S’mores, Twinkies, hamburgers, fortune cookies … the USA has a long list of indulgent food inventions. Whether you’re planning a food-themed roadtrip or just curious about that thing you ate, we’ve put together a list of the best original dishes and where to find them.
Chicken n’ waffles – Baltimore, Maryland
It’s the perfect combination of savoury and sweet
Chicken and waffles is the ultimate soul food. Crispy fried chicken is doused in maple syrup and served on a waffle – and don’t forget the butter and cream on the side. It’s the perfect combination of savoury and sweet, and you have to try it in its hometown. Make a weekend of it at Baltimore’s historic 1840s Carollton Inn.
Key lime pie – Key West , Florida
A good key lime pie combines airy meringue with a sweet, crunchy base
Key limes are tart and aromatic, giving the eponymous pie a flavour you just can’t get in other citrus desserts. This fluffy meringue-topped treat was invented in the 1800s, and has been an integral part of the Florida Keys’ culture ever since. There’s even an annual Key Lime Pie Festival on July 4th weekend, best enjoyed from the historic rooms of Orchid Key Inn.
Lobster roll – Bar Harbor, Maine
Maine’s tastiest ‘lobstah rolls’ can be found at harbourside restaurants
Lobster rolls may have got their start in Connecticut, but these days you’ll find the best seafood shacks on Maine’s wild shores. Wind your way up the coast to Bar Harbor Grand Hotel, where fresh, buttery ‘lobstah rolls’ and the glorious trails of Arcadia National Park are sure to keep you busy.
Chocolate chip cookie – Whitman, Massachusetts
Chocolate chip cookies are so addictive you’ll want the whole jar
Ah, chocolate chip cookies. There’s nothing as comforting as a freshly baked tray washed down with a glass of milk. Invented in 1938 by Chef Ruth Graves Wakefield at the Toll House Inn, chocolate chip cookies are now so ubiquitous you can find them nearly anywhere in the world. Pay tribute to their origins with a stay at Best Western Rockland, just a short drive from Whitman.
Cioppino – San Francisco, California
Soak up this rich stew with pesto-covered toast
In San Francisco in the 1800s, many Italian immigrants made their living off the sea. If these fishermen ever came back to port empty-handed, they searched the docks for leftovers. What ended up in their pot became cioppino – Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels – all cooked in an aromatic tomato broth. Fast forward two hundred years and it’s a San Franciscan staple, best eaten in Little Italy around Hotel Boheme.
Corn dog – Dallas, Texas
Snacking on corn dogs at the state fair is a Texan pastime
This deep-fried meaty goodness is attributed to Neil Fletcher. At the 1942 Texas State Fair, he thought his hot dogs would sell faster if they were breaded, fried, and put on a stick. Turns out, he was right. Eating them remains a revered American pastime, especially in their birthplace of Dallas. Make a city break of it at Warwick Melrose Hotel, in the leafy Oaklawn neighbourhood.
California roll – Los Angeles, California
Get your California rolls to go for a fresh and healthy snack
This beloved makizushi sushi roll is most often credited to Chef Ichiro Mashita in the 1960s. He had the stroke of genius to replace fatty tuna with avocado during the fish’s off season. Today, this avo-crab-cucumber roll is a hit all around the world. Treat yourself to the world’s most authentic with a stay in Little Tokyo – try DTLA Suite 11.
Buffalo wings – Buffalo, New York
Buffalo wings are often credited with popularising chicken wings in the USA
Buffalo wings have a perfect balance of spicy and refreshing. Unbreaded chicken drumsticks are deep fried and then doused in cayenne pepper sauce, served with a side of blue cheese dressing and celery sticks. This delicious snack was created by Teressa Bellissimo in 1964 at the Anchor Bar, which is still in business today. Stay within walking distance at The Mansion on Delaware Avenue.
New England clam chowder – Boston, Massachusetts
Chowdah’ is best served piping hot on a picnic table by the sea
New England chowder is true coastal comfort food. Fresh clams are steamed in a creamy broth of potatoes, onions and plenty of butter, then served with crusty bread and oyster crackers. This variety of chowder most likely originated from Boston settlers in the 1700s. Soak up more colonial history with a stay at The Godfrey Hotel Boston, located in the theatre district.
Po’ boy – New Orleans, Louisiana
Crispy shrimp po’ boys are probably the most famous variety
The po’ boy holds a special place in Louisianan hearts, with the first ‘poor boy’ shops dating back to the Great Depression. These crispy baguette sandwiches are stuffed with everything from shrimp to catfish or roast beef, and don’t forget the ‘fixin’s’ (plenty of pickles, mayo and hot sauce). Po’ boys aren’t New Orleans’s only food speciality, so make a trip of it at Blue 60 Guest House.
Chicago deep-dish pizza – Chicago, Illinois
A Margharita deep-dish pie is filled with melted mozarella
Dating back to the 1940s, the Chicago deep-dish is more of a pie than a pizza. A thin, crispy crust is stuffed to the brim with cheese, baked in the oven, and then slathered in tomato sauce. Chicago is of course the best place to try it: for a real cosmopolitan vibe, check in to sky-high The Langham Chicago.
Saratoga potato chips – Saratoga Springs, NY
There’s only one rule when it comes to potato chips – they’ve got to be cripsy!
Though some credit potato chips, or crisps in the UK, to a recipe in an English cookbook from the 1800s, most prefer the tale of chef George Crum in Saratoga Springs. The story goes that in 1853, he tried to appease an unhappy customer with thinner fries – and ended up with an instant classic. Whatever you believe, Saratoga Springs is a beautiful place to visit, with The Inn at Saratoga being one of the nicest hotels.
Chicken Fried Steak – Lamesa, Texas
Homemade country fried steak is best served with brussel sprouts and mashed potatoes
Deep-fried beef smothered in peppery white gravy, chicken fried steak is best served the size of your face. Its disputed birthplace is Lamesa, a cattle-ranching town on the South Texas plains. Here you can attend the annual chicken fried steak competition, and then sleep it off at Southern Inn & Suites Lamesa.
Philly Cheesesteak – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
This Philly classic is a favourite of American diners and food trucks around the city
A Philly Cheesesteak is beautiful in its simplicity: place thinly sliced beef between two doughy Hoagie rolls, and add plenty of cheese. There is, however, much debate on the choice of cheese, with Provolone, American and the oddly beloved Cheese Whiz all vying for first place. Decide for yourself – highly rated La Reserve Bed and Breakfast makes a great base.
Reuben Sandwich – Omaha, Nebraska
A traditional deli-style Reuben should be served with plenty of sauerkraut
There are conflicting reports on the Reuben’s invention. One story is that Lithuanian-born Jewish grocer Reuben Kulakofsky created it during a 1920s poker game, while another credits New York City deli-owner Arnold Reuben. Whoever made it, we’re glad they did – corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing on rye bread is a flavour-packed stroke of genius. To really show your Reuben love, visit Omaha on March 14 for Reuben Sandwich Day. Hilton Omaha and Even Omaha Downtown are good options.