Special Report

The One Can’t Miss Restaurant In Every State

FluxFactory / Getty Images

It’s possible to eat very well today in virtually every corner of America. It could be homemade waffles or classic burgers at a popular diner, vivid foods from other cultures (such as Thai or Colombian or Moroccan), or refined Michelin-starred dining in some temple of gastronomy — or anything in-between. (Here are 14 restaurants around the country that have been deemed worthy of three Michelin stars, considered the highest honor in the restaurant world.)

In every state, however, there’s inevitably at least one establishment that has attained iconic status, a place emblematic of its surroundings — a restaurant no food-lover should miss when in the vicinity.

Sometimes these places are plain, sometimes they’re fancy. They might be relative newcomers to the dining scene or have been around for a century or more. What matters is that, in one way or another, they represent and define their time and place — sometimes simply by perfecting some unique local specialty. (These are the signature dishes from 50 American cities.)

 Click here to see the one can’t-miss restaurant in every state.

These days, of course, nobody’s traveling around the U.S. very much. The average New Yorker probably doesn’t care what constitutes a can’t-miss eating experience in Arizona, and it’ll be quite some time before a typical North Dakotan is thinking about an essential dinner in Louisiana.

But current restrictions on traveling and dining out won’t last forever, and chances are good that when COVID-19 is vanquished, one of the first things many people will want to do is to hit the road and enjoy a meal in a good restaurant. When that happens, these institutions will be worth knowing about. They’re the kinds of places of which somebody might say, “You went to [wherever] and you didn’t eat THERE???”

For now, remember that every state or city has rules governing social distancing and mask-wearing in public places as well as capacity limits and restrictions on hours of operation, and that these rules change constantly as cases of COVID-19 increase and decrease locally. (These are some examples of restaurant reopening restrictions in every state.)

The listings below note whether restaurants are now closed temporarily or offering only limited options, but since these particulars tend to vary from week to week, it’s always important to double-check the situation before making dining plans.

To assemble this list of can’t-miss restaurants around the country, 24/7 Tempo consulted reviews on Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Zagat, as well as numerous roundups of iconic and/or important restaurants from a wide range of online publications, including Food & Wine, Eater, Thrillist, the Travel Channel, and The Daily Meal, as well as numerous city- and state-specific sites. We also studied menus and historical information on restaurant websites, making the final choice editorially based on all these sources.

Source: ralphandjenny / Flickr

1. Alabama
> Restaurant: Highlands Bar & Grill
> Location: Birmingham

Highlands chef-owner Frank Stitt was a pioneer of contemporary Southern cuisine, and has been serving excellent food based on regional ingredients and traditions since 1982. Stone-ground baked grits with Benton’s country ham and pompano with jumbo lump crabmeat are among the offerings. The restaurant is temporarily closed.


2. Alaska
> Restaurant: Tracy’s King Crab Shack
> Location: Juneau

It’s nothing but crab at Tracy’s, mostly Alaska’s famed king crab, but sometimes also local Dungeness. Crab bisque, crab cakes, and just plain giant crab legs and claws — that’s the menu (plus rice, coleslaw, and assorted wines and Alaskan craft beers).

3. Arizona
> Restaurant: El Charro Café
> Location: Tucson

America’s oldest Mexican restaurant under continuous operation by the same family, El Charro, founded in 1922, claims to have been the birthplace of the chimichanga — the deep-fried burrito common in the Southwest. The restaurant is so emblematic of Tucson that the galley on the U.S.S. Tucson submarine has been named El Charro Down Under. (There are three additional locations in the Tucson area, including one at the airport, but the iconic original is best.)

Source: Courtesy of Sheila Ware / Rhoda’s Famous Hot Tamales and Pies / Facebook

4. Arkansas
> Restaurant: Rhoda’s Famous Hot Tamales and Pies
> Location: Lake Village

Tamales, made with cornmeal instead of masa, have been a Mississippi Delta tradition for at least a century, introduced to the region by Mexican farmworkers. Rhoda’s, just across the Mississippi River from Mississippi itself, is famous for its version, filled with beef and chicken fat. The sweet potato and pecan pies are equally notable, and together with the tamales constitute a quintessential Arkansas food experience. It is temporarily open for takeout only.


Source: David Livingston / Getty Images

5. California
> Restaurant: Musso & Frank Grill
> Location: Los Angeles

The Golden State is full of can’t-miss restaurants — Chez Panisse in Berkeley, the French Laundry in Napa Valley, Spago in Beverly Hills, and more — but a visit to this 101-year-old Hollywood institution, which everyone calls Musso’s, is essential for anyone who loves history and tradition. The all-American menu with its French and Italian accents offers an immense choice of dishes, all of them cooked correctly, and it has played host to every Hollywood celebrity from Charlie Chaplin and Humphrey Bogart to George Clooney and Brad Pitt — the latter of whom also supped here, in character, in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” The restaurant is currently open for takeout and delivery only.

Source: Courtesy of The Fort / Facebook

6. Colorado
> Restaurant: The Fort
> Location: Morrison

An adobe castle inspired by historic Bent’s Fort in southeastern Colorado and opened in 1963, The Fort features what it calls “new foods of the Old West.” That means buffalo steaks and ribs, elk medallions, grilled quail — and the notorious Rocky Mountain oysters (small pieces of deep-fried buffalo testicle, which the restaurant says are one of its most popular appetizers).


7. Connecticut
> Restaurant: Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
> Location: New Haven

Though Google identified Detroit as America’s pizza capital earlier this year, there are those who say that New Haven’s version (often called “apizza,” a Neapolitan dialect term) is the country’s best. Frank Pepe defines the style, which features a thin, charred crust, more oblong than round, from a coal-fired oven. Though it has numerous competitors today and has itself expanded to 10 other locations in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, the original Frank Pepe is the place.

Source: Courtesy of Jeff H. via Yelp

8. Delaware
> Restaurant: Charcoal Pit
> Location: Wilmington

Though there are numerous sandwiches and a full entrée menu, burgers and ice cream sundaes are the items to have at this 64-year-old Wilmington restaurant. Charcoal Pit has long been a favorite stop for President-elect Joe Biden, who has lived in Wilmington for many years. Nine of the sundaes are named for local high school teams (the McKean Highlanders, for instance, are honored with four scoops of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, bananas, walnuts, whipped cream, and a cherry). Nostalgia is a big draw here.

9. Florida
> Restaurant: Joe’s Stone Crab
> Location: Miami

Sweet, meaty stone crab claws are Florida’s most famous seafood offering, and Joe’s founder Joseph Weiss was the first restaurateur to serve them, starting in 1921. There’s a full menu of other fish and shellfish now, as well as a selection of meats and poultry, but in stone crab season — mid-October to mid-May — those claws are what people come here for.


Source: madebymark / Flickr

10. Georgia
> Restaurant: Mary Mac’s Tea Room
> Location: Atlanta

The Georgia House of Representatives in 2011 officially named Mary Mac’s “Atlanta’s Dining Room.” The fare is mostly Southern at this unpretentious but always lively restaurant — fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese, chicken and dumplings, shrimp and cheese grits, and more. This 75-year-old classic closed in March with the onset of COVID-19 and its future was uncertain. It was recently taken over, however, by local businessman Harold Martin, Jr., CEO of the Taco Mac chain and has reopened for full service.

Source: Courtesy of Sam Choy's Kai Lanai Restaurant / Facebook

11. Hawaii
> Restaurant: Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai
> Location: Kailua-Kona

The ebullient, James Beard Award-winning Choy serves what he calls “Hawaiian heritage cooking” at his beautifully situated restaurant on Hawaii’s Big Island. Ale-steamed Kauai clams with Portuguese sausage, ahi poke in three different preparations, and grilled Hawaiian sea bass wrapped in banana leaves with sticky rice cakes on the side are examples.


Source: Courtesy of The Snake Pit / Facebook

12. Idaho
> Restaurant: The Snake Pit
> Location: Enaville

This landmark establishment near Coeur d’Alene dates its origins to 1879. Along the way, it has operated under numerous different names, but has been known as the Snake Pit at least since the 1950s. Chicken-fried steak and eggs for breakfast and sandwiches and burgers for lunch and dinner are typical fare, but there are also barbeque specialties smoked in-house.

Source: Courtesy of Twin Anchors Restaurant & Tavern

13. Illinois
> Restaurant: Twin Anchors Restaurant & Tavern
> Location: Chicago

Frank Sinatra was a regular at this 1932-vintage tavern and barbecued rib joint, with its linoleum floor, bare red tables, and nautical decor. Sinatra, hosting a party there in the 1970s, reportedly ordered “Ribs, and keep ’em coming!” The list of other celebrities who have enjoyed the food at this Chicago standby includes Conan O’Brien, Jack Black, Mike Ditka, Goldie Hawn, and Helen Mirren. The restaurant is open for outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery.

Source: St. Elmo's Steakhouse / Facebook

14. Indiana
> Restaurant: St. Elmo Steak House
> Location: Indianapolis

This classic steakhouse has been serving Indianapolis since 1902. There’s nothing contemporary here — just a signature shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, lobster tails, an array of steaks, and other standards of the genre. No trendy wagyu, either — just Midwest Black Angus beef.


Source: Courtesy of Breitbach's Country Dining via Facebook

15. Iowa
> Restaurant: Breitbach’s Country Dining
> Location: Balltown

It’s tough to beat a company history that opens like this: “Opened in 1852 by federal permit issued from President Millard Fillmore, Breitbach’s is Iowa’s oldest food and drinking establishment.” What’s more, the place has been in the Breitbach family since 1862. Steaks and seafood (including frogs’ legs) are featured, there’s a full range of sandwiches, and the pies are homemade.

Source: Courtesy of Stroud's

16. Kansas
> Restaurant: Stroud’s
> Location: Overland Park

The original Stroud’s opened in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1933 as a barbecue restaurant. When meat was rationed during World War II, owner Helen Stroud started serving pan-fried chicken instead — and that became Stroud’s signature. Several outposts of the place have opened and closed over the years, with three remaining — one in Kansas City and two in the state of Kansas, this one and another in Wichita. More than half the menu is devoted to chicken in various forms.


Source: Photo by Michael L. via Yelp

17. Kentucky
> Restaurant: Jack Fry’s
> Location: Louisville

Jack Fry and his wife, Flossie, opened this place in 1933, and it ran until closing in 1972. After a decade as a Mexican restaurant, the space was reopened by new owners at Jack Fry’s, and since then has won numerous awards, and has been identified as Kentucky’s most iconic restaurant. Duck croquettes, Stilton salad, pan-seared ruby red trout, and center-cut loin pork chops are typical menu items. For now, Jack Fry’s is closed for restaurant dining but offers takeout Thursday through Sunday evenings.

18. Louisiana
> Restaurant: Galatoire’s
> Location: New Orleans

One of the legendary grandes dames of upscale New Orleans dining, Galatoire’s, founded in 1905, manages to be both elegant and casual at the same time, and always lots of fun. The extensive Creole-flavored menu ranges from oysters en brochette and seafood okra gumbo to crab-and-shrimp-stuffed eggplant and chicken Clemenceau — and it’s all superb.

Source: Courtesy of Fore Street Restaurant

19. Maine
> Restaurant: Fore Street
> Location: Portland

Opened in 1996 near the Portland waterfront, Fore Street was a pioneer in the use of locally sourced, sustainable produce, meats, and seafood. Much of the fare is roasted in a wood-burning oven or cooked on a wood-fired grill. Housemade charcuterie and organic Maine chicken roasted on a turnspit are among the signature dishes.


Source: Photo by Frank N. via Yelp

20. Maryland
> Restaurant: Schultz’s Crab House
> Location: Essex

“Hot steamed crabs & ice cold beer!” promises this longtime Baltimore area standard. In addition to appearing on the butcher-paper-covered tables whole (with a mallet to crack their shells), the restaurant’s eponymous crustacean shows up in crab dip, crab cakes, crab soup, and other forms. A selection of steaks and other dishes are also served, but it’s the Chesapeake Bay-style seafood that makes this a must.

21 Massachusetts
> Restaurant: Union Oyster House
> Location: Boston

A National Historic Landmark, opened in 1826, this seafood-centric establishment is possibly the oldest restaurant in America. Oysters, clams, scallops, Boston scrod, and lobster broiled or boiled are among the basics served in the tavern-style dining room.


Source: Photo by Martin S. via Yelp

22. Michigan
> Restaurant: London Chop House
> Location: Detroit

Established after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the Chop House was Motor City’s most famous restaurant for decades — the Detroit equivalent of New York City’s “21” Club. Founder Lester Gruber sold the place in 1982, and it closed in 1991. After more than two decades, it reopened and was completely refurbished, in 2012. The fare is traditional — steak tartare, French onion soup, sautéed lake perch with shrimp, assorted steaks, etc. — and the place retains its old-time power-dining vibe, or at least it will when it reopens. The restaurant is currently closed due to the pandemic.

Source: Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images

23. Minnesota
> Restaurant: Spoon and Stable
> Location: Minneapolis

James Beard Award-winning chef Gavin Kaysen was executive chef and director of culinary operations for famed New York chef-restaurateur Daniel Boulud before returning to Minneapolis, where he grew up, to open this French-inspired dining destination. His accessible but sophisticated cuisine raises the bar in the city, with such dishes as celery root soup with black truffles, seared scallops with hedgehog mushrooms and crab apples, and venison with red cabbage and salted elderflowers.

24. Mississippi
> Restaurant: Doe’s Eat Place
> Location: Greenville

There are now some 13 other Doe’s locations in seven states (most of them franchised), but this, the original, in an old house in the Delta town of Greenville — opened as a combination grocery store and honky tonk in 1941 — is a Mississippi original. The menu is small, but the Mississippi-style tamales and the steaks are hearty.


25. Missouri
> Restaurant: Crown Candy Kitchen
> Location: St. Louis

Its name notwithstanding, this St. Louis tradition, opened in 1913, is more than a candy shop (though it does produce and sell its own chocolates). There’s also a soda fountain, serving homemade ice cream, plain or in elaborate sundaes, as well as malts and shakes — and a lunch and dinner menu of sandwiches, chili, and tamales.

Source: Natecation / Wikimedia Commons

26. Montana
> Restaurant: Pekin Noodle Parlor
> Location: Butte

Don’t expect cutting-edge Chinese fusion cuisine here, or regional specialties from the kitchen of Hunan or Beijing. The menu is strictly old-school, with an ample selection of chop suey and chow mein variations, noodle dishes, stir-frys, and sweet-and-sour preparations, and there are eight multi-course fixed-price dinners ($9.95 to $11.95). What makes this place a must is its history. As far as anyone knows, it’s the oldest continuously operating Chinese restaurant in America. Founded in 1909 and established at its current location in 1911, it’s a remnant of a once-thriving Chinatown in Butte and a genuine taste of local history.


27. Nebraska
> Restaurant: Harold’s Koffee House
> Location: Omaha

Harold’s dates its origins back to post-World War II days, and has been in its current location since 1968. Come here in the morning for plate-sized buttermilk pancakes or a ranchers plate consisting of a 5-ounce sirloin steak or pork chop with hash browns, two eggs any style, and a choice of toast, biscuit, or (plate-sized?) pancake. Lunch is sandwiches and burgers plus some “family favorites” like country-fried steak and sliced tenderloin.

Source: David Becker / Getty Images for SLS Las Vegas

28. Nevada
> Restaurant: Bazaar Meat
> Location: Las Vegas

Las Vegas has no shortage of spectacular restaurants run by culinary celebrities, but this extravagant, sometimes almost surrealistic ultra-steakhouse from famed Spanish chef and international humanitarian José Andrés is perhaps the most spectacular of all. Philippe Starck’s interior alternates earth tones, cool white, and hot red, and a glass and tile centerpiece displays huge slabs of beef and pork. There are contemporary tapas here (cotton candy foie gras, gazpacho shots) and some seafood (including three Vegasy caviar flights), but meat is the point — from bison carpaccio and great Spanish ham to a host of steaks (including A5 Kobe ribeye for $50 an ounce) and, by pre-order, a whole roast suckling pig ($540). You’ll know you’re in Vegas.

29. New Hampshire
> Restaurant: Polly’s Pancake Parlor
> Location: Sugar Hill

Wilfred and Polly Taylor made maple syrup and opened a tearoom in 1938 to serve pancakes that would showcase it and their other maple products. Today, Polly’s serves plain, buckwheat, cornmeal, gingerbread, whole wheat, and oatmeal buttermilk pancakes and waffles, all made from scratch. Breakfast meats come from a New Hampshire smokehouse. Breads for sandwiches (and even the English muffins) are homemade, as are the pies.


Source: Photo by James F. via Yelp

30. New Jersey
> Restaurant: The Lido
> Location: Hackensack

This 63-year-old family-owned Italian-American restaurant has a retro feel (complete with a jukebox playing classic rock from the ’60s and ’70s) and the menu plays along. Thin-crust pizza, veal parmigiana, spaghetti with meatballs, and a “world famous” sliced steak sandwich evoke the Garden State back in the day.

Source: kjarrett / Flickr

31. New Mexico
> Restaurant: Santa Fe Bite
> Location: Albuquerque

The Bite — famous for its green chile cheeseburgers — has gotten around. It was established as the Bobcat Bite in 1953 outside Santa Fe on the Old Las Vegas Highway. It closed there in 2013, and relocated to Santa Fe itself, rechristened the Santa Fe Bite. In October of last year, the owners retired and closed down that one, too. This fall, the Santa Fe Bite was reborn in Albuquerque, and the green chile cheeseburgers — a definitive New Mexican treat — live on.


Source: Courtesy of The ‘21’ Club

32. New York
> Restaurant: The ’21’ Club
> Location: New York City

From its speakeasy past through its power-broker present, “21” has been a quintessential New York restaurant, serving celebrities, financial titans, politicians, and anyone else who can afford it. The Bar Room ceiling is cluttered with hanging toys and memorabilia donated over the years — a model of the PT-109 torpedo boat from JFK, a baseball bat from Willie Mays, a golf club from Jack Nicklaus…The current chef is French, so things like escargots and duck with foie gras are offered, but so are “21” classics like jumbo lump crabmeat with mustard sauce and creamy chicken hash on toast or wild rice. As New York City fights a spike in coronavirus infections, “21” has closed temporarily.

Source: Photo by Juliana L. via Yelp

33. North Carolina
> Restaurant: Crook’s Corner
> Location: Chapel Hill

Crook’s Corner was opened in 1982 with the late Bill Neal in charge of the kitchen and a mission to preserve and reinterpret time-honored Southern fare. An inspiration to countless other modern Southern restaurants, it was hailed as an “American Classic” by the James Beard Foundation. The menu changes often, but expect dishes like jalapeño-cheddar hush puppies, braised pork belly with sweet potato, and country ham with Carolina rice grits. For now, Crook’s Corner is open for in-house dining and takeout on Friday through Sunday, and for takeout only on Wednesday and Thursday.

Source: Courtesy of peacock-alley.com

34. North Dakota
> Restaurant: Peacock Alley
> Location: Bismarck

Opened in 1933 in what was then the Patterson Hotel, Bismarck’s showplace, Peacock Alley today is primarily a steakhouse, serving aged Angus beef in various cuts as well as Dakota cheese curds, “messy and super delicious” half-pound burgers, a few pasta dishes, and more. Located in the heart of downtown Bismarck, Peacock Alley is a popular local meeting place, and a must for visitors.


Source: Courtesy of Camp Washington Chili

35. Ohio
> Restaurant: Camp Washington Chili
> Location: Cincinnati

Cincinnati chili has nothing to do with the Texas stuff. It’s basically a meat sauce with Greek-style spices served on top of spaghetti or hot dogs, sometimes with onions, shredded cheese, and/or beans. Smithsonian magazine named it one of the country’s 20 most iconic foods. The most famous purveyors are the Skyline and Gold Star chains, but true aficionados swear by Camp Washington, which opened its doors in 1940. You can get breakfast sandwiches, burgers, or a tuna melt here, but why would you? It’s all about the chili here.

36. Oklahoma
> Restaurant: Cattlemen’s Steakhouse
> Location: Oklahoma City

Not to be confused with the California chain of the same name, this Cattlemen’s was born in 1910 in Oklahoma City’s Stockyards City area, home to major meat-processing plants. Cowboys, ranchers, and cattle haulers were among its first customers. There are drawings of some celebrated later ones on the walls, including John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. It’s not hard to guess what the focus of the menu is — prime or choice corn-fed midwestern beef.


37. Oregon
> Restaurant: Jake’s Famous Crawfish
> Location: Portland

Though it’s now part of the McCormick & Schmick’s chain, Jake’s, a downtown Portland landmark for more than 125 years, still captures the spirit of the Pacific Northwest. It also serves an ample selection of mostly seafood — oysters on the half shell, Dungeness crab and shrimp cakes, pan-seared Washington razor clams, grilled steelhead with Oregon bay shrimp, and much more.

Source: skellysf / Flickr

38. Pennsylvania
> Restaurant: Reading Terminal Market
> Location: Philadelphia

Okay, this historic 126-year-old covered market isn’t a restaurant. But in addition to its array of appetite-stimulating produce, seafood, meats and poultry, baked goods, and more, it happens to be a great place to eat, with almost 30 food stalls preparing everything from Philly’s famous cheesesteaks (available from at least three purveyors), Italian hoagies, pizza, hot dogs, and burgers to Thai, Chinese, Caribbean, Cajun, Middle Eastern, and Pennsylvania Dutch fare.

Source: Courtesy of Matunuck Oyster Bar

39. Rhode Island
> Restaurant: Matunuck Oyster Bar
> Location: South Kingston

The Rhode Island coast yields some of the seafood in the Northeast, and this waterfront restaurant sources and prepares it superbly. The restaurant has its own oyster beds (and also brings in other excellent oysters from the area), as well as its own organic vegetable farm. Fried calamari from nearby Point Judith, stuffies (stuffed clams) with Portuguese sausage, oysters Rockefeller, lobster roll, grilled Atlantic salmon — the place is a seafood lover’s paradise.


Source: Courtesy of Peninsula Grill

40. South Carolina
> Restaurant: Peninsula Grill
> Location: Charleston

The signature dish at this genteel 22-year-old Charleston restaurant is a 12-layer coconut cake. There’s a lot more than that, though, served in the handsome dining room with its seagrass flooring and farmland wall murals and in the courtyard lit with carriage lanterns. The crab soup, lobster prepared three ways (ravioli, tempura, and sautéed), and pistachio-crusted rack of lamb are examples of the upscale fare.

Source: Courtesy of The Pheasant Restaurant & Lounge

41. South Dakota
> Restaurant: The Pheasant Restaurant & Lounge
> Location: Brookings

What started as a gas station café on the edge of town, this 70-year-old classic in Brookings, a small city north of Sioux Falls, has grown into a serious restaurant with local flavor. Dishes not to miss include the South Dakota specialty called chislic (cubes of deep-fried lamb served with blue cheese dressing and crackers), pheasant salad with lettuce wraps, pan-fried wild-caught walleye, and local bison filet with a raspberry and herb sauce inspired by a Native American recipe.


Source: larrison / Flickr

42. Tennessee
> Restaurant: Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
> Location: Mason

“Hot” fried chicken has been one of the biggest food trends of the decade. While it may have been around as early as the 1930s and is usually said to have been popularized by Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville, Gus’s and its almost 30 locations around the U.S. have done a lot to introduce it to a wider audience. This location, in a small town northeast of Memphis, is where it all started, and still serves up some of the best spicy fried chicken around.

43. Texas
> Restaurant: Kreuz Market
> Location: Lockhart

The Texas Hill Country, between Austin and San Antonio, is barbecue paradise, and Kreuz — which is no longer a market, just a big, thriving restaurant — bills itself as “the birthplace of Texas BBQ.” Though pork variations are available, Kreuz serves mostly beef, the focus of ‘cue in the Lone Star State — brisket, ribs, clod (chuck roast), prime rib, and sausages.

Source: Courtesy of Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm Utah

44. Utah
> Restaurant: Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm
> Location: Boulder

Located in the remote hamlet of Boulder (population 225) in southern Utah, Hell’s Backbone combines an organic farm with an environmentally responsible restaurant, serving what it terms “fanciful Four Corners cuisine” (a reference to the area where the corners of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico meet). Pumpkin and apple soup, Hopi-style lamb-stuffed peppers, and chocolate chile cream pot are typical dishes. The restaurant closes annually from late fall until spring, and because of the pandemic, it has not yet set a reopening date for 2021.


Source: Courtesy of Wayside Restaurant

45. Vermont
> Restaurant: Wayside Restaurant, Bakery & Creamery
> Location: Montpelier

“Yankee cooking at its best since 1918,” brags this traditional American restaurant, bakeshop, and ice cream parlor. Fried clam strips, ham steak, and (for the adventurous) pickled honeycomb beef tripe, are typical entrées. Desserts include homemade pies, Grapenut custard pudding, and of course Wayside ice cream.

Source: Courtesy of The Inn at Little Washington via Yelp

46. Virginia
> Restaurant: The Inn at Little Washington
> Location: Washington

The innovative restaurant at this opulent country inn about 60 miles southwest of the nation’s capital has earned three stars in the Guide Michelin — the highest honor in the international gastronomic world, meaning that Michelin’s reviewers consider it worthy of a special trip. Chef-owner Patrick O’Connell’s ever-changing fixed-price menus might offer such unusual dishes as carpaccio of baby lamb loin with Caesar salad ice cream, cavatelli pasta with chanterelles and brandy-soaked apricots, and “a Lilliputian mandarin and vanilla Dreamsicle.”


Source: Karen Ducey / Getty Images News via Getty Images

47. Washington
> Restaurant: Canlis
> Location: Seattle

Hailed by Food & Wine as “one of the 40 most important restaurants in the past 40 years,” this definitively Pacific Northwestern culinary standout has celebrated regional ingredients since its founding in 1950. The cuisine has become more sophisticated over the years, though, and today the restaurant offers only a four-course tasting menu. The particulars might include such choices as smoked celeriac soup with seaweed and plankton, poached Baywater Sweet oysters with charred kohlrabi, black cod with stewed onions and wasabi, and Japanese sweet potato with bee pollen and yuzu sherbet.

The restaurant has been temporarily closed for regular dining since the pandemic struck, instead offering what it calls “multi-disciplinary pandemic pivots designed to serve our city.” The particulars change, but that currently means that a limited number of four-course family meals are available for pickup, and fixed-price tasting menus are served at a pop-up “yurt village,” available exclusively to American Express cardholders.

Source: Courtesy of Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti House

48. West Virginia
> Restaurant: Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti House
> Location: Huntington

“If you want to be a part of Huntington, you need to eat at Jim’s!” exclaims the website for this family-owned local institution, in operation since 1938. Even if you’re just passing through, Jim’s is, as one Yelp reviewer put it, “Such an amazing establishment…” As might be expected, the specialties are spaghetti with homemade meat sauce and ribeye steak. The menu also promises “The best ever homemade chocolate and coconut pie with real whipped cream.”

Source: Courtesy of Ishnala Supper Club / Facebook

49. Wisconsin
> Restaurant: Ishnala Supper Club
> Location: Lake Delton

Supper clubs used to be fancy restaurants, sometimes in the city, sometimes on country roads, that offered live music and dancing as well as all-American food and free-flowing cocktails — places that offered a whole night’s worth of entertainment in one location. They fell out of fashion in the latter 20th century in much of America but remained a part of the dining scene in Wisconsin, where a few of them still thrive, mostly in rural locations. Ishnala is a fine example, a woodsy, lakeside establishment serving such throwback fare as shrimp cocktail, French onion soup, and roast Wisconsin duck with sage dressing. It reopens for the season on May 1.


Source: Photo by Schulte S. via Yelp

50 Wyoming
> Restaurant: Luxury Diner
> Location: Cheyenne

When this Cheyenne institution, built around a repurposed old trolley car, calls itself one of the “most unchanged restaurants in America” it hasn’t been remodeled or refurbished since it opened in 1926 (though it became the Luxury Diner only in 1964). Serving breakfast and lunch only, it’s famous for its oversized cinnamon rolls, its Santa Fe burrito (filled with scrambled eggs, spicy sausage, and refried beans), and its smothered pork chops.

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