There are very few things I like to do more than eating (okay, there is nothing I like to do more than eating). As an American, I’ve been fortunate enough to taste all the flavors that is the cultural mixing pot of American cuisine. We Americans are really good at taking food from the various cultures that make up our country and then putting our own spin on it, and holy guacamole are the results delicious. Without further-a-do, I present to you my top 21 favorite American foods for you to add to your foodie bucket list while traveling in the USA.
1. Chili Cheese Dog
Chili cheese dogs are like an upgraded version of a hot dog. You get a normal hot dog AND chili AND melted cheese on top all wrapped in a nice bun! What more could you want?
If you want some extra flair, add onions, bell peppers, and sour cream.
2. Bagel Breakfast Sandwich
This is a cheap, filling, oh-so-delicious option for a breakfast in ‘Merica. Bagels themselves are a huge must when vacationing in the US, but breakfast sandwiches are even better.
My favorite combo is an everything bagel (tons of different, salty seeds all over the bagel) with an over hard egg, cheddar cheese, bacon, and avocado.
3. Hot Pretzel
When I was a kid, this was my favorite thing to come into after playing in the snow. A salted, perfectly baked hot pretzel makes a cold day feel that much warmer.
If you find yourself in New York City, try them from the stalls along the streets. The stalls might look a little scary and probably not the cleanest, but just get one anyway. They’re super good and you won’t regret it.
No, I’m not talking about McDonald’s. I’m talking about a real, “how would you like that cooked?” kind of burger. The kind of burger that has fresh toppings on it and preferably some unique ones; that’s what you want to get!
My favorite burger is what many call the “Hangover Burger”. It’s a beef burger with a fried egg, avocado, cheese, and usually some other miscellaneous toppings. It’s a burger that’s filling beyond words can describe and it’s a feast to say the least.
Pancakes are one of those foods that define American cuisine. While it’s definitely not healthy in any way, shape, or form, it’s still a classic that needs to be enjoyed.
You can get pancakes at any breakfast diner, but to get the full experience you should use maple syrup as your main topping. Most places give you “pancake syrup” instead of maple syrup, so you’ll probably have to ask for it separately.
6. American Style Pizza
After I moved to Italy, I started getting these weird cravings for pizza from back home. I couldn’t quite figure out why since I was in the land of pizza and pasta, but then it hit me; it’s the crust.
Many “fast food” pizza joints in the US use thick crusts. Although thick crusts seem to be less prominent nowadays, you can always get a good thick crust at chains like Papa John’s and Domino’s. Both of these are really good when you’re craving some good grease and carbs.
7. Crabs in Maryland
Having lived in Maryland for a few years, this had to make the list. Crabs are a huge part of east coast culture. Crabs are quite expensive and a lot of work to eat, but it’s beyond worth it.
My favorite way to eat crabs is through a good cookout. Get some crabs, shrimp, and corn on the cob and cover it all in Old Bay. Old Bay is a mix of spices that people in Maryland (and beyond!) put on anything where spice and salt work.
If you don’t feel like making all that yourself, you can usually head to any seafood restaurant in Maryland and get a “seafood bucket” which combines a bunch of seafood and corn on the cob.
This is a classic in American treat that cannot be missed. A nice dough fried with sugar added on top… America at it’s finest! While you can go with classics like a glazed or powdered donut, don’t be afraid to go a little more off the beaten path!
Gourmet donut shops have become quite a trend and are running rampant in the US. There are wacky (and equally drool worthy!) flavors like maple bacon, salted caramel, and even grape! It’s a unique culinary experience that is a must try while in the US.
9. Dairy Queen Soft Serve
Some consider themselves coffee snobs, other wine snobs. I consider myself a soft serve snob. Although all soft serve is good soft serve, Dairy Queen is exceptionally good. It seems to me it melts a little slower and has a bit more ice to it, making for a wonderful swirl of sweetness!
If you’re a soft serve virgin, go for a vanilla cone. It’s a classic that you just can’t go wrong with. If you’re feeling a little crazy, a vanilla sundae with chocolate syrup and bananas is hands down my favorite soft serve treat ever created.
10. Breakfast Burrito
This is a dish I definitely recommend getting in the southwest. Growing up in Arizona, breakfast burritos were a treat I loved as a kid and continue to love as an adult. A tortilla stuffed with eggs, meat, endless cheese, bell peppers, and salsa makes for a great start to the day!
You can also mix it up if you prefer and get your eggs fried, with different cheeses and all sorts of veggie assortments.
11. Rack of BBQ Ribs
Getting a rack of ribs is a very American culinary experience. Better yet, it’s something you can get in many places throughout the US.
I recently embarked on a road trip from Arizona to Maryland and good, quality ribs were everywhere! I especially enjoyed them in Memphis, Tennessee. Don’t be afraid to get a little messy, as many places pile on the BBQ sauce like there’s no tomorrow!
12. Corn on the Cob
Corn on the cob has always been a summer tradition for me. There’s nothing quite like slathering up that ear of corn with butter and topping it with my favorite topping, Old Bay spice.
Corn on the cob is downright essential to American culinary culture. It’s something that is never missed at any BBQ, and as an American there’s a good chance you can’t go the whole summer without at least one bite.
13. Sloppy Joe
This is something you might have a hard time finding in a restaurant but can easily make for a quick, cheap dinner… Even if you’re camping! It’s one of those dinner that parents in America make their kids after a long day.
To make a simple Sloppy Joe, get yourself some ground beef, a packet of Sloppy Joe spices, bell pepper, and onion. Start with cooking the beef, add the spice, the veggies, and then slather your creation onto a burger bun.
If you can’t find a Sloppy Joe spice mix, you can just add garlic powder, salt, pepper, mustard, and ketchup. Some make it a bit fancier, but I like to stick to the basics.
There’s nothing that brings quite as much pride as perfectly roasting a marshmallow to put in between those graham crackers with some good milk chocolate. That first bite is ecstasy, and the last bite (after about 8 more S’mores) is torture.
This is a classic for camping that you really have to try. It’s a huge part of American culture, especially as a kid! And who doesn’t want to feel like a kid again?
Cheesecake is a super rich, super sweet, and super dense dessert that is loved by Americans throughout the nation. There are endless flavor options to make any sweet craving soul happy and satisfied!
While there are big chains like the Cheesecake Factory that can give you a taste of this treat, you have other options. Try finding a little Mom N’ Pop diner and I promise you’ll enjoy every last bite.
16. Mac n’ Cheese
This is one of those dishes where you know you’re eating your weight in calories, but you just don’t care. It’s a guilty pleasure meal that will leave you feeling a bit greasy and even more satisfied.
You can get mac n’ cheese at most diners or make it yourself for an easy homemade meal! Check out this recipe that’ll surely lead you in the right direction.
Cherry, apple, peach, blueberry, pumpkin, or rhubarb… You can’t go wrong. This treat is arguably the most American on the whole list, and with good reason!
For many American families, it’s common to celebrate 4th of July with a good pie; it’s just what we do. My personal favorite is homemade apple pie with vanilla ice cream. So sit back, relax, and enjoy a nice slice of pie!
18. PB&J Sandwich
This is the sandwich all American kids get in their lunch growing up. It’s the sandwich you get so sick of as a kid and miss so much as an adult.
It sounds simple, but there are ways to make the best PB&J. These ways all revolve around quality of product. Make sure to get high quality bread, any peanut butter really, and high quality jam. Get a jam and bread you love and you’re sure to come out on top.
19. Pickled anything
Pickling goes way beyond just pickles. While pickles are an American classic by themselves, and there are hundreds of different kinds, there is so much more that can be pickled.
A few of my favorite include pickled eggs, pickled cauliflower, pickled carrots, and pickled green beans. A lot of trendy restaurants tend to have these obscure pickle masterpieces, so that’s gonna be your best bet. You can also learn to pickle here!
20. Philly Cheesesteak
If you find yourself on the east coast, it’s in your best interest to head to Philadelphia and get yourself a Philly Cheesesteak. It’s a tradition in Philadelphia, but has since become popular throughout the US.
To get the full cultural experience that surround the Philly Cheesesteak, go to a classic place within Philadelphia. While everyone has their favorites, my personal favorite is Jim’s Steaks.
I know, you can’t eat lemonade. But you’re going to need a super American beverage to go with your super American food!
When getting your lemonade, make sure to get fresh squeezed lemonade. The stuff they sell in bottles at convenient stores just isn’t going to measure up to real, homemade, fresh squeezed lemonade.
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