Da Poke Shack
Amylynne F./Yelp

Bucket-List Food Experiences in Every State

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Da Poke Shack
Amylynne F./Yelp

Local Flavor

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. There are delicious and educational edibles to be had all over this great nation, whether you are looking for recipe ideas to make isolation more fun; daring to take a mid-coronavirus road trip (following tips to keep you safer) and passing through some of these states; or planning a culinary adventure for when the pandemic has passed.

Luther Burger
Luther Burger by 1SarahSmith (CC BY-ND)
reindeer hotdog
©TripAdvisor
Chow Down on Fry Bread Tacos
Mel G./Yelp

Arizona: Fry Bread Tacos

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 such as The Fry Bread House. Until you can get there, you can try making some at home.

Pink Tomato
omersukrugoksu/istockphoto

Arkansas: Pink Tomato Festival

In a food culture otherwise saturated with stick-to-your-ribs fare such as chicken-fried steak and potato salad, this produce-focused festival held the second full weekend in June (most 2020 events were canceled) is the oldest continuous festival in the state. The vine-ripe pink tomato has been designated the official state fruit and vegetable of Arkansas.

farmer's market
StockSeller_ukr/istockphoto

California: Farmers Markets

California is America's garden. The state's typically good weather means that, during any given season, there are plenty of fresh, locally grown, organic fruits, vegetables, herbs, and grains. Farmers markets are full of a rich variety of produce and the homemade foodstuffs that come from it, as well as freshly harvested shellfish and other seafood from the coast. They also feature food vendors from all different cultures — often accompanied by live music and lots of good vibes. (Check out these unique farmers markets elsewhere, too.)

Catch Your Own Trout
skibreck/istockphoto
New Haven Pizza
Cyril M./Yelp

Connecticut: New Haven Pizza

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.

Related: Where to Get Delicious Pizza in All 50 States

Scrapple for Breakfast
Celeste M./Yelp

Delaware: Scrapple for Breakfast; Blue Crabs for Dinner

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. Ask for a side of it at Lucky's Coffee Shop in Wilmington and it'll run you about $3. (If you can't find it locally, it can be get expensive by mail.) 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 spare chicken parts. If live claws scare you, places such as The Blue Crab in Bethany Beach offer a no-pinch solution.

Sobe Wine & Food Festival
Sobe Wine & Food Festival by August Burrichter (CC BY-NC)

Florida: Sobe Wine & Food Festival

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 — as soon as it's safe.

peache
tamayalper/istockphoto

Georgia: Peach Festival

The peach is Georgia's most iconic food item, and the state has a blast celebrating it every summer (except 2020, unfortunately). The annual Georgia 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. You can get them by mail too, but it still has to be the right time of year — so start looking forward to 2021.

Da Poke Shack
Amylynne F./Yelp

Hawaii: Poke by the Sea

As if 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 many cities, but nothing beats the authentic seaside version served fresh on the beach.

Idaho Potato Museum, Blackfoot, Idaho
Kim K./Yelp

Idaho: Spuds at the Idaho Potato Museum

Learn about one of the world's most beloved foods, the potato, at this museum in Blackfoot. There are ample opportunities to snack on fried and baked specimens, as well as a giant potato that is sure to delight the entire family.

Try Deep-Dish Pizza in Chicago
Michael H./Yelp
persimmon pudding
gorchittza2012/istockphoto

Indiana: Pudding at the Persimmon Festival

Deliciously sweet and creamy persimmons are an underappreciated fruit, but not in Indiana, where there's an annual festival in Mitchell (canceled in 2020) to celebrate them. Persimmon pudding is a regional specialty, and well worth a special trip. Once you get a taste, you'll crave it every September persimmon season.

Iowa: Enjoy a Maid-Rite Sandwich
Brittany S./Yelp

Iowa: Maid-Rite Sandwich

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, but until you can get there you can try a copycat recipe at home.

Eat a Massive Tenderloin Sandwich
David W./Yelp

Kansas: Tenderloin Sandwich

This state full of American staples has its own legendary sandwich. One of the most famous versions comes from a humble restaurant in Kansas City called Christy's, and it comes in comic proportions. The tenderloin itself is at least three times the size of a normal bun, which is just how they like it. You can make one at home in about 40 minutes.

Kurtz Restaurant
Kurtz Restaurant by Shadle (CC BY-SA)

Kentucky: Hot Brown

This unfortunately named meal is a stick-to-your-ribs turkey dish with many versions statewide. Hunting down the best version is an adventure in itself. Open-face and topped with gravy, this regional specialty tastes almost like Thanksgiving — but you can have it anytime, and you may as well start with a recipe from The Brown Hotel, where the sandwich was invented.

Go on a Street Food Crawl in the French Quarter
Deanna W./Yelp

Louisiana: French Quarter Street-Food Crawl

Louisiana is home to so much good food, it would be a shame to pick just one thing to try. Instead, take a day in New Orleans to 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. You can make beignets fresh at home until you can visit the Big Easy in person.

oyster basket
Ace_Jones/istockphoto

Maine: Oyster Farm

Oysters are a sustainable seafood with a sizeable industry in many places in the United States. Maine's beautiful natural environment makes an ideal backdrop for taking a tour and seeing firsthand how oysters are cultivated and harvested. Eating plenty of the freshest oysters along the way is half the fun, but you can order a dozen at home for less than $20.

Get Down and Dirty With Crabs
Marybeth M./Yelp

Maryland: Down and Dirty With Crabs

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. An 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. (There are plenty of uses for Old Bay, which you can make at home, though of course it's good for crabs from a local seafood market.)

lobster roll
lobster roll by Michael Newman (CC BY-NC-ND)

Massachusetts: Lobster Roll Crawl

Lobster rolls are indulgent, with rich lobster meat doused in creamy mayonnaise (or butter if you're in Connecticut) and served up on a buttered roll. There's no shortage of seafood restaurants and roadside lobster stands in Massachusetts — especially in coastal towns. Slight but important variations make each of their lobster rolls unique, and New Englanders tend to have strong opinions about who makes the best. Plan a lobster roll crawl to find your own favorite.

cherries
Don White/istockphoto

Michigan: National Cherry Festival

Cherries have a relatively short season and are best enjoyed fresh, when they are still plump and juicy. This yearly festival (which went virtual in 2020) is full of 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.

Eat Your Weight in Artisanal Doughnuts
Jennifer N./Yelp

Minnesota: Artisanal Doughnuts

Craft doughnut shops are popping up all over the country, but if you want to get your fill, Minnesota brings it to the next level — it’s been home to all-you-can-eat doughnut brunches and, at Cardigan Donuts, Saturday unlimited doughnuts for $10. Even without the special events, Cardigan offers some of the most creative and highly rated doughnuts around.

Try a Pig Ear Sandwich
Rachel L./Yelp

Mississippi: Pig Ear Sandwich

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.

Indulge in Naughty & Nice Ice Cream
Clementine's/Yelp

Missouri: Naughty & Nice Ice Cream

St. Louis' Clementine's is famous for its inventive flavors and carefully sourced ingredients, making some of the best ice cream in the nation. The gooey butter cake is a riff on a local dessert, while chocolate milk stout and maple bourbon options represent the naughty side of things.

Related: 50 Ice Cream Shops With Unique Treats Across the Country

Rocky Mountain Oysters
Rocky Mountain Oysters by Wally Gobetz (CC BY-NC-ND)

Montana: Rocky Mountain Oysters

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, they can typically be found in late spring. How badly do you want to try this treat at home? Five pounds can be ordered for $55 online.

Bijis Best
Bijis Best/Yelp

Nebraska: Killer Indian Food From a Gas Station

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.

Go Big With Ayce Sushi
Terri K./Yelp

Nevada: AYCE Sushi

Nevada is a fun-loving state where people like to go big and dine in style — hence the places for all-you-can-eat sushi that flourish in town. Demand is high in Nevada, which keeps supply fresh. There are plenty of options, especially concentrated in and around Reno, such as Sushi Pier.

Related: The Best Sushi Restaurant in All 50 States

holding a lobster
Yana Tatevosian/istockphoto

New Hampshire: Lobster Tour

Lobster fishing combines a relaxing and beautiful coastal adventure with pride in catching your own meal. Included in the price of a lobstering trip, you get to take home and enjoy the fresh catch, which is sure to be the tastiest and freshest lobster you will ever eat.

Tour a Dairy Farm & Bakery
Hector M./Yelp

New Jersey: Dairy Farm & Bakery Tour

New Jersey has no shortage of sports bars and East Coast staples such as sub sandwiches, hot wings, and even bagels that give New York a run for its money. The real attraction in the Garden State is the sprawling farmland, though. Touring a dairy farm that includes a sampling of cheese is a unique and memorable experience.

hatch chilis
LICreate/istockphoto

New Mexico: Hatch Chile Festival

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. It arrives around Labor Day in September, but has been canceled for 2020.

Eat Too Much At a Jewish Deli
Hannah B./Yelp

New York: Jewish Deli

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 such as Katz's or the 2nd Ave Deli. You can get pastrami by the pound shipped to you for $35 from Katz’s.

Boiled peanuts
Boiled peanuts by Like_the_Grand_Canyon (CC BY-NC)

North Carolina: Boiled Peanuts

Boiled peanuts, often pronounced "boil peanuts," are a delicacy long 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 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. You can boil peanuts at home, too.

swedish meatballs
AlxeyPnferov/istockphoto

North Dakota: Norsk Hostfest

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 such as meatballs, bread pudding, waffles, and more are on offer throughout the festival. The next one is in 2021; serious foodies will want to arrive early, as many vendors sell out of their delicacies.

Cincinnati Chili
Jose C./Yelp

Ohio: Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati chili is a dish that most Americans can enjoy, since it's basically a combination of two classics: spaghetti and meat chili. 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. If you find yourself in Ohio, you have to try it and see why it has a cult following. But this is another dish you can make at home

https://www.thechunkychef.com/copycat-skyline-cincinnati-chili/

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Eat All the Barbecue
Eddie M./Yelp

Oklahoma: All the Barbecue

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.

Related: Bucket List Barbecue in Every State

Get Cheesy At the Tillamook Factory
Roth M./Yelp
amish kitchen
Juanmonino/istockphoto

Pennsylvania: Traditional Amish Meal

The Amish community flourishes in Lancaster, where (when it's not a pandemic) families invite people 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 unforgettable. Small groups are appreciated when joining a family for a meal.

stuffed clam
EzumeImages/istockphoto

Rhode Island: Fresh Seafood

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. 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.

Related: The Best Seafood Restaurant for Takeout in Every State

chitterlings
Tyler H./Yelp

South Carolina: Chitlin Strut

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, and is still on schedule for November.

Native American Cuisine
©TripAdvisor

South Dakota: Native American Fare

The cuisine of America's indigenous people is among the most underrated in the country, mostly because it is difficult to come by. South Dakota is one of the states where you can sample traditional and modern takes on native food.

Indulge in Classic Soul Food
©TripAdvisor

Tennessee: Classic Soul Food

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 such as fried chicken and catfish, mashed potatoes, collards, mac 'n' cheese, pie, pudding and, of course, some hot sauce on the side.

Breakfast Taco
Breakfast Taco by edwin_x_ochoa (CC BY-ND)

Texas: Breakfast Taco Crawl

If there's one thing you need to know about the Texas food scene, it's that they take their tacos seriously — especially breakfast tacos. 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 — although San Antonians might beg to differ. (But if you can't travel, you can try making some at home too.)

Try a Crown Burger
Carlos H./Yelp

Utah: Crown Burger

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 carnivorous citizen should try at least once. What sets it apart is the addition of pastrami and the house fry sauce.

Related: Local Burger Chains the Rest of the Country Needs

maple syrup buckets
capecodphoto/istockphoto
Brunch At the Jefferson
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Virginia: Brunch at the Jefferson

A proper Southern brunch is a luxury and a pleasure. The Jefferson, a classic hotel in Richmond, is famous for the 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 diners back to colonial times.

Related: 25 Indulgent Brunch Recipes for a Weekend Feast at Home

chocolate tasting
OKrasyuk/istockphoto
pepperoni rolls
©TripAdvisor

West Virginia: Classic Pepperoni Roll

West Virginia has its own regional specialties, and its answer to the pizza is the pepperoni roll. This soft roll enveloping savory pepperoni is a simple item but leaves a lasting impression. What began as a convenient lunch for coal miners now can be found at delis, local convenience stores, and bakeries such as Tomaro's.

Related: 34 Beloved Local Eats That Can Be Shipped to Your Doorstep

Get Your Curd On
Albina O./Yelp

Wisconsin: Getting Your Curd On

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 cheese curds in this state. Curd Girl is lauded for its simple yet unique fried curds. You can buy cheese curds by mail for quite a bit of money — or for just $5.50 a pound from Vern's in Chilton, Wisconsin. Or $3 for 5 ounces at Target.

Wyoming: Saddle Up for Some Buffalo
Dennis T./Yelp

Wyoming: Bison Train Tour

With its many ranches, Wyoming is meat country and offers a selection and freshness that is unknown in many other parts of the United States. Bison is on the menu at eateries including 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. The Spruce Eats has looked at the best places to buy bison meat online.