Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail Wins Best Food Trail!
Mississippi Gulf Seafood Trail, Cajun Boudin Trail, Hoosier Pie Trail and Sweet Tea Trail also winners
America's many food trails turn road trips into a mouthwatering culinary adventures where the flavors of the USA are the main attractions. We asked 10Best and USA TODAY readers to vote for their favorite food trails from a pool of 20 nominees, and after four weeks of voting, we have a winner!
Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail (New Mexico)
Few foods are as heavily associated with a region as green chile and New Mexico, and while it is used in many ways, the green chile cheeseburger is the state’s semi-official and most beloved food. The dish has been served here for decades, and serval venerable roadside joints claim to be the original, including the Owl Café in San Antonio and the original Blake’s Lotaburger in Albuquerque, but it hardly matters: you can find delicious examples all across the state. The Tourism Department’s downloadable map lists nearly 100 specialists in the dish, with many clustered around the tourist destinations of Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque
, but they are found in every corner, from UFO hotspot Roswell to bat-mad Carlsbad caverns. Photo courtesy of nmtourism.org
Mississippi Gulf Seafood Trail
The Gulf of Mexico is the richest fishery in the Continental United States, especially famous for its wild caught sweet shrimp that command the world’s highest prices, along with lots of other delicious seafood. To celebrate this bounty, the State created a trail of 52 specialty restaurants stretching 360 miles from the Delta to the Gulf Coast and featuring shrimp, oysters, crab and fish (especially drum and flounder). The trail is uniquely sortable by the dish you crave as well as by region, and includes everything from fine dining to oyster shacks to po boy sandwich shops. Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
Cajun Boudin Trail (Louisiana)
Food trails don’t get much more specialized – or have less competition – than this one, focused on a favorite traditional style of Cajun sausage. Boudin is a pork based sausage made unique by both its inclusion of rice and cooking with steam, but today it also comes in seafood and other versions, and is sometimes smoked. Once often made with blood (red), the more common style today is blanc (white), but you can still try both. Several of the eleven included butchers and restaurants that comprise the trail also serve other delicious regional specialties including pork chop sandwiches, other sausages, pork cracklins (fried rind), and the state’s famous Natchitoches meat pies. Photo courtesy of Denny Culbert
Hoosier Pie Trail (Indiana)
It may not be well known outside the area, but in 2009 the legislature declared Hoosier Pie (aka Sugar Cream Pie) the state’s official pie. Sweet and simple, it is a pie shell topped with a layer of creamed butter and sugar, then filled with vanilla cream and baked. But in pie mad Indiana, the trail is not limited to the namesake style, and includes all kinds, from apple to coconut to chocolate. One of the stops, Storie’s in Greensburg, makes as many as fifty different kinds of pies daily. It’s more a pie trail of the Hoosier state than a trail of Hoosier pie per se, thought you’ll find plenty of that too. There are more than a dozen stops all across Indiana for dessert round the clock. Photo courtesy of susi.bsu / Flickr
Sweet Tea Trail (South Carolina)
While long an institution across the South, the origin of sweet (iced) tea is murky at best, and while Summerville, SC’s claim as the birthplace of the drink is highly dubious, it was home to he nation’s first tea plantation, and now, more than twelve decades later, it is also home to the self-proclaimed Sweet Tea Trail. This is one of the shortest food trails in the nation, limited entirely to Summerville, complete with a Sweet Tea Trolley, linking the city’s five neighborhoods. Ranging far beyond its namesake beverage, the trail includes antique shops and golf courses, plus cupcakes and cinnamon rolls made with sweet tea, sweet tea brined pork chops, and even spa treatments using sweet tea. Photo courtesy of Personal Creations / Flickr
Kentucky Bourbon Trail
America’s favorite homegrown spirit, a corn-based whisky always aged in new wood barrels, bourbon has been popular for centuries, but the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
has only been in existence for 16 years. The trail is comprised of nine distilleries, between 5 and 81 miles apart, roughly connecting Louisville
, and all offer tours. A partnered tour company operates shuttle buses on the trail for those who opt not to drive themselves. It is among the best organized of all food trails and includes a passport that when validated at each stop can be redeemed for free T-shirt. There is also a bar-based “Urban Bourbon Trail,” spinoff for visitors to Louisville. Photo courtesy of kentuckytourism.com
Finger Lakes Sweet Treat Trail (New York)
New York’s Finger Lakes region is known as one of the country’s top wine country tours, but less famed for its sweets. This trail promises to change that by combining nearly a dozen local craft producers of everything from sticky buns to peanut brittle, dessert wines to honey. The trail includes places that focus on using local ingredients like berries, honey, fresh milk and maple syrup, and includes plenty of ice cream, sherbets and Italian ices, and even a craft brewery making beer-based desserts. This trail is seasonal, spring through fall. Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
Oregon Cheese Trail
It’s one of the highest profile dairy states, and the Oregon Cheese Guild has put together a well-organized trail of 15 cheesemakers open to the public for visits. The map and trail are divided into five regions, including greater Portland, the wine country of the Willamette Valley, the Coast, the South, and Central/Eastern Oregon. Cow, sheep and goat cheeses are all represented, as are American, French, Mexican and Italian styles, plus the famed blue varieties of award-winning Rogue Creamery. The Guild’s site also lists farmer’s markets and restaurants specializing in local Oregon cheeses. Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
Beer Brewery Trail (Vermont)
Vermont claims to have more brewers per capita than any other state, and it is hard to drive more than few miles without encountering an example. These have been loosely grouped into the Beer Trail, more of a map to assist thirsty wanderers, with over 30 breweries ranging from tiny to small, and a couple of larger producers like Harpoon and Long Trail that are still very small compared to national breweries. Most offer tastings, some full-blown tours, and several have full-service restaurants and outdoor beer gardens. The breweries stretch from one end of the state to the other and the trail is useful to those visiting any region. Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
Texas BBQ Trail
Cattle mad Texas is made distinct from the various BBQ trails across the South by its love of slow smoked beef brisket, the Lone Star barbecue staple. But the region also features unique sausages showcasing German and eastern European immigration, as well as less common specialties like smoked prime rib. The trail links the state’s major regional barbecue hubs of Lockhart, Luling, Elgin and Taylor, making for a route that is very concise and drivable by Texas’ vast standards, mainly centered around Austin
and San Antonio
. There are twelve eateries in all, including some of the famous BBQ names in Texas – or the world – like Kreuz Market, Louie Mueller Barbecue and Black’s. Photo courtesy of Lydia Schrandt
According to our readers, there's nothing quite as American as sinking your teeth into a juicy green chile cheeseburger (New Mexico green chile previously won the title of Best Iconic American Food). The southwestern state's Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail (which includes nearly 100 restaurants serving the dish) earned the most votes and the title of Best Food Trail.
The top 10 winners in the category Best Food Trail are as follows:
- Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail - New Mexico
- Mississippi Gulf Seafood Trail
- Cajun Boudin Trail - Louisiana
- Hoosier Pie Trail - Indiana
- Sweet Tea Trail - South Carolina
- Kentucky Bourbon Trail
- Finger Lakes Sweet Treat Trail - New York
- Oregon Cheese Trail
- Beer Brewery Trail - Vermont
- Texas BBQ Trail
A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Eric Grossman, Megy Karydes, M. Linda Lee (10Best), Larry Olmsted (Great American Bites) and Kim Sunee were chosen based on their extensive knowledge of food and travel.
Other nominated food trails included the Alabama BBQ Trail, Arizona's Salsa Trail, Connecticut Chocolate Trail, Hawaii Kona Coffee Belt, Mississippi Hot Tamale Trail, North Carolina Historic Barbecue Trail, South Carolina BBQ Trail, Tennessee Whiskey Trail, Vermont Cheese Trail and the Wisconsin Cheese Tour.
10Best and USA TODAY extend their congratulations to all the winners.