The Best Signature Food Each U.S. State Has To Offer
They say that before leaving the country to travel the world, you should explore your own country instead. If you’re a foodie like us, you might love the prospect of visiting new places purely to try out the local cuisine. Being such a vast and diverse country, it only makes sense that the United States boasts some of the greatest food in the world.
If you’re planning a state-to-state trip, you might want to keep this list handy. We’ll break down what makes every state special when it comes to food. Of course, there’s only enough room for one specialty per state, but it would take anyone a while to work their way through these foods as it is.
1. Alabama’s Pecan Pie
If you happen to get a chance to try this delightful dessert, you’d be nuts to pass up the chance. The recipe is over 150 years old and was invented in Texas and perfected by a syrup salesman’s wife. It’s the secret sauce that makes it Alabama-amazing.
You’ll also be tasting a part of the state with every bite. The pie is, of course, loaded with pecan nuts, the official nut of the state. If you get the chance, head to Orange Beach, where they’ll serve the best stuff at Luna’s. Check it out!
2. Alaska’s Smoked Salmon
Smoked salmon has been around forever, but it’s obvious to anyone with the fortune to have taken a bite out of this delicious fish that Alaska does it best. It is, after all, one of the state’s largest exports. Everyone wants a taste!
The best smoked salmon is cooked for seven hours after being brined. It may sound like a long time, but it’s worth it. Whether sockeye or coho, Alaskans treasure this dish. You can find the best stuff at Anchorage’s Sausage and Seafood Market.
3. Arizona’s Sonoran Dog
Mayonnaise, grilled onions, pinto beans, and jalapenos on bacon-wrapped sausages in a bun with optional roasted chile peppers. The Mexican influence might be shining through on this hot dog, and it’s a classic in Arizona.
You can make them as spicy (or not) as you like. Just make sure to eat them under the shade and with a few paper towels—these things can be messy to eat. If you’re looking for a couple of these dogs, Nogales in Phoenix can hook you up.
4. Arkansas’ Chocolate Gravy
Feeling hungry yet? If not, the smell of these Arkansan chocolate gravy-covered hot biscuits will make your mouth water. This one’s worth the cheat day. It usually comes soaked with syrup, and the result? A fluffy treat that will melt in your mouth.
The biscuit is made from milk, sugar, flour, cocoa, and butter, but the best ones come from Jasper, from the Ozark Cafe. Make sure to eat them while they’re hot and swimming in that deep dark chocolate sauce.
5. Californian Breakfast Favourite: Avocados On Toast
In recent years avocado toast has become known as the dish millennials prefer to eat every day rather than owning their own homes, but there’s a good reason they’re popular. Spread over toast, salted, and peppered with crushed chili seeds is the perfect way to eat it.
But there are plenty of other ways to eat this incredibly nutritious dish. But the only way we’ll insist you try this dish is with Hass avocados, which are grown in the state and are known for their thick, savory flavor.
6. Colorado’s Mountain “Oysters”
If you saw the title and thought to yourself, “wait, oysters don’t live in the mountains,” you’d be dead right. Colorado’s rocky mountain oysters aren’t oysters at all but sliced up, breaded, and deep-fried bull testicles garnished with spring onions.
We understand if it puts you off, but you’ll really be missing out on this delicacy if your squeamishness gets the better of you. Just take one bite and judge it on the merits of its flavor. The Fort Restaurant in Morrison cooks ‘em up the best.
7. Connecticut’s White Clam Pizza Pie
Everybody knows about New York’s slice, but not everyone knows about Connecticut’s white clam pie. The northeast specializes in delicate, rich pizzas. The best place to go is a place that’s been open for almost 100 years—Frank Pepe’s in New Haven.
If you want a slice of this creamy pie topped with rubbernecked clams, mozzarella, and garlic, there are a few Frank Pepe’s in the state, but the best one is the original. You can thank us later.
8. Delaware’s Scrapple
No, this one isn’t some kind of scallop and apple hybrid. This filling food was brought over by the Scots-Irish and the Pennsylvanian Dutch. It’s a rich and stodgy dish, and it was created with longevity in mind. It’s made with cornmeal, pork, and spices.
Scrapple is shaped into a patty and fried. Like all good things, it isn’t the healthiest thing for you, but take it from us—it will keep you sated well into the day. It goes well with ketchup or syrup. Any Georgetown diner will be your best bet for good scrapple.
9. Florida’s Key Lime Pie
Tart and bittersweet, the best key lime pie comes from Florida and is made with Florida’s very own key limes. This dish can be enjoyed at room temperature in which it melts down like a cloud, or when the weather is hot, enjoyed frozen and dipped in chocolate.
If you want to get to key lime pie central, visit Key West and try out Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe for the best smooth and aromatic fill of heavenly dessert your mouth will ever have tasted.
10. Georgia’s Peach Cobbler
Best enjoyed straight out of the oven, this Georgian dessert puts the peach in peachicious. Peaches are in their prime from May to August, so if you happen to be around between these months, go gobble some cobbler.
The best places know to top the cobbler with a dollop of fresh vanilla ice cream. If you’re looking for the best place to try it, try Ivy’s Heavenly Cobbler in Decatur. And bring some good company along if you have some.
11. Hawaiian Loco Moco
This one might seem a little off the wall, but it makes a great comfort food. Loco moco is made by covering white rice with a beef burger. The burger is drenched in gravy and then topped with a fried egg. It sounds like an odd combination, but it works.
Hilo on Big Island is known to make some of the best moco locos in Hawaii. The dish is said to have been created sometime in 1949, minus the fried egg, which came later. You can replace the patty with any number of meats.
12. Idaho’s Ice Cream Potato
Now we know what you’re thinking—they can’t love potatoes in Idaho that much, can they? Well, yes and no. You see, this isn’t a potato. It’s ice cream rolled in cocoa in disguise. The cream on top is meant to be sour cream, but it’s actually whipped cream.
If you ever happen to be in Boise, there’s a great place called the West Side Drive-In where you can get this incognito potato dessert swimming in fudge sauce. It’s a great idea for potato fans and non-potato fans alike.
13. Illinoian Deep Dish Pizza Pie
To the uninitiated, this probably looks more like cake than a pizza. But this kind of pie has been around since 1943, invented by genius Italian-Americans who craved a chewier crust, chunkier, tangier tomato sauce, and gooier cheese.
The sauce is put on top of the cheese to prevent it from burning. Some places mix the sauce with cheese, but the result is the same: sublime deep dish pizza. The best place to start might be at Lou Malnati’s in Chicago.
14. Indiana’s Tenderloin Lunch Sandwich
The bun is mostly for holding the meat. In the best tenderloin sandwich places, most of the tenderloin will lend to hang out of the bun. The tenderloin itself is made up of thinly sliced, breaded pork based on the German Wienerschnitzel.
If you’re interested in sampling this wonder sandwich and are in Huntington, you can visit Nick’s Kitchen, the tenderloin sandwich’s birthplace, although this dish can be found in plenty of other places state-wide.
15. Iowa’s Sweetcorn
Iowa’s nutrient-rich soil gives it the best competitive advantage when it comes to growing corn. The best place to pick up a sweet cob of corn? There’s a great farmer’s market down in Des Moines which sells them along with other fresh produce.
Make sure to get your sweetcorn cob fresh with a coat of butter. Any Iowan corn lover will tell you they taste best in the first 24 hours of being picked—any longer, and they lose more than half of their natural sugar.
16. Kansas’ Burnt Ends
By the name, you wouldn’t expect something called “burnt ends” to be that appetizing. But once you get a good sniff and a good look at this dish, you might have a change of mind. These finely diced cubes of meat are also known as “meat candy” to the locals.
These chunks caramelize around the edge of the brisket while it’s being smoked. Some places offer a gourmet variation on this dish using pork belly instead. Joe’s Kansas City restaurant can hook you up with the good stuff.
17. Kentucky: Bourbon Balls
As the legend goes, Ruth Booer, inventor of the bourbon ball, was inspired to create the now-iconic candy after overhearing from a dignitary at a social gathering that “the best taste in the world was one bite of her chocolate and a small sip of bourbon.”
Rebecca Ruth Candy is the best place to pick up a tray of these delectable chocolates with their pecan faces and cream centers. There’s even a tour! Just be sure to share with your friends—they can be quite addictive.
18. Louisiana: Gumbo
When you eat gumbo, you’re in divine company. The meal comprises celery, onions, and green bell peppers—a trinity the locals refer to as the holy spirit— garlic—the pope, and filé or okra powder. This delicious stew is often accompanied by shellfish, chicken, and rice.
It’s an old-world dish given a new-world twist. The best gumbo can be found in Hambone in Mandeville. The dish takes at least three hours of heating, but don’t worry, as it was created to serve as many people at once as possible, you won’t have to wait that long.
19. Maine’s Lobster Rolls
Fresh lobster in a roll? You bet! This summer classic is served cold with a toasted bun and a little spurt of mayo. Some people like to mix it up with a few drops of lemon juice or pepper, but the lobster itself is so rich there’s really need to add any more flavor.
A good place to find one is the Clam Shack, in Kennebunk, right by the seafood market. It’s a great little meal to eat while strolling the sands of Maine’s shoreline and taking in the scenic waters.
20. Maryland’s Crab Cakes
The crab meat in Maryland’s crab cakes comes straight out of Chesapeake Bay. Broiled or fried, they taste great well-seasoned with Old Bay herbs and spices. Timbuktu Restaurant in Baltimore is a great place to find the perfect cakes.
The secret to the crab cake’s unique flavor is a lot of mayonnaise and a little splash of Worcestershire sauce. They also work great in a sandwich. Try one in whole wheat potato bread with lettuce and tartar sauce.
21. Massachusetts’ Clam Chowder
Creamy, warming, and rich, Massachusetts does clam chowder the best. Freshly harvested clams, celery, fat chunks of potato, and onion are what makes this soup so special.
If you’ve never heard anyone talk about how good their clam chowder is in Massachusetts, it may be because they’re pronouncing it “chowdah” and you’re just not hearing it right. Check out Union Oyster House in Boston—it’s the oldest “chowdah” dispensary in the U.S.
22. Michigan’s Coney Dogs
Coney dogs embody indulgence. While Coney Island may technically be in NYC, they were perfected in Detroit. Many Coney Dog joints are named after the place, such as Lafeyette Coney Island, as shown here.
The dogs are loaded with yellow mustard, chopped onions, and, most importantly, piles of meaty chili. They’re great in any kind of weather, but just be prepared to wipe up any mess as they can be sloppy to eat.
23. Minnesota Fried Fish And French Fries
Beer battered, buttery, crispy, and fat with fish, this fry-up is a Minnesota favorite, especially on weekends. There’s pollack, cod, and the official state fish, walleye—the official state fish—to choose from, among other kinds.
The perfect antidote to the cold, the fish is best served with French fries with a cold beer by the side to wash it down. The Anchor Fish And Chips is a great place to try it if you happen to stop by Minneapolis.
24. Mississippi’s Biscuits
A great way to start the day in Mississippi is by breakfasting with a traditional Mississippi biscuit. A good local biscuit will be flakey and doughy at the same time, but buttery where it counts—all over. They’re eaten with jam, (more) butter, or even gravy.
Sweet or savory, these biscuits will keep you going until well after lunchtime. While enjoying some southern hospitality in Ridgeland, stop by M7 Coffee House to get your fill of the flaky, chewy flavor.
25. Missouri: Gooey Butter Cake
Yeah, you read that right. “Gooey butter cake.” Sounds good, right? It’s nothing compared to the taste of the real thing. A word of warning to those of you who count your calories: You may lose count after a few bites—but this cake is seriously worth the cheat day.
Pick up a slice at Park Ave Coffee in St. Louis. This cake was invented by a baker by mistake. He put too much butter in a coffee cake, but the creamy filling and crispy crust turned out to be a taste sensation for the locals.
26. Montana’s Huckleberry Filling
This one is more of an ingredient than a dish, but there were so many contestants with huckleberry filling that it would have been impossible to choose from them. Huckleberries are similar to blueberries but more tart and crisp, as well as more purple.
They’re amazing in jelly, jam, pasties, or syrup. Some enterprising Montanans even brew their own huckleberry beer. If you’re looking for some, you can pick them yourself in Montana’s many mountains, or you can stop by The Huckleberry Patch in Hungry Horse.
27. Nebraska’s Runza
Nebraska might be better known for its Reuben sandwich, but there’s another sizzler that you should try if you drop by the state. You can find this meaty package in several places all over the state—even by drive-by—at Runza Restaurants.
The Runza, sometimes known as a “bierock,” is ground beef, cabbage, and onions stuffed into a hot, doughy pocket. Like many other stodgy, rich, and filling foods in the U.S., Runza was brought over by German immigrants.
28. Nevada’s Buffets
Alright—technically, this one isn’t a specialty, but in the spirit of Las Vegas, which is the unofficial champion of buffet food, why settle when you can win—or eat—them all? If you’re in for the win, visit The Buffet at Wynn to fill up.
There’s an endless spread in most buffet places. Whether you’re a fan of seafood, steak, burgers, sushi, sweets, Chinese food, or more, Vagas will have you covered. While they tend to be on the pricier side, some buffets offer unlimited alcohol.
29. New Hampshire’s Apple Cider Donuts
Sweet, spicy, cinnamon—these juicy donuts can be picked up in any old grocery or convenience store, but the best way to experience New Hampshire apple cider donuts is to pick your own at Meadow Ledge Farm in Loudon.
They’re made with real cider, usually around fall. They go great washed down with cider and even with a side of apple ice cream. Just remember to chew them slowly to savor the taste of the orchid.
30. New Jersey’s Saltwater Taffy
In case you were wondering, no, this taffy isn’t made with saltwater—it’s made with sugar and corn syrup. It comes in every flavor you could ask for. Try Shriver’s Salt Water And Fudge store in Ocean City to pick some up.
It got its name either from a clever marketing trick or a story involving a flooded beach town candy store, in which a little girl entered the shop after all the stock was ruined. When she asked what he had, the shop owner answered, “just salt water taffy,” and handed her a stick.
31. New Mexico’s Hatch Green Chile
As you might have guessed, New Mexico is famous for its Hatch green chili peppers. These peppers aren’t actually green but red. They’re red chilies plucked before they’ve had a chance to ripen.
While the chili adds a nice amount of spice to any food—wraps, burgers, burritos, posole, and enchiladas, to name a few, they’re also very good for your metabolism. They also contained six times as much vitamin C as an orange.
32. New York’s Bagels
Versatile, fluffy, and chewy at the same time, New Yorkers came up with the perfect answer to the common sandwich—the bagel. The tough-but-puffy bread perfectly embodies the spirit of NYC living. You can find some of the best at Ess-A-Bagel.
New Yorkers are very proud of their bagels—and for good reason. Whether it’s cream cheese and lox or any one of the hundreds of custom fillings—rain, snow, or shine, you can’t go wrong with a New York bagel.
33. North Caroline’s Fried Green Tomatoes
Served as is or between two slices of bread with mayo or special dipping sauce, fried green tomatoes are considered by many to be the ultimate southern comfort food. This tangy, tart appetizer gives a satisfying crunch as you work your way through it.
The best fried green tomatoes are plucked right off the vine, sliced, deep fried, and served smothered in secret sauce. Try out these cornmeal and spiced delights at Dish in Charlotte. It’s likely the best fried fruit you’ll ever taste!
34. North Dakota’s Hotdish
Hotdish isn’t one set meal—it’s more of a spectrum of dishes. Some might call it a casserole—but try not to repeat that too loudly while you’re anywhere in the state or you know someone is going to get offended. There are some commonalities.
Hotdish tends to contain several common ingredients, including potatoes or pasta, cheese, green beans, ground beef, and corn. Hotdish gets its name from the hot dish in which it is made. The Sons of Norway in Fargo do it right.
35. Ohio’s Cincinnati Chili
In Ohio, if you’re ever asked which way you like it—two-way, three-way, four-way, or five-way, chances are you’re at a chili joint like Camp Washington Chilli in Cincinnati. The chili, named after the place, if you couldn’t tell, isn’t like your father’s chili.
It’s more like an upside-down bolognese than anything. It comes with spaghetti on top of the chili if you ask for a two-way. Putting an order down for a five-way gets you that plus all the other toppings—beans, onions, and a mountain of cheese.
36. Oklahoma’s Onion Burgers
Unless you happen to hate onions, the Oklahoman onion burger is a mouthwatering feast for the eyes and the stomach. It’s made mostly with (you guessed it) caramelized onions instead of chicken, beef, or turkey, but some prefer to eat it with meat as well.
Sweet onions are generally used for this famous OK dish. The onion burger came about because of necessity. It was invented during the Great Depression when meat was too expensive to source, but burgers were still in demand. Tucker’s Onion Burgers cooks up a great example in Oklahoma City.
37. Oregon’s Marionberries
The marionberry is great to eat on its own, but they also make a wonderful filling for pie. A type of blackberry, they are exclusive to Oregon. They actually came about as a collaboration between Oregon State University and the U.S.Department of Agriculture.
It has a glossy, purple sheen and an earthy, tart, and sweet taste. They’re harvested in July, which is around the best time to head to the state and try them. One place to find them in a good pie is Willamette Valley Pie Company in Salam.
38. Pennsylvania’s Philly Cheesesteak
It’s a little-known fact that the original 1930s Philly cheesesteak didn’t actually contain cheese—just beef—but rest assured, today’s sandwiches come loaded with the good stuff: provolone, cheez whiz, or good ol’ American cheese, as well as anything else you’d like.
This one’s from John’s Roast Pork in Philadelphia. This sandwich isn’t just named after the city—it’s the state’s most popular food—and for good reason, too.
39. Rhode Island’s Stuffies
This is one for all you clam lovers out there. If you like fresh seafood, you’ll love what they haul in on Rhode Island. In typical American fashion, each clam is overloaded with meat, breadcrumbs, spices, and vegetables before being baked.
The result: overwhelming taste, texture, and aftertaste. It’s not hard to see how “stuffies” got their name. The only problem with stuffies is how addictive they are. One is never enough! Anthony’s Seafood in Middletown bakes some of the best.
40. South Carolina’s Low-Country Boil
If you’re not a fan of getting your hands messy during a meal, well—you may want to bring some napkins along, because messy or not, you don’t want to miss this, especially for summertime. This one’s from Low Country Shrimper in Mauldin.
It goes by other names—Beaufort stew, Frogmore stew—but the recipe for each is about the same. You’re looking at sweetcorn, boiled heirloom potatoes, king-sized shrimp, and sausages all swimming together in a nice hot bowl.
41. South Dakota’s Fried Bread
This dish is as simple and as humble as they come. It may not come with as much pizazz as some of the other dishes, but it’s delicious nonetheless. It’s a traditional Native American food that’s fluffy and thick to the tongue.
It’s often sweetened with sugar, cinnamon, or honey or even served with a dollop of ice cream. Some places serve it as a savory meal with ground-up bison meat, which the locals call an “Indian taco.”
42. Tennessee’s Hot Chicken
Be warned—the “hot” in hot chicken isn’t just talking about the temperature. The original and still the best is located in Nashville—a place called Prince’s—and depending on your endurance, you can take the spice levels off the chart.
Expect tears—either from spice lovers who have finally met their match or from those whose taste buds have been forever changed by the searingly spicy skin. Well, if you’re in the latter group, better to pass this one up to the spice pros.
43. Texas Smoked Brisket
There’s nothing better than a BBQ down in the Lonestar State. Cooked over pecan or mesquite wood and mixed with tomato sauce or BBQ sauce depending on if you’re in the east or west respectively, you can’t go wrong with either.
In truth, there are four regional versions of the smoked brisket, some more cowboy than others—but you’ll just have to try them for yourself.
44. Utah’s Fry Sauce
This may come as a surprise, but fry sauce didn’t just come out of nowhere. The ketchup and mayo sauce combo came out of Utah.
It may feel like the sauce has been around forever, but it was, in fact, invented in the 1940s by a chef in an old fast food chain. Thanks, Utah!
45. Vermont’s Maple Syrup
There are over 1,500 sugarhouses chugging out Vermont’s famous maple syrup—that’s a lot of demand! Americans use up over 2 million gallons of the stuff every year.
That’s 8 million maple trees working full time to meet the nation’s need for their favorite pancake topping. The small state works extra hard!
46. Virginia’s Peanuts
If you’ve ever seen those big peanuts out in the park, they’re likely from Virginia. A whopping 15% of all peanuts in the country are grown there, in the southeast part of the state.
If you’re in Virginia, you may be able to stop by and tour any one of the peanut butter factories there. Virginian peanuts make the best peanut butter, hands down.
47. Washington’s Rainier Cherries
The sweetest cherries in the country come from Washington. They’re named after the state’s (active) volcano, Mount Rainier, and they have a bright red and orange look to match.
If you happen to be up in Washington on July 11th, you’d be in luck—It’s a state-wide national holiday: National Rainier Cherry Day. Orchids all over invite visitors to come and pick their own. Join in if you can!
48. West Virginia’s Pepperoni Rolls
It was originally a humble lunchtime meal for miners working in the hills. While it comes with fancier condiments nowadays, such as cheese or Italian dipping sauce, it remains a fairly simple food.
The Donut Shop in Buckhannon (which also does great donuts) won’t do you wrong if you’re looking to fill that pepperoni-roll-shaped hole in your belly.
49. Wisconsin’s Cheese Curds
Given how big the dairy industry is in Wisconsin, it makes sense that their signature dish should involve dairy somehow. Like halloumi, these delectable bites squeak when you bite them.
That’s the protein from the cheese curds rubbing against your teeth. While they’re fairly common across the state, the Old Fashioned in Madison can hook you up for your next cheese fix.
50. Wyoming’s Chicken Fried Steak
This ain’t no finger-lickin’ fried chicken we’re talking about. It’s a classic Wyoming dish served crunchy and flattened to perfection with creamy gravy and mashed potatoes.
Make no mistake—your steak is made of beef and is only fried like chicken, hence the name. If you’re looking to tuck in, Crazy Ate’s at Mountain View will do the job.