150 Iconic Dishes Slideshow: North America
Conch is served just about everywhere in the Bahamas. It’s a meaty mollusk that’s cooked into soups, fried into fritters, turned into conch burgers, and devoured with salads. Harbour Island, just a hop from Nassau, is home to the famed Queen Conch, where you’ll want to try the chef’s specialty washed down with local Bahamian beer.
Barbados: Cou-Cou and Flying Fish
An acquired taste, Barbados’ national dish is cou-cou and flying fish, which is made up of cornmeal and okra (cou-cou) served with flying fish heads, ketchup, olive oil, and spices (flying fish sauce). Traveling to Barbados should mean trying this national dish at the Friday night fish-fry that takes over the town of Oistins.
Originally from Quebec, poutine has infiltrated Canadian cuisine, and has started making its way into the U.S. as well. It traditionally consists of fries, cheese curds, and gravy, though it also comes topped with anything from Bolognese sauce to foie gras and truffles. In Montreal, two of the best come from Au Pied de Cochon and Maamm Bolduc.
Canada: Butter Tarts
This "quintessential Canadian dessert" is a flaky pastry made of butter, sugar, syrup, and eggs. Where to find the best is often a hot topic throughout the country, but in Ontario province, Butter Tarts ‘n More in Little Britain is consistently rated among the best, as is The Sweet Oven in Barrie. There’s even a "Trail" around Wellington North to find the best.
Costa Rica: Gallo Pinto
Cuba: Ropa Vieja
Many of Cuba’s best restaurants are paladares, or eateries in private homes. So it’s fitting that one of Cuba's most iconic dishes is ropa vieja (flank steak cooked in a tomato sauce), many a home cook’s specialty. Paladar la Guarida is one of the most famous paladares in Havana, and serves up authentic ropa viejas.
Dominican Republic: Sancocho
Sancocho is a traditional soup made with chicken (or meat), lemon, herbs, potatoes, yucca, rice, and sometimes plantains. It’s typical (and probably at its best) when it’s home-cooked, but one of the best restaurants in Santo Domingo to try it is Adrian Tropical.
El Salvador: Pupusas
The streets of El Salvador are teeming with vendors selling mouthwatering pupusas, which are tortillas filled with cheese, ground pork, beans, and other meats. They are also found on nearly every restaurant menu. Try the ones the locals love on the streets in Olocuilta.
Jamaica: Ackee and Saltfish
The sometimes deadly (if you eat the seeds and rind) ackee fruit is traditionally used in Jamaica almost like a vegetable and is mixed with saltfish (salted cod that’s boiled with the ackee) for a typical breakfast dish. Jakes on Treasure Beach serves one of the island's best examples.
U.S.: Philly Cheesesteak
A simple comfort food, the cheesesteak has become a must-try when traveling to Philadelphia. It's a hoagie (long roll) heaped with thinly sliced meat, American cheese, and sizzled onions, and can be found all over town — and the debates on who makes the best are heated. Head over to Ninth Street and choose your favorite between Geno’s and Pat’s. There’s no turning back.
U.S.: South: Barbecue
Barbecue is an age-old idea that is the basis of many a summertime gathering, sporting event, and some really good home-cooked meals. Obviously, the best is found in the South and just about everybody has his or her favorite. A few possibilities: Dreamland in Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Leatha's in Hattiesburg, Miss.; and Deano's in Mocksville, N.C.
U.S.: Texas: Chicken Fried Steak
Texas is big. Big enough to garner several of its own iconic dishes, but chicken-fried steak is as Texan as it gets. One of Houston’s best is found at Hickory Hollow Restaurant, where they give you four size options: the Large Rancher, Medium Hired Hand, Small Plowman, and Small Cowgirl.
U.S.: Apple Pie
Apple pie is the poster food of American dessert. While images of a black-and-white TV-show mom (oven mitts, apron, and all) taking a perfectly golden pie out of the oven remain, it’s more than worth your while to stick a forkful in this classic dish from Wisconsin’s The Elegant Farmer. Perpetuating the image, they serve it in a paper bag.
U.S.: Chicago Hot Dog
There’s one rule you should take note of before venturing out for this classic dog — no ketchup, under any circumstances. The Chicago-style hot dog is traditionally an all-beef hot dog on a poppy-seed bun with mustard, onions, sweet relish, pickle, sport peppers, celery salt, and tomatoes. If you only have time to try three (yes, I said "only"), hit up Wolfy’s for the double dog, Superdawg, and Wiener Circle.
Mexico: Mole Poblano
Moles are unique to different regions in Mexico, but easily the most iconic and widespread is the mole poblano, from Puebla. There’s even a festival in Puebla honoring it. It’s made of chocolate and chile peppers, and is served over nearly anything. Try it for dinner at Fonda Mexicana or for breakfast with eggs over easy at Los Manteles, both in Puebla.
The tamale serves as a mouthwatering canvas for so many other flavors, from chicken to chorizo and beyond, and it has inspired its own slew of parades dedicated to it throughout Mexico. Locals will argue that the best tamales are sold from street vendors, like Mercado de Antojitos in Patzcuaro, Mexico.
Nicaragua: Gallo Pinto
Nicaragua and Costa Rica are at odds over which country can really claim gallo pinto as their own "national dish." It accompanies any number of other dishes for lunch or dinner and, in Nicaragua, is best tried from evening street vendors called fritangas in Granada.
Trinidad and Tobago: Doubles
Doubles are so popular in Trinidad and Tobago, a loyal fan even created an app for finding the best. They are made of two pieces of spongy fried roti-like breads with curried chickpeas in the middle and topped with chutneys, served piping hot. Ask a local where the best are and you’ll inspire an hourlong monologue; some say Sleepy’s in St. Helena Junction, some say Sauce in Curepe, and the list continues.