THE BLOG
04/17/2014 10:44 am ET | Updated Jun 17, 2014

The Best Regional Food Destinations in the U.S.

Original post by Caroline Michelman on Spoon University.

With spring finally here and summer fast approaching, road trip season is upon us. Right alongside blasting music with the windows down and singing loudly with a car full of friends, the stops to eat along the way can be the highlight of any truly good road trip. When is there a better excuse to soberly eat massive amounts of unhealthy foods? Although driving across the country can be a daunting task, at least there is a host of different and equally delicious regional eats to make a road trip truly memorable and tasty.

California (or Arizona, Nevada or Utah): In-N-Out Burger

Photo courtesy of celebritynetworth.com

Photo courtesy of celebritynetworth.com

This one goes without saying, but as a Californian, I stand by the pure genius that is an Animal Style burger. Cheese, special sauce, caramelized onions and pickles top the quarter-ounce patty and create the ideally messy eating experience that ends all too quickly. The other not-so-secret menu items -- Animal-style fries (DIY recipe here), grilled cheese, protein-style burger, a Neapolitan milkshake and fries well-done -- are also crowd pleasers that have taken fast food to a higher level. (Check out the Spoon Instagram for a drool-worthy burger pic.)

San Francisco Bay Area: Gordo Taqueria
Photo courtesy of offthecouchla.blogspot.com
Photo courtesy of offthecouchla.blogspot.com

For the times you're not feeling a burger in California, however, go for Mexican. Once you've tried Californian Mexican food, there's no going back to any other states' renditions. If you find yourself in the San Francisco Bay Area, stop by one of the six Gordo Taqueria hole-in-the-wall locations in San Francisco, Berkeley or Albany for one of the best quesadillas or burritos (hint: Get the carnitas) of your life. Opt to stuff the quesadilla with carnitas, sour cream and guacamole and watch as they griddle the envelope of cheese to excellently greasy perfection.

Chicago: Lou Malnati's Deep-Dish Pizza
Photo courtesy of yournaperville.com
Photo courtesy of yournaperville.com

Chicago food is synonymous with one word. Okay, maybe two. Deep-dish. If you want the best, it's commonly acknowledged that Lou Malnati's is the place to go. Three words: flaky, butter crust. Do it and spend the extra 75 cents for 75 times the magic that the special crust brings. Lou Malnati's is known for using a special sausage blend and tomato sauce recipe since its opening in 1943. And for 71 years, Chicago natives have turned up their noses at the other options that seem to pale in comparison.

North Carolina (or select locations in South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee): Cook-Out
Photo courtesy of collegiate times.com

Photo courtesy of collegiate times.com

If you have spent any extended time in North Carolina and have yet to try Cook-Out, I deem your experience a failure. Perhaps the best deal on the planet (and one that's open until 3:30 a.m., at that), Cook-Out is a college student's dream. Known for its burgers "cooked outdoors style," Cook-Out also offers an array of classic cookout options, like hot dogs, chopped pork barbecue, chicken strips and grilled chicken sandwiches. But two things make Cook-Out a standout: the milkshakes and the trays. The menu boasts over 40 flavors of fancy milkshakes, of which you can combine any number to create your perfect creamy confection. I am a loyal Mocha-Oreo fan myself, but whatever your milkshake tastes and dreams are, Cook-Out is sure to deliver. Finally, the Cook-Out tray is the best deal I've yet to find. For only $3.99 you can choose a main, two sides and a large drink. Your sides can even include chicken nuggets and a corn dog. Sides? Those are mains in themselves. And for only 99 cents extra, you can upgrade your drink to a milkshake. My own cheeseburger, Cajun fries, hushpuppies, and a mocha Oreo milkshake tray might be the most valuable $4.98 I've ever spent.

Philadelphia: DiNic's (Reading Terminal Market)
Photo courtesy of foodnfestivities.com
Photo courtesy of foodnfestivities.com

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