Are you a devoted foodie? Some enthusiasts travel the globe in search of the trendiest culinary delights. Others are surprised to discover that their next favorite dish resides right in their own backyard. Whatever the case may be for you, the United States offers a rich and varied range of eats and treats to satisfy any palette. From traditional American dishes to fusion specialties, if you’re looking for the most distinctive examples of regional cuisine, you can’t go wrong with these hot spots scattered throughout the most vital and culturally diverse sections of the country. Just follow your stomach as we lead you on a journey of mouth-watering discovery.
1) Washington, D.C.
The politics in Washington may be divisive, but its delectable cuisine certainly is not. Presidents and other lawmakers have been spotted feasting upon the freshest seafood and juiciest steaks at the swanky establishment 1789. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find the nation’s top movers and shakers meet with the dining industry’s most influential tastemakers, including celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, who offers sophisticated interpretations of Asian fusion favorites at his restaurant The Source. But you don’t have to be among the power elite to enjoy the finest fare the nation’s capital has to offer. Sink your teeth into the Shenandoah Valley spring lamb and beef tenderloin tartare, or savor an expansive and highly-ranked wine menu like no other, at Fiola, an Italian favorite which was voted the #1 restaurant in the DC area by Zagat in 2015.
2) New Orleans
America’s party city is also host to some of its most robust and flavorful cuisine. One only need travel down Freret Street for evidence of this distinction. Amid the soulful live music and the bustling nightlife, the most discerning foodies can find delight in the freshest locally grown ingredients which top each wood-fired pie from Ancora Pizzeria, the flakiest fried catfish in the region at the High Hat Café, and the assuring comforts of juicy burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches at The Company Burger. Any trip to New Orleans cannot be complete, however, without indulging in their signature dish of gumbo. The French Quarter is home to one of the most acclaimed gumbos in the City by the Sea – Galatoire’s, a 100-year old establishment whose French Creole seafood gumbo is more than meal; it’s a tradition.
The deep dish pizza is universally renowned (the tasteful stylings of Bucktown’s My Pie is a particular favorite among locals and food lovers), but Chicago’s culinary reputation has matured substantially in recent year thanks to an influx of highly acclaimed chefs. Especially noteworthy are the efforts of Paul Kahan, a James Beard Foundation award winner for outstanding chef, who operates a duo of the area’s most magnificent dining establishments: Blackbird, a haven for sophisticated Midwestern cuisine such as seared walleye with pickled shrimp and grit fritters and aged duck breast with pretzel dumplings, and the more informal Dove’s Luncheonette, whose menu features an intriguing mix of southern comfort food with Mexican flair. Meanwhile, chef Grant Achatz has changed the rules of the restaurant game with Next, an innovative excursion that offers a diverse menu that changes as often as the seasons.
4) Los Angeles
The city of dreams serves as the ideal stage for some of the trendiest restaurants in the country. For the most upscale and high-profile of these, just follow the stars. Robert De Niro and Will Smith savor the Tuscan treats at Ago while the Octopus a la Gallega and Zucchini Blossom and Goat Cheese Ravioli at Fig & Olive on Melrose Place beckon the likes of Johnny Depp and Halle Berry. From the interiors to the menu items, each of these star-studded establishments are immaculately elegant and refined. But you don’t have to be an avid star-watcher to enjoy the finest in world cuisine. Some of the area’s richest delights are found in the unlikeliest of settings. Case in point: the hundreds of unique Thailand-inspired dishes served at the unassuming but entirely distinctive Jitlanda, located in a mini-mall within the heart of Hollywood.
Some of the best eats in Austin can be found on four wheels. The Peached Tortilla, for instance, with its deep Southern staple BBQ brisket tacos and Asian-inspired Malaysian Laksa Bowl with poached shrimp, Japanese noodles, curry seafood broth, and bean sprouts, travels the city to the delight of food-savvy residents. But while Austin may be the one of the top food truck destinations in the country, many of its brick and mortar dining experiences are also beyond compare. Qui, named for its world renowned chef Paul Qui, offers a multi-cultural palette rouser, which includes the floral-accented yellowtail seared on binchotan, and a wholly inspired cheddar cheese ice cream. For something a bit more relaxed and down home, Taco Flats is the local institution for the very best in savory Tex-Mex classics.
More than just a coffee mecca, Seattle sets the bar for food markets and a variety of delectable dishes so fresh they’ve arrived straight from the sea to your plate. Pay a visit to one of the three Taylor Shellfish Farms Oyster Bar locations, where you’ll find the very best seafood the Pacific Northwest has to offer, including Manila clams, Mediterranean mussels and Kumamoto oysters. At the alluringly titled restaurant The Walrus and The Carpenter, chef Renee Erickson serves up generous platters of world famous oysters so good they can even convert the seafood-averse. Meanwhile, steak lovers can salivate over the lovingly prepared 75-day aged beef at Miller’s Guild, the area’s premier steak house curated by award-winning chef Jason Wilson.
Seafood connoisseurs swear by the dining options in Maine’s largest city, a region that has only grown in culinary distinction over the past decade. The most innovative of these restaurants is also one of the area’s most established, Fore Street Restaurant, where chef Sam Hayward continues to build upon his reputation as a hero of the palette. His menu changes daily according to the freshest locally sourced catches of the day. The adventurous spirit of Portland extends far beyond its seafood extravagances, though. Here you can find the finest samplings of every type of cuisine from Middle Eastern to Jewish and everything in between. Want more evidence of Portland’s reputation as a culinary capital? It’s the birth place of James Beard, the renowned cooking guru and mentor whose name graces the most coveted award in the industry.
8) Las Vegas
Fine dining is anything but a gamble in Vegas, where the planet’s top chefs have frequently converged to deliver a paradisiacal assortment of rewarding dishes. Wolfgang Puck offers the beacon for what a steakhouse should be with his restaurant Cut, which serves up true Japanese 100% Wagyu beef shipped directly from Miyazaki Prefecture off the southeastern coast of Kyushu, and a staggeringly tender Nebraskan corn fed beef aged 35 days. An innovative menu including hundreds of French-inspired delicacies awaits at Andre’s, a local favorite which also boasts a wine list numbering over 1,500. Guests feast upon the exquisite flavors of dishes like king crab ravioli with fresh peas and saffron sauce and wasabi crusted lamb chops. Meanwhile, even the competition can’t help but admire the kobe beef silver skin and apple marinated lamb chops at the intimate Raku.
Your taste buds will never be the same after a visit to this beloved city often voted as one of the friendliest in the country. Those with more upscale tastes can savor dishes like Portuguese fish stew and pan-roasted black bass at FIG, a hot-spot that uses the freshest locally grown ingredients for its impressive line-up of imaginative entrees. The oyster lovers in your group will find themselves transported at The Ordinary, which in spite of its name, is an extraordinary dining experience housed in an elegantly repurposed old bank. For an eclectic marriage of Asian and Southern flavors, try the top-rated Xiao Bao Biscuit, where guests can enjoy spicy Sichuan tofu in broad bean broth with chili oil, and pan seared local fish with squid ink pasta.
Heavenly homemade buttermilk biscuits, crispy deep fried chicken, collard greens and classic fried green tomatoes are to be expected in this temple for Southern comfort food. All that and more can be found at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room, one of the area’s most beloved restaurants. Fish, chicken and beef are reinvented with great southern charm at Olde Pink House, where regulars swear by the BLT salad. Savannah’s rich dining experiences are by no means limited to these time-honored southern staples, however. Celebrity chef and Top Chef judge Hugh Acheson offers refreshing takes on Italian classic cuisine at The Florence, where guests can cider glazed pork ribs with spiced pecans and black bucatini pasta with Calabrian chili and garlic sausage ragu.