Americans love to eat. No matter what city, state or region you visit, you will find a local speciality that has been perfected over generations. Some dishes are well known, like Southern barbecue, and others are slightly more obscure, such as Hawaiian poke.
When visiting the United States, be sure to try to at least one regional speciality, as it often comes with a story that reflects the history of the area.
- Maine – lobster roll
Given the immense popularity of lobster around the world, it is hard to imagine that Maine fishermen used to refer to them as the “bugs of the ocean.” They have since become a sign of luxury, often accompanying steak, which is known as “surf and turf”, for obvious reasons.
However, the best way to enjoy this regional speciality – many argue the best and sweetest lobsters come from Maine – is to eat it in a lobster roll. A large buttered hot dog bun is first toasted. Then, the lobster meat is tossed with lemon, mayonnaise, and a few light and tasty herbs or spices, before it is placed on the bun.
Enjoy with a cold beer on a hot summer day while taking in views of the ocean, and you will feel like a real New Englander.
- Wellfleet, Massachusetts – oysters
Across the country, if East Coast oysters are on the menu, chances are they are from Wellfleet. Although they are not as well known as those from Prince Edward Island, they are thought of as larger and more delicious by those in the know.
Wellfleet, which is located on Cape Cod, provides a bounty of local seafood, as the region is located on an “arm” that comes out of Massachusetts into the Atlantic Ocean. Although the small town of Wellfleet is one of the more quaint towns on the Cape, it is also one of the most famous, perhaps for it’s juicy and delicious oysters.
They are served with cocktail sauce, horseradish, fresh lemon, and occasionally a vinegar-based mignonette sauce. These are also best enjoyed with a nice view, a cold glass of white wine and good company.
- Harlem, NYC – chicken and waffles
Although the exact origins of this tasty dish are widely debated – many argue it has Southern roots – it is most popular in Harlem, New York. The urban and diverse neighbourhoods that comprise the upper region of Manhattan are influenced by Caribbean, African and many Latin and Southern American countries.
However, they have blended together to create a cuisine that is completely unique. One of the prized dishes of this area is chicken and waffles – a breakfast-for-dinner speciality that is loved by those who crave savoury and sweet. It may sound a bit strange, but trust us – it’s a true delight.
- Seattle, Washington – coffee
Seattle is the origin of all things cool – from grunge, to “farm to table” cooking. Because the city is a trendsetter, once something takes off in Seattle, it becomes popular everywhere else.
This can be said of coffee-house culture. The brooding writer of the 1990s, sipping single-origin espresso in a worn-out chair in a cafe, is a cliché of the Pacific Northwest.
However, it’s not all for show. Many of the most famous coffee chains in the world – including that controversial chain Starbucks – originated in Seattle. If you find yourself in the region, be sure to stop in a hip cafe for a hot cup of joe.
- Oregon – smoked sockeye salmon
Those who enjoy seafood will definitely want to try some local sockeye salmon when in Oregon. The bright pink, red and orange fish have a bold flavour, which is a result of their crustacean-rich diet.
Due to the fish’s high fat content, it is incredibly flavourful when smoked. It can be eaten like lox, on a bagel with cream cheese, or on its own.
- Key West, Florida – key lime pie
Key lime pie is a traditional American dessert. It is specific to the region of the Florida Keys, because this is where the key lime – which is smaller, more tart and aromatic than traditional limes – is a native plant.
The dessert combines a crunchy graham cracker crust, tart lime filling and creamy meringue topping.
- New Orleans, Louisiana – creole gumbo
Gumbo is a dish that tells a story. New Orleans, which is essentially a melting pot of cultures and cuisines, combines vegetables, seafood and spice to create a hearty and tasty dish.
It typically contains shrimp, oysters, crabs and other seafood, as well as okra, capsicum (Americans will call it sweet pepper), celery and onions. It resembles a chunky soup or stew, and is typically served with thick, crusty bread.
- Memphis, Tennessee – BBQ
The South is known for its barbecue. However, it varies from state to state. For example, Memphis-style consists of slow cooked pork ribs and shoulders that can be served with a dry rub or wet sauce.
Other regional styles of barbecue include Carolinas, Texas and Kansas City. One of the defining features of Memphis-style is locals’ habit of adding chopped pork to unlikely dishes such as pizza or nachos.
The United States offer varied and tasty regional treats. Each state has its own cuisine, which tells a story about the people who live there. When visiting the U.S., be sure to try foods that are native to the region.