Eating your way around the USA
If I’m being honest, food is one of the best parts of a holiday. Being able to sample local delicacies and experience different cultures is what makes a holiday truly memorable. Just remember to pack your stretchy pants!!
America is such a vast country and definitely has a bad rep for its over-sized, non-nutritious ways of cooking. For instance, the main attraction at the Texas State Fair is that everything is fried, and I’m talking everything! Including cola! How does that even work? And butter! Why would you want to do that?
But let’s move away from the stereotypes and the bizarre and focus on some of the best eating destinations in this great country, the US of A!
There are so many reasons to visit New Orleans. Mardi Gras, jazz and of course the food, especially creole food. (Where else will you get to try alligator sausage, fried frogs legs or crawfish).
New Orleans has many influences with French cuisine at its roots. It’s also infused with Spanish, Portuguese, West African, Caribbean, and even Vietnamese cuisine. Be prepared to have your taste buds brought to life with unique flavours of creole cooking. Gumbo is a hearty soup/stew served over rice and filled with seafood, meat, vegetables like okra and bell peppers in a strong stock. Jambalaya is similar to the Spanish paella but instead of saffron, tomatoes are used as a substitute. It’s also cooked in a cast iron pot rather than the huge paella pan. If you want to be brave and try an authentic rural jambalaya, look out for additions like crawfish, alligator and turtle.
New Orleans has a reputation for its crime and can be overwhelming at times.
Be smart about where you go and what valuables you carry with you, especially at night. In our Eat Like A Local: Italy article, we suggested a walking tour of the city you are visiting. You might want to consider booking a food walking tour while in New Orleans as well. This is a safe way to experience the history of the city and enjoy tastings from some of the best restaurants New Orleans has to offer.
Who wouldn't want to visit Hawaii! Palm trees, blue azure water and lying about on those beautiful beaches. Oh and of course their unique Polynesian/Asian/Western cuisine.
Like the Pacific Islands, Hawaiians love pork, taro and coconut. Lau-Lau is a traditional dish of pork or butterfish wrapped in layers of taro leaves. It’s tied with ‘ti’ leaves and steamed. In the old days, it would have been cooked in an ‘imu’ or underground oven. Once cooked, the leaves are opened and the filling is shredded.
Raw fish is a staple here and if you love sashimi you will be in heaven. Poke is made with ahi or yellow fin tuna flavoured with soy sauce, sesame oil, kukui nut and seaweed. As you can see with this dish Japanese cuisine has heavily influenced Hawaiian culture so sashimi, sushi and bento are easily found in many restaurants.
The Chinese are another contributor to the taste of Hawaii. You will find pork buns or Manapua as well as Saimin, which are noodles with spring onion, roast pork, shrimp, Spam and fish cake, all cooked in a broth.
Did you say Spam? Hawaiians have a love affair with Spam and consume more Spam than any other place in the world – it’s even considered a delicacy. It is added to stews and soups, deep-fried and served with eggs for breakfast and even eaten straight out of the can. You name it, they will eat it.
Another must-have is the Loco Moco. A hamburger patty with a fried egg on top is placed on a bed of rice and smothered with gravy. Weird but it’s famous and it really does taste much better than it sounds!
Because of the wonderful weather, a lot of tourists choose to explore the islands by bike or scooter to find out of the way local delicacies. Please remember that your insurance will only cover scooters under 200cc. We also require you to have a valid drivers licence and to wear a helmet at all times, even though it’s not compulsory in Hawaii.
Aaah… where do I start! New York is an amazing melting pot of cuisine, even its nickname is food related… the big apple. At every corner you can sample a new flavour from a different country.
Look out for Mexican, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Korean, Italian, Filipino, Jewish, Greek, Jamaican, Trinidadian, West Indian, Russian, Ukrainian, Indian, Polish, French, Irish – just to name a few! Oh and there’s even an Aussie/NZ gourmet pie shop called Dub Pies www.dubpies.com (just in case you get a little home sick).
Make sure you go to a real New York deli, they’re an institution. Katz’s Deli is one such place – run by the same family for over 100 years. Check out their famous pastrami on rye with lashings of mustard, it’s the size of a doorstop and is the undisputed “King of New York”! But be prepared to queue, after all, this place is famous to New Yorkers and tourists alike.
New York style pizza is another must and it’s everywhere. Huge pans of pizzas sit in the servery ready for you to try, they just heat and you eat straight from the counter. Don’t expect a variety of toppings, they like it basic here, the crust is thin and crispy, all you need to do is fold it in half and enjoy. Make sure you shake some chilly flakes and dried Parmesan on top for that true New York pizza experience.
Bagels are another institution in New York. They say it’s the water that makes them so good, not sure what to think of that! Make sure you try lox and cream cheese. New York bagels are dense and chewy but with a firm crust, you won’t be able to stop at one.
Let’s not forget about dessert. The cookies, cupcakes and ice cream will blow your mind. Sampling a cupcake or two (ok, three) while in New York is a must. You will be astounded by the choice of flavours and sizes. Cookies, again so many flavours to choose from, but add ice cream in between and you have one mighty fine ice cream sandwich there. Did I mention that the doughnuts are a must-try too?
At some point during your trip to New York you’ll probably find yourself hopping into one of those iconic Yellow cabs. It’s a fun way to see the city and can feel a bit like being in a movie. But unlike actors we recommend you do as you would at home, play it safe and buckle up. This goes for all transport really.
It is rumored that there are so many restaurants in San Francisco that the entire population could eat out at the same time. This is a city of diversity, in its people, its culture and its food. There probably isn’t one single ‘style’ of food that that represents San Fran, so it’s best to come with an open mind and a decent appetite.
Being a relatively small city makes it fairly easy to get around by foot and the cable cars are more than just a piece of history, they are a great way to tour the city. Please don’t be tempted to re-enact a movie scene and swing from the cars. Listen to the conductor and stay seated while the car is moving. Getting hurt would ruin your holiday and your insurance policy probably wouldn’t cover you for any silliness such as this.
One must see is North Beach. It’s the Italian quarter and is filled with fabulous cafés, restaurants and shopping. What a combination! The name is misleading however, because there’s no sandy beach, so you can leave your swimsuit behind and focus on the food.
Fisherman’s Wharf is more of an attraction than a food destination with Pier 39 and a festive waterfront market place. But it’s worth a look, and the crab vendors sell delicious seafood for you to eat as you explore this vibrant area.
You simply must experience Chinatown. Your senses will be enchanted with new flavours and the hustle and bustle will keep you on your toes. Venture off to the side streets to find less touristy, family-run restaurants with cheap authentic eats.
Fun fact! The fortune cookie was invented in San Francisco and you can even take a factory tour.
This coastal town in Maine is the king of fresh local ingredients. Here you can sit in a restaurant by the port and eat freshly caught seafood straight off the boat. Portland can definitely be described as a gastro city. Like San Francisco it has a culturally diverse palette and seems to have embraced all the possible ways to satisfy an appetite, from fine dining to food carts.
Portland has the reputation of having the world’s best street food and boasts over 600 food carts (or food trucks). The carts are grouped together throughout the city, so it’s easy to pick a “pod” and sample a great variety of dishes. There are walking and driving tours to help you get the most out of your stay in this food cart paradise.
Portland is also renowned for its commitment to craft beer. The city is teeming with nearly 60 breweries and hosts many beer festivals. The bars have extensive tap lists and the restaurants often suggest beer pairings. There are many organised tours to see the bars and breweries so you don’t need to drive. Portland is like any other city – if you’re not careful you could get into trouble. So if you are going to drink we recommend you take it easy so you can stay sharp and out of trouble.
The home of the BBQ! I’m just drooling at the thought of short ribs, brisket, pulled pork and fried chicken. Whatever you do, come hungry, everything’s bigger in Texas.
The food truck scene is huge here too and believe it or not, is probably one of the easiest ways to sample some fine Texan cuisine. You’ll find trucks that are smoking up to 270kgs of meat per day. A typical dish is brisket covered in a peppery dry rub, slowly stoked over an oaky smoker. Add home-made BBQ sauce, a side of slaw, potato salad, beans and you are in Texan heaven.
A final word
The USA is certainly more than just hotdogs and hamburgers but please don’t come home without trying either. They are as American as apple pie, oh yeah, try that too, and the cherry pie and don't forget pretzels, well I could go on forever.
On a serious note, the US has some of the most expensive medical treatment in the world. A simple doctor’s visit can cost you a small fortune. So please take us with you, and remember that Southern Cross Travel Insurance has no excess on medical claims. So there’s no reason not to seek treatment as soon as you need it.
Stay sharp, have fun and good eating.