Shutterstock / Suthee Treewatanawong
Boardwalks are living nostalgia, and the memories families and friends make on them are ones that last a lifetime. While the rides and the kitschy shops are all part of the experience, the food is perhaps what we remember most. Here are nine of America’s most iconic boardwalk foods.
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It’s really hard to mess up a corn dog, so you can enjoy one pretty much anywhere they’re served, from a New Jersey boardwalk to South Korea, which has a particularly interesting variation. But the best ones are at Jane’s Corndogs in Newport Beach, California, which is open until 2:30 a.m. and has become a popular after-hours spot. This local legend fries their dogs as you order and serves a mean dish of chili cheese fries to go with them.
Deep-fried Oreos are pretty easy to make at home, so long as you have Bisquick lying around, but they just taste better at county fairs — or, even better, on boardwalks. After all, isn’t biting into a soft pancake enveloping that familiar cookie sandwich we all love the definition of pleasure and nostalgia? They are ubiquitous enough on boardwalks on both coasts that you’ll rarely see an article that says one establishment serves a better version than any other.
Fish tacos are the new kids on the block when it comes to our all-American boardwalk food, but they’re a more than welcome addition to the list. You’ll find some of the best fish tacos at La Playa Taco Shop at San Diego’s Mission Beach Boardwalk, which we voted the best boardwalk for food in the country last year.
It’s a tale of two styles of French fries, in two different cities of the same name. Thrasher’s in Ocean City, Maryland, pride themselves on their fries to such an extent that they don’t let you have ketchup with them; your only seasoning options are salt and vinegar. Then there’s Curly’s Fries in Ocean City, New Jersey, where they serve big round buckets of springy, Old Bay-seasoned fries that are perfect to eat while watching the sunset. Don’t choose; make sure to visit both at some point.
For those hot summer days, the only thing more refreshing than a dip in the ocean is a frozen custard, especially if it’s from Kohr’s Bros in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. Containing less fat and sugar than a traditional cone of ice cream, this is one guilt-free snack that doesn’t sacrifice taste for calories. With over 15 flavors, such as Oreo smash and butterscotch ripple, and a choice of hand-dipped versus soft serve, Kohr’s frozen treats never fail to please.
For authentic boardwalk fudge, you ought to travel to The Fudgery in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Fresh fudge is created before your very eyes while the Wonka-like staff belts out show tunes and encourages you to join along. According to the original fudge master, A.C. Marshall, the interactive retail experience is what sets his fudge shop apart from others. That, and using the finest quality ingredients to create truly show-stopping fudge.
Mmm, funnel cakes; they’re like doughnuts, but not really. This delicious, calorie-filled monster made a cameo in a Des Moines burger shop in the form of a cheeseburger that used funnel cake as buns. But we recommend leaving the meat out of it and enjoying a funnel cake in its simple, fried glory. You’ll want to do so in the boardwalk at Atlantic City, New Jersey, the other Sin City, specifically at Boardwalk Grill or Vanina’s, where they come in multiple flavors, like cinnamon or strawberry. If you’re on the West Coast, Jane’s in Newport Beach, California, tops them with fresh fruit.
Salt water taffy is now common in many boardwalk towns, but it all started in Jersey. Known as the salt water taffy capital of the world, New Jersey proudly hosts the famous Shriver's taffy shop in Ocean Beach. Featuring over 40 different flavors, Shriver's bills itself as "the oldest business on the boardwalk," and it’s all due to their multicolored treats. New Jersey is also home to James’ Candy Company in Atlantic City — they offer a 30- to 40-minute candy-making tour so you can see how the taffy is made. Technically made without salt water, Shriver's chewy delights are a sweet ending to a long day of sand and sea spray.
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The tornado potato, one of the world’s craziest-looking foods, is pretty much what you’d imagine if a tornado zipped through a giant mass of fried potato. While it’s not likely you’ll find a poutine tornado at the shore, you’ll find these easily-sharable fried potatoes on a stick all over the Wildwood, New Jersey, boardwalk. They originated in Seoul, South Korea, and took that New Jersey boardwalk by storm in 2009.