The Best Thing to Eat In Every State
Vacation meals should be as glorious as your vacation. Our state-by-state guide is an invitation to savor the most delicious tastes near and far.
Whether it's called a bierock, a runza or a cabbage burger, the idea—brought Stateside by 19th-century German settlers—is always the same: yeasty dough lovingly packed with ground beef, cabbage or sauerkraut, onions and, depending on the cook, a little spice. At Sehnert's Bakery, opened in 1957, these pillowy bundles of joy (some with good ol' American cheese) are baked fresh every morning. Should you require further carbs, a peanut butter roll, drenched in thick nutty frosting, is a fine finale.
Award-winning L.A. chef and restaurateur Mary Sue Milliken fantasizes about the nam kao tod (crispy rice salad) at Lotus of Siam, located in an unassuming Las Vegas strip mall. An herby Thai jasmine rice is tossed with cilantro, green onions, ground dry chilies, ginger, peanuts and cubes of sour pork sausage. "The chef masterfully balances heat with tang, crunch and a touch of sweetness. Sometimes I order two: one to eat there and one to take home since I'll be dreaming about it all night anyway."
Biederman's Deli (formerly the Cellar Pub) has been a Plymouth staple since 1973, and its Balboa sandwich deserves a chunk of the credit: It comes with your choice of meat and extra cheese heated on a sub roll spread with garlic butter, a condiment rightly beloved by locals.
When Jerseyans claim their bagels beat New York City's, they often hold up the Bagel Nook in Freehold as evidence. They're crisp on the outside, toothsome on the inside and dolloped with a generous schmear of cream cheese in admittedly unorthodox small-batch flavors, including birthday cake and maple bacon.... You never know what you'll find in the cases at the Little Chef Pastry Shop in Princeton: pear-vanilla tarts, cream puffs, a bavarois cake composed of vanilla sponge layered with strawberry or raspberry mousse and ringed by ladyfingers. Yes, yes and yes, please.
Courtney Foley always dreamed of farming, so when she and her husband, Brian, decamped from New York, they bought a seven-acre property in western New Jersey. To set themselves apart from other local farms selling produce or eggs, they landed on buffalo mozzarella—a food they were curious about. Funny thing, though: Foley didn't realize how buffalo mozzarella was made. "I always thought it was just a name," says Foley. "I didn't know it actually came from a water buffalo's milk." Undaunted, they bought a few of the weighty ruminants from Vermont and got busy. Now, more than ten years later, they're producing some of the only authentic buffalo mozzarella in the U.S.—and selling it, along with yogurt, at local greenmarkets—thanks to the 40 milk-producing water buffalo that live on Riverine Ranch, the Foleys' expanded property in Asbury. "This definitely isn't a get-rich-quick scheme," says Courtney, "but it's all worth it." The delicate mozzarella is sumptuously dense, with subtly grassy notes, while the yogurt somehow tastes even richer than Greek-style.
When in New Mexico, one eats green chile—chopped green peppers roasted until dark and smoky. The adobe-style Owl Bar & Cafe in San Antonio offers the spicy delicacy over crispy fries, in hot and hearty chili bowls, or piled onto cheesy burgers too big for their buns.
Remember when you thought you were over cupcakes? Direct your taxi to the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where the megamoist, never-cloying cupcakes at Two Little Red Hens country-style bakery will win you back (the peanut butter fudge swirl is salty-sweet, melt-in-your-mouth ecstasy).... Upstate, the half-moon cookie at Harrison Bakery, in Syracuse, is a cakey confection akin to New York's beloved black and white cookie, but with buttercream frosting instead of glaze.... Gayle loves a beefy burger (don't even talk to her about turkey and veggie patties), and she's given her blessing to Brooklyn spot Emily and its Emmy Burger: dry-aged meat, Vermont cheddar and caramelized onions, all doused in a creamy, Korean-inspired sauce and sandwiched in a pretzel roll.