America's Best Places to Eat Like a Local
New York City may offer the quintessential pizza slice—a blistered and puffy, fold-it-in-half, red-sauced number (oregano, garlic powder, and pepper flakes optional)—but locals know that in this global town when you want your flatbread fix you can just as easily reach for a Spanish coca or an Indian uttapam.
Down in New Orleans denizens know that cravings for tried-and-true Creole classics (turtle soup, absinthe-poached oysters) are best dished up by Commander’s Palace, touristy reputation be damned. And in Seattle, it’s a chanterelle, apple, and egg dish at Sitka & Spruce that will keep the glooms at bay.
To find America’s best regional fare, you’ve just got to know where to look—and whom to ask.
We charged our network of staffers and contributors to eat their way across the 50 states for Travel + Leisure’s annual Best Places to Eat Like a Local. Their results: a crib sheet to authentic deliciousness. From pho shops and noodle joints in Las Vegas’s Asian micro-hood to San Francisco’s most essential sandwich, from sticky buns in Boston to 45-plus flavors of handmade ice cream down in Dania Beach, FL, America’s best local restaurants are instant classics. Hope you’re hungry. —Justin Ocean
Restaurant Pricing Key
$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150
He’eia Pier General Store & Deli, Kaneohe, HI
Fishermen, paddle-boarders, the odd biker gang—everyone on Oahu’s windward coast stops into this ramshackle diner/bait-and-tackle shop perched on an old pier over Kaneohe Bay. You’ll find hearty plate-lunch staples such as musubi rice balls, mac salad, and pork luau stew; the owner’s mother runs a shave-ice stand next door. 46-499 Kamehameha Hwy.; 808/235-2192. $$
Carmel’s Breakfast House, Phoenix
This neighborhood coffee joint, dreamed up by a local weatherman in search of a good cuppa, has morphed into a full-blown daytime hangout, with panini, tartines, and brown-butter scones made daily. 4233 E. Camelback Rd. $
Little Skillet, San Francisco
Cayenne-and-paprika-spiced fried chicken served with maple syrup and waffles dusted in powdered sugar. 360 Ritch St.; 415/777-2777. $$
Fountain Coffee Room, Beverly Hills
The luncheonette at the Beverly Hills Hotel has served local starlets and studio heads since 1949. While the banana-leaf wallpaper remains, there are nods to today’s tastes: cold-pressed juices and a decadent caramel pumpkin pie named for Mary J. Blige. 9641 Sunset Blvd. $$$
Kang Hodong Baekjeong, Los Angeles
Ad Hoc, Yountville, CA
Winemakers, farmers, and off-duty cooks make the scene at Thomas Keller’s convivial Napa Valley canteen, where the nightly-changing three-course dinner costs just $52. $$$
Tatsu Ramen, Los Angeles
A stylish strip-mall noodle bar in Little Osaka that serves a rich and savory tonkotsu ramen as well as a vegan-friendly version (this is L.A., after all). 2123 Sawtelle Blvd. $$
Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor, Dania Beach, FL
Alongside an endless array of vintage kitsch (turn-of-the-20th-century license plates; displays of retro candy) are 45-plus flavors of south Florida’s favorite ice cream, handmade daily for 58 years. 128 S. Federal Hwy. $$
La Sandwicherie, Miami Beach
Swing by this teeny SoBe sandwich shop late enough, and you’ll see chefs such as José Mendin (of the ragingly popular PubBelly) scarfing down post-shift saucisson-and-Camembert baguettes. $
Octopus Bar, Atlanta
In an unmarked room behind an East Atlanta pho house, kitchen workers and industry minions meet after work to lick their wounds and shoot Fernet. To eat, there’s high-minded Asian cooking, like monkfish-liver torchon and freshwater-eel congee. 560 Gresham Ave. S.E. $$
Commander’s Palace, New Orleans
Believe the hype: the restaurant where French-Creole and Cajun first blended with nouvelle cuisine four decades ago still sets standards for inventiveness (absinthe-poached oysters), high-gloss classics (turtle soup), and white-glove service. $$$
Flour Bakery, Boston
Call ahead to reserve your sticky bun—these caramel-smothered, pecan-studded brioche rolls are among the best you’ll ever have. No wonder they sell out in mere hours.
Pho 87, Las Vegas
Purists flock to this unassuming storefront for super-fresh goi cuon (summer rolls) and fragrant oxtail pho. 3620 S. Jones Blvd.; 702/233-8787. $
Rôtisserie Georgette, New York City
The seductive aroma of spit-roasted chicken has three food capitals in a spin. On Manhattan’s Upper East Side, at the new Rôtisserie Georgette, the juicy poulet rôti is matched with sublimely crunchy potatoes and flame-kissed leeks.
Kin Shop, New York City
Asheville Sandwich Co., NC
Departure Restaurant & Lounge, Portland, OR
With a Jetsons-inspired interior, this Pan-Asian restaurant on the 15th floor of the Nines hotel is redefining happy hour for the city’s trendy set. Try the crispy squid with spicy miso. 525 S.W. Morrison St. $$$
Brad Spence’s funky-porky rendition is the best excuse to get over yourself and eat scrapple. 412 S. 13th St.
East Side King, Austin, TX
James Beard Award–winning chef Paul Qui is behind this graffitied food trailer (one of two) that sets up in the backyard of East Side hot spot Liberty Bar and serves till 1:30 a.m. Get the piping-hot beet home fries with Kewpie mayo and sweet deep-fried chicken thighs. 1618 1/2 E. Sixth St. $$
Sitka & Spruce, Seattle
Balthazar, New York City
Given the gorgeous interior and crazy-sexy crowd, the food at the SoHo stalwart is far better than it needs to be. Take it from star chef Eric Ripert: “I go as often as I can—they have great energy, good service, and fantastic steak frites.” $$$
La Vara, New York City
A cross between a pizza and a tart, coca is a staple of Catalonia, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands. Try it here with blue cheese and roasted onions. 268 Clinton St., Brooklyn. $$