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What's the regional/local cuisine in your area?

I've been thinking over the last few days about the great diversity of posters throughout Chowhound and how fascinated I am when I read about what other people are cooking, what's available to them and what a normal dinner/cooking process is to them.

So my question is what is the local food/cuisine in your area like? I come from the south-west of Western Australia. Combined with the mediterranean climate and a large migrant population our food tends to have heavy Italian, Spanish and South-East Asian influences. Lamb features a lot on a our plates, as does fresh seafood from our beautiful oceans and rivers. We are extremely fortunate to have amazing wine regions nearby and have the pleasure of drinking mostly local wine. We tend to be an eat outdoors society, so the most common way of socialising with food tends to be a bbq outside with steak, sausages and salads, particularly in the summer months.

I'm really curious to know what the food is like in your area.

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  1. Well, I divide my time between Central PA and Berlin, Germany.

    I guess I don't eat a lot of 'traditional' Pennsylvanian food, unless you count what's available -- mushrooms, venison, produce that grows in this area.... I haven't seen a lot of German influence which is funny given the large number of German immigrants. The Amish certainly seem to be heavy on the sugar.

    As for Berlin -- regional specialties include asparagus (in season right now), pike perch, wild boar, rabbit, chanterelles & other mushrooms, and a bunch of root vegetables.

    The 'traditional' cuisine is on the heartier side -- stews, sausages, pork & kraut, but like most regional cooking these days, things have been modernized and lightened up at tad.

    It's bitching cold here for most of the year including summers, but we can get some seriously sveltering days. Like most sun-deprived Germans, Berliners will sit outside whenever possible, regardless of the temperatures -- possibly also because it's one of the last smoker bastions in Europe >sigh<

    Germans love to grill, but most of them are horrible at it. Think burnt sausages and overdone steaks. Aí.

    Of course, it is also a very international city with a large number of Turkish and Middle Eastern immigrants, so döner, shish kebab, and tabbouleh are found pretty much anywhere. Vietnamese is still very popular -- the first banh mi shop opened up here recently, in fact, you can't swing a cat without hitting a Viet place. Yawn. Korean is _just_ starting to become more popular.

    But you can get pretty much most international foods here (unlike Central PA...).

    No wines to speak of, save for all the delightful Rieslings, Weiss- and Grauburgunders from down south (Mosel, Rheinhessen, Baden).


    1 Reply
    1. re: linguafood

      "Germans love to grill, but most of them are horrible at it."
      Hilarious :)

    2. I'm in France...where do you want me to start?

      Right now is asparagus and Brie - both of which are produced just down the road a bit. (less than 30 minutes' drive)

      1. I'm in Charleston, SC-shrimp and grits, she crab soup, collards, okra, crowder peas, shad roe, oyster stew, wreckfish, and if you're lucky, somebody wlll fix you a hobotee! Hummingbird cake, Lady Baltimore cake, I could go on. It's all good-those walks on the beach come in handy.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Sue in Mt P

          I live in Coastal South Carolina too....all the same as Sue as well as creek shrimp, oyster roast, chicken bog & pirleu,lovely veggies esp collars and sweet potatoes, pimento cheese, firefly volka, stone ground grits, carolina rice,boiled peanuts and the best sweet tea on earth !

          1. re: LaLa

            Chicken bog, oooooo. MMMM. I want some bawl peanuts now, LaLa! Hope all's well in your 'hood.

        2. Since I live in NYC, just about everything from all over the planet is available if you're willing to travel a bit for a nominal fee. My local neighbor is a racially and ethnically mixed area that offers lots of Latin ingredients, as well as Southern, with a smattering of Caribbean and Asian. My big big market carries sugar cane, key limes, nopales, sapote, calabaza, a wide variety of fresh and dried chiles, purple yams, bitter melon, goat, cow foot, croacker, salt cod, cuy, on and on. Other neighborhoods in Brooklyn offer Italian, Asian, Irish, Eastern European or Caribbean cuisine and ingredients, reflecting the culture of the area. Queens is even more culturally diverse. It's a culinary adventure all the time and truly one of the best reasons for living here.

          What I like to eat is just about all of it.

          1. I'm in north west England. Locally, as with the rest of the UK, we've refound our local cuisine, local dishes and local produce in recent years. When I was a much younger person, it was almost a given that good food had to have a French influence. But that's completely gone out of fashion over the last 20 - 30 years and restaurants are now proud to provide a distinctly British menu. Locally grown, seasonal produce appearing in traditional dishes, given a modern restaurant spin.

            Of course, linked with that is the change to TV cookery programmes. Going back, they would to have a "foreign" influence but no longer. Of course, that is not to say there is no foreign influence. We are only a small island, some 20+ miles away from continental Europe. There's always been an exchange of influences and produce. For example, I was in northern France a few weeks ago and was intrigued to see, on a number of brasserie menus, a dish called a "Welsh" that was being described as traditional to that region of France. Turns out it's a Welsh Rarebit, although with the local addition of ham.

            Like many countries, Britain has always had immigration and the newer communities have impacted on local cuisine. For example, in the immediate region, most of the family owned ice cream companies can trace their orgins back to 19th century Italian immigrants who came to work in the iron foundries. But much of the immigration over the years has been comparitively small scale and spread throoughout the country. There have been few "Little Italys" and the like. Of the major immigrant movements, over say the last 200 yearsIrish people have a similar basic cuisine so there has been no real imapct there. However, in recent years, there has been significant movement from the Indian sub-continent and surrounding area - Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans and Indians. It has certainly impacted on the restaurant scene and "Indian" restaurants are popular (although rarely any better than mediocre) as is cooking "Indian" food.

            Other than this, the biggest "foreign" impact has, almost certainly, been because of our holidays. So, for example, our love of Italian food and it's ready availability comes not from immigrant communities in the UK, but holidays in Italy.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Harters

              I've been traveling to England for the last fifteen years, and while the general quality level of food in England has skyrocketed -- I've always liked British food when it makes no excuses for being what it is -- simple food, well prepared.

              A carvery lunch down the pub on Sunday, a bacon buttie in an industrial park outside Manchester, English lamb, Dover sole, a chicken and leek pie in some nameless little pub in East Sussex..it is what it is...and it's GOOD.

              1. re: sunshine842

                What I always find a bit odd about we Brits is how little fish we eat - except deep fried cod or haddock with chips. Much of what our trawler fleets land in UK ports gets shipped straight off to France or Spain.

                1. re: Harters

                  Same with the Irish. Fish is associated with impovrished times where one goes to the shore and scrapes up a bucket of mussels 'cuz no pork is available. Just has no 'sex' appeal.

                  1. re: Harters

                    but ohhh, how good that fish and chips can be. In a paper cone, please, liberally lashed with malt vinegar and lots of salt.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      Yeah but,unfortunately, most fish & chips you come across are awful. Even here in the north , where we invented it.

                      1. re: Harters

                        thus "can"... as in there's the potential.....


              2. Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, which is by far the youngest metro area on the northern Gulf Coast. (It effectively didn't exist until the Department of War set up their first base in the area back in the 1940s) So while we're in the sweet tea belt, the food tends to be less Southern than what you get elsewhere in the region. Fish & seafood are hugely popular- all those yummy types of fish you can find out of the Gulf, plus just down the road from Apalachicola Bay makes for many a cheap oyster happy hour special. (can be as low as $6/dozen at some beach bars)

                The Thais have been cooking here since the late 60s/ early 70s- GI married local girl when he was stationed Over There during the Vietnam War, part of her family immigrated over here a few years later, and the restaurants followed. We also got our Filipino, Korean, and Japanese populations (and food influences) that way, though somewhat surprisingly, not so much of a Vietnamese influence- that group of war brides seems to have ended up in Biloxi instead.

                The New Orleans crowd really started to discover the Destin beaches in the 80s, and we've picked up a cajun/creole influence from that region since. Full blown NOLA restaurants have a hard time making it, but it's common to see a fish or general American sort of place have gumbo, po boys, beans & rice, and maybe jambalaya on the menu.

                The Mexicans/Central Americans came later to the party- largely construction jobs in the rebuilding after Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Most of them moved on when those jobs dried up and the Katrina construction jobs just down the way were still going strong, but enough of them stuck around in other jobs that their food influence is still going strong.

                It's a casual food town at heart- lots of ethnic dives and beach bar foods, and eating outdoors on deck or patio is also common. The high end (defined here as most entrees over $30) has to work hard to explain why it's worth the price when you can find the perfect mahi or grouper sandwich for $9-$12 and a generous and authentic order pad kee mow for less than that. People are willing to pay a fairly big ticket for sushi though- between the emphasis on fresh fish in local cuisine and the miserable summer heat that makes a cold meals sound v. appealing, it ends up just hitting the spot for a lot of people.

                2 Replies
                1. re: beachmouse

                  beachmouse- sounds like the gulf coast is the one you want to be on. I visited a friend in Rockledge (near Cocoa beach, central Old White People with Newish Tiny houses. I was hoping for some diversity, like you can find in some parts of FL, but I saw ONE and one only local Chinese restaurant th whole time i was there, the rest were all chains (OMG- so many chains). The culinary high point of my visit was to Dixie Crossroads, a down-home place that had the only completely fantastic grilled rock shrimp I've ever had. I wanted to go there every night. I still think about the place, and it's been four years. It's a chain, but in Florida only- there may be only two- I wish I could have that again, and again.

                  1. re: EWSflash

                    Don't get me wrong, you can find large numbers of both blatant and stealth chains here as well. But we've been around here long enough at this point that we've been able to find the good indie restaurants for dining out, and where to go for supplies for home cooking when you just can't find it at Publix.

                2. Nestled here on the Vermont/Quebec border we always have excellent local meat and dairy. This time of year we are still enjoying the maple syrup harvest. The new crops of horseradish, fiddleheads and wild leeks are in. I believe the next items on the agenda are fresh berries.
                  We have excellent bakeries everywhere, life is good.

                  1. I live in Waynesburg, PA (southwest corner of the state). It's mostly fast food here - population of about 5000, one half-decent restaurant (it's a greasy spoon, but not bad), every major fast food chain, two MacDonaldses. So I cook a lot. The nearby supermarket is pretty lame, but the farmers market has some stuff that's worthwhile (and actually better prices than the supermarket). The locally raised lamb is fantastic. Produce is hit and miss, but very good when it's a hit. If you know people, there's venison around too.

                    I work in Pittsburgh, and that's a different story. The dining scene there has picked up a lot in the last decade. We now have a handful of restaurants that aren't just good by Pittsburgh standards - especially some of our casual fine dining places serve top-notch meals that you'd pay twice as much for in another city and probably rave about afterwards. The more traditional fare here is Polish and German, and there's a good handful of places making decent Polish or German food with an old-school feel. Decent amount of Italia/Italian-American food too. We're getting better in terms of cheap (and not cheap) ethnic eateries, but still can't really compete with bigger cities - I can only think of two, maybe three places to get a decent taco, for example. Compared to Waynesburg, Pittsburgh is a wonderland for grocery shopping. It's a pretty decent city to drink beer in, but like anywhere in PA, not so much for wine and liquor.

                    1. I'm in the Texas Hill Country. Around here, we get lots and lots of Tex-Mex such as tamales,
                      pico de gallo, salsas, enchiladas and tacos. Also get tons of "german" influenced food like sausages, schnitzels, krauts. This area was settled originally by German immigrants. We also grow the most delicious peaches in the state, along with terrific tomatoes. Game, such as deer, boar, quail and dove are also in most everyone's freezer. Then there is what should have been first on the list....Chicken Fried Steak. No native Texan can resist it. The original soul food of Texas...right up there with Bar-b-que...in Texas its called simply "cue".
                      Love the posts

                      1. California has it all.
                        I'd say most of my experience in looking for cuisines [Mexican] tops.

                        1. I live in SW Florida, and as in the case of most other places, the local cuisine is a blend of plenty of different influences. There is a strong southern US influence for the long time locals, and a few restaurants serving up excellent examples of southern cuisine. The area is also heavily populated by midwestern snowbirds, who have blighted the gastromic profile with their love for mediocre chain restaurants such as Olive Garden, Outback, and the like.

                          As far as the local stuff goes, there is great fish to be had, and my city of Fort Myers has a history as a shrimping port, so if you know where to look you can get great gulf shrimp as well as Stone Crabs. There are also plenty of places serving up grouper and other local fish.

                          The real innovation, and in my opinion, some of the best food to be had, comes from the large number of Mexcian and Latin American immigrants. There is of course the great Cuban food that can be found throughout South Florida, as well as plenty of authentic (or inauthentic but still tasty if that's your thing) Mexican food. The real surprise is that for whatever reason SWFL has become somewhat of a hotbed for Peruvian cuisine. I can think of four very good Peruvian restaurants in the area off the top of my head, which is likely more than can be found anywhere other than major metro areas like NYC or LA. There is also a strip mall near me that has very good Colombian, Salvadoran, and Caribbean restaurants.

                          There are a few very good Italian and Greek places as well, started up by FL transplants who decided to eschew the Florida's overcrowded and overpriced Atlantic coast.

                          At the end of the day though, the real story of FL regional cuisine is that it's a mix of whoever has moved here and become popular enough to survive. When it comes to produce practically anything can be grown here in abundance, so there is no shortage of fresh fruits or veggies, and there are far more transplants than true locals, so there are influences from all over the US as well as the world when it comes to the food.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                            At the end of the day though, the real story of FL regional cuisine is that it's a mix of whoever has moved here and become popular enough to survive.


                            And that's what makes the state a lot of fun from a food perspective. It amuses me when I can walk into a Publix in late winter, and they'll have both king cake and paczki in a bakery case next to a giant banner promoting making mojitos at home.

                          2. Such fantastic replies, I've really enjoyed reading these!

                            1. Huntress, I have lived a very peripatetic tumbleweed life. Boston was always salmon, fresh shelled peas, and hand cranked strawberry ice cream for 4th of July. Connecticut was fried Ipswich clams and lobster rolls w/ butter, no mayo. Soft shell crabs in season, then shad roe. And of course Pepe's pie and killer Italian pastries. Philly was hoagies and cheesesteaks. And Bookbinders. RI was southsiders at Bailey's Beach club. Virginia was wines and tasting menus. NC was Q with vinegar, SC was Q with mustard sauce. And my introduction to catfish stew, on Fridays, and a bit of country ham, and cheese grits. I keep returning to Texas (I'm there as I type) and I learned Q and catfish in east Texas, and boudin and etoufee and crawdads and cajun women on the lakes. My take away from 8 years in Colorado was Olathe corn and spring lamb and everything I learned about New Mexico cooking. Then I lived in Mexico and Central America for years, too much to say here. Then to Cuba back and forth from Mexico for a couple years, then Turks & Caicos. I offer guidance for conch and lobster in T&C. My most recent six years in Florida I spent writing in my hammock, with rum and grouper for sustenance. And in between, a stint in Kings Cross, with Morten Bay bugs and barrimundi...:)

                              I mostly post about Mexico because I love it best.

                              1. I'm currently in a small town outside Kansas City, smack near the center of the US. Here, beef rules, and people LIVE and LOVE barbecue, often competitively. Socializing and dining both tend toward casual. Honestly, I miss fresh seafood the most living here, because it's just never as good as on the coasts. Forgiving that, and the fact that some ethnic cuisines aren't so well represented here, it's a good food scene. People seem to have grown up with farm fresh produce and know good quality dairy, for example. Small producers of both are booming in production here, but prices thus far remain relatively reasonable, of which I am grateful. I can buy wonderful eggs from neighbors, without having to keep chickens like my grandmother. We also have lovely pecan trees here, with small but very flavorful product. Because we are near two rivers in the east, mushrooms from the forested areas are very good as well. People tend to think Kansas is all wheat fields, not true. The tornadoes, unfortunately, are all too true.

                                1. I'm in Hawaii and we are really a melting pot of Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Puerto Rican, Portuguese and Filipino cuisines.

                                  Of them, I really love Hawaiian food, which I find to be very hearty. Hawaiian food is known for its liberal use of salt, which is harvested from sea water. Pork and fish are the most common sources of protein and can be found in local dishes such as lau lau, kalua pig, lomi salmon, luau stew, poke and of course various grilled or fried fish. . We also make use of taro plants, which is turned into poi (a condiment) or lau lau or luau (the leaves). Hawaiian food can be very fatty, so I try to eat it sparingly.

                                  As immigrants came to work on our sugar or pineapple plantations, they brought their food with them. This created the melting pot that I mentioned. At a typical local luau, you will be given offerings from all different cultures- filipino lumpia or adobo, kalua pig or lechon, ahi or tako poke, sushi and char sui manapua. You can find local fruits, fresh caught fish and even puerto rican pasteles or gandule rice for sale on the side of the road. Pacific rim, whch combines local fare with more typical american cuisine has also become popular in recent years. I love living here and have really been introduced to an entirely new culture.

                                  1. Great thread! Love reading about the varied cuisines.

                                    I'm on Cape Cod, and I'd have to say the dominant theme is seafood, seafood, and more seafood. Every restaurant-menu except maybe steak houses features a list of fish dishes at least as long as all the rest of the menu offerings. Lobstah and clam/fish chowdah of course (always white; never tomato-based!) Oysters from Wellfleet, shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, quahogs, steamahs (I'll stop now). And then there's cod, haddock, and scrod, about which I'm still hard-pressed to tell the difference, since I am a wash-ashore from California. Plus salmon, swordfish, flounder, monkfish, bluefish, snapper, and more--what isn't caught off our shores comes from the fish markets of New Bedford, which supply the Cape Cod markets fresh every day. Oh yes; crab cakes and fish cakes on every menu. And there's a following for a regional speciality called "Clam Pie" which only a true Cape Codder can love. But I love seafood and I'm in heaven here.

                                    Cranberries, beach plum jam, turnips from Eastham, and local summer corn and tomatoes have always been featured on the Cape, but in the last several years the "fresh and local" movement has gained a lot of ground. ;-) Now the organic/farm stand offerings are many and varied, though they don't really start up until after Memorial Day.

                                    The Irish, Italians, Portuguese, and Brazilian immigrants have enriched the local menus immeasurably. It makes for many memorable meals in local restaurants, not to mention increasing what's available on the supermarket-shelves. Finally, because we are a tourist destination, there are many great restaurants--not just clam-shacks! For instance, just down the street from us is a great Japanese restaurant.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Goblin

                                      Unless it's an obviously silly question, what's clam pie and why might it not be attractive to non-locals?

                                      We're hoping to visit your part of America next year and are always interested in trying local specialitie

                                      1. re: Harters

                                        Not a silly question, and one that I asked myself when I encountered my first clam pie, which held pride of place on a holiday buffet. What it is. . . is a savory pie made with a lot of ground or chopped up sea clams! In its simplest apotheosis, the clams are mixed with cracker crumbs (another constant) milk, melted butter, salt and pepper, left to stand for an hour, and baked till done. Most versions do use a top and bottom pie crust. A Sandy Neck version doesn't use pie crusts at all, but sprinkles more cracker crumbs on top. Common additions to the basic recipe are one or two beaten eggs, browned bacon pieces and their drippings, grated onion, and a quahog version also includes some poultry seasoning, garlic powder, celery salt, and Worcestershire sauce. As with any regional speciality, every self-respecting Cape Cod Cook will have a favorite recipe. I found three in a terrific regional cookbook called "Simply Sturgis: Local and Fresh," put out a few years ago by the Friends of Sturgis Public Library in Barnstable, MA. (And kudos to the Friends: no onion soup mix, Cool Whip, or canned mushroom soups were allowed; just local, fresh ingredients.)

                                        I personally find Clam Pie to be somewhat of an acquired taste. "Hearty" is one descriptor-- it is no way a light dish. It helps if you REALLY like clams. But what do I know? I'm a transplanted Californian.

                                        Oh, I almost forgot one of the summer glories that grow all over the Cape: Blueberries! Every cook has a favorite blueberry pie, buckle, and/or muffin recipe!

                                        Finally, I hope you come to the Cape, Harters! Lots of good restaurants that can steer you to the local specialities.

                                        1. re: Goblin

                                          sounds kinda like clam chowder a la croute! (sounds awesome, but I can see how a small slice could go a long way -- RICH)

                                          1. re: Goblin

                                            Thanks for that, Goblin. That pie's definitely added to my "must eat" list.

                                            The plan is for a probable 3 week trip, touring round New England so I'm sure we'll be wanting to spend some days on the Cape.

                                      2. San Francisco here. We are very fortunate to have many different cuisines at our doorsteps. Locally sourced is big - is actually touted as having started in the States here in the Bay Area (Alice Waters). You can get vietnames pho and banh mi, peruvian crudos and spit-roasted chicken, burmese tea leaf salads, korean bbq, nicaraguan nacatamales, japanese udon and sushi, yucatecan poc chuc and cochinta pibil, salvadoran pupusas, southern fried chicken and bbq (tho there are those who say we don't do the latter well), spanish tapas, mexican tacos and burritos, our own dungeness crab in season, amazing artisanal bread and cheeses, fancy chocolates, bakeries, desserts, inventive ice creams, gourmet coffees, pizza of many different styles - and a mixture of many of these cuisines in the form of our burgeoning trailer food scene. We have a good mix of high end and dives. Like bushwickgirl, i can walk down the street and find exotic ingredients for next to nothing, and then walk up another block to get expensive pristine organics. Our Farmers' Market at the Ferry Building wows people from all over the world with its fantastic, wide variety of produce and quality prepared foods. We are very lucky here, and i like to think of this luck as making us people who seek out the best in other parts of the country and world with eager palates and open minds. It's great to be able to read about what everyone has, and how much we all appreciate it!

                                        1. I'm in San Diego, CA. We're a border town and our climate is very Mediterranean. Along with an abundance of taco and burrito shops we also have more farms than any other county in the United States. We grow an amazing and diverse number of fabulous fruits, vegetables and nuts, in addition to being the home of Chino Farms, made famous 20+ years ago by Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck. There are more than 60 farmers markets a week in San Diego bringing what's grown locally to an urban population. We're also home to the world's best sea urchin as well as the worlds best craft beer and brewmasters. We have 2 outstanding homegrown chocolatiers, a couple of old-school ice cream makers and one very, very good cheesemonger.

                                          It's not a particularly diverse area from the culinary perspective. We don't do Italian well, nor the food of any other European country. Asian cuisines could be better and Middle Eastern and African are under represented. But if you want a great fish taco or carne asada burrito we've got you covered. After WWII many men were discharged from military service in San Diego and decided not to go back to the mid-west. Wives, girlfriends and families all came to San Diego instead. As a result from the mid to late 40s until recently, the taste and flavor profile in San Diego has typically been that of the American midwest.

                                          The best Mexican food is still south of the border and it is more than possible to cross the border for dinner in Tijuana and sleep in your own bed at home that night. 70 miles south of San Diego lies the Valle de Guadalupe one of the most exciting wine producing areas in the world. Northern Baja and San Diego share a common climate and common geography, an international border just happens to run through part of it. San Diego and Tijuana have a history so entwined it's really hard to separate it. So we get the best of two worlds and two countries. We get to purchase, eat and drink what some of America's most creative brewers, experimental farmers and young chefs with some drive can produce with our phenomenal local bounty. We also get to purchase, eat and drink what some of Mexico's cutting edge chefs, winemakers, cheese makers and fishermen are producing with their local bounty. Same area, two culturally very different approaches to the same land and the same climate.