The 20 Best Things to Eat in the U.S.—According to Lonely Planet
Here's a look at the best foods you can order (and where to get them!), as ranked by top chefs, food writers and travelers across the country.
From sushi in Tokyo to beef brisket in Texas, Lonely Planet is ranking food and restaurants around the world in its new book Ultimate Eats: The World’s Top 500 Food Experiences. To find the best eats closer to home, we talked to Evan Godt, the managing editor.
He shared Lonely Planet’s 20 best places to eat in the U.S. You might be surprised to know that they all focus on comfort food, not strange or intimidating experiences. We’re talking Southern fried chicken, cheeseburgers and good old apple pie—take a look!
Beef Brisket in Austin, Texas
Is anything so good that it’s worth waiting four hours or more to eat? The beef brisket at Franklin Barbecue in Austin is that good, and that’s why they made the top of the list. The brisket is seasoned with salt and black pepper, then cooked “low and slow” in oakwood smoke until it’s fall-apart tender. With fans including Anthony Bourdain and Barack Obama, it’s worth the wait.
Hamburger in New York, New York
Head to Bill’s Bar & Burger near Rockefeller Center for a classic cheeseburger or Emily in Brooklyn for a more extravagant option: an Emmy Burger made with dry-aged beef, cheddar, charred onions, cornichons and Korean-style sauce, served on a pretzel bun.
Buffalo Wings in Buffalo, New York
Whether you like them spicy, mild or somewhere in between, buffalo wings have become a tasty vehicle for all kinds of saucy flavors. The most popular origin story says Buffalo wings were invented at Anchor Bar by owner Teressa Bellissimo in the 1960s. The Bellissimo family insists the dish was accidental, but we’re more than OK with that!
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Beignets in New Orleans, Louisiana
The first of many New Orleans’ foods to make the list, beignets at the 150-year-old Cafe du Monde are a classic taste of the Big Easy. A beignet is a deep-fried square piece of dough with a hot and crunchy outer crust and chewy doughnut center that’s covered with a generous amount of powdered sugar.
Can’t get to New Orleans? You can make beignets at home.
Shutterstock / Steve Dipaola/Invision/AP/REX
Doughnuts in Portland, Oregon
One look at the long lines outside Voodoo Doughnut and you know something good is happening inside! Fans flock to the Portland shop for their flavorful creations, but it’s the Bacon Maple Bar that continuously takes the cake. Learn more about Voodoo in our state-by-state guide to the best doughnut shops in America.
Anything at Chez Panisse in Berkley, California
Chez Panisse is one of the inspirations for the “California cuisine” style of cooking. Launched nearly 50 years ago by farm-to-table pioneer Alice Waters, the restaurant focuses on local, sustainably farmed ingredients. The upstairs café features an a la carte menu, while the restaurant downstairs has a new set menu daily.
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Hot Fudge Sundae in Chicago, Illinois
The nostalgia of old-school ice cream parlors combined with the delightful mix of vanilla ice cream, topped with hot fudge sauce, some wafers and a cherry are why the hot fudge sundae made the list. For more than 90 years, Chicago’s legendary Margie’s Candies has been scooping homemade sundaes to the likes of Al Capone, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
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Sourdough in San Francisco, California
The Boudin sourdough empire began in 1849 with Isidore Boudin, a California gold miner. Today, sourdough is made fresh daily and served at locations throughout San Francisco. The Wharf is Boudin’s main location, where visitors can watch the bakers at work, tour the Bakery Museum, shop the market in Bakers Hall and enjoy a meal in Bistro Boudin.
Shutterstock / HG Photography
Apple Pie in Willcox, Arizona
Lonely Planet thinks that the home-cooked feel, along with gently spiced apple filling with a crumbly crust, are what make a great apple pie. We couldn’t agree more! Apple Annie’s Orchard bakes all its pies fresh daily using apples straight off the tree.
Po’ boy in New Orleans, Louisiana
To make the perfect po’ boy, start with local New Orleans French bread, pile on the fried seafood of your liking (shrimp, oysters, catfish, crab), add lettuce, tomato and mayo and you’ve got the king of all sandwiches. The half-‘n-half po’ boy with oysters and shrimp at Domilise’s Po-Boys & Bar is a local legend.
Green Chiles in Hatch, New Mexico
Every September roadside BBQs pop up in Hatch to roast freshly harvested green chiles. The chiles are blackened on the BBQ, skinned, sealed in plastic and frozen to be thawed and used throughout the year in green chile sauce—a staple in nearly every meal served in southern New Mexico. Visit Sparky’s for one of its famed green chile burgers. Or try this Hatch chile peach pie!
Shutterstock / Brent Hofacker
Muffuletta in New Orleans, Louisiana
Named after the sesame-crusted loaf of bread on which it’s made, the muffuletta sandwich is a meat-lover’s dream. Inside the sliced round loaf is salami, ham, coppa, mortadella, provolone and mozzarella cheeses, along with a marinated olive salad. Enjoy at Central Grocery, home of the original muffuletta.
Clam Cakes in Rhode Island
A trip through Rhode Island can only mean one thing—enjoying a paper bag full of steaming clam cakes from takeaway windows. Only a taste test will allow you to know which type you prefer: clam cakes using giant quahog clams, cakes neat and golf-ball-sized or the scratchings that break off from irregularly shaped fritters.
Hot Fried Chicken in Nashville, Tennessee
This isn’t any fried chicken! For nearly 75 years, Prince’s Hot Chicken has been burning taste buds with their chili-doused Southern fried chicken. When you try this legendary dish, keep in mind that medium spice should suffice.
Shutterstock / bitt24
Poke in Hawaii
Follow the locals to hole-in-the-wall restaurants where you can grab a poke bowl for the beach. In its simplest form, Hawaii’s famous all-in-one meal is raw cubed fish with different garnishes like seaweed, avocado and cucumber served on warm rice.
Cheesecake in New York, New York
Sink your teeth into a slice of jumbo cheesecake at Eileen’s Special Cheesecake. This old-school deli serves oversized wedges of cheesecake topped with everything from strawberry to rocky road to piña colada. Share with a friend or save your leftovers for another day.
Eggs Sardou in New Orleans, Louisiana
After a long night out on the town, the best way to start a day in New Orleans is with eggs Sardou at the Commander’s Palace. It resembles eggs Benedict, but in place of the usual English muffin, eggs Sardou is served on artichoke bottoms.
Shutterstock / Stephanie Frey
Fried Green Tomatoes in Juliette, Georgia
Thanks to a film by the same name, fried green tomatoes are now considered a classic Southern dish despite originating in the Northeast. The Whistle Stop Cafe (yep, book lovers, it’s real) serves up these tasty treats as a sandwich, salad or side dish. Add flavor with sauces ranging from a ketchup and mayo mix to a remoulade with Cajun spice.
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Clam Chowder in New England
Known as chowdah in New England, the thick, rich stew of potatoes, celery, onions, butter and plenty of shucked clams is a staple. There are plenty of places to get a great bowl of chowder in Boston, but Union Oyster House is a tried and true New England classic.
Shutterstock / Brent Hofacker
Cobb Salad in Los Angeles, California
The Cobb salad got its start in 1930s Hollywood, when Chef Bob Cobb came up with his creation after a late-night raid on the refrigerator. The result was a dish made with blue cheese, bacon, grilled chicken, tomatoes, eggs, avocado and chopped chives. Head to Swingers for a great take on the Hollywood classic.