Foods Worth Traveling for: North America (Slideshow)
Conch is served just about everywhere in the Bahamas. The meaty mollusk is cooked into soups, fried into fritters, shaped into conch burgers, and topped over 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). When traveling to Barbados, you will probably find 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 crept 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 versions can be found at Au Pied de Cochonand Maamm Bolduc.
Costa Rica: Gallo Pinto
Cuba: Lechon asado
Cubans love their pork, and nothing makes a Cuban party like the traditional lechon asado. Typically a whole roast pig, the flavor of lechon asado comes from its long marination in mojo, a mixture of citrus, garlic, and herbs.
Cuba: Ropa Vieja
Many of Cuba’s best restaurants arepaladares, 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 authentic ropa vieja.
Dominican Republic: Sancocho
Sancocho is a traditional soup made with chicken or beef, lemon, herbs, potatoes, yucca, rice, and occasionally plantains. It’s typically (and probably at its best) when it’s home-cooked, but one of the best restaurants in Santo Domingo to try it at 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 staples on most restaurant menus, but 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.
Jamaica: Jerk Chicken
Mexico: Mole Poblano
Mole variations are unique to different regions in Mexico, but the most widely known is the Mole Poblano from Puebla. Made of chiles, warm spices, and a little chocolate, along with a host of other ingredients, the sauce can be served on a variety of things (commonly with chicken and rice) and can be eaten for any meal of the day. Try it over eggs at Los Manteles in Puebla.
It’s not cliché to say that the world’s best tacos can be found in Mexico. Like a pizza slice in New York, or a warm baguette from a French boulangerie, there’s something about eating a taco from an authentic Mexican roadside taqueria that can’t be beat.
The tamale is so popular in Mexico it has its own variety of parades. The Mesoamerican dish is made of masa stuffed with a protein (like chicken or cheese) that is then wrapped in cornhusks and steamed. Locals swear that the best tamales are sold by street vendors, but you can find the popular dish at many restaurants.
Puerto Rico: Mofongo
If you can only learn one word of food vocabulary when traveling to Puerto Rico, make sure it’s mofongo. This hearty dish of mashed green plantains and pork cracklings is a must-eat on any tour of the island.
U.S.: Apple Pie
Apple pie is considered the classic American dessert, so much so that the expression "as American as apple pie" has been popularized. For a delicious version of the popular dessert, check out The Elegant Farmer in Wisconsin.
U.S.: South: Barbecue
Barbecue is an age-old idea that is the basis of many summertime gatherings, sporting events, and some really good home-cooked meals. Throughout the South of the U.S., it’s even a lifestyle. The country’s best is found in this region and just about everybody has his or her favorite, with most options ranging from cuts of beef or pork garnished (or not) in a variety of rubs and/or sauces. Check out our Ultimate BBQ Road Trip for 2013 to see our restaurant picks (there are 60!) across the region.
U.S.: Chicago: Hot Dog
Hot dogs are popular around the country, but the city known for being home to the best dogs is Chicago. Typical Chicago hot dogs are all beef and served on a poppy seed bun with mustard, onions, sweet relish, a pickle, sport peppers, celery salt, and tomatoes. Three of the best hot dogs in the city can be found at Fat Johnnie’s, Hot Doug’s, and Superdawg, all of which were mentioned on our Chicago's 29 Best Hot Dogs list, as well as America’s 35 Best Hot Dogs.
U.S.: Texas: Chicken-Fried Steak
Texas stands apart from the rest of the South — people from Texas are Texans first, Americans second. With that comes iconic Texan cuisine, of which the chicken-fried steak is the epitome. 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.: 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 cooked onions, and can be found all over town — and the debates about 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.: New Orleans: Po’boys
The po’boy is a pillar of New Orleans identity. The submarine sandwich, filled with everything from seafood to roast beef, was first created during a transit strike during the 1930s. The strike ended, but luckily the sandwich lived on. Though every New Orleanian has a different vote for the best po'boy in the city, some standout sandwiches can be had at Parkway Bakery and Tavernor Domilise's Po-Boy & Bar.
U.S.: New York: Pizza
Trinidad and Tobago: Doubles
This popular dish is made of curried chickpeas sandwiches between two pieces of spongy fried roti-like breads. The dish is often topped with chutneys and cucumbers and served hot. Locals are so fanatic about doubles that asking for a favorite place to eat them at could launch into a long and passionate discussion.