American food can be difficult to define, largely because our culinary landscape benefits from so many ethnic influences and regional variations. Instead of trying to find the most iconic food in America, 10Best is looking for the best iconic dishes state by state.
We started in the Southwest and are continuing with the Northeast. 10Best editors chose an iconic dish from each state, then asked a panel of local food experts to nominate their favorite restaurants serving the dish. For the past four weeks, 10Best readers have been voting for their favorites, and the results are in.
Click on each category below to see the full list of winners.
Best Chimichanga in Arizona: Valle Luna Mexican Restaurant
Chimichanga from Valle Luna in Phoenix — Photo courtesy of Valle Luna Mexican Restaurant
The chimichanga is a specialty at Valle Luna Mexican Restaurant in Phoenix, where the deep-fried burrito comes stuffed with a choice of meat and smothered in a homemade Sonoran chimi sauce. Guacamole, sour cream, Spanish rice and a choice of beans come on the side.
Best Fish Tacos in California: Rubio's Coastal Grill
Beer-battered fish taco from Rubio's Coastal Grill — Photo courtesy of Rubio's Coastal Grill
The fish taco recipe at Rubio’s Coastal Grill has remained the same since the restaurant first opened in 1983. Tacos begin with wild-caught Alaska pollock, beer-battered by hand and cooked to crispy perfection. Each taco comes topped with fresh cabbage, mild salsa and white sauce on warm stone-ground corn tortillas. There’s also a grilled or blackened mahi mahi option.
Best Chile Verde in Colorado: El Taco Rey
Avocado pork burrito smothered in green chile from El Taco Rey — Photo courtesy of El Taco Rey
Satisfying Mexican food cravings in Colorado Springs since 1976, El Taco Rey serves their green chile in several forms, including the popular avocado pork burrito smothered in the tangy, spicy sauce. Purists can order a cup à la carte with tortillas for dipping.
Best Cheeseburger in Connecticut: Lake Zoar Drive-In
Cheeseburger from Lake Zoar Drive-In — Photo courtesy of Lake Zoar Drive-In / Facebook
The specialty at Lake Zoar Drive-In is the Zoar Burger, a bacon cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mayo, mustard and ketchup.
Best Chicken in Delaware: Oldbanks Craft Bistro
Fried chicken from Oldbanks Craft Bistro — Photo courtesy of Oldbanks Craft Bistro / Facebook
The house fried chicken at Oldbanks Craft Bistro in Wilmington uses a secret seasoning recipe for the crispy golden goodness they achieve. Chicken comes in batches of four, eight or 12 pieces with the option to add on fries, slaw, steamed broccoli or mac and cheese.
Best Lobster in Maine: Quoddy Bay Lobster
Lobster roll from Quoddy Bay Lobster — Photo courtesy of Quoddy Bay Lobster / Facebook
This family-owned fish market and takeout restaurant in Eastport sits right on a working pier. Hungry guests can order steamed lobsters with melted butter, lobster cakes, seafood chowder with fresh picked lobster meat or a Quoddy Bay Lobster Roll with mayo or melted butter.
Best Crabs in Maryland: Wellwood's River Shack
Steamed crabs from Wellwood's River Shack — Photo courtesy of Wellwood's River Shack / Facebook
The Wellwood River Shack offers a casual, beach-inspired setting to tuck into a heaping pile of steamed crabs cooked in a house spice blend. Get them by the dozen or all-you-can-eat during the season.
Best Clam Chowder in Massachusetts: Captain Parker's Pub
Clam chowder in a bread bowl from Captain Parker's Pub — Photo courtesy of Captain Parker's Pub
The thick and creamy clam chowder coming out of the kitchen at Captain Parker's Pub is overflowing with sweet, tender clams and diced potatoes. This variation on the seafood soup has won numerous awards throughout Cape Cod, Rhode Island and Boston.
Best All-You-Can-Eat Buffet in Nevada: Island Buffet at Peppermill Reno
Island Buffet at the Peppermill Resort Hotel in Reno — Photo courtesy of Peppermill Resort Hotel
Bring your appetite! This tropical-themed Reno buffet at Peppermill Reno has a little bit of everything, including hand-carved meats, several made-to-order specialties, Asian and Southwestern hot entrees and a pretty sweet dessert bar to round out the offerings.
Best Cider Donuts in New Hampshire: Meadow Ledge Farm
Cider donuts from Meadow Ledge Farm — Photo courtesy of Meadow Ledge Farm / Facebook
The folks at Meadow Ledge Farm make fresh hot cider donuts each weekend using their own cider made right at the orchard. Customers often stand in line for up to 45 minutes for the donuts, best enjoyed with a cup of hot mulled cider.
Best Tomato Pie in New Jersey: Classico Tomato Pies
Tomato pie from Classico Tomato Pies — Photo courtesy of Classico Tomato Pies
Classic Tomato Pies makes Trenton-style pies, with cheese first followed by a choice of tomato sauce or white sauce and a variety of toppings – everything from anchovies to sweet peppers. There’s even a gluten-free crust available.
Best Green Chile in New Mexico: El Patrón Café
Green chile enchiladas from El Patrón Café — Photo courtesy of El Patrón Café and Catering
The Hatch green chile coming out of the kitchen at El Patron Cafe in Las Cruces is certainly spicy, but not overpowering. The brisket nachos are a house specialty, smothered in green. Diners also find green chile in the house-made posole, atop chicken enchiladas and even for dessert in the form of a green chile pineapple upside-down cake.
Best Pizza in New York: Cold Spring Pizza
Cold Spring Pizza from Cold Spring, N.Y. — Photo courtesy of Cold Spring Pizza
Family-owned since 1972, Cold Spring Pizza serves hot pizza by the slice with a range of styles from traditional to contemporary. Classics include Margherita and fresh tomato with garlic, while adventurous pizza lovers can opt for the tater tot bacon cheddar and ranch pizza. No matter the choice, dough is made fresh in house daily.
Best Chicken Fried Steak in Oklahoma: The Red B Restaurant
Chicken fried steak from The Red B in Idabel — Photo courtesy of The Red B Restaurant
An off-the-beaten-path gem in the town of Idabel, The Red B Restaurant is known for its hearty three-course meals of made-from-scratch food. The hand-cut, tenderized and deep-fried chicken fried steak earns rave reviews and is tender enough to cut with a fork. It comes with gravy and two sides, or in sandwich form with lettuce, tomato and jalapeño ranch.
Best Stromboli in Pennsylvania: Dino's Pizza of Warminster
Stromboli from Dino's Pizza — Photo courtesy of Dino's Pizza of Warminster
Any specialty pizza from Dino's Pizza of Warminster can be turned into a stromboli, or diners can create their own. The dough takes two days to make, and sauce is made from San Marzano tomatoes. Each stromboli comes with two sauces for dipping.
Best Clams in Rhode Island: Evelyn's Drive-In
Evelyn's fried clams — Photo courtesy of Evelyn's Drive-In
Evelyn’s Drive-In has been serving local Rhode Island seafood for over four decades at their relaxed waterside setting in Tiverton. Choose from tender fried clam strips or whole bellied clams, littlenecks in a spicy garlic sauce, stuffed local quahogs, buttery Rhode Island chowder or New England clam chowder, and crispy clam cakes.
Best Tex-Mex in Texas: L&J Cafe
Taco plate from L&J Cafe — Photo courtesy of L&J Cafe / Facebook
L&J Cafe, originally called Tony's Place, opened for business near the Texas-Mexico border in 1927. The fourth generation now runs the El Paso restaurant, known for dishes like chile con queso with green chile strips, chicken and beef fajitas and shredded beef tacos.
Best Smothered Burrito in Utah: Maria's Mexican Grill
Smothered burrito from Maria's Mexican Grill — Photo courtesy of Maria's Mexican Grill / Facebook
Any of the burritos at Maria's Mexican Grill in Salt Lake City can be smothered in sauce (with or without cheese and onions) for an extra cost. Filling choices include bean and cheese, carnitas, grilled chicken, shredded beef, carne asada, ground beef or shrimp.
Best Mac & Cheese in Vermont: Our House Bistro
Mac & cheese from Our House Bistro — Photo courtesy of Our House Bistro
Our House Bistro is known for what they call "Twisted Comfort Food," and that includes over two dozen types of mac and cheese. The Traditional comes with cavatappi pasta in a house cheese sauce, while some of the more unique offerings come topped with poutine, coconut shrimp, a fried egg, french fries or buffalo chicken. For something truly twisted, try the Thai-inspired Peanut Butter & Jelly Mac.
Congratulations to our first and second rounds of winners! We'll be adding more states throughout 2018, so be sure to visit 10Best.com regularly to vote for your favorites.