A few items left off of those lists are:
- macaroni and cheese
- biscuits and sausage (or red-eye) gravy
- grits (with or without cheese)
Those are all considered "southern" cuisine but are found everywhere.
Chicago and New York argue about which city has the best pizza. It's like comparing apples to oranges as each city has their own style of the pies. Also, both have great hotdogs (as mentioned) and both do them differently - what toppings are considered "the works". Just returned from NYC where we had dogs from the street carts. Totally different from Chicago-style dogs. Americans tend to put cheese on everything, including French fries.
Again, it was mentioned... All major cities are a collection of diverse ethnic neighborhoods offering an enormous variety of food. It won't be a matter of what to eat but more of what not to eat due to the vast selection.
Oh, no one has mentioned chili. You can get that on hotdogs too (chili dogs). Oops - almost forgot the ever favorite BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato) sandwich slathered in mayonnaise. A side order of cole slaw or potato salad finishes it off.
I really love the USA roadside truckers diners.
The conversation is down to earth - and the portions on the plate are as big as a house
Of course, if you pass by an "Outback" Steakhouse your doing yourself a culinary injustice if you do not eat there!
I know it's Australian and not American...but, dam-it's good!
Find a Benihana's in San Francisco and it will be a good meal and show as the chef cooks it in front of you.
(forgive me for not posting American food, but most of it has been covered for the areas your going.)
American food can be viewed by the points of immigration as said earlier. Go anywhere where the food is not a pre-made meal from a box or the fast food restaurants and you probably have a good meal!
[ Edit: Edited on 29-Jun-2010, at 12:49 by Medsummer ]
To me American food starts with the hamburger. You should know Khandilee that there are several ways to eat a hamburger. For starters you should probably try one from a fast food place likes McDonalds. We all look down on McDonalds because it isn't that healthy and, let's face it, we'll all had a million of them. But for a first time you may really like it. But please don't stop there, go to a bar or casual restaurant and order a burger and french fries and you'll see what a real hamburger is. By the way it's made with ground beef, not ham.
Fried chicken and barbeque ribs are another American staple. Of course pizza is everywhere. Someone mentioned Outback steakhouse. I'm not the biggest fan but you really should go to a steak restaurant and get a real steak. Again they are everywhere.
For more regionally specific choices see the posts above, they are a good guide. But I'm not so sure I'd call Italian or Mexican "American Food" even though Americans eat it all the time.
The reason we eat so much ethnic food here is that this is a nation of immigrants. Especially in cities like SF and NY, a white face is sometimes hard to find. Travel down to the Silicon Valley (near San Jose, CA) and you'd think you were in Bangalore, India. Besides, what we call Italian here has nothing to do with the type of food actually served in Italy, and certainly, our Tex-Mex specialties have little in common with food south of the border. If the OP is looking for true authentic all-American food, he should concentrate on America's Midwest or South.
You may hear about Buffalo Wings when you go to some restaurants.
It isn't the wings of buffalos (since buffalos don't fly), but rather refers to the Buffalo, New York way of preparing chicken wings. Buffalo makes the wings in varying levels of spicy-ness from mild to dynamite-hot. There is a popular nationwide restaurant chain here (Buffalo Hot Wings) that offers these in about 24 different flavors. But you can get these nowadays at just about any restaurant with a bar anywhere across the US.
P.S. Usually these are served with blue cheese dressing "on the side". You dip your wings in the dressing prior to eating them--since it cuts down on the "hotness" of the wing sauce.
[ Edit: Add a postscript ]
I decided to see what food was available within 10 miles of my home--I found:
Middle Eastern Falafals
Brasilian food place
Japanese Tea Garden
an Irish pub
a British pub
a Cambodian place
Korean kimsee place
a Vietnamese place
"native" Hawaiian food
Fast food--McDonalds, Burger King, Kentucky Fried, Quiznos, Red Brick Pizza, Round Table Pizza, ToGos
and two restaurant/bar combos that served a variety of food
I'm actually disappointed to realize that there is no French place--there used to be one, but it just closed about 6 months ago. Now I have to drive 20 miles to San Jose for that.
P.S. All of the ethnic places (Brazilian, Thai, Korean, Asian, etc) are run by people who are immigrants from those countries.
[ Edit: Added "native" Hawaiian ]
Some of the Best hot dogs in the USA--The Varsity in Atlanta or The Original in Pittsburg or Nathan's at Coney Island, New York or any bratwurst stand in Wisconsin (they make the best ones there)
Some of the Best hamburgers in the USA--Rouge in Philadelphia or Father's Office in Los Angeles or Zuni Cafe in San Francisco or Radius in Boston
Don't forget San Francisco's fantastic Mission Burritos (flour tortilla stuffed with rice, beans, meat (chicken or pork, usually), salsa, hot peppers + any extras you want (sour cream, guacamole, cheese). You have your choice of exactly which salsa, refried or whole beans, spicy or regular chicken, etc. - you build the burrito to order, and naturally this comes with chips and extra salsa or peppers.
The national chain "Chipotle" has copied the idea, but the origional MB can only be found at one of the several taquerias in San Francisco's Mission District (between 16th and 24th Streets).
I lived in Honolulu for one short year, and almost ate myself to death! The luau is alive and well on Oahu - Kalua Pig is succulent (smoked) BBQ pork slow roasted over lava rocks and literally melts in the mouth. This area has a large Japanese population, but by far, the favorite Asian food here is Chinese, and Honolulu Chinese restaurants are the best I've ever experienced. My very favorite Hawaiian snack would have to be Saimin Won Ton - noodles and won ton in broth topped with with hard boiled egg, fishcake, green onion and Chinese BBQ pork - YUM! The hamburger was only introduced to Hawaii in 1969 - noodles were the snack of choice. Sadly, today the Islands have lost much of their unique flavors.
[ Edit: Edited on 03-Jul-2010, at 22:09 by Daawgon ]