50 Signature Cheap Eats From Every State


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selection of junk foods
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The bounty of delicious regional dishes unique to each state in the U.S. should satisfy just about any curious palate, whether you're a local or a tourist on the prowl for a good, cheap meal. To whet your appetite for your next road trip and to enjoy some local pride in your state's signature food, we've pulled together a state-by-state list (including the District of Columbia) of the best local eats. We set the price bar at a high of $10, but most of these delights can be devoured for $5 or less.

stone-ground grits
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Inland, stoneground grits are an inexpensive must, and a half-moon cookie (pecan base, half covered in dark chocolate) at Full Moon Bar-B-Que is worth the indulgence. On the coast, Mobile is home to delicious seafood, although the big-name restaurants like Wintzell's Oyster House and Felix's Fish Camp Grill can be pricey unless you're sharing a dish.

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Grilled or smoked, however you like it, there's no place better to get fresh salmon than Alaska. It's not always cheap, though, so if you're looking for something less expensive, try reindeer sausage instead.

Prickly Pear
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Prickly pear, a type of cactus, is a regional specialty that you can find in jellies, jams, and syrups. It shows up in some cocktails, as well.

fried dill pickles
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You can now find fried dill pickles nationwide, but Bernell "Fatman" Austin claims he invented them while working at the former Duchess Drive-In in Atkins. The small city, population 3,059, is now home to the annual Picklefest, where you can relish the original recipe.

fish taco
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Whether you're partial to a fish taco in San Diego or a Mission burrito in the must-see city of San Francisco, California's taquerias always offer an array of delicious and inexpensive bites. The fast-food chain In-N-Out Burger is a must-try if you're in the mood for a patty and fries.

Rocky Mountain Oysters
Photo credit: Colorado - Morrison: The Fort - Rocky Mountain Oysters by Wally Gobetz (CC BY-NC-ND)


Whether you're along the Front Range or high in the Rockies, Rocky Mountain oysters (that would be, um, bull testicles) are a local "delicacy" worth a try. Rather indulge on something sweet? Pikes Peak doughnuts lay claim to fame as the only doughnuts made at more than 14,000 feet above sea level.

Rocky Mountain Oysters by Wally Gobetz CC BY

hot dogs
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The secret is out: One of Connecticut's most beloved, inexpensive hot dog spots found its way to TV's "Man v. Food." Doogie's in Newington sells its famous 2-foot-long hot dogs that can be loaded with everything from kraut and Swiss cheese to barbecue baked beans and bacon. While you're in the Nutmeg state, you're also going to want to nosh on a steamed cheeseburger from Ted's Restaurant in Meridan, and head to Sally's Apizza for a slice (or three) of the namesake apizza, a thin-crust, coal-fired Neopolitan pizza that New Haven is famous for. 

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While passing through Delaware, three local specialties cry out for attention: Rapa-brand scrapple (a mix of cornmeal, flour, pork scraps, and spices shaped into a loaf, sliced, and then fried), pumpkin mushroom soup at the Back Burner Restaurant & Bar in Hockessin, and just about anything with blue crab.

key lime pie
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A slice of Key lime pie, enjoyed while your feet are up and the waves are splashing away, provides more than a few tasty and cheap bites.

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There are many outstanding dishes associated with Georgia, but Brunswick stew prepared with barbecue pork, tomatoes, and corn is high on our list. The state fruit, the peach, is not to be missed, nor is anything containing the state vegetable, the Vidalia sweet onion.

Hawaii pudding
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Hawaii is filled with unique foods that are little-known on the mainland. Try the sweet taro and coconut fudge-like kulolo, a bowl of poi, a cup of local Kona coffee, and a manapua, which is similar to a Chinese pork bun.

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Idaho is known for potatoes and corn, but you can also gorge on local huckleberries and fresh trout, elk, and deer, all found in nearby mountains and streams.

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Popcorn has been the official snack food of Illinois since 2003 — no surprise, given the 12 million acres devoted to growing corn. Garrett Popcorn has been stirring up flavored mixtures like Macadamia CaramelCrisp for more than 60 years. When in Chicago, don't overlook the Depression Dog (mustard, onion, hot pepper, and relish) at Redhot Ranch, Jimmy's Red Hots, or Gene & Jude's.

sugar creme pie
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Sugar cream pie (exactly what it sounds like) and persimmon pudding are delicious, inexpensive desserts that are hard to find outside of Indiana.

walking taco
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For a food that's unique and cheap, try a "walking taco" at the Iowa State Fair. The mixture of taco components in a bag of crushed chips has become so popular it has walked its way over to a few nearby state fairs, those annual celebrations of agriculture and odd food on a stick.

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Barbecue is the food in many states, but Kansas City barbecue merits a shout-out for its burnt ends.

mint julep
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While in Kentucky, take a break from foods you can chew. A mint julep, the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, goes down nice and easy.

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Creole and Cajun food rule in Louisiana, so don't miss the opportunity to try gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish boils, and red beans and rice.

lobster roll
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Maine's coast is dotted with lobster shacks serving relatively inexpensive lobster dishes, including lobster rolls, salads, and stews.

berger cookies
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Baltimore's Berger cookies are thick and crusty, with a generous slathering of chocolate icing on top.

New England clam chowder
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A hot bowl of New England clam chowder is always an option, but if you're in Boston, head to Mike's pastry shop in the North End for delicious cannolis and Boston cream pies.

Coney dog
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Every Michigander knows about Coney dogs, hot dogs served with raw onion, chili, and mustard.

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Arriving in Minnesota with Scandinavian immigrants were cheap eats that the locals love: lefse, a flatbread made from potatoes and flour, and lutefisk, dried or salted whitefish.

cheese straws
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Mississippi is known for its cheese straws. Originally available only in a cheddar flavor, there are now sweet, savory, and spicy straws, as well.

fried raviolis
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Barbecue and Kansas City are synonymous, but don't stop your noshing there. Continue on with toasted raviolis, a slinger (eggs, hash browns, burger, onion, chili, and cheese), or St. Louis-style pizza, with its super-thin cracker-like crust and provolone topping.

bison burger
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Burgers, balls, and loafs are just three of the many inexpensive ways bison is served in Montana.

Reuben sandwich
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Little known fact: The Reuben sandwich (grilled rye bread with pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing) is thought to have been invented in Omaha by Bernard Schimmel for his friend, and fellow hungry poker player, Reuben Kulakofsky, though an alternate account says Arnold Reuben invented it in New York City. Regardless, Nebraska claims it as its own and it's definitely worth a try while you're there.

Nevada fry bread
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Sure, Vegas is loaded with cheap all-you-can eat buffets, but if you want something with a local twist, try a piece of Navajo fry bread.

finished fry bread by spotzilla CC BY

french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds
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Imported from Canada but a rarity elsewhere in the U.S., poutine consists of a plateful of french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. New Hampshire is also known for maple syrup and apple cider.

salt water taffy
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New Jersey boasts the invention of several unusual hot dog varieties, including the ripper (deep fried), the Jersey breakfast dog (bacon-wrapped and deep fried), and the Italian hot dog (with a pizza-dough bun). Saltwater taffy on the shore is another local favorite.

Photo credit: Bizcochitos by Megan Eaves (CC BY-SA)


New Mexico's state cookie, the bizcochito, originated among Spanish colonists who were influenced by indigenous peoples and immigrants from Latin America. The crispy, buttery, cookie is flavored with cinnamon and anise.

Bizcochitos by megoizzy CC BY

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Two of the most iconic New York foods, pizza and bagels, rarely cost much. Sure, a premium slice or a bagel loaded with lox ain't cheap, but a cheese slice or a bagel with schmear (a thin spread of cream cheese) will rarely set you back more than a few bucks.

Photo credit: Cheerwine Bottle by Brent Moore (CC BY-NC)


Barbecue in North Carolina differs from the kind you'll find, say, in Kansas City. Thinner and less sweet, North Carolina's version incorporates a healthy dose of vinegar and contains little (if any) tomato sauce. If you need something to wash down all those pulled pork sandwiches and ribs, try a cherry-flavored Cheerwine soda.

cheerwine by SeeMidTN.com (aka Brent) CC BY

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Perhaps you've tasted one of these delicious snacks somewhere else, but North Dakota confectioner Widman's has been making "chippers" (chocolate-covered potato chips) for generations.

buckeye candy
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Cincinnati is known for its chili, famously served three ways (spaghetti, chili, cheese), four ways (add beans or onion), or five ways (spaghetti, chili, cheese, onions, and beans). The Buckeye state has a bit of a sweet tooth, and chocolate-dipped peanut butter balls are rightly called Buckeye candy. Ohio is also one of few states where you can find grape pie.

fried okra
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Fried okra is a local favorite and an inexpensive snack. Other cheap favorites include chicken fried steak (a breaded beef patty), fried pies (deep-fried fruit-filled turnovers), and the city of El Reno's own creation, the onion burger.

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Marionberries and more marionberries. Try them as a jelly, spread on a piece of toast, or go all out with marionberry shakes, pies, and salads.

shoo-fly pie
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Of course, the Philly cheesesteak springs to mind when thinking of Pennsylvania. But get hold of a slice of shoo-fly pie (a molasses pie) or savor the flavor hit from a bit of chow-chow (a pickled relish) added to your meal. Also try Pennsylvania Dutch favorites such as corn fritters, scrapple, and potato rolls.

Rhode Island Pizza Strips
Photo credit: Rhode Island Pizza Strips by Matt (CC BY-NC)


Pizza strips are almost exactly what they sound like: thick bread topped with tomato sauce and seasonings, but generally served without cheese. Other local favorites include quahog clams and johnnycakes (made from cornmeal).

Rhode Island Pizza Strips by Mr. Ducke CC BY

boiled peanuts
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The perfect thing to munch while on the road or simply watching TV, boiled peanuts became the official snack food of South Carolina in 2006. For something more filling, try shrimp and grits or Frogmore stew, a scrumptious combination of sausage, shellfish, corn, and potatoes — but no frogs. 

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Chislic is cubed meat, often something gamey like lamb or venison, that's deep-fried and served in small pieces or on a skewer. Flavored with seasoned salts, sometimes battered, and often partnered with soda crackers, a serving is well within the cheap zone.

hot chicken
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Hot chicken is a spicy piece of marinated and fried chicken served atop white bread. It's a Nashville specialty; there's even a Music City Hot Chicken Festival.

pecan pie
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In spite of the name, breakfast tacos filled with egg, salsa, and meat are delicious any time of day. After dinner, enjoy a slice of pecan pie; the pecan tree is the official tree of Texas and the pecan nut is the official state nut.

Utah scones
Photo credit: Mormon scones by jsutcℓiffe (CC BY-NC-SA)


Utah scones, also known as Mormon scones, aren't at all like the British variety. These are deep-fried dough, often slathered with butter and jam.

Mormon Scones by jsutcliffe CC BY

maple candies
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Vermont is known for dairy products and maple syrup. You've probably scarfed down what was once only a local favorite, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, but have you sampled maple candies?

Virginia Peanut Soup
Photo credit: Virginia Peanut Soup. The best soup. by Kricket (CC BY-ND)


It sounds odd unless you've tried it, but Virginia peanut soup is creamy, hearty, easy to make, and even easier to eat. The state is also known for its seafood and ham. Smithfield hams are perhaps the most famous and, by law, must be cured within Smithfield's town limits.

Virginia Peanut Soup by Kricket CC BY

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Halfpops are a simple and cheap snack food (they're literally half-popped popcorn) that is starting to spread across the country but originated in Seattle. Also not to be missed: Rainier cherries (named after Mount Rainier), fish and chips, and Tim's potato chips.

chili dog
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Late-night favorites, although they're good anytime, are the overflowing chili dogs from Ben's Chili Bowl and the enormous jumbo pizza slices in Adams Morgan.

pepperoni roll
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Pepperoni baked inside a soft white bread, locally known as pepperoni rolls, are a cheap grab-and-go lunch item.

fried cheese curds
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Love cheese? Love deep-fried foods? Wisconsin offers a bit of both with fried cheese curds. The curds must be fresh, which is why this treat is hard to find unless you're near a cheese factory. Equally satisfying are creampuffs (a favorite at fairs) and kringles, layers and layers of flaky, buttery dough with nut or fruit fillings. The pride of Racine, the kringle is so good, it was named the state pastry.

beef jerky
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Nothing says Western cuisine quite like beef. Try cube steak breaded, fried crispy, and served with savory gravy. Popular alternatives with less fat include bison and elk. For dessert: a cowboy cookie. Oatmeal, chocolate chips, coconut, and pecans combine for a tempting and satisfying treat.

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