The Best Cities for Incredible Food in the United States

America is truly a melting pot of cultural traditions, and nowhere is this more evident than in the country’s cuisine. No other nation can boast as much culinary variety. Traditional ethnic dishes from around the world gain a unique twist in American restaurants, and local specialties and delicacies from each state make a road trip across the nation a food-lover’s ideal journey.

If you’re planning a foodie vacation, here are 10 cities whose cuisines are worth stopping for.

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1. New York City

New York, New York is the largest city in the United States and a cultural epicenter. There are an estimated 24,000 restaurants in New York ranging from high-class steakhouses to roadside hot dog stands and everything in between.

Some highlights of local New York cuisine include the pizza, which is world-renowned for its large slices, thin crust and ample quantities of grease, and its bagels, which are among the best in the world. New York City is also home to many decorated celebrity chefs, with a higher concentration of award-winning restaurants than any other city in the country.

2. Las Vegas, Nevada

No city is as devoted to entertainment as Las Vegas, and fine dining is a big part of the fabric of this popular tourist destination. Many well-known celebrity chefs have restaurants in Las Vegas, so fans of Food Network are sure to find familiar names like Guy Fieri, Giada de Larentiis, Bobby Flay, Guy Savoy and Wolfgang Puck.

The Las Vegas strip contains 40 different casinos, most of which are high-class resorts offering a multitude of dining options. Whether you’re looking for a top-notch steakhouse, experimental fusion cuisine or a no-holds-barred gourmet buffet, Las Vegas has plenty to offer.

3. Chicago, Illinois

The Windy City has some of the most iconic foods of any place in the country. No journey through Chicago is complete without sampling a famous deep-dish pizza built like a cheesy, toppings-laden pie. The classic Chicago dog, featuring a hot dog on a poppy seed bun piled with tomato, onion, pickles, peppers and mustard, is another must-have street food.

Chicago cuisine is often at its best when street food is front-and-center. The city is home to plenty of upper-scale restaurants as well, but with delicious options like cheese-and-gravy doused poutine and fresh-smoked locally caught fish available from hole-in-the-wall eateries around the city, you can try new foods for less.

4. New Orleans, Louisiana

The Cajun and Creole cuisine of Louisiana is positively iconic, and you can’t get it anywhere else. This cuisine is a fusion of cultures and flavors, inspired equally by French, Native American, African and Caribbean influences.

Signature dishes include the “po-boy sandwich,” often served as a pile of breaded and fried shrimp and other seafood on a pillowy baguette, and gumbo, a stew of seafood, chicken, sausage and a spicy roux served over rice. Don’t forget to leave room for a few beignets, a crusty fried donut liberally dusted with powdered sugar.

5. San Francisco, California

Love Chinese food? San Francisco is home to Chinese food as most Americans know it. Iconic Chinese-American dishes like chop suey, moo goo gai pan, and even fortune cookies got their start in San Francisco’s Chinatown district.

Another must-have piece of food history and cultural cuisine is San Francisco sourdough, a type of bread perfected by prospectors during the California Gold Rush. Stop by Boudin Bakery for steaming soup served in a bread bowl, or enjoy a slice alongside fresh-caught Pacific seafood like oysters and Dungeness crab right on Fisherman’s Wharf.

6. Lockhart, Texas

Texas is the biggest of the lower 48 states, and it’s home to a huge cross-section of diverse cooking styles and cuisines. However, no food is as truly definitive of Texas as barbecue, and Lockhart is the Barbecue Capital of Texas.

This small town may not seem exciting, but the family-based Smitty’s Market or Black’s Barbecue offer the kind of smoked brisket and sausage that put Texas on the map. Locals swear by Chisholm Trail BBQ, which offers a variety of meat and side dishes by the pound. Nearby breweries provide the perfect opportunity for an after-dinner beer crafted right in town.

7. Atlanta, Georgia

Nestled in the heart of the Deep South, Atlanta is home to some of the nation’s best soul food establishments. Local cuisine to try includes fried chicken, barbecue, buttermilk biscuits and Georgia’s native Sapelo Island clams – you’ll only find them in this state!

Aside from classic Southern cooking, Atlanta is home to a diverse population of immigrants and world cuisines, and you can sample some of the best Indian, Thai and Vietnamese dishes in the region.

8. Honolulu, Hawaii

Hawaii is well worth a visit for more than its island atmosphere and stunning coastal views. Hawaiian cuisine is like nothing else in the country, offering a combination of slow-cooked barbecues, sweet island fruit and surprisingly tasty uses for Spam.

No visit to Hawaii would be complete without pit-cooked pork, also known as kalua pork. Restaurants roast a whole pig underground wrapped in banana leaves. A poke bowl of fresh-caught seafood marinated in sauce and served over rice is another local favorite you shouldn’t miss.

9. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Few foods are as regionally iconic as the Philly Cheesesteak, a sandwich that combines thin-cut steak grilled with onions, peppers, and ample quantities of cheese served on an Italian roll. You can get a cheesesteak in other parts of the country, but these imitators pale in comparison to the original.

Other traditional Philadelphia foods include the hoagie, stromboli, soft pretzels, and the Whoopie Pie. Philadelphia is also the ancestral home of carbonated soft drinks, and the locally made root beers are legendary.

10. Albuquerque, New Mexico

New Mexican cuisine offers a unique combination of flavors that can’t be found elsewhere in the country. Drawing inspiration from both the traditional cuisine of Mexico and recipes handed down by local Native American populations, New Mexican food is a taste all its own.

Classic New Mexico dishes to try include the spicy pork-and-hominy stew, posole, or a cheese-stuffed and batter-fried chile relleno. Burgers, pizza, hot dogs and cheese fries can all be topped with signature roasted green chiles grown in nearby Hatch, NM. For a truly authentic local treat, look for an Indian Taco: A combination of spiced ground beef, beans and chile sauce poured over a fried Native American flatbread and liberally doused in cheese.

Explore These Cites and So Many More

Of course, the United States is a cornucopia of food options, and the cities here are just scratching the surface of the incredible food to be found throughout the nation. From Wisconsin cheeses to Portland coffees and the regional variations of barbecue and specialty sandwiches offered across the country, a cuisine-inspired drive through America is sure to introduce you to new favorite foods.

Featured Tip

Don’t let your vacation days go to waste – make sure you travel! Only 23% of full-time employees use all of their days off each year, Forbes reports.