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What special foods would you recommend to a European Traveler to the USA.

I had my high school foreign exchange student return for a visit 45 years after high school and took him out to eat. And asked him if there was any special food he wanted again that was not available back in the Netherlands. HIs answer was "Onion Rings".

And when any of us travel to Europe we always hear about what is best to eat in certain countries.
And we hear many recommendations about what is typical in various countries.

But what would you recommend as a typical food a European should be sure to try on a visit to the USA. This of course would depend on where they traveled and where you live.

Living near Kansas City I would have to say KC BarB Que or a Steak Dinner.
Another stop should be at a small town local diner. Where one could find the "Plate De Jour" being a Roast Beef or Meat Loaf or Fried Chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and green bean served with iced tea and piece of homemade pie for desert all for about 5 dollars.
Then there is chicken fried steak......a fresh made hamburger and the list goes on.

What would you recommend to that foreign traveler as being a typical American dinner?

Posted by
2531 posts

Bison burger with sweet potato fires (includes maple syrupy dipping sauce) or BLT with proper applewood smoked thick sliced bacon and same sweet potato fries/dipping sauce. Also, a high quality local craft beer as the beverage. Hey, free water too.

Posted by
7050 posts

Particularly large cities/areas like Los Angeles and Queens/NYC with sizable immigrant populations do a much better job with certain ethnic staples than (parts of) Europe. Of course some are "Americanized", but there are a lot that are much less so. Some standouts include Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, etc. While there are of course such cuisines in Europe, they're largely absent altogether (or too inauthentic) in smaller towns and too few of really high quality. California alone has such a diverse and competitive sector of various ethnic restaurants that it's really hard to compare, even with other states/areas in the US, although I can say the same about Queens and Chicago (and probably others as well).

N'awlins (shrimp and grits, fried oysters, etc) and southern cusine is pretty unique too.

There are "favorites" in just about every region of the US.

Posted by
7648 posts

Pizza has developed as an American dish, and varies from region to region (ever had "Norwegian-style" pizza in northern Iowa, which is basically a mound of melted cheese?), and is often not quite the "authentic" style you'd find in Italy. Of course, pizza is available elsewhere (including Europe), but there are some great varieties in the USA.

Corn in Europe is generally considered feed for animals, but an ear of buttered sweet corn is a treat. Of course, it should be in-season during the summer.

Not necessarily recommended as a regular part of a visitor's meals, but as an experience, American bread is a lot sweeter than what you'll find elsewhere. A Bulgarian friend visiting remarked how strange it was to him.

Posted by
5697 posts

@Robert, where is that $5 dinner small town??

From this area I would suggest a burrito (al pastor is a favorite ) but from anyplace a well-made burger, fries and a chocolate shake -- or maybe with onion rings. San Francisco sourdough bread. Big salad with fresh local produce.

Posted by
3994 posts

When we've fixed a "typical meal" for a visiting European family (summer house exchange family, HS exchange student and family, etc) we usually have grilled seafood or beef. I often make oven steak fries or sweet potato fries, a big market salad, steamed veggies and a fresh pie to round out our meal.

When we've gone out to dinner here we try to get a sense of if they want a typical American meal or great Mexican food-- we've got some great (but expensive Robert!) restaurants here.

It's funny but a long time ago when we were hosting a HS student from Germany we served onion rings one evening with dinner. He looked at them and politely said no thank you. I asked him if he knew what they were and he said "things from the ocean"-- he thought they were calamari. We told him they were zweiblen, he hesitantly bit into one, a smile spread across his face and he finished the platter! He even asked me to show him how to make them.

Also I've had the challenge of trying to fix a typical American meal IN Germany for friends using what I could find in the grocery store there. That's another challenge and another story...

Posted by
8239 posts

We recently returned from a Baltic cruise and visiting all the Scandinavian countries. And we never saw the first obese person.
Food costs so much in the region that few can afford to eat enough food to get fat. For example, a TGI Friday cheeseburger with fries and a Coke cost $30 a person in Copenhagen and Oslo.
I'd say feed your visitors meat--especially steak and barbeque.

Posted by
980 posts

Regional BBQ is what all my international colleagues want when they come to the US.


Posted by
3260 posts

We've always put on a real clambake for international visitors...often includes having the guest help dig the hole on the beach!

Posted by
7720 posts

I think there are many regional dishes that it varies wildly across the country, but certainly BBQ, Good burgers wherever, a big high quality steak--best though grilled in a backyard, and pizza...but something like a Pan, Chicago, or other wildly overdone pizza.

I chuckled at first at an earlier response, but realized that going to a good Mexican or Tex-Mex place or even Chinese, is really a classic American meal, and different from the versions offered in Europe.

Posted by
10355 posts

We serve bbq from a local food truck, or meat from a friend's farm, fresh corn-on-the-cob in season from a farmer down the road, vegies from local organic farmers, jams from local Amish farms, gumbo made with shrimp flown up fresh from LA and local-made sausage, pie. It may not be a big city here, but we've got access to great raw ingredients. And local brew-pub beer. Some like the local wine, but we don't go out of our way to serve it.

Posted by
565 posts


Authentic Mexican/Cuban/other Latin American


Southern fried chicken

Steaks & pub burgers

Posted by
8643 posts

I have helped host a lot of visitors from Europe. It depends on where they are from and their previous experience. Some have never had good Chinese or Tex-Mex. Things that have gotten lots of attention (already mentioned) onion rings and corn-on-the cob, and shrimp. Always try to introduce people to KC BBQ.

Laura B, here in flyover country, its not hard to find a good $5 meal in small town diners.

Posted by
891 posts

When our British friends visited a few years ago, (we're from Louisiana, don't live there now) I cooked chicken and sausage gumbo with sausage that we had brought back from Louisiana. They also loved my fried shrimp and I cooked a brisket that they loved.

She made coq au vin one night that was to die for. We had a great time and ate well!

Posted by
12040 posts

What would you recommend to that foreign traveler as being a typical American dinner? I can think of a lot of really gross stuff that we eat far too much of over here...

I concur with Cajun. There's virtually nothing like it in Europe, although depending on where the visitor comes from, you may need to dial down the cayan pepper.

If in the Mid-Atlantic states and in the right seaon, Maryland blue crab, either served as a crab cake or boiled whole with old bay seasoning. This is one of nature's most delicious animals and almost impossible to find elsewhere.

Posted by
3521 posts

European utilization of corn has changed. Every Subway sandwich shop I stopped in over the past 5 years in Europe has corn offered as a veggie you can put on your sandwich. Every salad bar I have found in restaurants or at hotels I stayed at had corn as an option. A pizza place in London had a vegetarian pizza that featured corn on it. (Of course I have not been to EVERY Subway or restaurant -- but I tried.;-)) So maybe corn on the cob is not that much of a treat any more. Not saying it wouldn't be good if you are near a corn growing area and it was corn season.

I would have to vote for bar-b-que. No matter what part of the country you are in or what the local specialty is, bar-b-que always seems to bring a smile to visitors.

Posted by
116 posts

A typical American dinner is a tough call since America is so huge compared to Europe. I'm talking about the countries, not the people! We have such great regional cuisine, it would depend on where the visitors were. Here in the Puget Sound region, I'd serve a nice BBQ'd (grilled) salmon, roasted or grilled asparagus and maybe some 'taters. Start off with a Dungeness crab cocktail or crab cakes. Apple pie for dessert!

Posted by
650 posts

Onion rings, beef, barbecue, Mexican food, milk shakes, corn on the cob, corn bread, sweet potato fries, bison, American pizza, Korean food, Tai food, it's a strange collection. I'd add watermelon, and overstuffed omelets.

We take Europeans and Japanese to retro Fifties places with much success. Diners for late breakfast breakfast work too as do Mexican restaurants. We don’t have real barbecue here but grilled ribs with barbecue sauce works. It just doesn't have much to do with how we usually eat.

Posted by
2030 posts

Well if they are from Paris, I would definitely make sure they try a milk shake -- they do not know how to make them in Paris!
I've ordered them there several times thinking they would be OK, but they were just milk with a little ice cream blended in and very watery -- and way expensive!

Posted by
4637 posts

Being from Seattle it would be clam chowder and Alaskan King Salmon bought in Pike's Place Market where it would fly first. All this sellers have an apron with words: Caution! Low flying fish.

Posted by
9436 posts

I'll add to the already great list:
Turkey with cranberry sauce, stuffing and mashed sweet potatoes (Thanksgiving dinner basically)
Deviled Eggs
American Bacon
French Toast
Real Maple Syrup
Garlic Bread

Posted by
559 posts

I would go with New England Clam Chowder, A Lobster Roll, different kinds of BBQ, a really good hamburger, and Ice Cream at a neighborhood ice cream stand, with all the different kinds of flavors available. I also agree with those that said trying all different kids of cuisines - you can find really good restaurants for the many different cultures here in the USA. :)

Posted by
4159 posts

I'm a born and bred , hard - core New Yorker ( and a New England Yankee at heart ) so I'll tag along on Gretchen's post for a few places in New England - THE absolute best clam chowder in New England - several locations around Boston , Revere Beach is the original The roast beef is a classic too . For Ice Cream on Cape Ann - Salem , Manchester , and Beverly Farms . If one gets up to Maine , this place has the iconic Lobster Roll - Try not to drool on the keyboard !! Almost forgot - the clam shacks ( Essex Seafood , Farnham's , Woodman's , and several more on Route 133 in Essex MA

Posted by
4174 posts

Bring them down to Tucson in Baja AZ. We just got designated the first UNESCO World City of Gastronomy in the United States. You can read about it here. And here.

And here's a little cut and paste from the first article in Edible Baja Arizona to pique your interest:

What makes Tucson worthy? Like a Nobel Prize in Literature, awarded for an author’s body of work rather than a single publication, there is no single reason for Tucson to earn the accolade.

There is what came before: Tucson has the longest agricultural history of any city in North America, extending back more than 4,000 years. Three thousand years after the first farmers of the Sonoran Desert settled in the Santa Cruz River valley, missionary Father Eusebio Francisco Kino traveled on horseback from Mexico to an O’odham village called Schookshon—meaning “below the black hill”—and found a community of 750 people thriving on cactus and mesquite, tepary beans and sunflowers, corn and squash. In 2000, archeologists dug below the surface of a decidedly modern city and “found evidence of habitation preserved in every layer, going back 4,000 years,” says Jonathan Mabry, the historic preservation officer for the City of Tucson...

By the way, that black hill is an extinct volcano. You can still see evidence of lava on parts of it and where I live, the rains often expose black ash from when it blew.

Growing up in San Antonio, TX, I always felt like we were where the south meets the west. I can't remember a time when I didn't eat Mexican food or BBQ or venison sausage or sauerkraut (my mother made it) or okra or biscuits and gravy or black-eyed peas or collards or summer squash or crabs or fresh or saltwater fish or oysters or shrimp or pinto beans and rice or tomatoes and other veggies on a vegetable plate. Vegetarians and vegans, don't get too excited. Many of those vegetables were cooked with a good chunk of ham hock. Lovers of the bland may blanch, but we used what we called "pepper sauce," Trappey's hot peppers in vinegar from Louisiana, on most of the veggies, too.

So all that and a lot more was "American" to me. If I still lived in TX, it's those kinds of foods I'd take people to eat.

Here in Tucson, it would definitely be for some of our Sonoran style Mexican food, Sonoran hot dogs and out to Mission San Xavier del Bac for some fry bread from one of the Tohono O'odham vendors in the square out in front of the mission.

Posted by
1806 posts

Some of the things my European born and residing relatives repeatedly seek out whenever visiting New England include: Maine lobster (steamed with drawn butter or lobster rolls - hot buttered or cold with mayonnaise & celery), steamer clams, fried whole-belly clams, clam chowder, all things pumpkin (pie, muffins, bread, lattes, ice cream, ale) and all things cranberry, cider donuts and fresh apple cider, blueberry pancakes or french toast with real maple syrup, corned beef hash with poached eggs, Boston baked beans and brown bread, whoopie pies, blueberry cobbler or pie, Indian pudding, apple crisp, apple pie with Vermont cheddar, regional microbrews.

Foods that aren't New England specialties which they also love to have when visiting the U.S. include: fried chicken, macaroni & cheese, BBQ pulled pork or ribs, cole slaw, shrimp and grits, fried oyster po' boys, real deli sandwiches - hot pastrami or corned beef on rye with kosher pickles, Philly cheesesteaks, hot dogs (especially chili-cheese or Chicago style hot dogs), Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurants (mostly for burritos, tacos, quesadillas and tortilla chips with fresh-made guacamole), NY cheesecake, diner food of the burgers, fries and milkshakes variety. Strangest thing that they always purchase multiples of and stash in their suitcases for the return trip to Europe would be marshmallow Peeps which are no longer just an Easter candy, but available year round as Peeps also makes marshmallow Christmas trees, snowmen, ghosts, pumpkins, Valentine hearts…

Thing I have to constantly remind them when they come over and want to eat out in a restaurant is that the norm for this particular region of the U.S. is to tip 20% or more if service is good. They tend to want to round up or tip about 10% unless reminded that U.S. waitstaff work for a really low base pay and rely on tips.