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, we've pulled together a state-by-state list of the best local eats to try on a tight budget.
ALABAMA: FRIED CHICKEN
Best Places to Try It: The Chicken Shack in Luverne, Martin's Restaurant in Montgomery
Forget Kentucky; Alabama lays claim to some of the finest fried chicken in the nation. The Chicken Shack and Martin's Restaurant are both known for their traditional takes on this Southern classic. The Little Donkey, in Birmingham and Montgomery, offers a more upscale version that's a hit with foodies and critics.
Best Places to Try It: AK Alchemistin Anchorage
Reindeer aren't native to Alaska, but they've been a local staple since the late 1890s, when the first ones were imported from Siberia. Today, you can find reindeer burgers, reindeer sausage, and reindeer jerky all over the state. Start your morning with a cup of coffee and a breakfast burrito with reindeer sausage or grab a reindeer burger for lunch. Want more? Try cheese fries topped with reindeer or a reindeer quesadilla.
ARIZONA: PRICKLY PEAR
Best Places to Try It: Borderlands Brewing Co. in Tucson, HP Cafe in Sedona
Prickly pear, a type of cactus, is a regional specialty that you can find in jellies, jams, and syrups. It shows up in drinks, as well. Sip on a Prickly Pear Wheat beer at Borderlands Brewing, or order a stack of buttermilk pancakes topped with prickly pear syrup at the HP.
ARKANSAS: FRIED PICKLES
Best Place to Try Them: Picklefestin Atkins
You can find fried dill pickles nationwide, but Bernell "Fatman" Austin is credited with inventing them in 1963 at his fast-food joint in Atkins. The small town, located about 60 miles northwest of Little Rock, was once home to a large pickle-making plant. The plant is gone, but the annual Picklefest celebrates its memory every May (fried dill pickles included).
CALIFORNIA: TACOS AND BURRITOS
Best Places to Try Them: Kiko's Place Seafood in San Diego, El Faro in San Francisco
California's taquerias always offer an array of delicious and inexpensive bites, no matter what part of the state you're in. San Diego residents take their fish tacos seriously; the Kiko's Place food truck is a favorite in the University Heights neighborhood. Up north in San Francisco, Mission District burritos are the must-eat. El Faro claims to have created Mission-style burritos — a hefty feast of beans, rice, cheese, meat, salsa and various customizable fixings wrapped in a flour tortilla — in 1961.
COLORADO: ROCKY MOUNTAIN OYSTERS AND DOUGHNUTS
Best Places to Try Them: Coors Field in Denver, Pikes Peak Summit House in Cascade
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. You can find them all over Denver, including section 127 at Coors Field. Rather indulge in something sweet? The doughnuts served at the Pikes Peak Summit House lay claim to fame as the only ones made more than 14,000 feet above sea level.
CONNECTICUT: HOT DOGS AND NEAPOLITAN PIZZA
Best Places to Try Them: Doogie'sin Newington, Sally's Apizza in New Haven
Doogie's famous 2-foot-long hot dogs, which found their way to TV's "Man v. Food," can be loaded with everything from sauerkraut and Swiss cheese to barbecue baked beans and bacon. In the Nutmeg State, you're also going to want to 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.
Best Places to Try It: Wilson's General Store in Georgetown, Lucky's Coffee Shop in Wilmington
Scrapple (a mix of cornmeal, flour, pork scraps, and spices shaped into a loaf, sliced, and then fried) is not to everyone's taste, but it's considered a treat in Delaware. Tuck into a scrapple sandwich at tiny Wilson's General Store, a landmark for decades, or get eggs and a side of scrapple at Lucky's.
FLORIDA: KEY LIME PIE
Best Place to Try It: Key West Key Lime Pie Co.
Key lime pie, enjoyed while your feet are up and the waves are splashing away, is a slice of heaven. In Key West, people line up down the block for the award-winning pie at the Key West Key Lime Pie Co. In the Panhandle, try a slice at the Donut Hole Café & Bakery in Destin.
GEORGIA: PEACH COBBLER
Best Places to Try It: Crystal Beer Parlor in Savannah, Ivy's Heavenly Cobbler in Atlanta
In Georgia, nothing says home cooking like a slice of peach cobbler. Satisfy your Southern sweet tooth with this distinctly Georgian dessert. Top off a meal at Savannah's historic Crystal Beer Parlor with a slice of the famous cobbler. Or, order one from Ivy's Heavenly Cobbler in Atlanta.
HAWAII: KULOLO AND SHAVE ICE
Best Places to Try Them: Pomai Kulolo on Oahu, Original Big Island Shave Ice Co. on Hawaii
Hawaii is filled with unique foods that are little-known on the mainland. Try the sweet taro and coconut fudge-like kulolo or grab a cup of colorful shave ice (only tourists call it "shaved ice") and cool off. Original Big Island Shave Ice Co. on the big island has been a draw since the late '50s. On the island of Oahu, you can buy small-batch, locally made Pomai Kulolo at farmers markets and stores.
Best Place to Try It: The Boise Fry Co.
The Gem State is synonymous with spuds. The Boise Fry Co., a burger joint with locations in both Idaho and neighboring Oregon, offers a DIY french fry menu with a choice of six different tubers cut five different ways (plus occasional seasonal offerings).
ILLINOIS: POPCORN AND DEEP-DISH PIZZA
Best Places to Try Them: All over Chicago
Popcorn has been the official snack food of Illinois since 2003 — no surprise, given the 12 million acres devoted to growing corn. Chicago-based Garrett Popcorn has been stirring up flavored mixtures like macadamia caramel crisp for more than 60 years. Deep-dish pizza is another Chicago staple. Try it at Pequod's Pizza or Gino's East.
INDIANA: HOOSIER PIE
Best Places to Try It: Locally Grown Gardens and My Sugar Pie in Indianapolis
Hoosier Pie, also known as sugar cream pie, is beloved in Indiana. In the capital city, Locally Grown Gardens earns raves for its farm-to-table menu and local produce, as well as its sugar cream pie. My Sugar Pie is another Indy fave.
IOWA: STATE FAIR FARE
Best Place to Try It: Iowa State Fair in Des Moines
Every state fair has food, but few states can match Iowa's annual celebration of agriculture. If it can be eaten, you can probably find it skewered and deep-fried. Among the foods you can sample at the Iowa State Fair: apple pie on a stick, caprese salad on a stick, fried fruit kebabs, jalapeño corn dogs, loaded taters on a stick, and unicorn lollipops.
Best Place to Try Them: NuWay and Ty's Diner in Wichita
Beef is a big business in Kansas, so it makes sense that you should be able to find a darn good hamburger or two in the state. The style is thin and crumbly at the NuWay, which has been grilling burgers since 1930 and has five locations in town. Ty's Diner, another Wichita tradition, has been around since the '50s.
KENTUCKY: HOT BROWN
Best Places to Try It: Ramsey's Diner in Lexington, The Café in Louisville
The Hot Brown is an open-face sandwich of turkey and bacon smothered in Mornay sauce, dusted with spices, and then broiled until toasty. It was invented at Louisville's iconic Brown Hotel, but today you can find it all over the state (and a lot cheaper than the original!). Ramsey's and the Café are two restaurants that get the thumbs-up from diners and food critics.
Best Place to Try It: Domilise'sin New Orleans
Creole and Cajun food rule in Louisiana, so don't miss the opportunity to try gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish boils, red beans and rice, boudin, or beignets. New Orleans locals recommend Domilise's po'boy sandwich, crammed with fried shrimp, catfish, or oysters. The shop has been in business since 1918.
Best Place to Try It: Five Islands Lobster Co. in Georgetown
Maine's coast is dotted with seasonal lobster shacks serving relatively inexpensive fare, including lobster rolls, salads, and stews. Travelers swear by the dockside Five Islands Lobster Co. Other popular spots include The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport and Red's Eats in Wicasset.
MARYLAND: BERGER COOKIES
Best Place to Try Them: Berger's Bakery in Baltimore
Baltimore's Berger cookies are thick and crusty, with a generous slathering of chocolate icing on top. Berger's Bakery, with an outpost inside Lexington Market, is the go-to cookie connection.
MASSACHUSETTS: CLAM CHOWDER
Best Place to Try It: Legal Sea Foods in Boston
The New England clam chowder is among the least expensive dishes at this well-known seafood chain. It's been on the menu since 1950 and also on every presidential inaugural menu since 1981. It's rich, creamy, and full of chunky potatoes and chewy bits of clam.
MICHIGAN: CONEY DOG
Best Places to Try It: American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island in Detroit
Every Michigander knows about Coney dogs: hot dogs served with raw onion, chili, and mustard. In the Motor City, Coney dog fans swear allegiance to either American Coney Island or arch-rival Lafayette Coney Island. Conveniently, they're located next door to one another downtown, so you can try both and decide for yourself.
Best Place to Try It: Church suppers
Scandinavian immigrants to Minnesota brought cheap eats that the locals love — notably lutefisk, dried (and sometimes salted) whitefish that has been soaked in cold water and lye. Although a few upscale restaurants in the Twin Cities have adapted this downscale dish for their menus, the best place to try lutefisk may be one of the many church dinners in the area, especially around the holidays. Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, for example, has been holding an annual Christmas lutefisk dinner for almost 90 years.
MISSISSIPPI: CHEESE STRAWS
Best Place to Try It: Mississippi Cheese Straws in Yazoo City
Mississippi is known for its cheese straws. Originally available only in a cheddar flavor, they are now served sweet, savory, and spicy, as well. You don't actually need to travel south to enjoy them. You can order online from Mississippi Cheese Straws, perhaps the best-known baker, which has been in business since 1991 and uses an old family recipe.
MISSOURI: BARBECUE AND TOASTED RAVIOLI
Best Places to Try Them: Arthur Bryant's Barbecue in Kansas City, Charlie Gitto's in St. Louis
Barbecue reigns supreme in Kansas City, where the beef, pork, and chicken are rubbed with spices and slowly smoked, and the sauce is a thick, tomato-based, and made for mopping. Gates' Bar-B-Q is another local fave on the same best-of lists as Arthur Bryant's. On the other side of the state, St. Louis is famous for its "toasted" (deep-fried), meat-filled ravioli, served with a side of tomato sauce. Try the dish at Charlie Gitto's on the Hill, in the city's Italian neighborhood.
Best Place to Try It: James Bar in Missoula
Bison is native to North America and has been source of food for as long as mankind has lived in the Upper Plains. People who've tried it say it takes like a leaner version of beef. You can satisfy your curiosity three ways at James Bar: Try a green chili bison burger, bison meatloaf topped with ancho ketchup, or bison stew.
NEBRASKA: REUBEN SANDWICH
Best Place to Try It: Crescent Moon in Omaha
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 in the 1920s at the Blackstone Hotel. Today, the Reuben served at Crescent Moon (across the street from the old hotel location) is considered by many to be the best in town.
NEVADA: SHRIMP COCKTAIL
Best Place to Try It: The Oyster Bar at Harrah's in Las Vegas
Shrimp cocktail may seem like an odd dish to be associated with land-locked Nevada, but the Golden Gate Casino in Las Vegas is credited with popularizing the appetizer. It began touting its 50-cent shrimp cocktail to gamblers in 1959 and didn't raise the price until 1991 (and then only to 99 cents). The original Golden Gate Casino (and those cheap shrimp) are a thing of the past, but you can find shrimp cocktail at the Oyster Bar inside Harrah's on the Strip and mountains of the peel-and-eat variety at nearly every casino buffet in town.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: CIDER DOUGHNUTS
Best Places to Try Them: Farmers markets and orchards
Autumn in New Hampshire means apples, apple cider, and, of course, cider doughnuts, made from freshly pressed fruit. The Chichester Country Store is just one of many local favorites. You can also find them at farmers markets and orchards throughout the state or make your own.
NEW JERSEY: SALTWATER TAFFY
Best Places to Try It: James Candy Co. in Atlantic City, Shriver'sin Ocean City
A summertime trip to the Jersey shore isn't complete without buying a bag of saltwater taffy on the boardwalk. In Atlantic City, look for Fralinger's saltwater taffy, first sold in the 1850s and now made by the James Candy Co. In Ocean City, Shriver's has been in business since 1898.
NEW MEXICO: BISCOCHITO
Best Place to Try It: Celina's Biscochitos in Albuquerque
New Mexico's state cookie, the biscochito, 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. Celina's sometimes sells out, especially around the holidays, but don't worry. You can make your own with this state-approved recipe.
NEW YORK: PIZZA AND BAGELS
Best Places to Try Them: Everywhere from the Bronx to Staten Island
These two iconic New York foods rarely cost much. Sure, a premium pie 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. New Yorkers will never agree on where the best pizza and bagels are, but Joe's Pizza in Greenwich Village (serving slices since 1975) and Ess-a-Bagel (another child of the '70s) in Midtown East are two safe bets.
NORTH CAROLINA: PULLED PORK
Best Place to Try It: Smokey's BBQ Shack in Morrisville
Barbecue in North Carolina differs from the barbecue in, say, Kansas City. Thinner and less sweet, North Carolina's version incorporates a healthy dose of vinegar and contains little (if any) tomato sauce. Try B's Barbecue in Greenville or Bobbee O's in Charlotte, too. If you need something to wash down all those pulled pork sandwiches and ribs, try a cherry-flavored Cheerwine soda.
NORTH DAKOTA: CHIPPERS
Best Place to Try It: Carol Widman's Candy in Fargo
Perhaps you've tasted one of these delicious snacks somewhere else, but North Dakota confectioner Carol Widman's Candy has been making "chippers" (chocolate-covered potato chips) for generations.
OHIO: CHILI AND BUCKEYES
Best Places to Try Them: Pleasant Ridge Chili in Cincinnati, Malley's Candy in Cleveland
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). Pleasant Ridge Chili has been serving the stuff since the '60s. The Buckeye state also has a bit of a sweet tooth, especially when it comes to its namesake chocolate-dipped peanut butter balls.
OKLAHOMA: ONION BURGERS AND FRIED ANYTHING
Best Place to Try Them: Sid's Diner in El Reno
Fried okra is a local favorite and an inexpensive snack on the menu at just about any barbecue or burger joint worth its salt. Other cheap favorites include chicken fried steak (a breaded beef patty), fried pies (deep-fried fruit-filled turnovers), and the onion burger, which originated in El Reno, a town about 30 miles outside of Oklahoma City.
OREGON: MARIONBERRY PIE
Best Places to Try It: Petunia's Pies and Pastries in Portland, Chalet Restaurant and Bakery in Newport
The marionberry, a cousin of the blackberry, grows fat and sweet in Oregon, whose residents celebrate it with fresh marionberry pie. Petunia's in Portland earns raves for its vegan and gluten-free desserts, including pies. In tiny coastal Newport, Chalet's marionberry pie and other baked goods are delicious, patrons say.
Best Places to Try It: All over Philadelphia
Of course, the Philly cheesesteak springs to mind when thinking of Pennsylvania. And in the City of Brotherly Love, several restaurants regularly duke it out for title of best cheesesteak. A few of the local faves: Steve's Prince of Steaks in Northeast Philly, John's Roast Pork (where you should also try the Italian roast pork) in South Philly, and rivals Geno's Steaks and Pat's King of Steaks, across the street from each other in East Passyunk.
RHODE ISLAND: PIZZA STRIPS
Best Place to Try It: D. Palmieri's Bakery in Johnston
Pizza strips are almost exactly what they sound like: thick bread topped with tomato sauce and seasonings, but generally without cheese and served cold. D. Palmieri's is famous for them.
SOUTH CAROLINA: SHRIMP AND GRITS
Best Place to Try It: Hominy Grill in Charleston
You could order this iconic Lowcountry dish at six different restaurants and each would be a slight variation on the traditional pan-fried shrimp served atop grits and (maybe) topped with a gravy or sauce. Foodies regularly recommend the shrimp and grits at the Hominy Grill; the Early Bird Diner is another Charleston favorite.
SOUTH DAKOTA: CHISLIC
Best Place to Try It: Attic Bar & Grill in Sioux Falls
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. Beef chislic is a favorite appetizer at the Attic.
TENNESSEE: HOT CHICKEN
Best Places to Try It: Just about anywhere in Nashville
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. Prince's Hot Chicken and Bolton's Spicy Chicken and Fish are two East Nashville gems.
TEXAS: BREAKFAST TACOS AND PECAN PIE
Best Places to Try Them: Within the Austin city limits
The pecan tree is the official tree of Texas and the pecan is the official state nut. No wonder pecan pie is a favorite in the Lone Star State. Skip the bakery and make your own with Bessie's pecan pie, "the best pecan pie on earth," according to Texas Monthly magazine. For breakfast tacos, try Austin's El Chilito, Mi Madre's, Torchy's, Tyson's, Taco Deli ... the list goes on and on, locals say.
Best Places to Try Them: Alice's Kitchen and Penny Ann's Cafe in Salt Lake City
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. Start your day with the scones at Alice's Kitchen or Penny Ann's, both highly rated.
VERMONT: MAPLE SYRUP
Best Places to Try It: Anywhere in the state
Vermont produces more maple syrup than any other state in the country, meaning you don't even need to visit the Green Mountain State to sample it. Jed's Maple Products, Bragg Farm Maple Sugarhouse, and Hidden Springs Maple are three producers that sell online.
VIRGINIA: PIMENTO CHEESE
Best Place to Try It: Dancing Tomato in Virginia Beach
Pimento cheese, a mix of shredded cheddar cheese, pimentos, mayo, and spices, is a favorite throughout the South. Spread it on crackers or slather it on two slices of bread as a sandwich. Two other places to try it: Pastureand Comfortrestaurants in Richmond.
Best Places to Try It: Caffe Ladro and Caffe Vita in Seattle
The Pacific Northwest can be gray and gloomy for long stretches of time. No wonder Washingtonians suck down so much coffee. In Seattle, skip Starbucks and try a local cafe instead. In Spokane, hit up Indaba Coffee Roasters, and in Olympia, look to Batdorf & Bronson.
WEST VIRGINIA: PEPPERONI ROLLS
Best Place to Try Them: Chico Bakery in Morgantown
Pepperoni baked inside a soft white bread, locally known as a pepperoni roll, is a cheap grab-and-go lunch item. Chico Bakery has been making Julia's Pepperoni Rolls since 1925. Other favorites include The Donut Shop in Buckhannon and Country Club Bakery in Fairmont.
WISCONSIN: CHEESE CURDS
Best Place to Try Them: Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis
Love cheese? Love deep-fried foods? Wisconsin offers a bit of both with fried cheese curds. One of the best places to find them is at the annual state fair. Other must-try cheese curd destinations include Titletown Brewing Co. in Green Bay and the Old Fashioned in Madison.
WYOMING: CHICKEN FRIED STEAK
Best Place to Try It: Luxury Diner in Cheyenne
Cowboys need a hearty meal if they're going to stay in the saddle all day, and nothing satisfies quite like a chicken fried steak: tenderized beef, breaded and fried, then dressed in white gravy. The Luxury Diner has been a local favorite since 1926, and its chicken fried steak sometimes has 'em lined up out the door.