There are a handful of different types of tourists, chief among them the Cultural Tourists (who seek out the top museums and theatre); the Rest and Relaxation Tourists (who seek out the nearest beach, spa or golf course); the Adventure Tourists (who seek out the nearest mountain to climb); and the Shopping Tourists (who seek out the nearest Prada). But there’s another tourist group out there, and if you’re reading this, you very well might fit into it: the Gastronomic Tourists, those who spend their trips in search of top restaurants, local culinary specialties, and regional delights. We’ve made your next vacation a little bit easier, because we’ve tracked down not only the one dish you absolutely must try in every state and Washington, D.C., but also the best restaurants at which to try them.
There are certain dishes throughout the country that are undeniably iconic, specific dishes served at individual restaurants that are absolutely worth the detour — the muffuletta at Central Grocery in New Orleans, for example, or the burger at Louis’ Lunch in New Haven (you can find our list of the 101 most iconic dishes in America here). But for this list, we’re showcasing regional specialties that are somehow just not as good outside of their home state — if you’re even able to find them elsewhere — and highlighting a local restaurant or two that serves the best version.
Every state, be it Hawaii or Maine, has at least one dish that every visitor absolutely has to sample before they leave (some are more obvious than others). In many cases, a friendly local will be able to point you in the direction of their personal favorite version, but if not, we’ve got you covered. Read on to learn which food is most closely associated with each state, and where to track them down.