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Do any of you eat something when you travel ONLY because you know the region is known for them?

An In-n-Out discussion on the SF board reminded me of how I used to always get a cheesesteak when I went to Philly. I don't like cheesesteaks and don't eat them in my hometown. However, I was overcome by this strange compulsion to always get them when I was visiting Philly because it was something you just had to do. And this is not just one visit, but multiple visits.

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  1. I would not eat it if I had previously tried it and didn't like it, but I do tend to sample the regional specialties when I travel.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Kelli2006

      "I would not eat it if I had previously tried it and didn't like it, but I do tend to sample the regional specialties when I travel."

      I can't say it better.

      By the way, I very seldom eat them, but I love cheesesteaks - toothy yet tender beef, melted cheese, fried onions, shrooms on a frsh baked italian roll with ketchup - sweet, savory, salty, earthy, rich with fat, the pull of the bread, the snap of the onions, what's not to like?

      As to over-rated, while you will find many people in the Philly area who very much like cheesesteaks, I don't think you will find any locals touting this sandwich as anything other than a good sandwich to be rated against other sandwiches. One might as well say falafel is over-rated - I don't think it is, it's just a sandwich.

      1. re: FrankJBN

        Interesting observation, regarding the local's touting of the dish. Recently, on the SW board, there was a thread on the "Best Cheesesteaks in Phoenix." The OP did not like any of the suggestions, as he/she liked some favorite in Philly much better. My question was, "why would anyone wonder about Philly Cheesesteaks in Phoenix?" Then I saw similar for the New Orleans board. What is it about Philly Cheesesteaks, that folk would want to find "authentic" ones in places, such as Phoenix and New Orleans. Both locales have some great food, but I would not consider ANY Philly Cheesesteak, that I have had in Philadelphia, to be worth searching the globe for. What's next, "the best Philly Cheesesteak in Hawai`i?"


    2. Hilarious. I was just making that point about cheesesteaks on the PA board. I will always try the regional specialties, and if I like them, more than once. Cheesesteak is decidedly NOT in this category. Underwhelming & overrated. But I think that's the case with a lot of beloved regional specialties, because people have emotional (= irrational) ties to them.

      5 Replies
      1. re: linguafood

        Yeah, I don't really understand the fascination with cheesesteaks. The first time I've had it in Philly, I even ordered it with Whiz even though I knew I would absolutely hate it -- cuz that's the original.

        1. re: Miss Needle

          "I even ordered it with Whiz even though I knew I would absolutely hate it"

          Yeah, that's a fair trial. When I try food for the first time, I often ask that it be prepared in a way I will absolutely hate - why bother trying it any other way?

          In passing I would note that you have been misinformed. Cheese Whiz was not produced until the 50s - cheese steaks in the 30's.

          1. re: FrankJBN

            If you ask a lot of native Philadelphians (is that a word?), you will know that Whiz is the way to go. May be debatable, but to many people, a cheesesteak isn't a cheesesteak without Whiz. And before you make statements criticizing the way I tried it, I have tried it with provolone as well. So my nasty whiz experience didn't deter me from doing the provolone. And I'm not crazy about both.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              Oh, man, ever since they started selling Steak-Ums in Canada, I've been going cheesesteak nuts. A nice crusty roll, grilled onions, a couple of Steak-Ums, and what my friends and I call "wrap" - the individually wrapped processed cheddar that almost resembles cheese. Much better than Whiz (which I tried, and didn't like). My final touch is a couple of squeezes of HP Chicken and Rib sauce (which, BTW, they used to sell as "HP Fruity Sauce" before someone clued them in to the other connotations of that adjective).

              1. re: KevinB

                I love HP sauce and cannot understand why it's so hard to find in the states. Anyone?

      2. Before we went to New Orleans a few years back, I asked someone who had lived there where to get a real muffaletta (sp?). I had never had one and wanted to know what they were really supposed to taste like. Now that I know, there is none in Houston that hits the spot like that one in NO! Also the beignets at Cafe du Monde. If I know a region is famous for their sausage, or whatever, I make a point of seeking it out.

        3 Replies
        1. re: danhole

          Ooh! That's another one. I don't really like beignets that much, but it isn't a trip to New Orleans without munching on a Cafe du Monde's beignets and sipping a chicory coffee while sitting by the river. And I also had to have a muffaletta even though I'm not the biggest olive fan.

          1. re: Miss Needle

            I made the mistake of wearing a black shirt to Cafe Du Monde. Spent the rest of the day coated in powdered sugar. So good though!

            And, yes, in NO, we had muffaletta from Central, and po-boys from Mother's.

            I can't visit Maine without having one lobster dinner, and one lunch of fried clams. And I can't visit NYC without one sandwich from a good deli, a pizza slice, and a meatball hero. If I'm in Texas, one BBQ and one Tex-Mex meal. And if I'm in the Old South, at least one trip to Waffle House!

            1. re: KevinB

              Oh Kevin you're cracking me up. Waffle House is to the Old South what Pamela Anderson is to Canada. But when in Rome...

        2. I normally don't eat meat, but when I was in Hungary, I did try goulash, which was ok. Oh, and when I was in China, they had all sorts of bin(g?) as street food. Anyway, there was one for which there was a long long line, and it looked like nan bread with meat on it. I didn't get it for 3 days, b/c it has meat in it, but then on the last day I was there, I looked at the not-so-long line, just before heading to the airport and said the hell with it and got in line. Granted, I ended up scraping off most of the meat, but it was quite yummy.

          Also, we ran out of time, but my friend also swore by some lamb or some type of meat skewers in Beijing, so had we had more time, I would've probably gave in and tried that as well.

          Oh, and someone raved about din tai fun dumpling place. I got their seafood and veggie dumplings, but these were just ok. Nothing to go gaga over (and certainly not worth the comparatively expensive prices they seemed to charge, compared to much better food I had while I was there that was 1/5th the price). But of course, they are known for their meat dumplings, so I tried that. Again, I wasn't crazy about them, but quality-wise, they tasted better than the seafood or veggie ones. So I don't know if my eating-meat-in-China thing counts, but I guess the point is that sometimes I'll eat meat to try a dish that I might otherwise miss out on.

          2 Replies
          1. re: anzu

            Can I ask, have you ever eaten an item with meat in this context that made you say "wow, I am so glad I ate that, this dish would make me eat meat daily"? I am very impressed that you even try!

            1. re: moh

              Ha ha. No. Even when I did eat meat, our family didn't eat much of it ( the example I like to give to my American friends to give them a perspective of how much meat is typically consumed in a Japanese family-- 100 grams of meat feeds a family of 4. Granted, that was ages ago that I read this). So even if I did reintroduce it back in my diet, it would be like a periodic thing. So although I'll make exceptions and try things if I feel like I'll otherwise miss out, none have wowed me enough to become a carnivore convert.

              Ok, having said that, I did try prosciutto, and I do like it enough that if I see it, I will eat it. But even that, not every day.

          2. Fresh and dried sausages in Mercatale di Cortona from Trabalza. Porchetta, also from Trabalza on a Thursday afternoons only. Prosciutto, also only at Trabalza. Lobster in Boothbay harbor, ME (soft shell). Ice cream from my mother's freezer--it doesn't matter what kind of ice cream it is or who makes it--it's a compulsion. fayefood.com

            1. Too funny. maybe twice in my life I've had cheesesteaks outside of Philadelphia, but I too have to have one every time I go there. And hotdogs in Rochester, NY - I very rarely eat them at home, but I'll have a red hot or a white hot practically every day when I'm in the Rochester area.

              1. i always get suckered into eating scrapple.

                1. Sure. I guess the most obvious example of a food that's really only available in a certain place, and that I only ate because I was in that place, was Cincinnati chili.

                  You know, on the SF board we get all kinds of people looking for foods they get wherever they came from, but I don't think we've ever had a request looking for Cincinnati chili.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Mmmmmm, Skyline.

                    Lived in Cincinnati from '93-96, and was appalled the first time the stuff was served to me. But somehow a regular craving developed. Moving to California put an end to it, but still every visit to the in-laws includes a few coneys and a 3-way.

                  2. We definitely try to sample regional specialties, or at the very least, the best local places, when we travel. A few years back, on the way home from Michigan, we stayed overnight in Cincinnati....all my husband wanted was "goetta" (ground meat and oats) but the place we went to for breakfast was out. But we did get to go to Graeters for ice cream. :-) We do seek out places that will make the most of local products too....on that same trip we had a fabulous cherry soup in Petoskey...made up for having to endure a trip to the original KFC in Corbin, Kentucky. *sigh* DH's idea of chow and mine don't always jive...

                    1. Oh oh, one more thing I tried that I don't normally eat-- I don't like coffee, but in Vietnam I had some Vietnamese coffee. I also tried coconut, even though I hate all things coconut and was really glad, because it was delicious. (It was the green kind, not the straw-y brownish kind.)

                      Oddly, I don't have any domestic examples of eating-things-I-don't-normally-eat. . ..

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: anzu

                        Oh, me too. I don't drink coffee anymore but had to have Vietnamese coffee when I was there last year -- just because I had to. And I'm also not a fan of young coconut water but had to do it as well. Kind of strange how you just have to do certain things you would normally not do because you're in a certain area. And I'd probably also eat scrapple and Cincinnati chili if I'm in the area as well.

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          i've never been to vietnam, but had a vietnamese co-worker in cali who'd bring in vietnamese coffee all the time.
                          she brought me one once, and i was bouncing off the walls for the whole day!
                          it was super strong.
                          and i'm a coffee drinker, it never affects me like it should.
                          this stuff really did!
                          and then some!
                          it was funny!
                          it was good too, but maybe a bit TOO strong for me...

                      2. Poutine. I won't eat it anywhere but on the east coast of Canada, preferably in Quebec, because it's just not the same...

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: adrienne156

                          I agree, you have got to have squeaky cheese to make it right, and it is almost impossible to find outside eastern canada.

                          1. re: adrienne156

                            I KNEW someone would mention our (in)famous poutine! I can't stand the stuff, but there is a sort of initiation rite in which friends force newcomers - usually from France, Italy or some other place known for fine food - to ingest a plate of poutine.

                            1. re: lagatta

                              Yeah... The few times I've had it was after a solid night of drinking. The cheese and the grease with the malt vinegar... Best hangover food ever.

                              I'm from the SF bayarea and I dunno about our food culture being considered "fine," but I can't think of any regional specialty that would compare to poutine. The versions I've had here have been very sad.

                              1. re: adrienne156

                                Mmm.. poutine, a steamie, and a piece of tarte au sucre. That's the Quebec triple bypass trifecta!

                          2. I've only ever eaten herring in Scandinavia. Being as it may, I have eaten * a lot* of herring :)
                            Also, raw clams and oysters. I very rarely eat them here on the east coast, but anytime I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area, I go nuts for them.

                            1. Oh yes, very good question. My wife is from Munich, Germany and it is "THE PLACE" for Bavarian Pretzels and a good Weissbier, or wheat beer. Many times I have been told where to get a good pretzel in the states, trust me, until you have tried the original,don't try to replace it.

                              The same also holds true for American versions of Weissbier, although some taste ok, most are not brewed by "German Law". You know the beer is good when the government makes a law about how it needs to be brewed. Maybe that's what our country needs to look at, LOL. The Bavarian Law of Purity limits the ingredients, the law is called Reinheitsgebot.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Jimbosox04

                                Over here in the states we have lots of laws about how food and drinks should be made, the results haven't been spectacular. I think the law is just a jumping off point, even with the purity law you could make bad beer.

                                1. re: Scrapironchef

                                  See now that is just a statement that is made without something behind it. Have you tried German beers brewed by this law ? You say we have lots of laws about how food and drinks "should" be made. Well in Bavarian there is no "should" it is a "WILL" be made. As you also say, you "could" still make a bad beer, that is also opinion, they could, but for my opinion, they don't.

                                  Laws on how something will be made to be called what they are limit people from taking the name and exploiting it to a point that it isn't what it was originally intended to be. Another example for you is Neopolitan Pizza. Don't just call pizza, pizza !!!

                                  1. re: Jimbosox04

                                    When it's a law, there is no difference between "should" and "will". Where did I say Bavaraians make bad beer. My point was that a law alone won't guarantee quality, the marketplace makes that decision. All brewers following the law make beer, the ones that make the best beer or the best marketing are rewarded in the marketplace.

                                    Passing a "quality" law sets a minimum, not a maximum.

                              2. 1. Vietnam: tin top of the cup contraption coffee, pho, banh mi--best fastfoods anywhere
                                2. Laos & NE Thailand: laap, khao niyao, sausages--my favorite lunch or dinner anywhere
                                3. Mexico & Guatemala: market or street tamales & atole--my favorite breakfast anywhere
                                4. South Asia: fresh Tandoori naan--the best bread anywhere
                                5. SE Asia: lanzones & rambutan: best fruit bought along road while on long trips
                                6. Montreal: poutine--good tourist fun
                                7. Philippines (near Lake Taal): bulalo (carabao joint/knuckle stew) & sinigang ng kanduli (a fish soup)
                                8. Berlin: Turkish fast food
                                9. Wales: sea trout-based lunch
                                10. Overnight near LAX: gas station corn dogs & Jim Beam

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  I forgot:

                                  Bhutan: Emadashi (chilies n' cheese), yes. Yak butter tea and sun dried pig fat, no.

                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    Holy cr@p! That stuff will blow your head off! No can do to my system. I admire your fortitude.

                                    And I'm with you on the yak tea and the pig.

                                  2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    i love tamales and atole!
                                    when i lived in cali. there was this family that drove around in a van (not as sketchy as it sounds!), and would honk to alert people that they were driving down the block.
                                    we'd all run out there and form a line.
                                    they sold tamales de dulce (i liked the ones they had 'cause they were pineapple. i've had ones with raisins and do not touch those!), atole and elotes con mayonesa y queso.
                                    SO GOOD! i miss that!

                                    1. re: daylight

                                      I guess you don't mean Cali, Colombia. I would die for a taco/tamale truck here.

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        that's cali, california. :)
                                        maybe you should move there!

                                        1. re: daylight

                                          Was born there, lived there til I went to grad school.

                                    2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      Never got into sinigang, which our Filipina nanny makes for my wife. But her calderete and adobo - let me at 'em! She also makes "lumpia shanghai", which are like tiny, perfect spring rolls served with a great sweet/sour sauce.

                                      And I almost forgot my best lunch ever - fresh grilled sardines quay side in Portimao, Portugal. Served with boiled new potatoes and a simple green salad - nothing fancy, but just perfect.

                                    3. Eating like a local adds a layer of authenticity and exoticism to a trip away from home, even if that "exotic" item is something like a Garbage Plate (Rochester), tater tot casserole (Minneapolis) or pizza (Chicago). It wouldn't be an escape from the hum-drum for me without trying something new. The ability to add variety to your experiences is part of the beauty of travel and a dönerkebab is as much a part of the experience of Berlin as the Brandenburg Gate.

                                      1. How funny is this? I love cheesesteaks, my grandmother lives in Philly, and I've never had one there. Bizarre. I have tried on more than one occasion because I was there - scrapple, YUCK! Also Lebanon Bologna. Delicious, but you smell of it for about 24-48 hours.

                                        When in Maine I always have some lobster, even though I'm not a big fan. Same thing with crawfish in New Orleans. I knew I didn't like them, but at about 20 of them when I was down there.

                                        Not a huge fan of clam chowder but had some when I when Iw as last in Boston - actually liked it. Probably because I was drunk and watching my Sawks!

                                        1. Ha, In-n-Out. I'm a native Californian and recently returned for the first time since moving to New York last year. The first place I stopped on the way home from the airport was In-n-Out, and I'm not even a big meat eater.

                                          Every time I go to San Francisco I have to have clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl from someplace on the wharf- rarely eat clam chowder otherwise.

                                          My dad and brother recently biked across the US following the original Lewis and Clark route, and my mom followed them in a van with all their stuff. She would email me periodically complaining about the lack of decent (and especially, healthy) food in the middle of the country- lots of bad steak and ground beef- but she did discover that she could always find a good regional beer :)

                                          1. i haven't been to too many states/countries.
                                            but i do get cheesesteaks in philly, lobster rolls in maine, fish tacos in rosarito, mexican food in california (it's better-100 times better- than here in boston), that's all that comes to mind at the moment...

                                            1. The last time I was in Ireland, I finally worked up the nerve to try black and white pudding (blood sausage) and loved them both! I never would have tried them over here. The same with Guiness. I fell in love with it over there. At least I can get Guiness here. I have yet to find a source for good black or white pudding in the states.

                                              1. Yes, but it leads to problems when you get home and can't find a version as good.

                                                1. If not for my compulsion to seek out and eat the foods that sound the weirdest, I would have missed out on blood sausage in Madrid. It's not something I'd eat again, but then I ate an unidentifiable tapa in San Sebastián that was delicious -- seemed like some kind of meat product on top of a slice of bread. I took a photo because I figured my friends back in Madrid could identify it for me, and it turns out I had eaten a piece of FRIED blood sausage. I guess frying does make everything tastier!

                                                  I also decided to buckle down and eat some Spanish olives. I had grown up refusing to eat them in any form, even if covered in cheese on a pizza, but in Spain they were somehow...different. And now I eat them all the time.

                                                  I can't bring myself to eat durian here in the US, but I bet I would try it if I were in China. That's definitely a case of 'strange compulsion'...

                                                  11 Replies
                                                  1. re: theannerska

                                                    Although China has durian, there is more of it and often higher quality in SE Asia--i.e., in Vietnam, Thailand, Lao, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines...

                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                      Do you know if the durian they sell in the States has been previously frozen and if it affects the taste -- because previously frozen mangosteen absolutely sucks. I've only had durian in SEA but not in the States.

                                                      1. re: Miss Needle

                                                        Frankly, Miss Needle (sorry, couldn't resist), wouldn't have a clue because I've lived in the tropics for the last 35 years where there are no previously frozen fruits! What a ghastly thought!

                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                          Keep forgetting that you're in -- is it Columbia? Yeah, there's my North American bias kicking in. : )

                                                          Lucky you that you live in a region with a plethora of tropical fruits. Apples, pears and oranges are just not my thing.

                                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                                            Miss Needle, you and your tribe are always welcome here in the land of lots and lots of perpetually available tropical and sub-tropical fruit and range/grass fed beef. Overall, however, there is so much more of all foods that are available in the US.

                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                              True, sometimes you don't know how good you have it until it's taken away from you. I think my idea of Chowheaven (in terms of ingredients) would probably have to be Hawaii.

                                                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                Agreed! Semi-tropics, high ethnic diversity, and the convenience that the US allows! Plus I have a lot of relatives there for whom food and eating are paramount.

                                                            2. re: Miss Needle

                                                              One of my favourite snacks is a decent apple (not the horribly mis-named Delicious varieties, or Granny Smiths, but Macintosh, Spy, Spartans, or Winesaps), along with a nice sharp cheddar, and some crackers. You might be pleasantly surprised by this combo.

                                                          2. re: Miss Needle

                                                            Hi Miss Needle,

                                                            Durians that are previously frozen taste just fine! Just like it was fresh (almost). In fact I like it when it is half-frozen - the meat is like a frozen custard and it's the best dessert in the summer!

                                                            1. re: kobetobiko

                                                              Thanks! I wasn't a huge fan of it in SEA. But I'm glad to know that there's no huge detriment to quality from defrosting.. Maybe I'll try it again half frozen. My first durian experience was actually in a Malaysian restaurant in Queens where I had durian ice cream (not the fruit) after seeing a three-year-old child relish it. Told the waiter that I'd have what she's having.

                                                          3. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                            Good to know -- maybe I'll save my durian experience for those countries! My parents are from Hong Kong and my mother waxes poetic over durian, so that's why I've associated China with it.

                                                        2. In Italy "Vino Locale"

                                                          1. In our modern U.S., there are't many regional dishes I haven't tried. But it happened once, on my first visit to New Orleans. There was so much mention of red beans and rice I figured I had to try it. I expected something hum-drum, but found it delicious.

                                                            Tried to fix it at home, though, and found it tasted like ... irdinary beans and rice.

                                                            Have no interest in sampling a brain sandwich or pig squeal..

                                                            1. When I visited Okinawa when I was small, my relatives told me that I had to have goya (Japanese bitter squash) as it is very good and good for your health. I tried and it didn't like it at all. Even now I still don't like it, but I don't mind if it is in a dish (with pork or other meat). I will just eat the meat and not the goya.

                                                              1. absolutely... cheesesteaks, crabs, etcetcetc

                                                                and also, in a more goofy manner, I like to eat foods in the places they are "named" for even if it isnt a regional specialty... so frankfurters in frankfurt, hamburgers in hamburg, danish in copenhagen, french fries in paris, etc etc.

                                                                1. Although I am primarily vegetarian, I have tried all sorts of meat and seafood dishes while travelling...I have an "I'll try anything once" philosophy when it comes to food and travel. But, on our recent trip to New Zealand, I have to say I chickened out on the famous "green-lipped mussels" - first, because they have so many wonderful veggie dishes to choose from and second, because NZ is no longer the bargain it used to be, seafood is expensive, and Mr. Morticia is not such a big mussel fan that he could eat a whole plate, minus my one taste.

                                                                  1. Eating a local specialty has been a good bet for me so far in China; the same dish in a different region is not at all the same.

                                                                    1. OK, enough about the Cheesteaks (commented on in reply to something later in this thread). When we travel, which seems like every week, we DO try local offerings, when possible. Now, part of this is not really fair, as we happen to travel to the Deep South, and wife & I grew up there, so that doesn't count. Still, when in London, we do try UK foods, though still prefer some of the International cuisine offered in abundance there to what many UK natives might choose, based on their culinary heritage. Same for the East Coast. We look to local items, when there, but probably end up with more New American and International fare, as well. The Southwest does yield some great "local" cuisine, and that is an area that probably sees more adherence to pure "local," than most other areas.

                                                                      In Paris, I would no more think of looking for New American (might be missing some great spots), than I would think of searching for Philly Cheesesteaks in Phoenix.

                                                                      We also do about the same with regards to local wines.


                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                        Been fighting the urge to post this in response to others for days, but just can't resist. Sorry to use your post as a springboard, but you did put the pitch high and slow across the middle of the plate...

                                                                        The OP talks about foods that you ONLY (caps sic) eat because the region is known for them. Not food that you eat because you can only get it in a particular location, or because it's especially good there. When eating UK foods in London, are you eating innards at St. John, or are you having fish 'n' chips with mushy peas and slightly-congealed meat pies? Both types of food are uniquely British. But while Fergus Henderson's grilled ox-heart would be delicious anywhere, greasy cod a la newsprint is somehow more palateable in London than elsewhere. In other words, there's a local cultural--as opposed to purely culinary--context that affects the food experience.

                                                                        There's world-class food in all sorts of likely and unlikely places. But some food that is distinctly less than world-class somehow tastes especially good when eaten in a particular place. In Quebec, poutine is delicious; anywhere else it's just greasy. Skyline chili doesn't taste as good outside of Cincinnati. Dirty-water hot dogs from a street vendor in New York are just better than they are anywhere else. And Frito pie at the counter of the Walgreens on the plaza in Santa Fe (RIP) absolutley transcended its ingredients.

                                                                        It ain't terroir, but there's something there. Something that makes food taste different in different places. Is it the bone-chilling cold of a Canadian winter that makes the body crave the fat in poutine? Does the tang of taxi exhaust and too many people change the flavor of a hot dog? Much as I love pho at my local shop, one of these days I want to have a bowl on a sidewalk in Hanoi. Even if the ingredients are the same, I can't but believe that the flavor will be different.

                                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                          I agree with the point you are trying to make, but 've had hot dogs in other places and they are terrible. NYC street vendors hot dosg aren't the ebst I've ever tasted, but they are better than the average dog. Same with the Knish. For whatever reason, they are just tasty. And I don't care what anyone says, street vendor onions are the best.

                                                                          When I was in New Orleans, I had a few different kinds of po boys, and I've had them here (in NY), but the shrimp po boys in New Orleans were just better tasting.

                                                                          My travel has been limited, so you might very well have a much better idea on this subject than me, but I'll take a NYC street dog any day.

                                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                            Actually, for me, it's a little of both. I do not go out of my way to find the most "off-the-wall" fare that I can imagine, regardless of how well the spot might be known for it. I have culinary principles, that I adhere to.

                                                                            Also, I am not into "street food," so my experiences are usually in higher-end establishments, though very often ones sought out because the chef is doing specific regional cuisine with local ingredients.

                                                                            For me, it's about the food, and not some "reality show," where the host eats everything presented to him. That is just not MY style. Still, I have enjoyed a great breadth of "regional cuisine" on several continents - even poi, but that was fresh pounded in Hanalelei, and not from a can purchased at the ABC store, or served at a resort's lu`au.

                                                                            As with wine tasting, the ultimate pleasure of certain foods might well be based on the company, the surroundings, the time of day and even the phases of the Moon. As with your analogy of the location/surroundings, I have greatly enjoyed many a New Orleans shrimp-boil. Maybe it's the morning's copy of the Times-Picayune spread on the hardwood table, or the cans of Dixie beer (can't drink it otherwise), but all the elements do contribute to the whole. I am not a fan of "peel-n-eat" shrimp in most other places - just to messy, and I usually have people to greet, so I don't want my hands smelling of shrimp. Same with crawfish. When in New Orleans, I usually have several variations, during the season, but have never ordered them, in any form, elsewhere.

                                                                            Again, it's a little of both - the items that an area is known for, and also items that are not common elsewhere.

                                                                            Glad that I could offer the "pitch," that you were looking for.


                                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                              I feel like that too - normally, I am strictly an ale fan - pale ales in particular -but when I get to Munich, I always make a point to drink the Augustiner Brau, which is a lager...in the USA, I almost never touch a lager - but it tastes so much better in Germany!

                                                                          2. I was just in SF and had a Mission-style burrito, even though I don't particularly like them. And I went to that horrible Ghiradelli restaurant at Fisherman's Wharf even though I don't even like Ghiradelli chocolate. Why? I'd like to blame it on my colleagues (who shared with me these shameful endeavors), but really, I can't. I fully admit it's irrational.

                                                                            I guess when all the vast forces of marketing are out to convince me I want something, I think I want it, too. I also like to try things I know I don't like every once in a while to makes sure I still don't like them. :)

                                                                            1. What??

                                                                              No-one will admit to trying Vegemite in OZ???


                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: purple goddess

                                                                                Guilty as charged - well, not Vegemite, but Marmite - and not Oz, but New Zealand...and I have to say, I really LIKE it - okay, spread in a verrrry thin layer, and not every day - but still: it's something I actually am considering buying a jar of now that I'm home!

                                                                              2. I always try regional specialties. As a matter of fact, I'm still kicking myself for having come and gone from Memphis and never having Q!!

                                                                                1. I research the regional specialties before I leave home...usually try to find out where the best places are in advance.

                                                                                  I tried Labskaus in Bremen- basically a hash made of potatoes, herring, beets, pickles and corned beef, and Birnen Bohnen Speck (pears, green beans and bacon cooked together) when I was in Luebeck. I ended up enjoying both, but I'm not sure I would have tried either of them outside of Northern Germany.

                                                                                  I was impressed with my Philly Cheesesteak and Fish Tacos in California, but I don't think I'd choose to order them outside the region.

                                                                                  Sometimes I've been disappointed by the regional specialties. I really was disappointed by Sachertorte and NC BBQ.

                                                                                  And some regional specialties I like better outside their original region....I like the Chelsea buns in a smalltown Ontario bakery better than anything I've found in England.