25+ American Tourist Restaurants that Locals Swear By
These restaurants may be listed in every guidebook, but they evoke fierce hometown pride from those in the know and are actually great places to eat.
Chowder at Pike Place Market (Seattle)
This daily extravaganza has brought together farmers, fishmongers,
and bakers since 1907. Make sure
to check out the iconic fish toss:
“Hali-! Hali-! Heyyyyyy!” Next thing you know, that slippery fishy
is being hurled over your head and slapped onto a bed
of ice. For lunch, head to Pike Place Chowder for a bacon-laced bowl
of creamy goodness.
Hot Dogs at Pink’s (Los Angeles)
The slow-moving lines at Pink’s
just give you time to read the menu, full of frankfurters named for various stars who have visited this
The signature ten-inch stretch chili dog is steamed, then topped with Betty Pink’s meaty chili, mustard, and
Barbecue at Arthur Bryant’s (Kansas City, MO)
The line at this legendary locale stretches to the door well before noon—and it includes locals and major-league baseball players waiting for their fix. This barbecue is all about the sauce: Try both the sweet house sauce and the spicier version. And make sure to include an order of “burnt ends,” the crispy scraps and trimmings from a beef brisket.
Pizza at Frank Pepe (New Haven)
New Haven pizza: Everyone has to experience it, and landmark Pepe’s still turns out a phenomenal pie. It’s smoky from the coal oven and covered in gooey cheese and sausage. Huge charred bubbles pop up like miniature volcanic islands, and the haphazard cutting job is charming.
Pastrami at Katz’s Delicatessen (NYC)
When a restaurant has been going strong for more than 120 years, it must be doing something right.
Locals return over and over for that only-in-New York energy emanating from the bounty of neon signs and, oh yes, that incredible pastrami in all its forms. May we suggest the Three Meat Platter (sliced pastrami, brisket, and corned beef), advertised to feed “three tourists or one regular customer”?
Hotcakes at Pamela’s Diner (Pittsburgh)
VIPs like President Obama swing by Pamela’s when they’re in town—we’re guessing they crave the
famous hotcakes with their crazy, crispy edges. The signature dish is like a cross between a crepe and a pancake that has all the good qualities of each: slightly spongy and buttery with that caramelized surface. They come two to a plate, all rolled up and as big as burritos, stuffed with fresh strawberry slices, brown sugar, and tangy sour cream.
Hot Doug’s (Chicago)
Hot Doug’s, the self-described encased meats emporium and sausage superstore, will likely have a line snaking down the block when you arrive, especially on Fridays and Saturdays when Doug Sohn serves his duck fat fries. And it’s no surprise they’re so popular: The Foie Gras Dog, for example, has creamy chunks of foie gras strewn on top. Then you have the regular Chicago dogs, which are really good Chicago hot dogs augmented by caramelized onions. Bonus: you’ll see Doug himself behind the counter taking orders.
Shake Shack (NYC)
If you’re a burger enthusiast, you really can’t leave New York City without at least one ShackBurger. It comes with a single American-cheesed patty, two slices of Roma tomato, a single piece of green leaf lettuce, and a few squirts of their not-so-secret ShackSauce (the secret ingredient = pickles) all on a buttered and toasted Martin’s Potato Roll. Unlike large, grilled burgers which can dry out, a thin griddled ShackBurger maintains a good deal of juiciness with a browned crust. Try to visit during an “off-peak” hour to avoid the long lines which wrap onto the sidewalk!
Leon’s or Kopp’s Frozen Custard (Milwaukee)
Frozen custard is thicker and smoother than ice cream due to the higher percentages of eggs and cream. A Milwaukee rivalry of Geno’s vs. Pat’s cheese steaks proportions has developed over the years between Kopp’s and Leon’s. We say, why choose? The frozen custards are made in large machines that kind of resemble soft serve machines, except the custard drips slowly. You can get cups or sundaes, milkshakes, or malts.
Peter Luger (Brooklyn, NY)
While the steakhouse genre long ago descended in to self-parody, Peter Luger retains a level of authenticity—by virtue of the fact that it is their menu that almost everyone else mimics. That epic, vaguely mythical “porterhouse for two” you may have heard your grandfather recall or your boyfriend praise, comes sputtering and sizzling angrily as it is paraded through the dining room and it was popularized, if not created, at Peter Luger. While others may have been doing it as long or even longer—Keens and The Old Homestead, for example—Luger remains the steakhouse by which others are judged.