One of the best things about traveling is experiencing a new culture through its food. Across the United States, from the east coast to the west coast and everywhere in between, you can indulge in iconic foods that highlight a specific region. Some cities share similar signature eats, and depending on who you ask, each will argue that theirs is the best. From pizza feuds to barbecue battles, there are food fights taking place around the country, and we’ve pitted some of our favorite cities against each other. Pick your ideal eat, then book your HI USA hostel stay so you can indulge to your heart’s content.
San Diego, CA vs. Austin, TX
Since both of these cities are close to Mexico, they’ve inherited some of the country’s cuisine, including tacos. On the one hand, you’ve got fresh and zesty fried fish tacos in San Diego, which sits pretty along the Pacific Ocean. On the other, there’s Austin’s famous breakfast taco with fluffy eggs and Tex-Mex trimmings available any time of day from many of the city’s food trucks.
If you pick breakfast tacos: HI Austin is a good base for exploring the city’s food truck scene and the hostel staff can point you to some prime spots just a stroll away on South Congress Street.
New York City, NY vs. Chicago, IL
The most important pizza debate out there is whether deep dish or thin crust is better. It all depends on what you like. If you prefer the ooey-gooey deliciousness that leaves plenty of room for lots of tomato sauce and a mountain of cheese, then you’ve got to go with Chicago-style deep dish. If a giant slice, with a crust so thin you have to fold it just to get a bite is more your style, then it’s New York for you.
If you pick deep dish: HI Chicago is just a few blocks from the Exchequer Restaurant and Pub and Lou Malnati’s Pizza, which are favorites among both hostel staff and travelers.
If you pick thin crust: The front desk staff at HI New York City know all the best spots for an authentic (and affordable!) slice in every borough.
Boston, MA vs. San Francisco, CA
These two chowders on opposite coasts are fundamentally similar: both are rich and creamy soups made with potatoes and sea-salty clams. The main difference is that in San Francisco, clam chowder goes down the best when it’s served inside a hollowed-out sourdough bread bowl, while in Boston, you’ve got to have oyster crackers crushed on top to seal the deal.
If you pick the sourdough bowl: Stay at HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf hostel and walk to the pier where you’ll find a host of eateries serving chowder.
If you pick the oyster crackers: While you’re at HI Boston, walk to Quincy Market’s Faneuil Hall, which is an awesome food hall filled with a variety of restaurants serving chowder.
Nashville, TN vs. Houston, TX
If you’re traveling in the southern states, you’ll find that there’s great debate about which region has the best barbecue. Influenced by the European immigrants that settled in the southern U.S. hundreds of years ago, southern barbecue varies in everything from the choice of meats to the style of sauce. In Texas, they actually skip the sauce and go with wood smoke and spices to flavor hunks of beef brisket, sausage, and short ribs. Meanwhile, in Tennessee, they’re known for their pulled pork shoulder with barbecue sauce and your choice of wet or dry ribs, depending on whether you prefer them saucy or smoky.
If you pick brisket: Stay at HI Houston and ask the staff which of the nearby BBQ joints is their favorite. Dine in or carry your feast back to the hostel and eat by the pool.
If you pick pork ribs: HI Nashville Downtown hostel is located right in the heart of the city and surrounded by plenty of authentic BBQ restaurants.
New Orleans, LA vs. Baltimore, MD
America has many coastal cities with their own local treats to showcase, so when you want to get a little indulgent and feast on good seafood, you’re pretty much spoiled for choice. In the battle for shellfish, you’re going to have to choose between New Orleans crawfish and Baltimore crabs. The crawfish traditionally come in a boil with corn on the cob, potato, and plenty of butter. In Baltimore, picking steamed, Chesapeake Bay blue crabs, seasoned with Old Bay, is a one-of-a-kind experience. Every local will claim their way is the right way to pick crabs, but as long as your hands are dirty and you’re surrounded by friends, you’re doing it right.
If you pick crawfish: HI New Orleans will be open just in time for Mardi Gras and crawfish season.
If you pick crab: Stay at HI Baltimore and check the hostel activities calendar to see if there’s a crab feast or outing that week.
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If you like to travel for the food and culture, take a look at some of the activities and cultural programs offered at HI USA hostels, like group meals and Cooking as a Second Language, where you can learn about different cultures by preparing traditional food.