciated when joining a family for a meal.
Hemenway's in Providence, Rhode Island
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Rhode Island's food scene is dominated by an abundance of fresh seafood. While there are plenty of well-known places to get your fix, Hemenway's is a long-standing local favorite in Providence and has a reputation for serving the freshest catch. The stylish ambiance makes this an elegant occasion and a meal to remember. And if you're looking for something a little more laid-back, stop by one of the state's many clam shacks for "stuffies" — a Rhode Island staple consisting of local quahog clams that have been baked with stuffing in their shells.

Chitlin Strut in Salley, South Carolina
Photo credit: Courtesy of chitlinstrut.com

South Carolina's cuisine is intertwined with its history in many ways, and very much so when it comes to chitlins, also known as chitterlings or pork intestines. This traditional food and its heritage are celebrated every year at the Chitlin Strut in Salley, where people gather to get their fill of boiled and fried chitlins. Even if pig intestine isn't one of your everyday favorites, it's an adventure worth seeking out at least once.

Native American Taco, Laughing Water Restaurant at the Crazy Horse Memorial in Custer
Photo credit: Laughing-Water-Restaurant-at-Crazy-Horse-Memorial/facebook.com

The ingredients and preparation of America's indigenous people is one of the most underrated cuisines throughout the country, mostly because it is difficult to come by. South Dakota is one of the states where traditional and modern takes on native food can be enjoyed.
Arnold's Country Kitchen in Nashville, Tennessee
Photo credit: Courtesy of arnoldscountrykitchen.com

Nashville stands out as one of the best places in the country to enjoy proper soul food. Nothing hits the spot quite like a humble-but-tasty "meat and three" joint with a cafeteria style assembly line. Watch as they fill up your plate with tasty classics like fried chicken and catfish, mashed potatoes, collards, mac 'n' cheese, pie, pudding and of course some hot sauce on the side.
The Migas Taco from Veracruz All-Natural in Austin, Texas
Photo credit: IMG_2880_edited-1 by edwin_x_ochoa (CC BY-ND)

If there's one thing you need to know about the Texas food scene, it's that they take their breakfast tacos seriously. Unlike anywhere else, Austin has a wide array of breakfast tacos to choose from. Design your own map of places to try, hitting at least five stops, to get the full experience. Warning: No other breakfast tacos will never compare — though San Antonians might beg to differ.
Crown Burger in Salt Lake City, Utah
Photo credit: Carlos H./yelp.com

Americans love burgers, and Utah is known for its all-American burger chain, Crown Burger. With a diehard local following, it's something every self respecting burger eating citizen should try at least once. What sets theirs apart is the addition of pastrami and their house fry sauce.

Trade Winds Farm in Shoreham, Vermont
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Maple syrup is practically synonymous with Vermont, and a journey there offers a unique experience. Depending on the time of year, visitors to a maple farm can take a tour of the forest of maple trees, see how syrup is processed, and taste a lineup of different syrups.
Sunday Brunch at The Jefferson in Richmond, Virginia
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A proper Southern brunch is a luxury and a pleasure. The Jefferson, a classic hotel in Richmond, is famous for offering seemingly endless offerings at its Sunday brunch. Enjoy the impressive surroundings of one of the most renowned buildings in the historic district, which seems to transport you back to colonial times.
Theo Chocolate Factory in Seattle, Washington
Photo credit: Kara M./yelp.com

Theo Chocolate is open for visitors to tour its wonderfully aromatic facility. As a small artisan brand, Theo offers a unique look into the entire chocolate making process and the story of cacao. Appropriate for all ages, the tour also includes a sampling of plenty of chocolate.
Pepperoni Rolls, Tomaro's Bakery in Clarksburg
Photo credit: TomarosBakery/facebook.com

West Virginia has its own regional specialties, and its answer to the pizza is the pepperoni roll. This soft roll that envelops savory pepperoni that began as a convenient lunch for coal miners can be found at delis, local convenience stores, and bakeries like Tomaro's. It's a simple item but one that leaves a lasting impression.
Curd Girl in Madison, Wisconsin
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Most people automatically think of cheese when they think of Wisconsin, and with good reason. Wisconsin is home to worldwide award-winning cheeses, and it would be a mistake to never enjoy fried curds in this cheesy state. Curd Girl is an award-winning favorite for its simple yet unique fried curds.

Senator's Steakhouse at the Terry Bison Ranch Resort in Cheyenne, Wyoming
Photo credit: Madelyn M./yelp.com

With its many ranches, Wyoming is meat country and offers a selection and freshness that is unknown to many other parts of the country. Bison is on the menu at many eateries in the state like the Senator's Steakhouse at the Terry Bison Ranch Resort, where visitors can ride take a train ride among the bison and eat on a dining car to get a taste of the Old West.

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