The Must-Try Restaurant in Every State

The Must-Try Restaurant in Every State

Sometimes, a restaurant is more than just a restaurant. It’s the perfect restaurant for the place in which it’s located, and a restaurant that can only really exist in that place. It’s a restaurant that isn’t just a place to eat; it’s a place that tells you something about its location; you learn a little more about its state or city, and the people who live there,just by dining there. In short, it’s an absolute must-try, and we’ve identified that restaurant in each state. 

Any die-hard foodie will tell you that when they’re in a new city or driving through a state for the first time, there are certain restaurants that are worth going out of the way for. These restaurants are definitely worthy of a detour. 

They might serve the definitive version of the state’s most iconic dish, or specialize in a cuisine that the state is known for. They might represent a type of restaurant that can only be found in the state. They might be household names to everyone who lives in the area. These restaurants aren’t the best in the state, per se – they’re by and large not fine dining, some are holes-in-the-wall, and some are downright touristy. But they simply can’t exist anyplace else. 

These restaurants are about more than just the food. From the moment you walk into them, from the moment you look out the window, it’s clear that these restaurants are one-of-a-kind. These aren’t anonymous cookie-cutters. They’re experiences unto themselves, ones that you literally won’t find anywhere else, and they’re the absolute must-try restaurants in every state and Washington, DC. And if you’re looking for a place to eat the following morning, these are the best brunch spots in America.

Alabama: Irondale Cafe, Irondale

Source: Courtesy of Gabe P. via Yelp

If you’ve seen “Fried Green Tomatoes,” the 1991 classic film, then you already know The Irondale Cafe, which author Fannie Flagg based the original novel’s fictional Whistle Stop Cafe on. Visit the restaurant today, located just east of Birmingham, and it’s exactly what you want it to be: a homespun, homey little restaurant with a chalkboard menu loaded with Southern “meat and 3” specialties like country fried steak with brown gravy, chicken pot pie, and heaps of scratch-made sides. It’s Alabama through-and-through. 

Alaska: Hangar on the Wharf, Juneau

Source: Courtesy of The Hangar on the Wharf, via Yelp

Perched on a wharf, as the name implies, overlooking the Gastineau Channel in downtown Juneau, the city’s most famous restaurant has been a must-visit for visitors who want a true taste of ALaska for more than 25 years. With spectacular views and a laid-back vibe, it’s the ideal spot for locally-sourced seafood like a Halibut Melt, angel hair with Alaskan spot prawns, and King crabs, as well as excellent steaks, burgers, and local beers. 

Arizona: El Charro Cafe, Tucson

Source: Courtesy of Mia R. via Yelp

The oldest Mexican restaurant in Tuscon, El Charro Cafe was founded in 1922 by Monica Flin, and it’s still going strong in its original location, which was also Monica’s house. A must-visit for Mexican food lovers and anyone wanting to experience Arizona’s culinary history, the inviting El Charro is especially legendary for two menu items: carne seca (made by air-drying beef in the Sonoran sun and rehydrating it with tomatoes and green chiles on the griddle) and the deep-fried chimichanga, which was invented here. 

Arkansas: Jones Bar-B-Q Diner, Marianna

Source: Courtesy of Benjamin B. via Yelp

Located in the tiny Arkansas Delta town of Marianna, Jones Bar-B-Q Diner was founded by Walter Jones in 1910, and today it’s the oldest continually-operated Black-owned businesses in the United States. The two-table restaurant has only ever served one thing: pork shoulder that’s been coal-smoked over low heat and served with white bread and a sweet, vinegary sauce. The restaurant was named a James Beard American Classic in 2012. 

California: Musso & Frank Grill, Los Angeles

Source: Courtesy of Richie D. via Yelp

One of the most iconic restaurants in Los Angeles and the setting for countless scenes in films including “Ocean’s 11” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Musso & Frank is as much a Hollywood icon as Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe (both of whom were regulars). The restaurant opened in 1919 and was at the center of Hollywood’s cultural life by the 1930s, and today it’s anything but a relic, still serving up steaks and old-school classics like grilled lamb kidneys and prime rib in a space untouched by time. 

Colorado: Buckhorn Exchange, Denver

Source: Courtesy of Anto M via Yelp

A bit of the Old West alongside the railroad tracks, Buckhorn Exchange was opened by the colorful Henry H. “Shorty Scout” Zietz way back in 1893, and there’s truly no other place quite like it. Everyone from cattlemen to miners, silver barons, railroadmen, Indian chiefs, roustabouts, gamblers, and businessmen walked through its doors in the old days, and today it’s a local landmark. Historic artifacts and mounted wild game heads line the walls, and as for the menu, it’s one of the best place in the country to sample game liek elk and buffalo – not to mention another local delicacy, Rocky Mountain oysters. 

Connecticut: Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, New Haven

Source: Courtesy of Allison P. via Yelp

New York and Chicago may be the country’s most famous pizza towns, but true pizza aficionados know that New Haven very well might be home to the best pizza in America. And in New Haven, no pizzeria is more famous than the town’s oldest, Frank Pepe. Opened by Frank Pepe in Wooster Square in 1925, Pepe’s attracts lines down the block on a daily basis. Locals and tourists crowd into the timeworn booths for a taste of their chewy, oblong, slightly charred coal fired pizzas, the Platonic ideal of what’s known as New Haven style. 

Delaware: Catch 54, Fenwick Island

Source: Courtesy of Catch 24 via Yelp

A beautiful restaurant overlooking a tranquil cove in a far-flung corner of Delaware just over the Fenwick Island Bridge, the bright and spacious Catch 54 is a quintessential Delaware experience. It’s serves simple coastal cuisine in a casual yet upscale space. Seafood is obviously the main draw; specialties include cream of crab soup, fish & chips, seafood stew, hot crab dip, and crab cakes. The wine list is also spectacular, winning the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence six times. 

Florida: Joe’s Stone Crab, Miami Beach

Source: Courtesy of Joe’s Stone Crab via Yelp

Miami’s most famous restaurant, Joe’s Stone Crab was founded by Joe Weiss in 1913, when Miami Beach was pzved with dirt roads and stone crabs weren’t even eaten. That all changed when Weiss decided to add them to the menu, and today Joe’s is a Miami landmark, a sprawling fine dining gem and the country’s best place to sample the local delicacy, which are served by the pile, pre-cracked and ready to dip in a homemade mustard sauce. 

Georgia: Mary Mac’s Tea Room, Atlanta

Source: Courtesy of Marc L. via Yelp

In the 1940s, more than a dozen “tea rooms” were opened in Atlanta by enterprising women – many widowed by World War II – in search of a living, and today only one remains. Mary Mac’s was founded with one dining room by Mary MacKenzie in 1945, and today it’s expanded to one of Atlanta’s largest restaurants. It’s menu of scratchmade Southerm classics like Brunswick stew, smothered chicken, and shrimp and grits is as old-school as it gets. 

Hawaii: Mama’s Fish House, Maui

Source: Courtesy of Ameya P. via Yelp

With vintage Polynesian decor on the inside and a stunning view of the ocean on the outside, the waterfront Mama’s Fish House is a Maui icon, a family-owned landmark since 1973. The fun and lively restaurant may resemble a tiki bar, but the menu is anything gimmicky: It’s one of the best places on the island for fresh local seafood like crispy fish collar, diver-caught Maui octopus, and macadamia nut-crusted Hawaiian kanpachi. 

Idaho: The Roundhouse, Sun Valley

Source: Courtesy of Munzer Q. via Yelp

The culinary highlight of Idaho’s stunning Sun Valley, The Roundhouse is only accessible by gondola and dubs itself “America’s original on-mountain dining experience.” It has a four-sided fireplace and a stunning outdoor deck, which allows for uninterrupted panoramic views of the surrounding Bald Mountain (the restaurant’s elevation is 7,700 feet) and the valley below. Drawing visitors since 1939, The Roundhouse specializes in New American cuisine, and is only open during the winter season. Be sure to order the fondue. 

Illinois: Superdawg Drive-In, Chicago

Source: Courtesy of Bob K. via Yelp

The Chicago-style hot dog is in many ways the city’s quintessential food, and there’s no better place to experience it than Superdawg, a roadside hot dog stand opened by World War II vet Maurie Berman and his wife Flaurie in 1948. Their children continue to run the restaurant to this day, which is identified by two 12-foot tall jolly hot dogs on the roof. Their custom-recipe hot dogs haven’t changed since day one, and are “dragged through the garden” in appropriate Chicago fashion. 

Indiana: St. Elmo Steak House, Indianapolis

Source: Courtesy of St. Elmo Steak House via Yelp

A downtown Indianapolis landmark since 1902, St. Elmo Steak House is the oldest restaurant in the city still in its original location, and has been named an American Classic by the James Beard Foundation. It’s a spectacular steakhouse with Midwestern steaks perfectly cooked and an ambiance that’s been cultivated over the past 120-plus years, and a signature dish that you’ll find on every table: a shrimp cocktail appetizer, served with an eye-wateringly spicy cocktail sauce. 

Iowa: Breitbach’s Country Dining, Balltown

Source: Courtesy of Rj L. via Yelp

The oldest restaurant in Iowa, Breitbach’s is a true Midwestern icon and a taste of Iowa. Opened in 1862 and under the same family ownership for six generations (Cindy Breitbach is the head chef), the restaurant is nestled amongst the farms and rolling hills of pastoral Balltown. The food is simple and hearty: burgers, Iowa pork chops, “broasted” (pressure-fried) chicken, pork tenderloin sandwiches (an Iowa specialty), and the like. It’s all best enjoyed during their weekend buffets.

Kansas: Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, Kansas City

Source: Courtesy of Jay P. via Yelp

Kansas City is legendary for its signature barbecue, and the best place to experience it is just over the Missouri border at Joe’s Kansas City, formerly known as Oklahoma Joe’s. Opened inside a gas station by two champion competition pitmasters in 1996, Joe’s has since opened two additional locations (both in Kansas) and it’s become legendary for its Kansas City ribs, burnt ends, and signature sandwich: the Z-Man, stacked with brisket, smoked provolone, and onion rings. 

Kentucky: Lobby Bar & Grill at the Brown Hotel, Louisville

Source: Courtesy of Lobby Bar & Grill at the Brown Hotel via Yelp

If you’re looking for a truly genteel Southern experience in Louisville, then head to the elegant Brown Hotel, a Georgian Revival landmark dripping with Southern charm since 1923. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Brown Hotel offers a variety of dining options, but the Lobby Bar & Grill is opulent and sophisticated. It’s also the best place to try a dish that was invented there in the 20s and has since become the state’s most famous dish: the Kentucky Hot Brown, an open-face turkey sandwich topped with bacon, tomatoes, and cheesy mornay sauce. 

Louisiana: Commander’s Palace, New Orleans

Source: Courtesy of Michael S. via Yelp

Going strong since 1893 in New Orleans’ charming Garden District, the sprawling Commander’s Palace is quite possibly the city’s most famous restaurant – and it’s also its most romantic, its best restaurant for groups, and the home of its most lively jazz brunch. It launched the careers of legendary chefs including Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse, and its “Haute Creole” cuisine – with signature dishes including turtle soup, pecan-crusted Gulf fish, and Creole bread pudding souffle – is second to none. 

Maine: The Clam Shack, Kennebunkport

Source: Courtesy of Erica M. via Yelp

Perched on a bridge smack dab in the heart of the almost impossibly charming village of Kennebunkpork, Maine, The Clam Shack is the best place in town (and quite possibly the entire state) to sample its signature dish: the lobster roll. The lobster is super-fresh, and its tucked into a soft round custom-baked bun instead of the usual split-top hot dog bun. Grab a seat at a picnic table and savor this true taste of Maine. 

Maryland: Miss Shirley’s Cafe, Baltimore

Source: Courtesy of Anica L. via Yelp

Founded as a 42-seat cafe in 2005, Miss Shirley’s has since grown into a Baltimore institution and one of the best breakfast spots in America. With three Baltimore locations, it’s a fun and lively restaurant that draws crowds from the minute it opens its doors until it closes at 3pm daily. Its pancakes have been named the best in the country countless times, and other specialties include chicken & waffles, shrimp & grits, crab hash & fried green tomato eggs Benedict, and coconut cream stuffed French toast. And, as expected, its Maryland crab cakes are also phenomenal. 

Massachusetts: Union Oyster House, Boston

Source: Courtesy of Julia K. via Yelp

One of Boston’s most famous and historic restaurants, Union Oyster House is the city’s oldest restaurant, drawing in crowds since 1826. Housed in a building dating back to Pre-Revolutionary days, the eatery has counted everyone from Daniel Webster to JFK as regulars, with Kennedy even having a favorite booth. It has the best oyster bar in the city (unchanged for more than 100 years) as well as picture-perfect Beantown classics like creamy clam chowder, lobster, and baked scrod. 

Michigan: Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Ann Arbor

Source: Courtesy of Doug C. via Yelp

All-American comfort food is the name of the game at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, which has been drawing in crowds from miles around since 2003. The menu was created after years of studying the best of the best American foodways, and the end result is picture-perfect versions of Americana like buttermilk fried chicken, mac & cheese, New Orleans gumbo, Nashville hot chicken, and Carolina-style whole hog BBQ. The sprawling menu really has something for everyone, and there’s no other place quite like it. 

Minnesota: Matt’s Bar, Minneapolis

Source: Courtesy of Travis T. via Yelp

Minneapolis’ signature regional burger, the Juicy Lucy got its start at the old-school, no-frills bar and restaurant called Matt’s Bar, going strong since 1954. Here it’s called the “Jucy Lucy,” and the original specimen is made by sandwiching just the right amount of American cheese between two raw burger patties befire cooking it on the grill, leading to a melty, molten center of cheese inside the burger. Matt’s version is the original and best, and paying it a visit should be a pilgrimage for any burger lover. 

Mississippi: Mary Mahoney’s, Biloxi

Source: Courtesy of Shannon S. via Yelp

The romantic, venerable Mary Mahoney’s has been drawing in locals, tourists, and even Presidents for more than 50 years, who enjoy locally-sourced Southern fare (primarily seafood)  in one of the city’s oldest houses and its live oak-canopied courtyard. Start with the Presidential Platter of crab sales and fried soft shell crabs and follow up with the crab-stuffed Shrimp & Trout Imperial. 

Missouri: Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque, Kansas City

Source: Courtesy of Robin J. via Yelp

By the time Calvin Trillin named Arthur Bryant’s “the single best restaurant in the world” in Playboy in 1972, it was already regarded as one of Kansas City’s best BBQ joints in a town with no shortage of them. Founder Arthur Bryant was nicknamed the “King of Ribs,” and with good reason – they’re cooked low and slow over a mix of oak and hickory, and when doused in a unique savory barbecue sauce and enjoyed in the restaurant’s legendary dining room, it’s the quintessential Kansas City dining experience. 

Montana: Pork Chop John’s, Butte 

Source: Courtesy of Robert f. via Yelp

Montana’s signature food is a sandwich that’s as humble as it gets. Inspired by schnitzel, it’s a pork loin that’s been pounded thin, battered, fried, and tucked into a soft bun. Swedish immigrant John Borklund is widely regarded with having invented the sandwich; he first started slinging them from a street cart in 1924 and opened up a 10-still lunch counter called Pork Chop John’s in 1932. It’s still there, still using John’s original recipes, and still a pilgrimage-worthy destination. 

Nebraska: Gorat’s Steak House, Omaha

Source: Courtesy of Julie C. via Yelp

Famously the favorite restaurant of the “Oracle of Omaha” himself, Warren Buffett, Gorat’s has been an Omaha tradition since its founding by Louis and Nellie Gorat in 1944. This welcoming restaurant is the state’s most legendary destination for steaks, aged in-house for at least 21 days, cut thick, seasoned with a secret spice blend, cooked on an open-fire grill, and served with a brush of butter and a baked potato. Do as Warren does and order a rare T-bone with a double order of hash browns and a Cherry Coke.

Nevada: Peppermill Restaurant and Fireside Lounge, Las Vegas

Source: Courtesy of Peppermill Restaurant and Fireside Lounge via Yelp

We can safely say that there’s no other restaurant quite like Peppermill. Since 1972, this hot pink and shocking blue, neon-lit restaurant has drawn in night owls, early risers, and everyone in-between for huge portions (and strong cocktails), with a sprawling menu of everything from steak & eggs to Buffalo wings to half-pound burgers to banana splits. It’s Vegas in restaurant form, and, of course, it’s open 24 hours on the weekends. 

New Hampshire: Polly’s Pancake Parlor, Sugar Hill

Source: Courtesy of Monique A. via Yelp

Tucked away amongst forests, fields, and farmland, Polly’s Pancake Parlor is a rural New Hampshire landmark in a house built in the 1830s. The pancakes here are made from scratch according to a recipe that hasn’t changed since the restaurant first opened in 1938, and everything from the sourdough bread to English muffins and country sausage are homemade. Even the bacon comes from a local smokehouse, and as can be expected, the maple syrup is provided by a nearby sugarhouse. 

New Jersey: Tick Tock Diner, Clifton

Source: Courtesy of Michael M. via Yelp

New Jersey is the home of the diner, and the Tick Tock Diner, in all its chrome-plated, Art Deco splendor, is the king of them all. Prominently located in Clifton on Route 3 (a major highway leading out of New York City), this classic diner has been a Jersey landmark since 1948, welcoming guests under a huge neon sign that implores them to EAT HEAVY. And eat heavy they do, choosing from a massive menu that runs the gamut from everything from gravy-topped disco fries to Nutella French toast to short rib grilled cheese. 

New Mexico: Mary & Tito’s, Albuquerque

Source: Courtesy of FoodWanderer A. via Yelp

Since 1963, Mary & Tito’s has been Albuquerque’s destination for classic New Mexican cuisine, especially anything drowned in the state’s iconic Hatch chile sauce. It’s packed with both locals and tourists on a daily basis, who crowd into its dining rooms for a taste of its signature dish: carne adovada, moist and tender slow-cooked pork. Try it inside a deep-fried turnover covered in red chile sauce, a dish invented by founder Tito Gonzales. 

New York: Katz’s Deli, New York City

Source: Courtesy of Yuqing N via Yelp

There’s no shortage of iconic New York foods and must-visit New York restaurants, and plenty of great Jewish delis in town. But there’s no place quite like Katz’s. A Lower East Side landmark that opened in the 1880s and has been in its current home since the 1940s, Katz’s commands daily lines down the block of diners eager to dig into a towering sandwich of pastrami or corned beef, both made according to a laborious, days-long process. Take a ticket, watch the counterman work his magic, and participate in a New York ritual that hasn’t changed in generations. 

North Carolina: Skylight Inn, Ayden

Source: Courtesy of Jacqueline T. via Yelp

Since its founding by 17 year old Pete Jones in 1947, Skylight Inn has served up the definitive version of Eastern Carolina-style whole hog barbecue in a simple, no-frills dining room. Whole pigs are slowly smoked over oak coals for over 16 hours before being chopped up with its crispy skin, seasoned with some hot sauce and cider vinegar, and served alongside cornbread and slaw. The Jones family has been cooking BBQ this way since the 1830s, and Pete’s kids continue to carry on the family legacy.

North Dakota: Pitchfork Steak Fondue, Medora

Source: Courtesy of Linda H. via Yelp

If you’re going to visit North Dakota, you’re going to need to eat some beef. And for a true North Dakota Steak experience, you’re going to want to head up to Medora in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where they’re spearing 12-ounce steaks onto pitchforks and dunking them into boiling oil, deep-frying them until medium-well, and serving them up with a full buffet of baked beans, baked potatoes, garlic toast, coleslaw, vegetables, fresh fruit salad, and more. It’s Badlands cuisine at its finest. 

Ohio: Camp Washington Chili, Cincinnati

Source: Courtesy if Jamie W. via Yelp

Since 1940, Camp Washington has been serving up Cincinnati’s signature dish in a classic, old-school diner style dining room 24-hours a day, six days a week. Beloved in Ohio but tough to find outside of it, Greek-spiced Cincinnati chili is served atop a pile of spaghetti and best enjoyed “five ways”, topped with beans, onions, and a mound of shredded cheddar. It’s the essential Cincy dish, and locals will tell you that Camp Washington – which has been named a James Beard American Classic – does it best. 

Oklahoma: Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, Oklahoma City

Source: Courtesy of Julie T. via Yelp

Located in Oklahoma City’s historic Stockyards City, Cattlemen’s Steakhouse is one of the best places on earth to eat a steak. Since first opening its doors to cowboys, ranchers, and cattle haulers in 1910, it’s expanded with additional dining rooms over the years but never lost its old, rustic charm. The oldest continually operating restaurant in Oklahoma, Cattlemen’s is aging corn-fed Midwestern beef, hand-cutting them in their butcher shop, and grilling them over charcoal until perfectly cooked. Go for the T-bone. 

Oregon: Cascade Room at Timberline Lodge, Timberline Lodge

Source: Courtesy of Ruby B. via Yelp

Set high on the shoulder of Mt. Hood, Timberline Lodge has been drawing skiers, wedding guests, and others looking for an escape for 85 years. The wood-beamed Cascade Room is exactly the type of restaurant you’d hope for in a place like this, a warm and welcoming farm-to-table restaurant that’s committed to showcasing locally-sourced ingredients like Puget Sound oysters, local steelhead, huckleberries, and Oregon cheese. Plenty of local beers are also on offer, and the breakfast and lunch buffet is great, too.  

Pennsylvania: John’s Roast Pork, Philadelphia

Source: Courtesy of Florence C. via Yelp

The cheesesteak might be Philadelphia’s most iconic sandwich, but many locals will tell you that it’s the roast pork sandwich – made by piling slow-roasted, jus-soaked thin-sliced pork, provolone, and broccoli rabe or spinach into a seeded role – is the superior specimen. At the low-slung, cash-only John’s Roast Pork, tucked away in working-class South Philly since 1930, you can sample perfect versions of both. 

Rhode Island: Al Forno, Providence

Source: Courtesy of Kathryn P. via Yelp

The essential Rhode Island restaurant, the beautiful, fine dining Al Forno was founded in 1980 by Johanne Killeen & George Germon. Its signature dish is the grilled pizza, which was essentially invented there and is ordered by just about everyone who dines there. But past the pizza, it’s also an ode to New England’s farms and waters, showcased in dishes like Clams al Forno in spicy arrabiata sauce. 

South Carolina: Bowens Island Restaurant, Folly Beach

Source: Courtesy of Wes A. via Yelp

Located on a marshy barrier island about a 20 minute drive outside of Downtown Charleston, Bowens Island is a Lowcountry landmark that’s as rustic as it gets. Groups gather round large picnic tables that have a prominent hole smack dab in the middle – a place deposit the thousands upon thousands of oyster shells the restaurant goes through every season, both raw and steamed. Also be sure to try the signature Low Country Boil, with fresh local shrimp, potatoes, sausage, and corn. 

South Dakota: Western Art Gallery Restaurant, Wall

Cowboy boots and hat with feet up on stables gate at ranch resting with legs crossed, country music festival live concert or line dancing concept
Source: Brian A Jackson / Shutterstock.com

If you’ve driven through South Dakota without makinga pit stop at Wall Drug, you haven’t really driven through South Dakota. Home to a drug store, gift shops, Cowboy-themed stores, and restaurants, Wall Drug is located adjacent to Badlands National Park but is a tourist draw all to itself. Its homey Western Art Gallery Dining Room is home to one of the most impressive collections of original Western art in America, and its menu of country classics like homemade donuts and rolls, along with their signature hot beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and homemade gravy, are a cure for what ails you. 

Tennessee: The Loveless Cafe, Nashville

Source: Courtesy of Kaitlyn S. via Yelp

A must-visit since Lon and Annie Loveless first opened the restaurant out of their home in 1951, The Loveless Cafe is today a local landmark and the best place in town for Southern staples like fried chicken, biscuits, country ham, and hickory smoked barbecue, all made from scratch. There are also on-site shops selling everything from souvenirs to biscuit mix to pantry items to pottery, making this a true destination. 

Texas: The Big Texan Steak Ranch, Amarillo

Source: Courtesy of Rick Y. via Yelp

Yes, it’s a tourist trap, but WHAT a tourist trap! Amarillo’s Big Texan Steak Ranch is Texas through-and-through, from its saloon-like atmosphere to its kitschy gift shop to its on-site motel to its location right on Route 66. Every meal here is a big, rowdy Texas-size extravaganza, and the flame-grilled steaks really are spectacular. Whether you partake in its world-famous 72-Ounce Steak Challenge – one hour to eat the massive steak along with shrimp cocktail, a baked potato, salad, and a roll with butter – is up to you. 

Utah: Red Iguana, Salt Lake City

Source: Courtesy of Coburn S. via Yelp

Salt Lake City’s most famous Mexican restaurant and one of the most beloved restaurants in America, Red Iguana was rounded in 1985 and still run by the Cardenas family, who’d been running restaurants in the area since 1965. The menu is based on their old family recipes and incorporates culinary traditions from the region as well as Mexico, with corn tortillas made fresh in-house and classics including six types of mole, cochinita pibil, fish tacos, and carne asada. 

Vermont: Hen of the Wood, Waterbury

Source: Courtesy of Ashlee P. via Yelp

A fine dining, woodsy-chic restaurant in the heart of the beautiful Waterbury Village Historic District (there’s a newer location in Burlington), the relaxed Hen of the Wood is Vermont through-and-through. The restaurant’s owners are devoted to showcasing Vermont’s finest ingredients and have established a network of local growers, artisans, designers, ranchers, bakers, and more. The menu changes daily based on what’s fresh, in-season, and local. 

Virginia: The Inn at Little Washington, Washington

Source: Courtesy of M B. via Yelp

The first and only 3 Star Michelin restaurant in the Washington DC metropolitan area, chef Patrick O’Connell’s legendary Inn at Little Washington has been drawing well-heeled visitors to tiny Washington, Virginia, since 1978. The stunningly eclectic restaurant evokes a dinner party in a fantastical country manor, and his menu is as imaginative as the décor. He’s built relationships with local farmers and suppliers that represent the best of the region, and much of the produce and herbs are grown on the campus.  

Washington: Canlis, Seattle

Source: Courtesy of Liz L. via Yelp

Seattle’s landmark fine dining destination since it was opened by Peter Canlis in 1950, Canlis perfectly encapsulates all that’s wonderful about the Pacific Northwest. Perched on the 300 foot-high hill, the Midcentury Modern restaurant is all floor-to-ceiling angled glass, with rugged stone and light wood filling out the rest. It allows guests views of unspoiled nature as they enjoy multicourse menus featuring the finest local ingredients. The Canlis Salad, unchanged since 1950, is a must-order. 

Washington, DC: Ben’s Chili Bowl

Source: Courtesy of Ben’s Chili Bowl via Yelp

A civil rights landmark since it was founded by Ben and Virginia Ali in 1958 (it stayed open during the DC riots and supplied food to the March on Washington), Ben’s Chili Bowl is also the best place in town to sample DC’s signature sausage: the half-smoke. A fat, spicy, slightly smoky sausage, it’s grilled until just shy of charred, tucked into a steamed bun, and topped with mustard, onions, and a homemade spicy chili sauce. Come for the history, stay for the half-smoke. 

West Virginia: Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti House, Huntington

Source: Courtesy of Casey C. via Yelp

An honest, no-frills, old-school family restaurant Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti House has been family owned and operated since 1938. Not much has changed over the decades, and it’s a consistent, reliable place for locals to take out-of-towners for a real taste of West Virginia. The meat sauce that tops the spaghetti is the most famous item on the menu, but as the name implies, grilled 10-ounce ribeyes are also dynamite. Other old-school favorites include baked ham (with grilled pineapple rings, of course), fried haddock, and homemade apple pie. 

Wisconsin: The Butterfly Supper Club, Beloit

Source: Courtesy of Brett C. via Yelp

Wisconsin was once home to countless so-called “supper clubs” that sprung up in the Postwar years, where folks would dress up for dinner, meet up with friends, have a couple cocktails, maybe dance a little, and enjoy a Saturday night over relish trays, prime rib, and fried fish. It’s a dying breed these days, but today the quintessential Wisconsin supper club is The Butterfly in Beloit. Founded as a tea room in 1924, today it retains all of that retro charm with a menu that hasn’t changed in ages. Be sure to wash it down with a Brandy Old Fashioned. 

Wyoming: Hotel Wolf Restaurant, Saratoga

Source: Courtesy of Pam L. via Yelp

Built in 1893 as a stagecoach stop in the heart of the picturesque North Platte Valley, the Hotel Wolf retains a distinctly Old West vibe. Recently renovated and restored to all its 1800s glory by local owners Douglass and Kathleen Campbell, it’s home to an old-time saloon and a lovely restaurant that’s pure Wyoming. For the full experience, opt for the prime rib or a steak that’s aged in-house and hand-cut daily. (Here’s a list of the best fine dining restaurant in every state.)

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