27 Eateries That Are Famous for One Amazing Dish



Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.

Essential Eats

A single dish can soar over all others in popularity at a restaurant — maybe because it's just amazing, maybe because the restaurant invented it, or maybe because it's a regional specialty you can't get anywhere else. Whatever the cause, it's a solid move to order a restaurant's most famous dish so you can see what all the hype is about. We scoured reviews and rankings by expert food writers and countless hungry customers to find out which restaurants across the U.S. are worth putting on the list for a visit someday just for a signature menu item. 

Peter Luger Steak House
Daniel C./Yelp

Peter Luger Steak House: Porterhouse

New York

For the best steak in the country, it's New York City's Peter Luger. Established in 1887, it's best known for huge porterhouse steaks that serve two or four people. The beef is USDA prime grade and dry-aged in house, cooked under a broiler until a thick crust forms, then sliced on a platter before serving.

Hot Brown Open-faced Sandwiches, The Brown Hotel
Ryan B./Yelp

The Brown Hotel: The Hot Brown

Louisville, Kentucky

The hot brown is an open-faced sandwich with a layer of toast, roasted turkey, bacon, and tomato topped with creamy mornay sauce and broiled. It was created in the 1920s at The Brown Hotel, where diners can look forward to enjoying the classic dish in its restaurants, bar, or through in-room dining.  

Toasted Ravioli, Charlie Gitto's
Nathan H./Yelp

Charlie Gitto’s: Toasted Ravioli

St. Louis

Though the exact origins of this favorite snack are unknown, one of the most accepted stories is that Charlie Gitto's was the first to serve toasted ravioli, little pillows of meat-filled pasta that get breaded, deep fried, and served with marinara sauce for dipping. 

Related: 51 Best Old-School Italian Restaurants in America

Brisket, Franklin Barbecue
Andrew S./Yelp

Franklin Barbecue: Brisket


If there's one kind of barbecue Texas is known for, it's brisket. And the best place to get brisket is Franklin Barbecue in Austin. It's so good that people have been known to line up for hours just to get their mouths on some. It opens at 11 a.m. and usually closes between 2 and 3 p.m. — because that's how quickly it runs out of smoked meat.  

Tacos, Las Cuatro Milpas
Lisa W./Yelp

Las Cuatro Milpas: Tacos

San Diego

There are so many amazing taquerias, but few have the following of San Diego's Las Cuatro Milpas. The menu is short and lines of orders long, but that's because the tortillas are rolled every day and fried fresh for light, crispy tacos.

For more great dining tips, please sign up for our free newsletters.

Empanadas, Marini's Empanada House
Kashif K./Yelp
Bakesale Betty: Fried Chicken Sandwich
Roland H./Yelp

Bakesale Betty: Fried Chicken Sandwich

Oakland, California

Fried chicken sandwiches are popular all over, but one worth waiting for is at Bakesale Betty in Oakland. The sandwiches are huge, the chicken is juicy, and the batter is crunchy. It's served with spicy vinaigrette-dressed slaw on a soft roll. And there are cookies and other treats for dessert, but they won't sell out by 2 p.m. each day — and sometimes earlier — like the fried chicken sandwiches.

Belgian Frites, Saus
Bruce K./Yelp

Saus Boston: Belgian Frites


It may sound strange to call out a restaurant for its condiments, but that's exactly what Saus in Boston is all about. Essentially a Belgian frites shop, Saus sells mostly french fries and about 20 homemade sauces, ranging from flavored creamy mayos to herb-filled avocado — which can do double duty as salad dressing.

Dumplings, Paul's Pel'meni
Tai D./Yelp

Paul’s Pel’meni: Dumplings

Madison, Wisconsin

Pel'meni are small, traditional Russian dumplings, and they're all Paul's Pel'meni in Madison, Wisconsin, sells. Choose from ground beef or potato filling, or get a mix. They're topped with melted butter, yellow curry powder, sweet chili sauce, cilantro, and sour cream, making for one of the best late-night snacks around. 

Burritos, La Taqueria
Alex R./Yelp

La Taqueria: Burritos

San Francisco

San Francisco is a hot spot for excellent burrito joints. One of the best is La Taqueria, where the lines over the years have been long but fast-moving. You won't find rice in these burritos — just heaps of meat, beans, and salsa. If you want cheese, guacamole, and sour cream, ask for a burrito to be made "super." Diners are wise to grab plenty of napkins. Without rice to soak them up, these burritos are juicy.  

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, The Grilled Cheeserie
Olivia H./Yelp

The Grilled Cheeserie: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Nashville, Tennessee

Everyone loves a grilled cheese sandwich, but at The Grilled Cheeserie in Nashville, they're over the top. An item called the B&B of Tennessee combines cheddar and bacon with a caramelized apple and shallot jam. There's also a Southern-inspired pimento mac and cheese item. Yes, that's mac and cheese in a grilled cheese sandwich.

Macaroni and Cheese, Macs
Cory R./Yelp

MACS: Macaroni and Cheese

Multiple locations, Wisconsin

And speaking of macaroni and cheese, a seven-location chain in cheese-loving Wisconsin predictably makes some of the best. MACS serves up piping hot skillets of bubbly mac, extra creamy and full of cheeses, and topped with anything from fried hot dogs to chipotle chicken.  

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, Pequod's, Chicago, Illinois
Nicholas T./Yelp
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
Cali C./Yelp

Giovanni's Shrimp Truck: Garlic Shrimp

Haleiwa, Hawaii

Hawaii has its own version of shrimp scampi, usually served from food trucks on the North Shore of Oahu. Giovanni's is one of the most popular, selling plates of a dozen shrimp bathed in a butter sauce full of chopped garlic, along with two scoops of rice to soak up all that sauce.  

Cuban Sandwich, Las Olas Cafe
Michele L./Yelp

Las Olas Cafe: Cuban Sandwich

Miami Beach

Just a couple blocks from the southern end of Miami Beach is one of the best places to get a Cuban sandwich in Miami: Las Olas Cafe. It's tiny, with just a couple of tables, so over the years diners got in the habit of taking their melty Cubano full of roasted pork, ham, pickles, and mustard to the beach.

Crab Cakes, Faidley's Seafood
Desiree D./Yelp

Faidley’s Seafood: Crab Cakes


In Baltimore, you have to eat one thing: crab cakes. Faidley's stand in Lexington Market is known as one of the best in the country. The cakes are made with either jumbo lump or backfin crab meat, formed into softball-sized cakes by hand, and deep fried briefly to form a crust.  

Hamburgers, Louis' Lunch
Laila A./Yelp

Louis' Lunch: Hamburgers

New Haven, Connecticut

Many restaurants serve great hamburgers, but Louis' Lunch in New Haven claims to have created the hamburger sandwich in 1895 and makes it the same today: cooked in a vertical grill, topped with tomato and onion, and served on toast. It's simple and satisfying, and it's easy to see why it became a classic. 

Related: Best Hole-in-the-Wall Burger Joint in Every State

Willie Mae’s Scotch House
karmela kay s./Yelp

Willie Mae's Scotch House: Fried Chicken

New Orleans

If there's only one place you can choose to go for fried chicken, pick Willie Mae's Scotch House in New Orleans. This hole in the wall has been open since 1957 in the Treme neighborhood, closed only two years by Hurricane Katrina. Today, Willie Mae's great-granddaughter runs the place, serving the same fried chicken as always. Sadly, disaster struck earlier this year when a fire did heavy damage to the restaurant, which is temporarily closed for repairs. 

Medium Rare
Sahel M./Yelp

Medium Rare: Steak Frites

Washington, D.C.

There's a French dish that's so classic that one restaurant in Washington, D.C. (with three locations) serves only it. Medium Rare has one prix fixe menu: You get bread, a green salad, and a culotte steak with fresh hand-cut fries, also known as steak frites. There are some desserts and plenty of wine to choose from if you feel like you must make some type of choice during your meal.

Chicken and Rice, Nong's Khao Man Gai
Judy C./Yelp

Nong's Khao Man Gai: Chicken and Rice

Portland, Oregon

The popular Thai street food called khao man gai, otherwise known as chicken and rice, is still sold on the street by Nong's food cart (there are also two bricks-and-mortar chicken locations). The chicken is gently poached, the rice is cooked with the stock and aromatic herbs, and it's all served with a tangy sauce made with fermented soy beans.

Lobster Roll, Red's Eats
Andrew S./Yelp

Red's Eats: Lobster Roll

Wiscasset, Maine

Judging by the lines of hungry customers, the great lobster rolls at Red's Eats are no secret. Once you see the size of the massive roll — with more than one whole lobster's worth of meat — the wait is understandable. The rolls are served plain, with melted butter and mayonnaise on the side.

Michael U./Yelp

Domilise's: Po' Boys

New Orleans

When you think of po' boys, chances are you're thinking of fillings such as fried oysters. Domilise's has that, of course, but seafood doesn't appear on the menu until after more than 15 other kinds of po' boys, including the popular roast beef. It comes topped with the juices and little bits of meat it's cooked in, called debris — tastier than the name implies.

Sausages, The Vanguard
Michael C./Yelp

The Vanguard: Sausages


In Milwaukee, with its long German roots, The Vanguard ups the ante on bratwursts and hot dogs with creative variations such as the Nashville Hot Chicken Sausage spiced with paprika and cayenne and a Thai sausage made with pork and lemongrass that gets a squirt of peanut sauce. 

Related: Famous Franks: America's Best Hot Dog Stands

Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches, Gramma's Kitchen
Cory C./Yelp

Gramma's Kitchen: Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches

Walcott, Iowa

The fried pork tenderloin sandwich is an Iowa specialty. Gramma's Kitchen — just off Interstate 80 at the same exit as the world's largest truck stop in Walcott — has an award-winning version. The pork is pounded thin until it's about twice the size of the hamburger bun it's served on, then breaded and fried crispy.  

Chili Dogs, The Varsity
Chen J./Yelp

The Varsity: Chili Dogs


The Varsity has been slinging chili dogs since 1928, and is known as the world's largest drive-in restaurant. Its bestselling combo meal comes with two chili dogs and onion rings for big appetites. Get your dogs topped with creamy slaw for a Southern addition.

French Fries: The Boise Fry Co.
Youri Y./Yelp

The Boise Fry Co.: French Fries

Multiple locations, Idaho

This Idaho mini-chain considers burgers to be the side dish, not fries — and it's no joke. Though potato choices change seasonally and cuts change daily, usually you can choose between six different potatoes, including red lady, sweet potato, yam, and purple and five or six cuts (everything from curly fries to "po'balls"). And diners who feel guilty about eating so-called junk-food fries can at least feel good about the company's commitment to reducing waste and being green. The chain recycles its oil in cars and uses Energy Star appliances and lights.

Shrimp and Grits: The Original Pierre Maspero's
Deanna F./Yelp

The Original Pierre Maspero's: Shrimp and Grits

New Orleans

For authentic Cajun food with a side of history, you can't top this New Orleans restaurant. The building dates back to 1788 and was a coffeehouse where Andrew Jackson plotted the Battle of New Orleans with Pierre and Jean Lafitte. (The British surrendered.) But whether or not you're impressed with the history, the shrimp and grits should wow you. Gulf shrimp are sautéed in white wine and butter with heirloom tomatoes, shallots, fresh herbs, and ham, then served over cheese grits.

Related: The Best Spot for Comfort Food in Every State