I have traveled a LOT throughout this country for work and for pleasure, and I’m a foodie. Here’s my list of regional classics I have sampled throughout my many travels across the states. Completely opinionated, obviously subjective, my tastes are not yours, and I do not claim to be an authority on food.
So, with the disclaimers out of the way, here are some of the regional specialties I’ve found to be a bit overhyped. I’m basing the “overrated” on quality of taste and how much better the regional specialty was compared to other cities’ versions of it.
Philly Cheesesteaks: I tried half of a Pats and half of a Genos. (both “cheez wit”) Both were “ok” but weren’t mind-blowing. I’ve had cheese steaks that were just as good in a variety of cities, including my own. I ate a Tony Luke’s steak later that week and thought it was pretty mediocre.
Chicago-style Hot Dogs: I visited the “Superdawg” in Chi-town. This is probably just a personal thing, but I’m not a fan of pickles on hot dogs. Also, I found that I don’t really like celery salt or steamed poppy buns. I did enjoy the deep dish from Lou Malnati’s, I felt like I had just eaten a bag of cement mix afterwards. Also, I’ve found that although Chicago is famous for it’s deep dish pizza, most of the more local pizza places served thin crust pies, which were pretty tasty as well. One of my biggest regrets is that I never got a chance to eat one of Chi-town’s famous Italian beef sandwiches.
Anchor Bar Buffalo Wings: I absolutely love buffalo wings. They’re pretty much my favorite appetizer ever. I was expecting some kind of out-of-body experience when I visited the “mecca” of buffalo wings, the Anchor Bar in Buffalo. What I got was… decent buffalo wings. It was here that I learned a valuable lesson. Just because someone did it first, it doesn’t ALWAYS mean they still do it best.
Pink’s hot dogs, LA: Honestly, they were nothing special. Pretty standard hot dog joint imo. It was quite a letdown for me as a hot dog fan. The Kogi truck I sampled the next day and was way better than I expected however, so my LA trip evened out.
New Orleans Muffelattas: Several people recommended me to a place called Napoleon House on my trip to New Orleans. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve eaten a lot of great deli in my lifetime, but the Muffelatta sandwich I tried from here was just ok. I felt the olive paste was a bit too strong, and the meat was kind of overshadowed. I still love almost everything I’ve ever eaten in New Orleans, but this sandwich they’re pretty well known for is just kinda “meh” imo.
Finally, here are two entries from my own beloved NYC:
NYC Pizza: I have my own favorite local pizza joints in Brooklyn, and Manhattan, but you really can get great pizza all over the country nowadays, NY doesn’t have the monopoly on great pizza anymore. You could get a fantastic pie at local joints anywhere from Philly to Arizona. Even Cali pizza is improving. Also, NYC has its fair share of awful pizzerias, trying to cash in on NYC’s reputation. I’ve been seeing them pop up all over the place. Most notably in Manhattan. Most of the local Brooklyn joints are still pretty great.
NYC Bagels: NYC has great bagels. But anyone can make great bagels. They’re not exclusive to NYC. I’ve had great bagels all over this country. (To be fair, I’ve had some awful ones too.) Honestly, the best bagel I’ve ever eaten came from some random bakery in Canada, of all places. Bagels are just bread. Any good baker can make a good bagel, it’s just NYC has somehow gotten famous for them over the years.
So there we are. Agree/disagree, share your own experiences.