The Best Thing to Eat In Every State
Over in Vinita, along America's Mother Road—Route 66—Clanton's Cafe (formerly the Busy Bee) has been slinging American favorites since Grant "Sweet Tater" Clanton set up shop in 1927. Now the late Tater's great-granddaughter has the reins, overseeing a no-fuss menu featuring crisp fried pickles, a cream gravy–laden chicken-fried steak, a baked potato stuffed with pot roast and snowcapped with sour cream and its famous chicken and dressing (the meat is pulled; the sweet cornbread stuffing has just a tinge of herby Thanksgiving flavor and the dish itself is lauded, right there on the menu, by country-western singer Ronnie Dunn).
Bowpicker in Astoria, a landlocked fishing boat turned takeout restaurant, serves its one and only specialty: fish and chips. The firm albacore tuna is dipped in beer batter and dunked in piping hot veggie oil, leaving the flesh light and the coating superbly crispy.... Jerry Eichentopf, whose German immigrant grandfather started Otto's Sausage Kitchen in Portland, continues the family tradition by making his own links. "Although they're served in buns and taste great dressed with mustard and relish, Otto's sausages are classier than ordinary hot dogs," says Michael Stern. "Because of the seasoning and high-quality meat, they have an almost aristocratic flavor." Get yours hot from the outdoor grill and chase them with a cold craft brew.
A single whoopie pie from Bird-in-Hand Bakery & Cafe is worth at least two anywhere else—the sandwich, per Pennsylvania Dutch tradition, consists of two cookie-shaped, shortening-bound cakes joined by a velvety vanilla cream, and here it's carried out with light-as-air, not-too-sweet aplomb.... At the meeting of retro and modern lies the aesthetic of Philadelphia's understatedly hip and "proudly woman- and trans-owned" Cake Life Bake Shop, where a simple layer cake is ombréd in pastels, staggeringly lavish fruit tarts rival Caravaggio still lifes, and a marvel known as the fiesta cake brings rainbow-sprinkled magic in spades.
Hot Wieners—spicy red hot dogs in cloudlike buns, covered in saucy ground beef, chopped raw onions and a bright yellow line of zippy mustard—are a regional specialty, and Olneyville New York System in Providence has mastered the wienering art. Try to get a seat at the counter so you can watch a pro line the dogs up his outstretched arm to dress them.