Best Road Trip Destinations for America’s Favorite Foods
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Plenty of cities boast that they have the best pizza, or apple pie, or hot dog, in America—but why not decide for yourself? Embark on one of these road trips to compare America’s favorite foods and make up your own mind.
America has some very special claims to culinary fame, from hamburgers to banana splits. Jerry has collected the best road trip destinations for America’s favorite foods.
Before you head off, make sure to check if your car insurance is up to date. If you want to save money on car insurance, the Jerry app is a good place to start.
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Now you can eat your way across the country and find out who really does make the best pizza of all time. Start your engines…and start your tastebuds, because you’re in for a delicious ride.
Whidbey Pies, Washington
There’s nothing more American than apple pie—and since Washington is famous for its apples, this is the perfect place for an apple pie road trip!
After all, pie tastes much better when the distance from the plate to the orchard is only a short tractor ride.
Head north of Seattle to Whidbey Island, a picturesque seaside area where you can find Whidbey Pies in the small town of Greenbank. Every pie from this company is made by hand and you will be amazed at how fresh the Granny Smith pie tastes—especially when you’re surrounded by rolling hills and white-capped waves.
The Elegant Farmer and the Stockholm Pie Company are two popular pie destinations in the Midwest. If you’re looking for the best apple pie, consider planning a day trip to visit them both.
Just outside Milwaukee, the Elegant Farmer is an unassuming country kitchen that produces gourmet pies. The best part is the crust, which is a combination of cobbler and pie dough. Take a slab with you so you can compare it bite-for-bite with your next stop in historic Stockholm.
On the shore of the Mississippi River, Stockholm Pie Company is quaint but impressive. They offer multiple variations on the classic apple pie, including apple crisp, caramel apple crunch, and blackberry apple pie.
Nearby, you can enjoy hiking in Five-Mile Bluff or simply stroll along the river while you ponder which pie wins the prize.
New England bakers knew what they were doing when they invented the crumb-topped apple pie.
We suggest you stop by Beardsley’s Cider Mill in Shelton, Connecticut to sample this mouthwatering concoction. It’s made from apples from trees that have been producing fruit on site since the 1920s. As a bonus, you can take home a bottle of cider as a souvenir.
Key Takeaway Explore outside your comfort zone and you might be surprised to find a new favorite pie.
New York City
We can’t pretend to know which pizza joint is the best in New York. However, we’re confident in telling you that you need to visit New York City if you want to sample America’s greatest pizzas.
Make sure you’re prepared to park for the day once you’ve arrived in the city—you don’t want to spend a fortune on fees.
Lombardi’s and John’s of Bleecker Street are good places to start your pizza evaluation, and it’s an easy 20-minute walk between the shops.
But we’re not done yet. Prince Street Pizza has square pies and deliciously thick dough. Patsy’s in East Harlem is a sit-down restaurant, but it’s worth the wait to sample coal-fired pizza.
And before you leave NYC, you need to cross the bridge into Brooklyn to try Grimaldi’s thin-crust pizza.
New Haven, CT
If you like your pizza dirty (charred and greasy), then you’ll love New Haven-style pies. In this city, they use a longer fermentation process which changes the texture of the crust.
Sample the pizzas at Sally’s Apizza, Modern Apizza, and Zuppardi’s Apizza to get the full breadth of the New Haven experience.
The classic pizza didn’t actually have any cheese—it was simply dough with a tangy, high-quality tomato sauce.
Trenton switches things up by putting toppings on first, followed by the crushed tomatoes. They call it the tomato pie, a prize-winning dark horse pizza of the east coast.
Sample a tomato pie at Papa’s Tomato Pies, De Lorenzo’s, or Classico Tomato Pies.
Of course, it’s up for debate whether a tomato pie qualifies as a pizza (don’t come for us). That being said, there’s no debate about how delicious it is.
Deep-dish is the name of the pizza game in Chicago.
It’s controversial—some people love the soupy experience of a deep-dish pizza. Others find it too calorie-heavy and lacking variety. Personally, we’re fans.
Head to Pequod’s to try authentic deep-dish pizza, and then swing by Giordano’s and Lou Malnati’s to make sure you have enough versions to compare.
Head to Missouri for a very different pizza experience: thin-crust pizza made without yeast. It’s almost like a cracker rather than dough, but plenty of locals are obsessed. At least you’ll have room to sample more slices!
See for yourself at Imo’s Pizza in the Cheltenham neighborhood. EPIC Pizza & Subs is another good option for thin-crust, as well as Monte Bello Pizzeria and Pirrone’s Pizzeria (get the Jerry’s special). You can hit these spots in a single afternoon, as they’re located within a 30-minute drive of one another.
Rectangular pizza just tastes better, according to Detroit’s connoisseurs.
How did they come up with it? In the heyday of Detroit’s automotive industry, forged steel pans were borrowed from the factory to bake pizza. This led to crunchy crust and caramelized cheese along the edges, as well as the signature square slices.
The most famous spots in Detroit are Buddy’s and Detroit Style Pizza Company. Check out Amar Pizza to sample unique Bangladeshi-style Detroit pizza, like spicy chicken naga.
Key Takeaway The only bad pizza is no pizza.
Hamburger and fries
The West Coast is not known for being cattle country, but there are some pretty famous burger joints in this part of America.
California has In-N-Out Burger, which attracts flocks of devoted burger fiends every day.
Dick’s Drive-In in Seattle was founded in 1954 and boasts a classic diner-style burger and fries aesthetic. No substitutions are allowed at Dick’s, but you can get a simple burger if you want to save room for dessert.
Idaho’s best hamburger spot is in Coeur d’Alene, and it’s a small family-owned shop called Hudson’s Hamburgers. They also serve pie and soda, but no fries and no other side dishes.
The wait time is obscenely long in the summertime, but it’s well worth the wait to sit at the counter and watch your patty grilled just three feet from your face. Plus, there’s plentiful parking and you can jump into the lake for a swim once you’ve digested your meal.
Midwest and Plains
You can’t plan a hamburger road trip without stopping in the Midwest.
And you can have a hamburger in the Midwest without making a stop at Minneapolis’s Blue Door Pub for a Blucy. The patty is stuffed with cheese, creating a delightful molten experience when you bite into the burger.
Five hours away in Milwaukee, you’ll want to visit Oscar’s Pub and Grill to try their gourmet-style burgers. Beneath a hot tin roof, dig into a burger topped with two kinds of cheese, bacon, guacamole, fried onions, chorizo, and hickory bacon. The hand-cut fries are nothing to sneeze at either.
Diehard burger fans need to visit Denver, Colorado to experience the remixed Mexican hamburger at The Original Chubby’s Burger Drive-In. It’s a burger-stuffed burrito on refried beans topped with mouthwatering chili sauce, cheese, and chicharron.
You can’t say you’ve had the best burgers in America until you’ve tried Texas hamburgers.
Start at Burger Chan in Houston for customizable patties in a family-owned setting. Drive an hour north to Tomball and hit up Tejas Burger Joint, which offers blue-cheese drenched patties that are finished with a cloud of oak smoke.
Once you recover from your food coma, head three hours west to June’s All Day in Austin. Finally, head north to Fort Worth to sample the patties at Rodeo Goat and Dutch’s Legendary Hamburgers. These restaurants create unique (but delicious) twists on the classic burger, and your tastebuds will never be the same.
Between Texas and Florida, you’ll drive past a ton of amazing ice cream parlors.
But the two most well-reviewed spots for the classic banana split are Cloud 10 Creamery in Houston and Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor near Fort Lauderdale.
At Cloud 10, you can choose three flavors of ice cream which will be topped with bruleed bananas. As if that wasn’t decadent enough, it’s followed up with graham crackers, Nutella, caramel, strawberry jam, and whipped cream.
If you go to Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlour, you should plan to skip a few meals ahead of time. Their jumbo banana split is bigger than your face and is heaped with toppings like nuts, sprinkles, and an uncomfortable amount of whipped cream. It’s presented on a silver platter to boot.
You might want to bring a friend (or three) to this one.
California banana splits are unforgettable.
Fenton’s Creamery in Oakland, California is famous for good reason. Their banana split is almost as tall as Jaxson’s, but it’s composed mostly of ice cream and not airy whipped cream. Fenton’s ice creams are high-quality and small batch.
Plus, the setting is delightfully retro. They’ve been in business since 1894, so they must be doing something right!
In Los Angeles, head to Sweet Rose Creamery to sample the city’s most elegant banana split. It’s a beautifully presented dish with bananas, ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and candied almonds. Each ingredient is handmade to perfection—no store-bought corn syrup here.
Don’t split before trying out East-Coast offerings of banana split sundaes.
If you’re within driving distance of Philadelphia, head to Franklin Fountain to sample their version of a banana split.
This shop is very particular about adhering to a classic recipe: one scoop each of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream, topped with crushed pineapple, strawberry and chocolate sauce, and finished with whipped cream, nuts, and a cherry.
Franklin Fountain does offer two other variations if you’re not a fan of the crushed pineapple, or if you prefer different ice cream flavors.
Over in West Virginia, head to Poky Dot for a jaw-dropping 9-pound sundae. It’s a literal challenge to finish this dish. There are two bananas hidden at the bottom of a stack of nine (yes, nine) scoops of ice cream. It comes with the classic toppings of whipped cream, strawberry and chocolate sauce, and cherries.
Key Takeaway Most banana splits are too big for one person to finish, so make sure to bring a friend.
Coney Island is the great originator of the hot dog, but the East Coast hosts tons of other delicious variations on the classic dog.
Rhode Island has “hot wieners” with a uniquely saucy topping. Connecticut has grilled, steamed, and deep-fried hot dogs to sample—go to the Super Duper Weenie in Fairfield to try one with hot relish. In New Jersey, you’ll get your wiener on a pita “Newark-style” with the works.
West Virginia does it completely differently, with chili and slaw on top. Try Hillbilly Hot Dogs in Lesage if you want an authentic taste.
The saga continues in Cincinnati, where hot dogs are slathered with chili and cheese.
Go to Detroit and the dogs will be steamed and topped with classic onion and mustard on a soft bun. Lafayette Coney Island is a good place to find this classic Detroit dog.
Chicago goes AWOL with a poppy seed bun and a hot dog covered with pickles and peppers. Superdawg is apparently the best in the city.
MORE: Road trip essentials
Over on the West Coast, things get even wilder.
California invented the hot-dog-on-a-stick (because of course they did). They have an actual restaurant with the same name where you can sit down for counter service and get a dog on a stick.
The Sonoran desert hot dog is wrapped in bacon and topped with pinto beans and avocado in addition to traditional condiments like mayo and mustard. Head to Arizona to try this unique version of the classic American hot dog.
Finally, Seattle’s street food version of the hot dog is topped with cream cheese and fried onions for a deliciously greasy midnight snack.
Prepare with roadside assistance
Trying out all of America’s favorite foods is easy…unless you find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere with an empty belly that is quickly approaching hangry-status.
Consider getting Jerry’s roadside assistance membership before you leave home. It’s affordable and it could be a lifesaver when you need help getting to the world’s best banana split.
Jerry can also help you find cheap car insurance—unless you’d prefer to overpay. If you have 45 seconds and a smartphone, you could be a few quick taps away from saving a ton of money. That could buy you a whole lot of pizza!
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