19 Iconic American Foods to Try Before You Die

Written By Jill Taylor

With fifty U.S. states packed with culinary tradition and heritage, where does one even begin? An American road trip bucket list would be nothing without trying some famous dishes, so to get you started, here are 19 dishes that you must try before kicking the bucket.

Philly Cheesesteak

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Best served in Philadelphia, the iconic Philly cheesesteak is lovingly crafted with thinly sliced beef and melted cheese sandwiched together in a hearty hoagie roll. If you’re really getting into the spirit, grab some extra toppings, including onions, peppers, and mushrooms!

Tex-Mex Tacos

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It doesn’t come as a surprise that The Gazette has deemed Tacos one of America’s favorite foods; filled with meats, beans, cheese, and salsa, Tex-Mex tacos are certainly a party for your taste buds. San Francisco’s La Taqueria, Austin’s Tacodeli, or Torchy Tacos are must-visits when passing through!

New York-style Pizza

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Famous for its thin crust, New York-style pizza features a one-of-a-kind dough, supposedly given its unique flavor from the minerals found in NYC’s water! It’s perfect for picky eaters because, like any other pizza, there are tons of topping options. Pepperoni is the classic, though!

Gumbo

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Nothing says Louisiana quite like a warming bowl of gumbo. This flavorsome stew is a blend of French, Spanish, African, and Native American influences and comes packed with seafood, sausage, and vegetables, all swimming in a rich broth often seasoned with Cajun or Creole spices. It’s the ultimate comfort food!

Beignets

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Everyone loves a sweet treat, especially when it’s a deep-fried pastry lightly dusted with powdered sugar! You may have heard that beignets are best devoured hot and fresh from the fryer, and you’d be correct. Why not order from a café au lait for a complimentary flavor that goes back to the dishes’ origins?

Sushi Rolls

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A truly beautiful combination of Japanese culinary tradition and American ingredients, the California Sushi Roll dates all the way back to the 1960s and is not to be missed. Tuck into rainbow rolls, spicy tuna rolls, or the classic California roll for a colorful selection of bites that you’ll be glad you tried.

Lobster Roll

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Maine is the best-known state for lobster rolls, with The Harvard Crimson even saying that the locals consider them to be the ‘modern epitome of quiet luxury.’ If you’re curious as to what goes into such a bite, you’ll find delicious fresh lobster meat, mayonnaise, celery, and spices packed into a plump toasted bun.

BBQ Brisket

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For meat lovers, BBQ Brisket is a must on your bucket list. This slow-cooked brisket is massaged with spices before being smoked for hours on end to create its tender and juicy texture. They get their distinct flavor from the authentic BBQ pits selected post oak as their wood of choice!

Cheese Curds

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Enjoyed as a snack or an appetizer, Wisconsin was really onto something when they first battered fresh cheese curds. The best cheese curds “squeak” as you eat them; while strange, that’s a sure sign of freshness! To try them out, check out the Wisconsin State Fair or scope out their local cheese stores.

Southern Fried Chicken

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Coated in delicious herbs and spices, Southern fried chicken is a tasty contrast of crispy on the outside and super succulent on the inside. Depending on which region you explore, you’ll find a certain twist on the traditional recipe, ranging from spicy and sweet, served with mashed potato, coleslaw, or biscuits.

BBQ Ribs

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Since the 20th century, Kansas City has perfected the sweet and sour flavor of its BBQ ribs, which tend to be coated in a thick, tangy barbecue sauce and smoked to tender perfection. According to Visit KC, there’s even a society dedicated to promoting the cuisine worldwide!

Deep Dish Pizza

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Have you ever eaten a pizza that requires a knife and fork? If the answer is no, you’ve got to try the Chicago deep dish pies, known worldwide for their deep crust and chunky tomato sauce. The region’s Giordano’s, Lou Malnati’s, and Gino’s East are easily the best spots to visit.

Crab Cakes

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Crab cakes are made using crab meat mixed with breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, and various seasonings. It’s best served in Maryland, which is famous for its blue crabs sourced from the Chesapeake Bay. Devour these with a dip of your choice, whether it be remoulade or tartar sauce.

Mud Pie

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Don’t worry—it’s not what you think. This delectable dessert was named for its uncanny resemblance to the muddy banks of the Mississippi River. It contains layers upon layers of chocolate (not mud), cream, and either nuts or marshmallows. With whipped cream on the side, we recommend indulging at least once!

Peach Cobbler

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Is there anything that says summer in the South quite like a peach cobbler? This fruity dessert is crafted using fresh or canned peaches and topped with a crumbly biscuit crust. When in Atlanta, take a break for this warm treat served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream—an unforgettable duo.

Vermont Maple Syrup

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Crafted from the state’s maple trees, Vermont maple syrup will blow you away. The best part about grabbing a bottle is that you can take it away to enjoy it drizzled over your pancakes for an unforgettable breakfast. As reported by Saint Albans Messenger, Vermont even holds an annual Maple Festival!

Clam Chowder

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For a meal that will warm both your stomach and your heart, a bowl of New England Clam Chowder is the way to go. Typically, this creamy soup is loaded with clams, potatoes, onions, and occasionally bacon, although the inclusion of tomatoes is a hugely debated topic!

Bagels with Lox

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A classic choice for breakfast or brunch, New York’s irresistibly dense bagels are smothered in cream cheese and topped with smoked salmon (Lox), capers, and onions. When wandering the streets of the Big Apple, look out for Russ & Daughters or Barney Greengrass to get your hands on one of your own.

Detroit-style Pizza

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Finally, this list could not be complete without Detroit-style pizza. Thrillist reports that back in 1946, Gus Guerra used blue steel industrial trays to bake the pies, giving birth to these square-shaped delights. If you try one and can’t see your toppings, don’t worry; they’re just hiding under the cheese, waiting to be enjoyed.

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