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Aug 12, 2013 12:35 PM

Smithsonian Magazine's 20 Most Iconic Food Destinations Across America

Smithsonian ran an article about the 20 Most Iconic Food Destinations Across America. No information about how the selections were made, etc. The comments on the article have been pretty negative, wondering what hounds think.

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  1. Hmm, I think the problem is that everyone is now rating the restaurants as if the 'article' (how does one refer to these tedious compilations of images with marginally informed text?) is recommending the best of each place. The word 'iconic' is key here, since it addresses something beyond a good restaurant or even a classic; rather it identifies the place that many may have heard of. It is somehow representative, even if not the best (or even edible).

    As hounds we might recommend something else, but there's no denying (at least for the American cities I know) that these places loom in the mind of the visitor.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Lizard

      The Varsity in Atlanta has been there forever, but iconic? The South is not exactly known for its hot dog prowess, and it shows.
      I guess if 'iconic' includes well known but not the tastiest, then go ahead and call it that. I won't be taking my visitors there.

      1. re: kitchengardengal

        I don't think they're representing these places as having the tippy-top tastiest food you can find. The impression I get from their list is that their definition of "iconic" involves a place that people have been going to for a long time and enjoying some sort of a total experience--the neighborhood, the decor, the service, the clientele, the rituals, as well as their signature dishes. Going there is a beloved tradition for their fans. Some of these restaurants may actually have some very good food (or at least they serve a lot of people's idea of the ultimate example of a particular dish), but that's only part of the appeal. You don't go there just to eat, you go there to go there.

    2. iconic- I think of the word meaning very famous and representive of a particular time or genera---- so for food

      Iconic- Coney Island hotdogs

      Katz deli

      Cafe Dumonde benignets( even though I dont think they are best)
      The Four Seasons
      Le Meurice
      Tavern on the Green

      Rendezvous- ribs
      la circe- french
      they are places that are "known" for lack of a better word... like actressess who walk through the world saying "dont you know who I am" their reputations have long ago transended their food...

      7 Replies
      1. re: girloftheworld

        Tavern on the Green is no longer in existence. They only chose operating restaurants for the list. And where in the US is Le Meurice?

        1. re: ChefJune

          what? now I am sooo sad...All of these "to see places" are gone before I got to see them :(

          The Russian Tea Room
          Tavern On the Green
          Shea Stadium

          The Brown Derby

          Le Meurice is in Paris.. I hope.. it may be gone too..

            1. re: C. Hamster

              I guess I need to start getting out more

              1. re: girloftheworld

                Google Elaine's.

                When I'm in NYC (a lot) I'm maybe 3 blocks from there and regret being too lazy to go.

            2. re: girloftheworld

              Tavern on The Green had really become little more than a sit down ala carte banquet hall towards the end of its run. Better to have your images of its grandeur than what it's last few years were.

              Two things I will forever give it credit for is the way the decorated for the holidays and their lobster bisque. I brought my parents, inlaws and children there for dinner during the holidays it was breathtakingly decorated. I do agree if still open it should be iconic.

              Had lunch in Katz a couple weeks ago, never fails to please.

              1. re: jrvedivici

                True. And prior to that it was a tourist/romance destination and the food and service not much better than average.

        2. If you focus on the word ICONIC, the list makes better sense

          Union oyster house is total meh, but its sorta the definition of "iconic"

          2 Replies
          1. re: C. Hamster

            Yep. Most people in Philly would never actually go to Pat's or Geno's for a cheese steak (and whizz is an abomination for another board) . But according to tourists "that's where the locals go." They're icons, not the best.

            1. re: gaffk

              Sums up. They're icons, not the best.

          2. I feel like I gained 5lbs just from reading the list. While we can sit here and dissect the definition of "iconic" I can say in all honesty, after reviewing that list it's clear to me why we have a growing obesity problem in this country.

            Full disclosure; I am north of the 300lb mark myself so this is not a "fat" joke.

            1. Do I have to turn in my Chowhounder credentials if I have been to and eaten at 14 of the establishments on the list? (In my defense, I traveled a lot whilst young and foolish)

              7 Replies
              1. re: PuniceaRana

                Considering different categories of food, It is interesting there is not one pizza place on this list, and the place that hosts the July 4th hot dog eating contest, Nathans Coney island is not on here, and neither is Pinks. Now including a place that serves the chicago dog is great... but the Varsity over either Nathans or Pinks? Come on.

                1. re: cwdonald

                  I'm thinking "world's largest drive-in diner" might have a lot to do with the Varsity pick.

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    Am I the only one wondering whose job it is to go around the entire world measuring the size of drive-up diners?

                  2. re: PuniceaRana

                    Nooooo not at all, it's just with regard to what we as a nation consider "iconic". More power to you if you've been to one or all, but making them iconic of American dining culture I think is a shame.

                    1. re: PuniceaRana

                      I applaud you. I love places with a sense of history and survive in their own unique way. The quality of the cooking is totally subjective. If it wasn't, about 95% of all restaurants would cease to exist. But whose 5% would survive?