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.
Cafe du Monde (New Orleans)
Down in the French Quarter, Cafe du Monde gets all the beignet tourists. Sit under the huge enclosed patio for seconds-old beignets. They hit your table, finger-burning hot, with crisp shells and soft, doughy interiors. They’re best washed down with a chicory-laced cafe au lait.
Neptune Oyster Bar (Boston)
Boston’s North End is full of tourist traps, but don’t write off the entire neighborhood. We’ll happily point you toward Neptune Oyster Bar, which has been proclaimed the New England favorite by plenty of national and local publications. It will also cost you $25 for a lobster roll (lobster roll prices multiplied by touristy place prices) but if you’re willing to pay that much, it’s a serious one. They do a hot lobster roll with butter (pictured) and a cold one with mayo. Either way, such an overflow of perfectly-cooked, buttery lobster requires a fork.
Tartine (San Francisco)
Yes, you may have heard about it a hundred times, but Tartine deserves all the praise that’s heaped upon it, even when that results in a 30-minute line (for a takeout counter!). Stroll in, mid-morning on a Wednesday for Tartine’s French-style pastries, which are flaky, perfectly bronzed, and best split by three people. They’re probably best known for their morning bun: soft and exquisitely buttery dough woven with cinnamon and orange, coated in sugar, and nearly always warm from the oven. But chocolate aficionados may be better off opting for the double pain au chocolat, with its double barrel of dark, almost spicy, melted chocolate. If your co-worker points out crumbs on your shirt later, don’t blame us.
Puka Dog (Hawaii)
Ahhh, the vast beaches, active volcanoes,daunting expanse of natural wonders and….The Puka Dog. Behold, this is no regular dog: The Puka Dog is the culmination of 60 years of island hot dog evolution. Puka means “hole” in Hawaiian. Special loaves are baked on a custom contraption, creating a perfect tunnel for the Polish sausages, which are grilled and jammed into the hole. Puka dogs are dressed with any combination of secret sauces, tropical mustards, and fruit relish (think habanero, lemon, mango, coconut, papaya, guava, et cetera) but try yours with the traditional lemon garlic sauce (similar to aioli) that’s bound to ensure that Hawaii’s majestic tropical wonders won’t be the only thing that stands out from your trip.
Al’s #1 Italian Beef (Chicago)
No one pulls off Italian beef so thinly sliced, haunted with as many spices (rumored to be clove and/or nutmeg), or served with a jus with such a strong beefy presence as Al’s. This 72-year-old shrine of Chicago still doesn’t have a single table or seat, unless you plan to eat it outside on the picnic table in January. Why no seats? Well, conquering a sandwich as messy as this one proves safer to eat standing up. Sane people might get the sandwich “wet,” which means you’d like some of the roasting juices from the beef to wet the inside of the bun. But the real way to go is “dipped.” The whole sandwich gets dunked in a bath of pure beefy goodness. The sandwich toppings are all about accentuating the beef: “sweet” comes decked out with roasted bell peppers, while “hot” is giardiniera made up of crunchy vegetables, lacquered in oil, and spiked with red pepper flakes.
Langer’s Deli (Los Angeles)
Open since 1947, the pastrami from James Beard Award-winning Langer’s Deli may well be the best pastrami sandwich you ever eat…NYC Katz’ devotees, fret not, we’re talking about on the West Coast here. The meat is thickly cut, juicy, and has just the right amount of fat. Compared to the Katz’s pastrami in NYC, the meat is spicier and a bit more peppery. Wedged between two pieces of very flavorful rye bread that’s double-baked to ensure crispiness and that special chew, this serious sandwich is best split by two.
Made the old-fashioned way, two gallons at a time by five generations of Graeter’s, no stop in Cincinnati is complete without stopping by one of their locations for hand-crafted ice cream. Where a typical pint of ice cream can weigh as little as 8 ounces, a Graeter’s pint weighs close to a pound. And rest assured, you’ll taste every ounce of that rich creaminess from your first bite to your last. Just remember three words when walking into the multi-award-winning Graeter’s: Black Raspberry Chip. (And Cookies ‘n Cream and Elena’s Blueberry Pie.) For those who don’t think they can stomach a heaping helping of ice cream after a long day of sightseeing, try one of their lighter, but equally delicious, sorbet flavors.
Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack (Nashville)
It’s not really a question of what you’re going to order at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack (the chicken, obviously)—it’s how you will order it: mild, medium, hot, or extra hot. Each order comes covered with two slices of white bread (Wonder Bread style) and pickle coins, both of which you’ll pick at between mouth-burning bites. To play it safe, they bag the “Hot” orders separately, clearly marking the bags. As fiery as this chicken is, and as handicapped as your tongue will feel after attempting a bite, you can still tell that it’s always fall-off-the-bone tender. Yelp praises exclaim, “I want it I want it I want it! Give me more!…Eating
Prince’s Chicken for the first time one year ago was a life-changing
experience,” and natives swear by it. This joint doesn’t accept credit cards, so be sure to come prepared with cash, lest you miss out on the grub Dixie Chickens and Tennessee Lambs alike dream about.
In-N-Out (Los Angeles)
Of all burger chains, In-N-Out Burger—founded in Baldwin Park, California, in 1948—has one of the most devout followings. They’re famous for serving never-frozen, well-balanced, tangy Special-sauced creations. And they’re equally famous for what’s not on the menu, like ordering your burger “animal style” with with hand-leafed lettuce, tomato, a mustard cooked beef patty; add pickle, extra spread, with grilled onions or “protein style” where you wrap your burger in lettuce in place of a bun.
Even the shortest visit to the Steel City will teach you that Pittsburgh pride runs deep—starting with the Steelers, and bridging its spectrum of hometown love all the way through to the sandwich. Every Primanti’s sandwich begins with an inch-plus foundation of soft Italian bread (the kind you can leave thumbprints in). Moving from the ground up, it’s piled with your meat and cheese (or eggs, or sardines) of choice, hot fries (a very crucial layer), slaw, tomatoes, and a second bread slice that somehow balances on top. You may have recreated a garbage bin sandwich of sorts with leftover fries and cold cuts at home, but we promise it won’t live up to this Pittsburgh special.