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Enjoy Signature Foods Across the Country

signature foods

The opportunity to live like a local is an alluring facet of travel.

To help make sure you can do just that on your next getaway, here are some states’ signature foods. Nosh on these treats for a true flavor of interesting destinations nationwide.

Signature foods in New England

Maine. A classic Maine lobster roll comes piled high on a top-split hot dog bun with mayonnaise smothered on each side. You’ll find lobster rolls at most restaurants in Maine, with innumerable options in tourist spots like Boothbay Harbor or Portland. If you’re visiting the latter, consider a lobstering tour with Lucky Catch Cruises for an up-close look at the industry behind one of New England’s culinary mainstays.

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Massachusetts. New England clam chowder is the perfect dish for a summer lunch. Recipes differ depending on the restaurant, but most chowders will include potatoes, onions and a healthy heap of clams, served in a creamy white broth. Order your serving after a long day at the beach on Cape Cod or the North Shore.

Rhode Island. Hot wieners are sold in apt-named wienie joints around the state. If you want to enjoy them like the locals, ask for yours “all the way.” That means they’ll come with mustard, onions and meat sauce seasoned with celery salt. Don’t be shocked when the chef lines them on his or her forearms. It’s just the way things are done in Rhody.

Vermont. Cheddar cheese atop apple pie is serious business in the Green Mountain State. How serious? In 1999, Vermont’s legislature passed a law designating apple pie as the state pie, and requiring a good faith effort to serve it with a glass of cold milk, a large scoop of vanilla ice cream or a half-ounce slice of cheddar cheese. Think about stopping to try this odd combination during a trip to Waterbury, home of Ben & Jerry’s Factory and Ice Cream Shop.

Connecticut. You’ll find one of Connecticut’s signature foods in New Haven, which is home to one of the nation’s top pizza scenes. Its crown jewel is Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana. The Wooster Street eatery’s white clam pizza, topped with grated cheese, oil, garlic, oregano and, of course, clams, took top spot on the Daily Meal’s 2017 list of the 101 best pizzas in America.

signature food

Signature foods in the East

New York. One could write an entire story about the signature foods of New York City. Unfortunately, for the purposes of this roundup, we’re only picking one per state, and in New York it’s the pastrami or corned beef Reuben at Katz’s Delicatessen, in Lower Manhattan. The sandwich and the eatery have been staples since 1888, though you might want to read this refresher on the establishment’s rules before your visit.

New Jersey. To live like a local in New Jersey is to eat a pork roll for breakfast. Also known as Taylor ham, it’s served with egg and cheese on a bagel or kaiser roll. Pork rolls are so beloved in the Garden State that they’re celebrated with not one but two annual festivals in Trenton. The festivities include the crowning of a pork roll queen.

Pennsylvania. The argument over the best Philly cheesesteak – an obvious inclusion on any list of signature foods – may never be resolved, but you can form your own opinion by visiting two of Philadelphia’s iconic cheesesteak joints. Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks are on either side of East Passyunk Avenue. Maybe take your run up at the “Rocky” steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art before trying these hearty sandwiches.

Florida. No trip to the Florida Keys is complete without enjoying a slice of Key lime pie. Key limes are smaller than the limes you usually find at the grocery store, and more bitter, but their juice baked in concert with condensed milk and egg form a delectable treat, especially when covered with whipped topping. Key lime pie is the state pie of Florida.

Maryland. The state’s love of crabs is, in part, a product of location. The Chesapeake Bay is rich with blue crabs, which is why the delectable crustaceans form the centerpiece of dinner tables and restaurant menus all summer. Crab soups and sandwiches are common in restaurants around the state, especially in Baltimore and Ocean City. You can find whole crabs, too, though you’ll need instructions before devouring them. For the full Maryland experience, ask for your crab meat with some Old Bay Seasoning.

Signature foods of the Midwest and the South

Wisconsin. Before cheese is pressed into a block or a wheel, it’s a curd – a small, bite-sized morsel with a squeaky sound and a rubbery feel. Curds are readily available in Wisconsin because of the state’s cheese-making industry, which represents about 30 percent of the nation’s supply. Curds can be enjoyed plain or deep-fried, among other varieties.

Louisiana. One of the best parts of taking a gumbo-inspired tour of Louisiana is that you’ll be hard-pressed to find the same recipe in two places. The stew-like dish typically features meat (shrimp and chicken are popular), vegetables (like celery and onions), and okra, file powder or roux as a thickener. Louisiana hosts several gumbo festivals throughout the year. Click here for an interesting read on the history of gumbo.

Signature foods – goin’ West

Texas. Chicken-fried steak is pan-fried beefsteak coated with seasoned-flour. It usually comes covered in creamy gravy with a side of mashed potatoes and, in many cases, vegetables. You won’t have a problem finding the dish in restaurants throughout the state. Familiarize yourself with this dish’s interesting history here.

Utah. Funeral potatoes, despite their name, can be enjoyed anytime. You don’t need to be in mourning, though their prevalence at post-funeral receptions is what earned them their moniker. Funeral potatoes are creamy and served casserole style.

California. A state as large and as diverse as California will have multiple signature foods. For visitors from the East Coast, In-N-Out Burger is a good option. The burger chain isn’t available east of Texas. Try the double-double – two burger patties with two pieces of cheese – or act like you’ve been there before by asking for something from the not-so-secret menu.

We only included 15 of our favorites on this list, so some signature foods must be missing. Leave us a comment with your favorite state food. 


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6 Thoughts on “Enjoy Signature Foods Across the Country

  1. Dana, in the section for New York, when you click the link for “this refresher”, it opens an article on Bloomberg but you can only read the first two paragraphs unless you are a Bloomberg subscriber… disappointing!

    1. Hi Robert!

      What a bummer … so sorry about that! I’ve replaced the link. So now you can order without any fear. 😉 Happy eating!


  2. Since you included a chain, may I recommend another chain that while small, got its start in Laguna Beach, California: Wahoo’s Fish Taco. Their “catch of the day fish tacos” is so way high up in quality for the price and far so impressive, that it gives this NY’er a watery feeling in my mouth just thinking about them now.

    1. Hi Philip!
      We love all food – chains, food trucks, indie fare – it’s all good! Those tacos sound fantastic – think they’ll head out East anytime soon?
      -Dana 😉

  3. MANHATTAN style clam chowder has the clear broth. NEW ENGLAND style has the cream based broth. A true New Englanger would be insulted if he/she was given the New York version by someone who doesn’t know the difference

    1. Hi Mark!
      You are correct! I took out that reference to the clear broth. And let’s not forget the Rhode Island (clear broth, no tomatoes) version! My Mom makes that one and it’s fantastic.
      Thanks for reading!

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