U.S. Food Tour: Chow Down on Cities’ Specialties from Coast to Coast

See recent posts by Jane Reynolds

Some may turn up their noses at America's "unrefined" grub, and others may stare in horrified shock at our portion sizes (which is understandable) and our tendency to fry everything (also understandable). But our great U.S. of A is home to some pretty great eats -- many of which you'll likely chow down on this holiday weekend. So here we bring you eight quintessentially American dishes in seven amazing American cities (because, after all, New York does both bagels and pizza better than any other destination we know).

Lobster Roll, Nantucket

Lobster rolls are about as “New England summertime” as you can get, and though destinations like Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and the Hamptons all claim to do them better than the rest, we crown Nantucket the winner. Almost every restaurant on the island offers their signature variation of a lobster roll, but Millie’s — with a restaurant and a food truck — is known to serve up one of the best.

Where to Stay: Jared Coffin House

One of the oldest inns on the island, Jared Coffin House gives travelers a taste of Nantucket history and classic New England style. Some of the rooms and bathrooms are small, but all combine antique-style furnishings with modern features, such as flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. The inn, open year-round and centrally located near the downtown area, also features the elegant and popular Nantucket Prime restaurant; the menu not only features a lobster roll (either hot with butter, or cold with mayo), but also a delicious half lobster from its raw bar.

Tacos, Austin

Not surprisingly, the general rule is that the closer to the Mexican border you are, the closer the tacos are to being downright heavenly. Well, Austin is pretty far down there, and has been ranked as the third most taco-crazed city in America (only Texan cities Arlington and Fort Worth give it a run for its money), so ATX has some bragging rites as far as authentic Mexican cuisine goes. Not only can you nosh on tasty tacos — from trucks, stands, and restaurants — for lunch and dinner, but Austin is also known for its breakfast tacos. In Austin, can get your taco fill ’round the clock.

Where to Stay: Heywood Hotel

This seven-room hotel, situated in an intimate Craftsman-style house in the up-and-coming East Austin area, lives up to its “unique boutique” billing. Rooms all have distinct, trendy decor with pops of color and smart details such as black make-up towels and eco-friendly, big-bottle toiletries. Free perks include parking, Wi-Fi, and bikes loans, and rooms come stocked with large flat-screen TVs, French presses, and minibars with fair prices.

Bagels and Pizza, New York City

Save it — New York has the best pizza and the best bagels. And considering the city’s recent obsession with creating hybrids (cronuts, anyone? ramenrritto?), we know you can find a delicious combination of the two; or at least get one of each at the same place (look no further than the East Village’s Bagel Cafe – Ray’s Pizza). Want your bagel topped with lox and caviar? Want your pizza decked with an oozing egg? All doable — and delicious — in the city that never sleeps, but always eats.

Where to Stay: The Bowery Hotel

With 135 flawlessly appointed rooms, a super-hip bar tucked away in the nostalgic, velvet-filled lobby, and fun freebies like bike rentals, the Bowery Hotel redefines class in a gentrified downtown neighborhood where punk rock and squalor once ruled. Gemma, the hotel’s chic Italian restaurant, with see-and-be-seen sidewalk seating, serves up delicious pizza, and just a few blocks south visitors can find the newly opened Russ & Daughters Cafe and Black Seed, both spots with coveted bagels.

Philly Cheesesteak, Philadelphia

Ah, the cheesesteak. At the same time one of America’s proudest and most shameful inventions. But who can deny that a massive Italian roll — stuffed with thinly-shaved steak, loads of cheese, and “veggies” like onions, mushrooms, and peppers — is anything short of delicious? Supposedly dreamed up in Philadelphia in the 1930s, the cheesesteak is a Philly staple, and having one during your stay is a rite of passage. If you’re really feeling ambitious (or just extremely hungry), you can try to get your name on the wall of one of the city’s cheesesteak spots for downing the most in one sitting. Get inspired by none other than the New York Mets. Earlier this month, they set the record for the most cheesesteaks (103 to be exact) eaten by a visiting team in a single day.

Where to Stay: The Latham Hotel

The 138-room Latham is a chic boutique hotel with a prime location near Rittenhouse Square Park, within walking distance of some of the city’s best restaurants, bars, and shopping. The lobby has bold retro-chic style, and rooms have chic blue and gold decor and modern technology features, though some are on the small side. All in all, it’s on par with the Hotel Palomar or Le Meridien, but rates here are sometimes lower.

New England Clam Chowder, Boston

Often referred to as “Boston clam chowder,” particularly in the Midwest, New England clam chowder is a delicious guilty pleasure, and some of its tastiest variations can be found in Beantown. This creamy, clammy (in the good way) soup is significantly thicker than Manhattan clam chowder, and is often filled with chunks of potatoes and onions. Most top their chowder with oyster crackers.

Where to Stay: Four Seasons Boston

One of the city’s top hotels with amazing service, a parkfront location, and a great health club with a beautiful pool, the 273-room Four Seasons offers luxurious and spacious rooms with stunning granite bathrooms. The iconic restaurant is an elegant spot to dine and, of course, offers creamy chowder — kicked up a notch with the addition of blue crab.

Chili Dog, Washington, D.C.

Many think of Texas or Coney Island when daydreaming of a chili dog — basically a hot dog topped with so much chili that you’re unaware of the presence of the dog until you’re chowing down. But while these destinations may have more of an abundance of chili dogs, D.C. has the best, because our national’s capital is home to Ben’s Chili Bowl. Since 1958, this landmark hole-in-the-wall has been pleasing the masses with inexpensive options like its famous all-meat chili dog, and “healthy options” like…its famous all-meat chili dog, just with a turkey dog substituted for the original. Ben’s even has the presidential seal of approval.

Where to Stay: Hotel Palomar DC

Fun boutique flair, at a fair price. The 335-room Hotel Palomar has an outdoor pool, a lively bar and restaurant, and a great location near the Metro subway station and the nightlife of Dupont Circle. And being a Kimpton hotel, it has great perks — free wine hour; free Wi-Fi; pet pampering; great beds; top-notch service.

Soft Shell Crabs, Baltimore

If you’ve ever been to Baltimore, or talked to someone who’s been there, or maybe have just seen Hairspray, you know that Baltimore has a thing for crabs. Crab cakes, she crab soup, steamed crabs, crab legs — even crab puns! (See above.) But If you really wanna do this coastal city, nestled alongside the Chesapeake Bay, right, you’ve got chow down on some soft shell crab. It’s a known Baltimore speciality, and the city devotes an entire week to this particular means of eating crab.

Where to Stay: Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel

With just under 600 rooms and a location in the heart of Baltimore’s main tourist center, the Renaissance Harborplace is a popular hotel for all types of travelers. Rooms are sleek and contemporary, if a bit generic, and great on-site features include extensive business facilities, a well-equipped gym, and a nice pool area with access to a rooftop sundeck.

Check out Oyster’s page on Google+

To learn more about Jane Reynolds, visit her on Google+


All products are independently selected by our writers and editors. If you buy something through our links, Oyster may earn an affiliate commission.