American food can be difficult to define, largely because our culinary landscape benefits from so many ethnic influences and regional variations. Instead of trying to find the most iconic food in America, 10Best is looking for the best iconic dishes state by state.
We’ve covered the Southwest, Northwest and Northeast, and are continuing with the American South. 10Best editors chose an iconic dish from each state, then asked a panel of local food experts to nominate their favorite restaurants serving the dish. For the past four weeks, 10Best readers have been voting for their favorites, and the results are in.
Click on each category below to see the full list of winners.
Best Fried Green Tomatoes in Alabama:Â LuLu’s inÂ Gulf Shores
Fried green tomatoes from LuLu’s — Photo courtesy of LuLu’s
The fried green tomatoes are a guest favorite at LuLu’s in Gulf Shores, where the crispy fried discs come with a side of LuLu’s Wow Sauce for dipping.
Best Salmon in Alaska:Â The Cookery in Seward
Salmon from The Cookery — Photo courtesy of The Cookery
Alaskan sockeye salmon is a star on The Cookery’s menu. Get it with braised Alaskan kale, potatoes and a mustard BBQ sauce, or with Alaskan zucchini, kale ragout and beet coulis. Lighter appetites can try it on a local greens and wheatberry salad with pickled rhubarb and peach BBQ sauce.
Best Fried Catfish in Arkansas:Â Dondie’s White River Princess inÂ Des Arc
Catfish from Dondie’s White River Princess — Photo courtesy of Dondie’s White River Princess
All catfish at Dondie’s White River Princess in Des Arc is farm raised and sourced in the U.S. Get it fried with hushpuppies, fries and coleslaw or grilled with fries and all the fixings.
Best Chimichanga in Arizona:Â Valle Luna Mexican Restaurant
Chimichanga from Valle Luna in Phoenix — Photo courtesy of Valle Luna Mexican Restaurant
The chimichanga is a specialty atÂ Valle Luna Mexican RestaurantÂ in Phoenix, where the deep-fried burrito comes stuffed with a choice of meat and smothered in a homemade Sonoran chimi sauce. Guacamole, sour cream, Spanish rice and a choice of beans come on the side.
Best Fish Tacos in California:Â Rubio’s Coastal Grill
Beer-battered fish taco from Rubio’s Coastal Grill — Photo courtesy of Rubio’s Coastal Grill
The fish taco recipe at Rubio’s Coastal Grill has remained the same since the restaurant first opened in 1983. Tacos begin with wild-caught Alaska pollock, beer-battered by hand and cooked to crispy perfection. Each taco comes topped with fresh cabbage, mild salsa and white sauce on warm stone-ground corn tortillas. There’s also a grilled or blackened mahi mahi option.
Best Chile Verde in Colorado:Â El Taco Rey
Avocado pork burrito smothered in green chile from El Taco Rey — Photo courtesy of El Taco Rey
Satisfying Mexican food cravings in Colorado Springs since 1976, El Taco Rey serves their green chile in several forms, including the popular avocado pork burrito smothered in the tangy, spicy sauce. Purists can order a cup a la carte with tortillas for dipping.
Best Cheeseburger in Connecticut:Â Lake Zoar Drive-In
You can find steamed cheeseburgers throughout CT — Photo courtesy of iStock / bymuratdeniz
The specialty at Lake Zoar Drive-In is the Zoar Burger, a bacon cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mayo, mustard and ketchup.
Best Chicken in Delaware:Â Oldbanks Craft Bistro
Fried chicken — Photo courtesy of iStock / PhanuwatNandee
The house fried chicken at Oldbanks Craft Bistro in Wilmington uses a secret seasoning recipe for the crispy golden goodness they achieve. Chicken comes in batches of four, eight or 12 pieces with the option to add on fries, slaw, steamed broccoli or mac and cheese.
Best Stone Crab in Florida:Â Frenchy’s Original Cafe inÂ Clearwater Beach
Fresh Florida stone crab — Photo courtesy of Alexcrab
While Frenchy’s Original Cafe in Clearwater Beach might be best known for its Super Grouper sandwich, the quaint eatery also serves fresh Florida stone crab claws when they’re in season.
Best Chicken & Dumplings in Georgia:Â The Bear’s Den in Macon
Chicken and dumplings from The Bear’s Den — Photo courtesy of The Bear’s Den
The Bear’s Den serves classic Southern home-cooked meat and veg plates to hungry diners in Macon. Creamy chicken and dumplings make an appearance on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Best Finger Steaks in Idaho:Â Trestle Brewing Company inÂ Ferdinand
Finger steaks from Trestle Brewing Company — Photo courtesy of Trestle Brewing Company
Trestle Brewing Company is known for their “bite size,” a variation of finger steaks local to the region. At Trestle, the steaks are made from hand-cut sirloin seasoned with a dry rub and deep fat fried to order.
Best Burgoo in Kentucky:Â Firehouse Sandwich Stop at Buffalo Trace Distillery inÂ Frankfort
Firehouse Sandwich Stop at Buffalo Trace Distillery — Photo courtesy of Buffalo Trace Distillery
The Firehouse Sandwich Shop, located at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, serves up a range of Kentucky favorites, including a hearty Kentucky burgoo made by local burgoo master Russ Kennedy.
Best Gumbo in Louisiana:Â Hambone inÂ Mandeville
Gumbo from Hambone — Photo courtesy of Hambone
The Hambone Gumbo, found on the Small Plates menu of this Mandeville restaurant, serves their variation of the classic Louisiana dish with gulf shrimp, ham hocks, collards and a pickled okra potato salad.
Best Lobster in Maine:Â Quoddy Bay Lobster
Lobster roll — Photo courtesy of iStock / dbvirago
This family-owned fish market and takeout restaurant in Eastport sits right on a working pier. Hungry guests can order steamed lobsters with melted butter, lobster cakes, seafood chowder with fresh picked lobster meat or a Quoddy Bay Lobster Roll with mayo or melted butter.
Best Crabs in Maryland:Â Wellwood’s River Shack
Maryland crabs — Photo courtesy of iStock / SVLee53
The Wellwood River Shack offers a casual, beach-inspired setting to tuck into a heaping pile of steamed crabs cooked in a house spice blend. Get them by the dozen or all-you-can-eat during the season.
Best Clam Chowder in Massachusetts: Captain Parker’s Pub
Clam chowder in a bread bowl from Captain Parker’s Pub — Photo courtesy of Captain Parker’s Pub
The thick and creamy clam chowder coming out of the kitchen at Captain Parker’s Pub is overflowing with sweet, tender clams and diced potatoes. This variation on the seafood soup has won numerous awards throughout Cape Cod, Rhode Island and Boston.
Best Hot Tamales in Mississippi:Â Tony’s Tamales in Jackson
Hot tamales from Tony’s Tamales — Photo courtesy of Tony’s Tamales
Tony’s Tamales are made from turkey wrapped in corn husks, or black beans for those looking for a healthier alternative. Get them from the Jackson restaurant or at area grocery stores.
Best Huckleberry Pie in Montana:Â Glacier Highland inÂ West Glacier
Huckleberry pie — Photo courtesy of iStock / DebbiSmirnoff
Foraged huckleberries make a great addition to baked goods, and no trip toÂ Glacier Highland in West Glacier would be complete without a slice of famous huckleberry pie for dessert.
Best All-You-Can-Eat Buffet in Nevada:Â Island Buffet at Peppermill Reno
Island Buffet at the Peppermill Resort Hotel in Reno — Photo courtesy of Peppermill Resort Hotel
Bring your appetite! This tropical-themed Reno buffet atÂ Peppermill RenoÂ has a little bit of everything, including hand-carved meats, several made-to-order specialties, Asian and Southwestern hot entrees and a pretty sweet dessert bar to round out the offerings.
Best Cider Donuts in New Hampshire:Â Meadow Ledge Farm
Cider donuts — Photo courtesy of iStock / GummyBone
The folks at Meadow Ledge Farm make fresh hot cider donuts each weekend using their own cider made right at the orchard. Customers often stand in line for up to 45 minutes for the donuts, best enjoyed with a cup of hot mulled cider.
Best Tomato Pie in New Jersey:Â Classico Tomato Pies
Tomato pie from Classico Tomato Pies — Photo courtesy of Classico Tomato Pies
Classic Tomato Pies makes Trenton-style pies, with cheese first followed by a choice of tomato sauce or white sauce and a variety of toppings â” everything from anchovies to sweet peppers. There’s even a gluten-free crust available.
Best Green Chile in New Mexico:Â El Patron Cafe
Green chile enchiladas from El Patrón Café — Photo courtesy of El Patrón Café and Catering
The Hatch green chile coming out of the kitchen at El Patron Cafe in Las Cruces is certainly spicy, but not overpowering. The brisket nachos are a house specialty, smothered in green. Diners also find green chile in the house-made posole, atop chicken enchiladas and even for dessert in the form of a green chile pineapple upside-down cake.
Best Pizza in New York:Â Cold Spring Pizza
Cold Spring Pizza from Cold Spring, N.Y. — Photo courtesy of Cold Spring Pizza
Family-owned since 1972, Cold Spring Pizza serves hot pizza by the slice with a range of styles from traditional to contemporary. Classics include Margherita and fresh tomato with garlic, while adventurous pizza lovers can opt for the tater tot bacon cheddar and ranch pizza. No matter the choice, dough is made fresh in house daily.
Best BBQ in North Carolina:Â Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge inÂ Shelby
North Carolina BBQ — Photo courtesy of iStock / TonyLMoorePhoto
Red and Lyttle Bridges opened a barbecue restaurant called Dedmond’s Barbecue in 1946, and when they moved the business to Shelby three years later, it was renamed Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge. The pork here gets slow cooked over hickory all night long, just like it was six decades ago.
Best Kuchen in North Dakota:Â Karen’s Kuchens inÂ Larimore
Kuchen from Karen’s Kuchens — Photo courtesy of Karen’s Kuchens
The kuchens from Karen’s Kuchens are made using a recipe brought over from the Black Sea area of Russia in the early 1900s. The selection, which can be shipped to most parts of the country, includes classics like prune and rhubarb, as well as creative options like root beer or pecan rum.
Best Chicken Fried Steak in Oklahoma:Â The Red B Restaurant
Chicken fried steak — Photo courtesy of iStock / grandriver
An off-the-beaten-path gem in the town of Idabel, The Red B Restaurant is known for its hearty three-course meals of made-from-scratch food. The hand-cut, tenderized and deep-fried chicken fried steak earns rave reviews and is tender enough to cut with a fork. It comes with gravy and two sides, or in sandwich form with lettuce, tomato and jalapeno ranch.
Best Dungeness Crab in Oregon:Â Ona Restaurant & Lounge inÂ Yachats
Dungeness crab cake from Ona Restaurant & Lounge — Photo courtesy of Ona Restaurant & Lounge
The popular Oregon Dungeness crab cakes on the menu at Ona Restaurant & Lounge are filled with generous chunks of crab meat, served with a capered remoulade. The Dungeness crab dip is served alongside artisan sourdough bread.
Best Stromboli in Pennsylvania:Â Dino’s Pizza of Warminster
Stromboli from Dino’s Pizza — Photo courtesy of Dino’s Pizza of Warminster
Any specialty pizza from Dino’s Pizza of Warminster can be turned into a stromboli, or diners can create their own. The dough takes two days to make, and sauce is made from San Marzano tomatoes. Each stromboli comes with two sauces for dipping.
Best Clams in Rhode Island:Â Evelyn’s Drive-In
Evelyn’s fried clams — Photo courtesy of Evelyn’s Drive-In
Evelyn’s Drive-In has been serving local Rhode Island seafood for over four decades at their relaxed waterside setting in Tiverton. Choose from tender fried clam strips or whole bellied clams, littlenecks in a spicy garlic sauce, stuffed local quahogs, buttery Rhode Island chowder or New England clam chowder, and crispy clam cakes.
Best Shrimp & Grits in South Carolina:Â Poogan’s Porch in Charleston
Shrimp and grits from Poogan’s Porch — Photo courtesy of Poogan’s Porch
At Poogan’s Porch in Charleston, the shrimp and grits come with andouille sausage, sweet onions, bell peppers and a tasso ham gravy.
Best Chislic in South Dakota: Mad Mary’s Steakhouse inÂ Flandreau
South Dakota chislic — Photo courtesy of iStock / kgtoh
At Mad Mary’s, a steakhouse overlooking the Big Sioux River in the town of Flandreau, diners can tuck into sirloin chislic served with a side of curry dipping sauce.
Best Hot Chicken in Tennessee:Â Hattie B’s Hot Chicken inÂ Nashville & Memphis
Hot chicken from Hattie B’s — Photo courtesy of Joseph Woodley / Hattie B’s Hot Chicken
Hattie B’s has a loyal following of hot chicken lovers who come for the sandwiches and plates. Heat levels vary from no-heat Southern to Shut the Cluck Up!!! with a serious burn factor.
Best Tex-Mex in Texas:Â L&J Cafe
Tex-Mex plate — Photo courtesy of iStock / Bill Chizek
L&J Cafe, originally called Tony’s Place, opened for business near the Texas-Mexico border in 1927. The fourth generation now runs the El Paso restaurant, known for dishes like chile con queso with green chile strips, chicken and beef fajitas and shredded beef tacos.
Best Smothered Burrito in Utah:Â Maria’s Mexican Grill
Smothered burrito — Photo courtesy of iStock / EzumeImages
Any of the burritos atÂ Maria’s Mexican Grill in Salt Lake City can be smothered in sauce (with or without cheese and onions) for an extra cost. Filling choices include bean and cheese, carnitas, grilled chicken, shredded beef, carne asada, ground beef or shrimp.
Best Mac & Cheese in Vermont:Â Our House Bistro
Mac & cheese from Our House Bistro — Photo courtesy of Our House Bistro
Our House Bistro is known for what they call “Twisted Comfort Food,” and that includes over two dozen types of mac and cheese. The Traditional comes with cavatappi pasta in a house cheese sauce, while some of the more unique offerings come topped with poutine, coconut shrimp, a fried egg, french fries or buffalo chicken. For something truly twisted, try the Thai-inspired Peanut Butter & Jelly Mac.
Best Brunswick Stew in Virginia:Â Smohk RVA BBQ inÂ Richmond
Brunswick stew from Smohk RVA — Photo courtesy of Smohk RVA
The Brunswick stew on the menu at Smohk RVA BBQ in Richmond blends the Virginia and Georgia styles by using both pork and chicken, slow-simmered for hours with all-natural and house-made smoky apple barbecue sauce.
Best Geoduck in Washington:Â Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar inÂ Olympia
Geoduck at Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar — Photo courtesy of Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar
The raw bar at the Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar serves a Chelsea Farms geoduck crudo made with shaved, cured oyster, fresh lemon basil microgreens, cilantro and an ancho chile oil.
Best Beans & Cornbread in West Virginia:Â Pufferbelly’s Ice Cream Station inÂ Fairmont
Beans and cornbread from Pufferbelly’s Ice Cream Station — Photo courtesy of Jenn Luczko Photography / Pufferbelly’s Ice Cream Station
The soup beans from Pufferbelly’s Ice Cream Station in Fairmont are made with diced vegetables, onions, garlic and ham in a ham-based broth. They always come with freshly baked cornbread.
Best Buffalo Steak in Wyoming:Â Poor Richard’s inÂ Cheyenne
Buffalo steak from Poor Richard’s — Photo courtesy of Poor Richard’s
The buffalo top sirloin served at Poor Richard’s in Cheyenne is served with grilled broccolini and roasted baby red potatoes.
Congratulations to all our winners so far! We’ll be adding more states throughout 2019, so be sure to visit 10Best.com regularly to vote for your favorites.