Readers Choice

10Best Readers' ChoiceChosen by readers of USA TODAY and 10Best

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    #10 - Key West - Key Lime Pie

    Florida's native key lime adds a unique taste to any dish in which it's used, and key lime pie is by far the most popular.  Whether you like this creamy pie on the sweet side or tart side; pale yellow or light green; room temperature, cool or frozen . . . the small citrus namesake unique to toasty climes has elevated it to elite dessert status among travelers.  In Key West, you can even find key lime pie dipped in chocolate, and frozen on a stick.  It's the official state pie of Florida!

    Photo courtesy of PugChi

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    #9 - New Orleans - Boiled Crawfish

    "Boiled crawfish is a Bayou delicacy," says 10Best Local Expert Kristopher Neild.  "Twist, suck, peel and slurp these fun-to-eat delicacies." New Orleans's iconic protein is typically boiled along with potatoes, corn, Andouille sausage and Zatarain’s seasoning ... these 'crawfish boils' are the makings of many a party.   Crawfish are farmed and fished in the marshes and swamps across the southern part of the state, and have been popular since Native American times.

    Photo courtesy of Sean O'Shaughnessy

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    #8 - Indianapolis - Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

    Not unlike weiner schnitzel, the cutlet in an Indianapolis pork tenderloin sandwich is a thin slice of pounded pork dipped in egg, flour and breadcrumbs, then deep fried to a tantalizing golden brown. Typically served on a bun with lettuce, pickles, onions, mustard and/or mayonnaise, the pork tenderloin sandwich is an Indiana staple.

    Photo courtesy of Pelican

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    #7 - Chicago - Italian Beef Sandwiches

    Chicagoans pay culinary homage to their city's strong Italian heritage with the popular Italian beef sandwich. Typically served on fresh Italian bread, this hefty treat is packed with sliced beef and giardiniera, a seasoned mix of pickled vegetables in vinegar or oil.  Giardiniera (locally nicknamed 'gravy') fills every crevice of the sandwich; its spicy version is called 'hot mix.'  Local Expert Megy Karydes recommends a taste test between sandwich rivals Al's Beef and Mr. Beef. 

    Photo courtesy of jeffreyw

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    #6 - Charleston, SC - Shrimp and Grits

    Two cultural influences are present in shrimp and grits, a staple menu item in America's "low country" - the marshy coast of South Carolina and Georgia.  Harvesting fresh seafood is a way of life for many along this coast, while creamy grits represent the gracious southern manner of beautiful Charleston.  The blend of these two local ingredients creates a warm, delicious dish that's great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.   

    Photo courtesy of Ann Larie Valentine

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    #5 - Philadelphia - Philly Cheese Steak

    So iconic that their home city is included in the name, Philly cheese steaks are king in Philadelphia.  The hoagie-style sandwich is composed of melted cheese and thinly-sliced steak.  First created in the early 1930s by Pat and Harry Olivieri, the cheese steak initially lacked the cheese component until manager Joe Lorenza allegedly added provolone cheese. Today, a famous neighborhood restaurant rivalry pits Geno’s vs Pat’s, as to whose is best.   

    Photo courtesy of Yuri Long

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    #4 - Memphis - Pulled Pork

    If anyone dares to question a local about the value of Memphis pulled pork compared to other regional barbecue, those are fightin' words.  Savory, smoky Memphis 'cue - usually made from pork shoulder - is slow cooked in a wood-fired pit for about 13 hours. It's typically topped with a dollop of coleslaw, and served with a choice of sauces. "Pulled pork is put on everything from nachos to pizza in Memphis," says Local Expert Sally Walker-Davies. "Leftovers are also heavenly; they reheat well and taste great cold." 

    Photo courtesy of John Hritz

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    #3 - Wisconsin - Fried Cheese Curds

    Wisconsin’s unique cheese curds are a delicacy within the state, and often a curiosity to those from out of state.  Sometimes called ‘squeaky cheese,’ cheese curds are the solid park of soured milk, covered in a batter  and then deep-fried and typically served with a side of ranch dressing.  Cheese curds are used in dishes or eaten alone and are found at fairs and carnivals;  local (non-chain) fast food restaurants;  locally originating fast food chains like Culver’s; and in some bars.   

    Photo courtesy of Tim Wilson

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    #2 - Baltimore - Maryland Crabs

    Crabs are quintessential Maryland. They’re an important part of the state economy and so culturally relevant that enjoying having Old Bay spice-covered fingers is a right of passage before being considered a true Marylander. Summertime is the height of season. On any given Saturday or Sunday, countless informal gatherings convene over butcher paper-covered tables strewn with cracked shells and glasses of beer. Drive past any major road in Baltimore’s suburbs and you’ll see small trucks advertising bushels for sale.  

    Photo courtesy of Visit Baltimore

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    #1 - Albuquerque - Green Chile Sauce

    The official state question of New Mexico - "Red or Green?" - references the two sauces which top New Mexican entrees.  But green chile sauce, made from state-grown chile peppers, regularly makes an appearance on everything from cheeseburgers to eggs.  Green chile's unique pungent flavor is scientifically addictive, thanks to the capsaicin present in the chiles.  Locals buy roasted green chiles, or roast their own, and no Albuquerque freezer is without frozen green chile.  It defines New Mexican cuisine; explore it on the The Chile Trail and in nearly every restaurant you'll visit.  

    Photo courtesy of pointnshoot

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Green Chile Sauce Wins Best Iconic American Food

Maryland crabs, cheese curds also top list

The winning nominees in our Best Iconic American Food category tell us, without a doubt, that Americans 'Will Travel for Food.' These delicious regional food specialties garnered deep and wide support, and it was exciting watching several regions of the country "duke it out" in support of their favorite taste treat.  

A Mayor, a Governor, a US Senator and several social media influencers across the country stirred up a voting frenzy.  It paid off for 10 lucky winners!

The 10 Best American Iconic Food Winners are as follows:  

  1. Albuquerque – Green Chile Sauce
  2. Baltimore – Maryland Crabs
  3. Wisconsin – Fried Cheese Curds
  4. Memphis – Pulled Pork
  5. Philadelphia – Philly Cheese Steak
  6. Charleston, SC – Shrimp and Grits
  7. Chicago – Italian Beef Sandwiches
  8. Indianapolis – Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
  9. New Orleans – Boiled Crawfish
  10. Key West – Key Lime Pie

Congratulation to our winners!  They've earned real bragging rights: this contest was heavily promoted across 10Best and USA TODAY and generated tens of thousands of votes.   For those of you who haven't tried one or more of the winning foods . . . what are you waiting for?  

Be sure to check out which Readers Choice' contest categories are LIVE right now.  We have four contest categories going at all times, and a new winner is announced each and every Wednesday at noon.    

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The Experts

Travis Seward

10Best General Manager Travis Seward has more than a decade of experience in print and online travel publishing but his foodie passion defines him. He's eaten his way through 200 cities and 26 countries, sampling foods which make each place unique. Whether home or away, you’ll find Travis planning a meal, baking for friends, tracking down a hole-in-the wall ethnic restaurant or sipping champagne before savoring a seven-course tasting menu.

Libby McMillan

A longtime travel journalist, 10Best Senior Editor Libby McMillan spent 20 years in southwest Florida, what she calls “the only place in the world where you drive north to reach the South.”  She’s visited the Keys on a regular basis, and tasted dozens of key lime pies herself, but watching 20 years' worth of happy tourists scarf down this sweet treat formed her choice for iconic Florida food.     

Corinne Whiting

Corinne Whiting, 10Best's Seattle Local Expert, hails from the other Washington, but has enjoyed the Seattle food scene for some time now.  Corinne sampled foods in countries around the world before serving as associate editor at Where magazine.  She now writes for publications like National Geographic Traveler and Amtrak's Arrive.  Corinne's always attempting to up her coffee quotient, a Seattle-centric goal.  

Kristopher Neild

Kris Neild, 10Best's Local Expert for New Orleans, lives on the Riverbend in New Orleans; the perfect place for him to indulge his love of slurping oysters, sipping suds and listening to live music. He earns his keep writing about baseball, business and travel for various websites.

Megy Karydes

Megy Karydes, the 10Best Local Expert for Chicago, has spent more than 20 years as a professional writer and most of her life in Chicago. Megy's a self-proclaimed coffee snob and “greenie” who loves farmer-grown food and locally-grown craft beers & wine.  She's yet to find an outdoor beer garden she doesn’t like. Mixing writing and food/drink is her specialty, especially when it involves travel.

Sally Walker Davies

10Best Memphis Local Expert Sally Walker Davies is enchanted by her city's food, music, history, and characters.  Walker Davies is an experienced broadcast, print, and online travel journalist, writing for the Commercial Appeal, AOL Travel,, and The Tennessean. She is also 10Best's resident BBQ expert, our go-to for 'cue advice and trends.  

Tawanna Browne Smith

Tawanna Browne Smith resides in Maryland with her husband and two sons.  Although she tries to watch her calories, she's on a never-ending quest to find the best crab, crab cake, seafood restaurant or cupcake in the Baltimore-Washington area.  Tawanna's a successful mommy blogger ( and takes her own family on many an adventure, including food-related outings in Baltimore. 

Tom Molanphy

The only thing San Francisco Local Expert Tom Molanphy loves more than the food and culture of his hometown is sharing it with others.  Tom has lived in the Bay Area since 2000.  He teaches writing, journalism and literature at the Academy of Art University in downtown San Francisco. Since finishing his latest book, Loud Memories Of A Quiet Life, Tom has more time to explore city restaurants and markets, a favorite pastime.  

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