Signature Cheap Eats From All 50 States

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REGIONAL TREATS ON A BUDGET

The cornucopia of local edible specialties in the United States is something to behold. The bounty should sate just about any gourmet or gourmand, whether native or tourist. To whet your appetite for what awaits, Cheapism.com pulled together a state-by-state list (including the District of Columbia) of favorite and unique eats. We set the price bar at a high of $10, but most of these delights can be devoured for $5 or less.

Related: Restaurants in Every State Where You Can Grab a Meal for Under $10

ALABAMA

Inland, stoneground grits are an inexpensive must, and a half-moon cookie (pecan base, half covered in dark chocolate) at Full Moon Bar-B-Que is worth the indulgence. On the coast, Mobile is home to delicious seafood, although the big-name restaurants like Wintzell's Oyster House and Felix's Fish Camp Grill can be pricey unless you're sharing a dish.

ALASKA

Grilled or smoked, however you like it, there's no place better to get fresh salmon than Alaska. It's not always cheap, though, so if you're looking for something less expensive, try reindeer sausage instead.

ARIZONA

Prickly pear, a type of cactus, is a regional specialty that you can find in jellies, jams, and syrups. It shows up in some cocktails, as well.

ARKANSAS

You can now find fried dill pickles nationwide, but Bernell "Fatman" Austin claims he invented them while working at the former Duchess Drive-In in Atkins. The small city, population 3,014, is now home to the annual Picklefest, where you can relish the original recipe.

CALIFORNIA

Whether you're partial to a fish taco in San Diego or a Mission burrito in San Francisco, California's taquerias always offer an array of delicious and inexpensive bites. The fast-food chain In-N-Out Burger is a must-try if you're in the mood for a patty and fries.

COLORADO

Whether you're along the Front Range or high in the Rockies, Rocky Mountain oysters (that would be, um, bull testicles) are a local "delicacy" worth a try. Rather indulge on something sweet? Pikes Peak doughnuts lay claim to fame as the only doughnuts made at more than 14,000 feet above sea level.

CONNECTICUT

Two inexpensive hot dog spots have found their way to TV's "Man v. Food." Doogie's in Newington sells 2-foot-long hot dogs that can be loaded with everything from kraut and Swiss cheese to barbecue baked beans and bacon. Woody's in Hartford is another favorite with innovative toppings like macaroni and cheese or barbecue pulled pork and cheddar.

DELAWARE

While passing through Delaware, three local specialties cry out for attention: Rapa-brand scrapple (a mix of cornmeal, flour, pork scraps, and spices shaped into a loaf, sliced, and then fried), pumpkin mushroom soup at the Back Burner Restaurant & Bar in Hockessin, and just about anything with blue crab.

FLORIDA

A slice of Key lime pie, enjoyed while your feet are up and the waves are splashing away, provides more than a few tasty and cheap bites.

GEORGIA

There are many outstanding dishes associated with Georgia, but Brunswick stew prepared with barbecue pork, tomatoes, and corn is high on our list. The state fruit, the peach, is not to be missed, nor is anything containing the state vegetable, the Vidalia sweet onion.

Related: When to Buy Fruits and Vegetables in Season and Save

HAWAII

Hawaii is filled with unique foods that little known on the mainland. Try the sweet taro and coconut fudge-like kulolo, a bowl of poi, a cup of local Kona coffee, and a manapua, which is similar to a Chinese pork bun.

IDAHO

Idaho is known for potatoes and corn, but you can also gorge on local huckleberries and fresh trout, elk, and deer, all found in nearby mountains and streams.

ILLINOIS

Popcorn has been the official snack food of Illinois since 2003 -- no surprise, given the 12 million acres devoted to growing corn. Garrett Popcorn has been stirring up flavored mixtures like Macadamia CaramelCrisp for more than 60 years. When in Chicago, don't overlook the Depression Dog (mustard, onion, hot pepper, and relish) at Red Hot Ranch, Jimmy's Red Hots, or Gene & Jude's.

INDIANA

Sugar cream pie (exactly what it sounds like) and persimmon pudding are delicious, inexpensive desserts that are hard to find outside of Indiana.

IOWA

For a food that's unique and cheap, try a "walking taco" at the Iowa State Fair. The mixture of taco components in a bag of crushed chips has become so popular it has walked its way over to a few nearby states.

Related: 18 Standout State Fairs With Free Attractions

Photo credit: Denis Vrublevski/shutterstock

KANSAS

Barbecue is "the food" in many states, but Kansas City barbecue merits a shout-out for its burnt ends.

KENTUCKY

While in Kentucky, take a break from foods you can chew. A mint julep, the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, goes down nice and easy.

LOUISIANA

Creole and Cajun food rule in Louisiana, so don't miss the opportunity to try gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish boils, and red beans and rice.

MAINE

Maine's coast is dotted with lobster shacks serving relatively inexpensive lobster dishes, including lobster rolls, salads, and stews.

MARYLAND

Baltimore's Berger cookies are thick and crusty, with a generous slathering of chocolate icing on top.

MASSACHUSETTS

A hot bowl of New England clam chowder is always an option, but if you're in Boston, head to Mike's pastry shop in the North End for delicious cannolis and Boston cream pies.

MICHIGAN

Every Michigander knows about Coney dogs, hot dogs served with raw onion, chili, and mustard.

MINNESOTA

Arriving in Minnesota with Scandinavian immigrants were cheap eats that the locals love: lefse, a flatbread made from potatoes and flour, and lutefisk, dried or salted whitefish.

MISSISSIPPI

Mississippi is known for its cheese straws. Originally available only in a cheddar flavor, there are now sweet, savory, and spicy straws, as well.

MISSOURI

Barbecue and Kansas City are synonymous, but don't stop your noshing there. Continue on with toasted raviolis, a slinger (eggs, hash browns, burger, onion, chili, and cheese), or St. Louis-style pizza, with its super-thin cracker-like crust and provolone topping.

MONTANA

Burgers, balls, and loafs are just three of the many inexpensive ways bison is served in Montana.

NEBRASKA

Little known fact: the Reuben sandwich (grilled rye bread with pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing) is thought to have been invented in Omaha by Reuben Kulakofsky, though an alternate account says Arnold Reuben invented it in New York City. Regardless, Nebraska claims it as its own.

NEVADA

Sure, Vegas is loaded with cheap all-you-can eat buffets, but if you want something with a local twist, try a piece of Navajo fry bread.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Imported from Canada but a rarity elsewhere in the U.S., poutine consists of a plateful of french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. New Hampshire is also known for maple syrup and apple cider.

NEW JERSEY

New Jersey boasts the invention of several unusual hot dog varieties, including the ripper (deep fried), the Jersey breakfast dog (bacon-wrapped and deep fried), and the Italian hot dog (with a pizza-dough bun). Saltwater taffy on the shore is another local favorite.

NEW MEXICO

New Mexico's state cookie, the bizcochito, originated among Spanish colonists who were influenced by indigenous peoples and immigrants from Latin America. The crispy, buttery, cookie is flavored with cinnamon and anise.

NEW YORK

Two of the most iconic New York foods, pizza and bagels, rarely cost much. Sure, a premium slice or a bagel loaded with lox ain't cheap, but a cheese slice or a bagel with schmear (a thin spread of cream cheese) will rarely set you back more than a few bucks.

NORTH CAROLINA

Barbecue in North Carolina differs from the kind you'll find, say, in Kansas City. Thinner nad less sweet, North Carolina's version incorporates a healthy dose of vinegar and contains little (if any) tomato sauce. If you need something to wash down all those pulled pork sandwiches and ribs, try a cherry-flavored Cheerwine soda.

NORTH DAKOTA

Perhaps you've tasted one of these delicious snacks somewhere else, but North Dakota confectioner Widman's has been making "chippers" (chocolate-covered potato chips) for generations.

OHIO

Cincinnati is known for its chili, famously served three ways (spaghetti, chili, cheese), four ways (add beans or onion), or five ways (spaghetti, chili, cheese, onions, and beans). The Buckeye state has a bit of a sweet tooth, and chocolate-dipped peanut butter balls are rightly called Buckeye candy. Ohio is also one of few states where you can find grape pie.

OKLAHOMA

Fried okra is a local favorite and an inexpensive snack. Other cheap favorites include chicken fried steak (a breaded beef patty), fried pies (deep-fried fruit-filled turnovers), and the city of El Reno's own creation, the onion burger.

OREGON

Marionberries and more marionberries. Try them as a jelly, spread on a piece of toast, or go all out with marionberry shakes, pies, and salads.

PENNSYLVANIA

Of course, the Philly cheesesteak springs to mind when thinking of Pennsylvania. But get hold of a slice of shoo-fly pie (a molasses pie) or savor the flavor hit from a bit of chow-chow (a pickled relish) added to your meal. Also try Pennsylvania Dutch favorites such as corn fritters, scrapple, and potato rolls.

RHODE ISLAND

Pizza strips are almost exactly what they sound like: thick bread topped with tomato sauce and seasonings, but generally served without cheese. Other local favorites include quahog clams and johnnycakes (made from cornmeal). 

SOUTH CAROLINA

The perfect thing to munch while on the road or simply watching TV, boiled peanuts became the official snack food of South Carolina in 2006. For something more filling, try shrimp and grits or Frogmore stew, a scrumptious combination of sausage, shellfish, corn, and potatoes -- but no frogs. 

SOUTH DAKOTA

Chislic is cubed meat, often something gamey like lamb or venison, that's deep-fried and served in small pieces or on a skewer. Flavored with seasoned salts, sometimes battered, and often partnered with soda crackers, a serving is well within the cheap zone.

TENNESSEE

Hot chicken is a spicy piece of marinated and fried chicken served atop white bread. It's a Nashville specialty; there's even a Music City Hot Chicken Festival.

TEXAS

In spite of the name, breakfast tacos filled with egg, salsa, and meat are delicious any time of day. After dinner, enjoy a slice of pecan pie; the pecan tree is the official tree of Texas and the pecan nut is the official state nut.

UTAH

Utah scones, also known as Mormon scones, aren't at all like the British variety. These are deep-fried dough, often slathered with butter and jam.

VERMONT

Vermont is known for dairy products and maple syrup. You've probably scarfed down what was once only a local favorite, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, but have you sampled maple candies?

VIRGINIA

It sounds odd unless you've tried it, but Virginia peanut soup is creamy, hearty, easy to make, and even easier to eat. The state is also known for its seafood and ham. Smithfield hams are perhaps the most famous and, by law, must be cured within Smithfield's town limits.


WASHINGTON

Halfpops are a simple and cheap snack food (they're literally half-popped popcorn) that is starting to spread across the country but originated in Seattle. Also not to be missed: Rainier cherries (named after Mount Rainier), fish and chips, and Tim's potato chips.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Late-night favorites, although they're good anytime, are the overflowing chili dogs from Ben's Chili Bowl and the enormous jumbo pizza slices in Adams Morgan.

WEST VIRGINIA

Pepperoni baked inside a soft white bread, locally known as pepperoni rolls, are a cheap grab-and-go lunch item.

WISCONSIN

Love cheese? Love deep-fried foods? Wisconsin offers a bit of both with fried cheese curds. The curds must be fresh, which is why this treat is hard to find unless you're near a cheese factory. Equally satisfying are creampuffs (a favorite at fairs) and kringles, layers and layers of flaky, buttery dough with nut or fruit fillings. The pride of Racine, the kringle is so good, it was named the state pastry.