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Authentic Local Eats: Readers Weigh In

April 6, 2009 by  
Filed under Features, Food

One of the best aspects of travel is trying the various local foods from each community. A great way to find the most authentic eats and restaurants is to ask local experts. Enduring Wanderlust recently asked a group of its readers to share their local knowledge, resulting in an inventory of must-eat foods:

Nadia Ballas-Ruta of Happy Lotus gives an insider view of Philadelphia:

For anyone who happens to be in Philly, the best place for soft pretzels is at the Reading Terminal Market. The market is located in an old train terminal and has all kinds of foods. The big draw is that the Amish from Lancaster, PA come a few days a week and sell their homemade goods. Their pretzels are the best in the city. Try their apple dumplings too.

Philly cheesesteak sandwich is a local favorite too. Every one knows of Geno’s Steaks since they are featured in almost every movie that takes place in Philly. Geno’s is a basic stand in the middle of South Philly, but also an institution. If you are a vegetarian, head to Govinda’s Cafe for a vegetarian version of this local favorite. Govinda’s is a simple place with awesome food located on South Street.

Now on to my favorite…fudge. The place for best fudge is The Original Fudge Kitchen. They have locations throughout the southern Jersey Shore. It’s a family run business and each shop is full of all kinds of sweet treats. The good news is that you can order their yummy fudge online from anywhere. It is truly the best fudge in the world. It is heaven.
philly-cheesesteaks-genos.jpg Philly Cheesesteaks © Marvin Kuo

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates of Farsighted Fly Girl gives her take on Chicago’s local eats:

For Chicago visitors, a taste of Chicago style pizza is a must. Noted for its thick cust and gut-busting piles of cheese and toppings, Chicago style pizza refects the city’s brash attitude and heavy midwestern palate. There are hundreds of eateries in Chicago that claim the best Chicago -style pizza, but my recommendations for tourists are:

Pizzeria Due, an iconic Chicago restaurant credited with being one of the first restaurants serving Chicago style, its decor is basic and it’s always crowded because the pizza is authentic. Pizzeria Due is the second restaurant that was opened because the popular Uno was constantly over-crowded. Unos has expanded into a restaurant group across the U.S. but Due is still one-of a-kind.

Giordano’s is another famous eatery that’s favored by locals. There are over a half dozen city-wide locations but the one at 730 N. Rush offers lots of energy and people watching, in addition to excellent stuffed pizza.

Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. Less well known but equally memorable, Ovengrinder creates a signature pizza pot pie that’s not to be missed. Located in a charming brownstone in Lincoln Park, this restaurant, like its neighborhood, supplies an understated stylish vibe.
chicago-deep-dish-pizza.jpg Chicago deep-dish pizza © Adactio

J.D. Meier of Sources of Insight provides his view on Seattle’s best eats:

When you go to Seattle, you need to “meet the man.” Picture this. It’s a warm, sunny day. You park your car and add yourself to a long line of people wrapped around an old garage. Somewhere in the distance, you hear a distinctive voice shout, “you met the man?” You turn to see a man with an apron and a pot. It’s Gene. You’re at Dixie’s BBQ.

“The man” is an insanely hot sauce that’s dangerous to the touch. Seriously. In fact, if it’s your first time, Gene warns you to just dab your toothpick and touch it to your tongue. I’ve seen many a grown man cry, while trying to prove they’re “man enough.”

It’s a simple menu, from sandwiches to ribs. Whether you go pork or beef, it’s some of the most succulent, melt-in-your-mouth meat you’ve ever had. Your mouth waters whenever you think of the tang of the sweet BBQ sauce. If you’re daring enough to brave the man, you know you’ll pay for it both now and later. It’s called “the man” for a reason. It’s not bark, it’s all bite.

On your first trip to Dixie’s, Gene will take you over to his map of the world. He’ll give you a pin and tell you to find yourself on the map. The map is always full with people from all over the world. It’s just a little garage, but it’s just the kind of place memories are made from.

Nik Tjhin of Unearthing Asia provides a tasty Indonesian treat:
oxtail-soup.jpg Oxtail Soup © Avixyz

One of my favorite local foods is Indonesian Sop Buntut, which translates to Oxtail Soup. A little online research shows that the Oxtail Soup is a popular dish throughout the world, with each country adding their own unique twist and tweaks. If you eat this in Jakarta, however, what you will get is a tasty clear broth with tender oxtail, chunks of potatoes, carrot, tomatoes, and celery, with aromatic spices mixed in and topped with crispy fried shallots.

For fine diners and the luxurious high-rollers, Hotel Borobudur in Jakarta is famed for its delicious Oxtail Soup. They added their own little twist in which they actually serve the oxtail meat separate from the soup, and stir-fried it before hand, calling it Sop Buntut Goreng (Fried Oxtail Soup). For the rest of us normal people, try the Oxtail Soup at Puri 88. Their servings are large, tasty, and easy on the pocket. A meal for two will cost you around Rp70,000 which at current rate translates to roughly US$6.50.

Alik Levin of Practice This gives his take on the scene in Israel:

Israel is unique in that people come here from all over the world bringing a variety of food traditions. Influences include Poland, Germany, Argentina, Morocco, Yemen, Russia, Iraq, and many more. I can assure you that the food here is the tastiest, healthiest, and cheapest I’ve eaten in my life. That includes meals in Russia, Poland, France, Spain, South Africa, US, Hong Kong, Czech Republic, UK, and Turkey. For me, the most authentic is local street food like Falafel and Shawarma. Stop at any small shop and indulge in those two foods.

Sire of Scenic Adelaide gives his take on a local Aussie spot worth checking out:

The River Cafe is part of the Red Ochre Restaurant, which has stunning views. I must admit that I have never tried ‘contemporary Australian cuisine’ and this restaurant is touted to have some of the most innovative Australian food with a native influence. The menu of local eats and the beautiful location makes it an appealing spot for a visit. On the other hand, The River Cafe has replaced one of my former favorites, Cafe Lago. It will be interesting to see how it measures up. Either way, these restaurants are perfect spots for travelers dropping over to Adelaide.

meat-cakes-norway.jpg Norwegian Meat Cakes © RennyBA

RennyBA’s of Terrella gives a few of his favorite Norwegian classics:

The Norwegian national dish is “Fårikål” or Lamb in cabbage. To prepare it: cut pieces of cabbage then layer lamb and cabbage on top of each other. Sprinkle in some whole black pepper too. Another favorite is kjøttkaker or meat cakes (see photo above). The cakes are usually made from ground beef. Kjøttkaker is traditionally served with boiled potatoes, gravy, and lingonberry. For travelers who prefer fish, rainbow trout is the local dish to look for in Norway.

Read about the most authentic pizza in New York City.
gennaroeditor.jpgGennaro Salamone is the founder and editor of Enduring Wanderlust. Feel free to contact him with questions, comments, or inquiries with reference to contributing a travel article or photograph for publication.


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42 Responses to “Authentic Local Eats: Readers Weigh In”
  1. Chris says:

    That looks like a lot of great food. Headed to Chicago in two weeks and looking forward to trying the deep-dish. Want to compare it to the New York thin-crust. Love Franny’s in Brooklyn and Totonno’s too for local pizza.

    My favorite bagels in NYC come from Ess-a-Bagel. The best.

  2. Hi Genarro,

    Thank you so much for including me in this post. As a result of writing this review on local cuisine, I went ahead and got myself some fudge! I am happy to report that it still is the best fudge ever. 🙂

    BTW, the pictures of the pizza made me hungry. I used to live in Chicago and Giordano’s pizza is truly divine!

  3. Lisa says:

    I love Dixie’s BBQ. Visit Seattle regularly and always stop there. I’ve lived mostly in Maine and seafood is the thing here. Lobster especially. I went to school in Rhode Island and love Champlin’s Seafood.

  4. Gennaro says:


    Totonno’s is one of my favorites. Like Franny’s too.


    Thanks for the great tips. That fudge sounds great. Never had Giordano’s, but it has moved up the list for me of must try spots.


    I’ve heard a lot of great things about Champlin’s.

  5. RennyBA says:

    What a wonderful round gourmet trip! and a great example of excellent sharing of food culture and habits in Blogsphere!

    I love travelling and to explore local food and this post is a wonderful inspiration to do both. I mean if you only search for McDonald or pizza huts when you are travelling, you’ll really would miss out of something. This Chicago deep-dish pizza really proves that pizza is more than just pizza.
    Another good example is Avixyz’s Oxtail Soup. I mean, I have had the soup before, but would have loved to try this special way to serve it!

    Thanks again for sharing and for including some Norwegian food in your excellent collection too 🙂

  6. Katie Parla says:

    My favorite eats are the frigittorie in Naples on Via dei Tribunali and Pignasecca, the rustic panelle stands in Palermo’s Ballaro’ and Capo Markets, and the forni in Rome like Roscioli, Panella, and Forno Campo de’ Fiori. When I am in my hometown of Princeton, NJ, its Hoagie Haven followed by Chuck’s. for wings.

  7. Tim says:

    Love Philly cheesesteaks. Geno’s is great. Jim’s and Pat’s are also great. Hoagies are also a local favorite. The best hoagies in Philadelphia are from Chickies.

  8. Gennaro says:


    It’s amazing the different types of pizza by location. Fun to try each. Glad to have the Norwegian foods. All look tasty. I agree that one of the best parts of travel is trying the foods.

    @Katie Parla

    Love the local southern Italian snacks and meals. One of my favorite parts of returning there to visit. A bunch of tasty recommendations, thanks.


    I’ve was told to go to Chickies, but ended up elsewhere for Hoagies. Have to check that out next time I’m in town.

  9. Yummy!

    Thank you, Gennaro!

  10. J.D. Meier says:

    I want it all!

    Great stuff and I like the fact we got a whirlwind tour of great eats.

  11. Gennaro says:

    @Alik Levin & J.D. Meier

    Thanks for the contributions. Makes me want to jump on a plane to try them out.

  12. Seth says:

    That Norwegian grub sounds real good. The Oxtail soup too. Never even heard of that. In Miami, Cuban food is now a permanent part of the local eats. My favorites are Islas Canarias and Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop.

  13. Sire says:

    Man, that Chicago Pizza looks really appetizing, I’m getting hunger pangs from just looking at it.

    Thanks for including me in this roundup mate.

  14. Gennaro says:


    Have to agree that Cuban food is part of the local scene down there. Lots of great spot too. Thanks for the recommendations.


    That does look good and I usually go with the thin crust.

  15. Sire says:

    You can get that dish with a thin crust? What holds it all together? Or is it first baked in a deep dish?

  16. Jill T says:

    Never heard of Dixie’s. Sounds like a fun spot. For NYC, I’d go with street knishes. Carts all over the city. That’s what I miss most when I’m out-of-town.

  17. Steven says:

    This post made me very hungry. That Oxtail soup looks great. I wouldn’t mind stopping over at that spot in Aussie land either. Looks real nice. In Louisiana, there’s lots of authentic local foods to try. I’d go the Cajun route though. I like Mulate’s. Great Gumbo. Lots of seafood choices.

  18. Gennaro says:


    My comment was a bit unclear. Meant to say that I usually prefer pizza with a thin crust, but in this case I’m sure I’d be happy with the deep-dish style.

    @Jill T

    Love doing the knish thing too.


    Lots of great cuisine down in New Orleans. Great city. Thanks for the recommendation.

  19. Sire says:

    @Gennaro, yeah that makes a lot more sense. I should have worked that one out on my own.

  20. Missy says:

    Giordano’s is a favorite. Both the food and the atmosphere. I’m originally from Miami. The best Cuban spot is Las Culebrinas. Great selection.

  21. Gennaro says:


    Sounds like a great spot. Will check it out next time I’m in Miami.

  22. jen laceda says:

    Woe! I’m going to Chicago just to SEE that pizza! I know that deep dish pizzas are the thing in Chicago, but just didn’t know how DEEP they really were! 🙂 It’s almost like a giant lasagna with a crust!

  23. Ashley says:

    What a great site! Such a neat idea. I found your link on MomDot. Have a great day!


  24. Gennaro says:

    @jen laceda

    I know, it got my stomach churning.


    Thanks. Lots of great local foods to try.

  25. fly girl says:

    Thanks for including my review in this post, Gennaro. I’m happy that so many people are entranced by Chicago style pizza! The only thing is that it’s as heavy as it looks and the feeling stays with you for days! I suggest sampling Chicago deep dish pizza in moderation or you’ll arrive home with extra pounds!

  26. Gennaro says:

    @fly girl

    I think Chicago pizza was definitely a hit. Great recommendations. Agree with the moderation. That’s one healthy-sized pie.

  27. How generous of you to feature recommendations from others. ~Arleen

  28. Elodie says:

    Yumm, great post, now I am hungry!! 😉
    If you ever have the chance to go to the french riviera, you MUST go to Poupon et Marinette and La casa di Giesu, in Nice; and to Le safranier in Antibes.
    Here in the valley, I love the Organ Stop in Phoenix, not really for the food, they just serve regular pizza, but for the entertainment, a lot of fun in that place for the whole family! 🙂

  29. Gennaro says:


    Even more generous of the contributors for taking the time.


    I’ll be sure to try those spot next time I travel to the Riviera. Always fun to find a spot that provides entertainment as well.

  30. Puna says:

    Oh my goodness, I’ve never seen a pizza like that before! I will have to get to Chicago. And tomyum is my favorite soup. My mom makes it all the time…

    Bon appetite!

  31. Oh yum! Have a glorious Easter weekend!

  32. Gennaro says:


    That sounds like a great dish.

    @Laura Ingalis Gunn

    Have a great one 🙂

  33. I would kill for a slice of Ovengrinder’s pizza right now. That looks sooo good. Haven’t had it in years!

  34. Gennaro says:


    Haven’t tasted it yet. Looking forward to it though. New York, lucky for me, has lots of great pizza.

  35. Kikolani says:

    Sorry I didn’t get back to you in time. For any vegans coming into the Phoenix, AZ area, don’t miss out on Green Vegetarian It’s amazing vegan food – not healthy, mind you, but 100% vegan, and tasty. Even some non-vegetarians have found themselves liking the food. Especially the Oreo blizzard remake that they have.

    ~ Kristi

  36. Gennaro says:


    Menu looks tasty. Will check it out when I’m in Phoenix.

  37. Laurie says:

    Great post! My favorite part of travel is eating at the unique restaurants and it’s always good to have an insider’s perspective on what’s not to be missed.

  38. Gennaro says:

    @Laurie – Can’t go wrong with eating your way through a country.

  39. Major oversight by not including Ann Sather on the list of great Chicago eateries. There a several locations in Chicago and it is the absolute best spot for brunch in the city. I moved away two years ago and my friends still text me pictures of the cinnamon rolls to remind me what I’m missing. Anytime I’m back in town, I’m doing lunch at Ann Sather (the crab cake eggs benedict is to die for!)


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