10 Best States For Foodies Traveling The United States

Girls Who Travel | 10 Best States For Foodies Traveling The United States

You’ve probably already seen lists that rank the best U.S. cities for food, but food rankings get a lot harder when you get the entire state involved. I’ve visited all 50 states and can say that while the country’s big cities play a big role in foodie culture, there is a lot to uncover with a more holistic approach. 

Let’s take a look at the best states for foodies from a super subjective point of view. A few of these may even surprise you and help you in your planning as you tick off the states with the best food on your own list.

10 Best States For Foodies Traveling The United States

1. California

Girls Who Travel | 10 Best States For Foodies Traveling The United States

This is a state that is truly the sum of its parts. I’d say cities like New Orleans and Chicago have a better food scene than San Francisco, San Diego, or Los Angeles alone. When you put it all together, though, you can’t beat the diversity and culinary innovation happening in California.

If you’re the fancy kind of foodie, you can start with the state’s Michelin scene. California has more Michelin-starred eateries than any other state. You’ll find quite a few in Northern California and the Sonoma and Napa Valleys, home to the original farm-to-table movement. 

From there, head to Central California and the breadbasket of the state. Expect the freshest fruits and veggies, a stellar seafood scene in Santa Barbara, and charming Danish bakeries serving up traditional aebleskiver in Solvang. 

My heart is with Southern California. If you brave the traffic, Los Angeles and its patchwork of diverse neighborhoods satisfy any craving. Koreatown is my personal favorite. 

As someone who lived in San Diego for seven years, I know the power of a good fish taco, too, and Mitch’s Seafood serves them up with a view. I also know that you will miss legitimate Mexican food if you move anywhere else in the country.

2. Louisiana

I’ve been to New Orleans multiple times, at one point spending a full month there basically eating my way through the city. It starts with its beignets — Cafe Beignet is the best! — but I love its offerings for casual eats. 

I’m talking about spots like the Heart Dat Kitchen and their “dat fries,” fried chicken at Dooky Chase’s, and poor boys (not po’boys) for picnics from the Parkway Tavern. 

That doesn’t mean it can’t get fancy around here. You can get the original bananas foster at Brennan’s. New Orleans is also home to one of the best meals I’ve ever had in the country at N7. It’s a speakeasy restaurant in a secret garden that serves mulled wine in the cooler months.  

Let’s talk about the state, too. Outside of New Orleans, you’ll find beignet fingers in Baton Rouge, and the freshest oyster and crawfish along the Gulf. For the best Cajun food in the country, head to Lafayette and taste-test the local crawfish étouffée, gumbo, and jambalaya.

3. Illinois

I know I told you that you can’t judge a state’s food by the offerings in one city, but you just can’t deny the food scene in Chicago. The Bear knows.

Disclaimer: I’m from Chicago and will try to be as unbiased as possible here. It’s not like I put it in the top spot!

Yes, the city has delicious pizza. If you want to impress the locals, talk about how you love tavern-style pizza, the REAL Chicago favorite. We’ll get deep-dish when our out-of-town relatives are here, but if it’s a Friday night, it’s square-cut, or Pequod’s if I’m feeling indulgent. The city is also known for its hot dogs. (Superdawg in the near suburbs is a personal favorite.) 

The thing is, when I’m back home, I’m looking for the things I was missing elsewhere. It’s Indian and Nepalese food that has expanded beyond Devon Avenue. It’s Polish food in Avondale or breakfast burritos and stacked sandwiches in Logan Square. The city is spoiled with good food.

Travel south in the state for some of the best barbecue in the country in Murphysboro. I’m serious. 17th Street Barbecue is top-tier. Along the way, stop in Springfield for a horseshoe sandwich. It’s a gut punch of bread, fries, meats, and cheese, but I won’t pretend it’s not great.

4. New York

New Yorkers are likely going to come at me about this perceived slight, but I think keeping it in the top five is pretty good. While the wine and fine dining in the Finger Lakes and buffalo wings in Buffalo are both tasty, the food scene in New York would be sad without New York City.

Much like Chicago, New York City is one of the best cities in the country for food diversity. You’ll find entire neighborhoods dedicated to dim sum or Jamaican cuisine. Ivan Ramen, one of the my favorite ramen spots in the country, is destination-worthy. If you’re celebrating something special, New York is in second place with its Michelin star count.

It also has a fantastic pizza scene of its own. I’m not looking to get into internet battles here, so I’ll just say this: I can like pizza best in one place and still appreciate a slice in another. It’s pizza. It’s supposed to bring people together. (If you’re in New York City, though, Prince Street Pizza and its pepperoni cups is my favorite.)

5. Oregon

Oregon is a great example of a state with foodie hubs spread beyond its biggest cities. Yes, Portland is great. It has a a great food truck scene and plenty of options for the vegans and vegetarians out there. Places like Dirty Lettuce even have carnivores excited.

Head to the coast for cozy, family-run spots and the best seafood in the state at places like the Barnacle Bistro in Gold Beach and Roseanna’s Cafe in Oceanside. Oceanside is one of my favorite places on the planet, by the way. 

There’s very little in the way of attractions, but you can walk the beach here without encountering another soul for days.

Wine fans, especially the pinot noir lovers out there, won’t want to miss the Willamette Valley, as it’s one of the state’s best dining regions, too. Pizza Capo in ​​McMinnville hits just right after a day of wine tasting, and it’s almost good for you. The toppings focus on fresh produce. Loam Kitchen in Dayton is great for more upscale picnic lunches.

6. Texas

Girls Who Travel | 10 Best States For Foodies Traveling The United States

Texas gets an enthusiastic “heck yeah!” from barbecue fans across the country who know you don’t mess with Texas barbecue. If that sounds like you, head straight to Lockhart, the barbecue capital of Texas, and have a barbecue crawl at the three original shops there. They’re all walking distance from one another, so you can’t miss them. Lockhart is an easy day trip from Austin, a city with its own delicious barbecue scene.

If you’re here for more than platters of ribs, sausage, and slow-smoked brisket, start in Houston. While the city is known for some of the worst traffic in the country, it also has a great food scene that may be surprising if you’re not a local. 

There’s a reason Top Chef spent a season here. Houston goes beyond comfort food with a diverse landscape that includes some of the best dim sum in the country. If you’ve never treated yourself to Viet-Cajun, go to Crawfish & Noodles. Places like Tiny Champions, my favorite restaurant there thanks to their smoky mozzarella balls, like having fun with their food. 

Texas also has a wine country with some niche food options of its own. Fredericksburg, the heart of Texas Hill Country and the state’s hub for wine, is also known for its German food. I get how sausage and kraut isn’t some culinary masterpiece, but the German immigrant population keeps things pretty legit around here.

7. Hawaii

Girls Who Travel | 10 Best States For Foodies Traveling The United States

Hawaii can be an expensive place to navigate food-wise, even if you’re here for the seafood. If you look a little harder and go more casual, you’ll find some of the freshest, most delicious bites of food in the country. 

I’ve spent the most time on Oahu. The good news is, the most populated Hawaiian island also boasts the most diverse food options. You’ll just need to get yourself outside of Honolulu. 

Brave the traffic for the shrimp trucks of the North Shore. If you’ve never tried them before, start with the buttery, garlicky shrimp scampi at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. It’s the original. From there, find your favorite poke bowls or succulent kalua pig, two meals you’ll find plenty of options for no matter which island you choose. 

If you do want to get a little more fancy, The Pig and the Lady in Chinatown was one of my favorite overall restaurants on Oahu. The fried chicken wings here were the best, but I didn’t have a bad bite here.

8. Georgia

Pecan and peach pies are delicious, but Georgia is about more than its desserts. Start in Savannah, one of the most romantic cities in the United States, for a special meal at The Olde Pink House. It’s one of the Georgia’s best eateries for classic Southern cuisine and those fried green tomatoes you’re likely here for. 

Atlanta has a more diverse range of dining options with high-end Peruvian restaurants, elevated eateries that still give those neighborhood vibes, and a growing French food scene. If you love the idea of Alsatian cuisine in Georgia, head to Cafe Alsace for traditional tarte flambée. (I’ve been to Alsace. This is legit!)

The state is a great option for road tripping foodies, too. I’ve spent a full month in Augusta taste-testing their take on Southern food and came away with this: every town should offer a seven-layer mac ‘n cheese. Find Augusta’s at the Frog Hollow Tavern. 

9. Colorado

I’m not going to go on about the culinary “delicacy” of Rocky Mountain oysters, but I do want to give Colorado its due as a state with a surprisingly delicious food scene. 

Outside of California and Illinois, I’ve spent some of the most time in Colorado. Its natural pursuits have something to do with that, but I also keep coming back to Colorado as the whole package. I don’t want for much when it comes to eating in Colorado.

Fort Collins has completely reinvented pub grub as one of the country’s best craft beer cities, but it also has an excellent brunch scene. The biscuits alone at spots like The Farmhouse at Jessup Farms are worth traveling mountain passes to try them. Just make sure to leave room for the butterscotch pie from Ginger and Baker.

Colorado also has some of the most scenic dining in the country. Eat donuts from 14,000 feet at Pikes Peak outside of Colorado Springs. Nosh on small plates at the best rooftop patios in Denver. Enjoy mountain views all around at basically any eatery in Frisco. This is where eating goes to get itself dolled up.

10. Tennessee

I have to give this state a shout-out for my husband. He lived in Memphis for a while as a kid, so he has a definitive loyalty to the state’s barbecue. Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous was his favorite growing up, but we’re both big fans of the barbecue spaghetti at The Bar-B-Q Shop.

The Bar-B-Q Shop is the creator of that spaghetti, by the way, and it’s exactly how it sounds: spaghetti with pulled pork and barbecue sauce. Sometimes there are vegetables thrown in for your health. You need to try it at least once in your life.

Head to Nashville for hot chicken if that’s what you’re into — I think it’s all heat, but people love it! — and even better elevated comfort food. Eateries like The Black Rabbit boast small plates perfect for travelers who like to try a little bit of everything. 

Outside of the major cities, the state is doing an impressive job of bringing Appalachian food to the masses in unique ways. James Beard Award-winning The Barn at Blackberry Farm is one of the best examples of that with ingredients that come straight from the land. I’m being literal here. This is the closest you’ll get to farm-to-table.

Which Region Of The U.S. Has The Best Food?

I hate being too definitive about the region with the very best food, but I’ve always tended to prefer the coasts. The West Coast in particular has that ideal combination of fresh seafood done in innovative ways that makes my foodie heart sing. 

That said, the American South is no slouch when it comes to comfort food done right. You just need to bring those stretchy pants with you on trips there, which isn’t a problem. Better yet, find your own favorites on road trips of your own making. The United States is doing some delicious things out there now that you know where to start!

Agnes Groonwald

Agnes Groonwald is a freelance writer and travel blogger from Chicago. She currently lives in France after several years on the road ticking off all 50 U.S. states with her husband and dog, Kimmy Kibbler. She loves discovering the weird and wonderful in her travels and approaching her adventures with humor. You can follow her on Instagram or check out her website at travelonthereg.com.

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