Photo Credit: Ray Bouknight

One of the most revealing and interesting things about any given culture or region is the food that is served there. Dining is a huge part of the traveling experience; wherever you go, you should try to seek out regional cuisine as often as possible. Sticking to generic burger joints and fast food restaurants may save you money, but it will also cause you to miss out on the horizon-broadening experiences of sampling different types of food.

Some people base entire vacations around trying out different types of food. However, no matter where you go you’re going to be able to find something that delicious and enticing. From South Beach’s hot and spicy Cuban cuisine to Oregon’s freshly picked blueberries, strawberries and marionberries, the United States is bursting at its seams with culinary goodness. When planning a vacation, then, pay attention to what the local offerings are – then go and try them! If you’re unsure about where to go, familiarize yourself with a few of the real culinary standouts from around America for inspiration.

From the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in coastal Maine to the shores of the Pacific Ocean in coastal Oregon – all the way south to Austin and as far north as Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – there are foodie adventures to enjoy. You can glean a great deal about a culture based on the kind of food that it celebrates – and you have a better chance of meeting locals who can educate you about their hometown by frequenting restaurants that are off the beaten path. Check out a few of these great establishments to get inspired for your next trip:

Dobber’s Pasties – Escanaba, Upper Peninsula, Michigan

Originally brought over from Cornwall, England in the early part of the 1850s, pasties were the food of choice for miners in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula thanks to their convenient size and portability. A crust is stuffed full of ground beef, onions, carrots, rutabagas and potatoes – along with a few choice seasonings. One of the best places to introduce yourself to these regional delights is over at Dobber’s Pasties in Escanaba in the southern part of the UP. These pasties have won several awards and are definitely among the very best that you will find.

Tillamook Farmer’s Market – Tillamook, Oregon

You can’t visit coastal Oregon without sampling some of its incredible produce. There are plenty of places to pick your own berries and other fruits, but the Tillamook Farmer’s Market in Tillamook is also a wonderful option. When in season, the market boasts a dazzling array of blueberries, strawberries, marionberries, cherries, flowers, peaches and other mouth-watering delights. Stock up on those delicious treats and you won’t be tempted by a candy bar or other sugary snack for the remainder of your trip.

Renard’s Cheese – Algoma, Wisconsin

Wisconsin is famous for its cheese, and there are plenty of large artisan shops around the state where you canyou’re your hands on some delicious examples of the local goods. Still, what’s even more pleasurable is combining a vacation along Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan coast with some fresh local cheese. Door County is the perfect place to go is you want to see what all of the fuss is about in terms of the lake – and there are many places to try out several kinds of cheese, too. In Algoma – which sits right on the lake near the southern portion of the Door County peninsula – stop in at Renard’s Cheese for some of the very best cheese around. Every imaginable kind of cheese is available here, from Swiss to Muenster – so be sure to arrive hungry!

Waterman’s Beach Lobster – South Thomaston, Maine

Maine and lobsters go hand in hand, and the southern coastal region of the state is studded with lobster shacks. If you’re going to be exploring this part of Maine, it simply wouldn’t do to go without at least one delicious lobster feast – and Waterman’s Beach Lobster in South Thomaston is a great place to enjoy one. Located just south of Rockland – which, incidentally, is where the Maine Lobster Festival is held each year – Waterman’s is a local institution that still manages to preserve the ambiance of a mom and pop style lobster joint. The lobster takes center stage here, as customers dine on simple picnic tables. Don’t miss it!

Puerto Sagua – South Beach, Florida

There’s no denying the heavy Cuban influence in and around Miami, and South Beach is generally considered to be the epicenter of this fascinating culture. The best way to get a feel for how these southern neighbors have made such a splash here is by sampling some of the out-of-this-world Cuban cuisine that is ubiquitous along the streets of this part of Miami. There are plenty of fancy establishments, but locals know that Puerto Sagua is one of the best if you want authentic Cuban fare. Whether you choose chunky fish soup, seafood paella – or any number of other dishes – you’re going to leave happy.

Angie’s Mexican Restaurant – Austin, Texas

Tex-Mex and Mexican cuisine are both huge in Texas, and most people would agree that Austin is the place to be if you want to see what all of the fuss is about. There are many options for noshing on this style of food when in Austin, from simple stands to elaborate restaurants. However, the locals will tell you that one of the best places is one of the least assuming. Angie’s Mexican Restaurant is where you want to go if you only have time to sample one Tex-Mex or Mexican dish when in Austin. Whether you choose the puffy tacos or just munch on the freshly-made chips and salsa, you’ll be in seventh heaven.

Things to Consider

There’s really no way to go wrong when traveling around sampling various kinds of food. There’s always the risk of being disappointed, sure – but if you remember to ask the locals for recommendations, it will be hard to make any major missteps. Even if you aren’t the most adventurous eater, getting away from the ho-hum fast food restaurants and chains is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the culture of any area. Expand your culinary horizons a bit and make an effort to try something a little different during your next vacation.