A Taste of 5 Cities
When you travel to these great American burgs, don’t miss the dish the locals call their own.
Would you visit Boston without enjoying a bowl of “chowdah”? Go to Seattle and ignore gourmet coffee? Or dine in Kansas City and (assuming you’re a meat eater) skip the steak? Of course you wouldn’t. It’s just not done. Certain towns cherish certain foods. And while they may have no monopoly on them, they embrace these culinary favorites with such zeal and mastery that local offerings can sometimes send you into the stratosphere of scrumptious. So here’s a quick gastronomic gazetteer for those travelin’ taste buds:
What bagels are to New York, pizza is to Chicago—the bready, spicy staple is available on every street corner, and tourists flock to get a taste. There are actually several “Chicago styles” of pizza, the most famous being deep-dish, and the Windy City has a restaurant for every preference. Giordano’s (with three locations downtown) and Lou Malnati’s (with more than 50 stores around Chicagoland) are go-tos for deep-dish, while Vito & Nick’s on South Pulaski Road is the place for thin-crust, and Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder on Clark Street is your destination for the inimitable Pizza Pot Pie. Sausage is the town’s most popular pizza topping, but you surely can’t go wrong with good ol’ sauce and cheese.
SAN FRANCISCO: SUSHI
What makes San Francisco sushi so exceptional? Much of the fish is flown in straight from Tokyo and is hand-selected by chefs for their devout customers, who do not mess around when it comes to raw fish. Understandably, then, the options in the Golden Gate City for sushi, sashimi and tempura rival Japan’s. For two of the city’s notable sushi experiences, try Saru Sushi Bar, known for its hamachi with truffle oil, and Ju-Ni, which takes its name from the Japanese word for “12” because it seats just a dozen diners at a time. (And for sure you’re not in Kansas anymore—the website warns that “cancellations or changes in party size made within 48 hours of your reservation will incur an $155 per person charge.”) Residents say it’s also worth the short drive up north to Sushi Ran in Sausalito, a Bay Area favorite since the ’80s.
Few cities have foods named after them, so you gotta figure there’s something to this Philly cheesesteak business. The iconic sandwich, known for its slices of steak, melted cheese, fluffy Italian roll and optional accoutrements, has been a hallmark of the City of Brotherly Love since the 1930s when, as the story goes, a hot-dog vendor there named Pat Olivieri created a steak sandwich just for fun and a cab driver who stopped by gave it a rave. Today Philly’s toprated joints include that humble food stand’s direct descendant, Pat’s in South Philly, along with Dalessandro’s in Roxborough, Sonny’s on Market Street and Jim’s on South Street. Geno’s Steaks, Pat’s “rival,” is Westwood resident Darren Adams’ favorite. “Whenever I visit,” he says, “I always have ‘one Whiz wit.’” (A cheesesteak with onions, that is.)
NEW ORLEANS: GUMBO
The varieties of gumbo offered in NOLA are as numerous as the establishments there that serve it, but all authentic Creole gumbo starts the same way: with a roux-based stock, spices and flour. Cooks then add in seafood or a meat, such as andouille sausage and what residents dub the “holy trinity” of veggies: onions, celery and bell peppers. The gumbos at Galatoire’s and Gumbo Shop and the upscale Arnaud’s, all in the heart of the French Quarter, will truly change any food lover’s life. (And for dessert, how about a delicious beignet?)
Barbecue is as polarizing a topic as politics down in Music City, and with delicious smoked brisket, pulled pork and fried chicken at every turn, we’d imagine it’s hard for locals to pinpoint their faves. Still, the Edley’s and Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint chains and the aptly titled Peg Leg Porker in the city’s Gulch neighborhood consistently pop up on curated lists of Nashville’s best barbecue. Why? In part because they play into West Tennessee’s tradition of whole-hog barbecue, where spectators can watch the boars crisp up before they dig in. Yeah, we’d say skip these destinations if you’re a vegetarian (or someone on a diet).