Top 10 Iconic Foods and Where to Find Them

For decades, residents in certain communities have been divided by their chosen favorite of the local cuisine. In Naples, the debate over the best pizzeria has occurred for at last 150 years. Residents and visitors to France differ on whether crepes should be savory or sweet, in addition to debating where the best place to get them can be found. With the foods that spark controversy and favoritism in mind, the members and editors of travel website VirtualTourist.com (www.virtualtourist.com) chose the best options in our Travel Guides and Things to Do for Top 10 Iconic Foods and the Best Spots to Find Them.

  1. Pastrami Sandwich - New York City, New York

    Exterior of Katz's Deli, Photo by Will Steacy Courtesy of NYCgo

    Neighborhoods grow and change, but some things do stay the same. A fixture in New York's Lower East Side neighborhood since 1888, Katz's Delicatessen is a holdover from a time that has long disappeared from the old neighborhood. Less than a block from the Tenement Museum, which celebrates the immigrants who inhabited the neighborhood in the early 20th century, Katz's has served its world famous pastrami for over 125 years. The deli's superiority is so renowned that it even has online ordering, shipping all over the US and to any Air Force/Military addresses, a tradition that was established during World War II. As luxury hotels and trendy nightclubs pop up around it, the quality and tradition of Katz's insures it will be a fixture in the neighborhood for the next 125 years.

  2. Pad Thai - Bangkok, Thailand

    Photo Courtesy of the Tourism Authority of Thailand

    One of Thailand's more accessible and less spicy dishes, pad thai is many individual's first foray into Thai cuisine. Comprised of stir-fried rice noodles, egg, bean sprouts, and peanuts, the dish is traditionally served with lime wedges and can be found all over Bangkok's street food scene. The most famous spot for Pad Thai in Bangkok is Thip Samai, an unassuming storefront across from Wat Thepthidaram in the city's Banglamphu district. The restaurant serves Original Pad Thai for approximately 70 Thai Baht (THB) ($2.13 USD or 1.57 EUR), as well as a version called "Superb Pad Thai," which is Thai noodles served in an egg omelet.

  3. Pizza - Naples, Italy

    While pizza has been reinterpreted all over the world, the original slice can be traced back to the working class neighborhoods of Naples, Italy. Traditionally, it was served Marinara or Margherita, with the primary difference between the two styles being that Margherita features mozzarella cheese and basil on top. It was named after Queen Margherita of Savoy, who was served this style by a young chef when visiting Naples in the late 19th century. While there is no shortage of pizzerias, two of the most famous shops are L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele and Pizzeria Di Matteo, the latter located near the Duomo and known for being where President Bill Clinton sampled Naples' famous export during the 1994 G7 conference.

  4. Frites - Brussels, Belgium

    Maison Antoine, Place Jourdan Photo courtesy of Visit Belgium

    Belgium is well known for many food specialties, including waffles, mussels, and chocolate, but one of their greatest areas of expertise is in frites, or fried potatoes called by some as French Fries. Belgian frites are distinct for two reasons - they are usually made with Bintje potatoes, and they are fried not once, but twice! Vying for top spot in Brussels are Frit Flagey in Place Flagey, Friterie Tabora near the Grand Place, and Maison Friterie Antoine in Place Jourdan. Once you select your chosen vendor, your next decision is how to dress your frites. While the traditional Flemish topping is mayonnaise, Maison Antoine provides over twenty different sauces, including curry, mustard, traditional ketchup, poivre and even cocktail sauce!

  5. Best Coffee and Beignets - New Orleans, Louisiana

    Café du Monde photographed by Pat Garin, Photo Courtesy of the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau

    A people watching institution in its own right, Café du Monde is a mandatory stop for any coffee connoisseur visiting the Big Easy. Conveniently located on Jackson Square, the patio at Café du Monde is a great spot to enjoy the European ambiance and pace of New Orleans or listen to the city's famous street musicians and performers. While Café du Monde is known around the world, many people do not know that coffee first came to North America by way of New Orleans. After being successfully cultivated by the French in Martinique, they brought it to their new colonies along the Mississippi River. The beignets, a square piece of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar, are a perfect complement to the chicory coffee. If you cant make it to the flagship on Decatur Street, there are a total of eight Café du Monde coffee stands within the New Orleans metropolitan area.

  6. Steak - Argentina

    Steak and beef have played a large role in the culture of Argentina, from the asado cuisine to the image of gauchos on the estancia. Widely considered to have the best beef, Argentina's steaks are a cut above the rest because the cattle are raised on grass in the pampas, not grains in feedlots. A few recommended parillas, or grill restaurants, are El Boliche de Alberto in Bariloche, Don Julio in Buenos Aires, and La Cabrera in the Palermo Viejo district of Buenos Aires. VirtualTourist members recommend the Bife de Lomo at La Cabrera, which comes with a variety of side dishes and promises to be the most affordable 12 ounce steak of your life!

  7. Sushi - Tokyo, Japan

    Similar to the steak situation in Argentina, delicious and fresh sushi is available all over Japan, but it is perhaps most associated with the sleek culture of Tokyo. Although there was some concern about the safety of dining on fish after Japan's tsunami and radiation scare, the incident has not affected the popularity or consumption of sushi within Japan. While sushi can be had at any hour of the day in Tokyo, one experience unique to the city is a visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market. Although visitors are presently not allowed to watch the tuna auctions, visitors are still allowed in the Outer Market area, where a sushi breakfast can be had at a much lower price than the standard rate. Visitors should keep in mind most Outer Market restaurants and shops close early in the afternoon. Also, there are plans for the fish market to move to a new location as part of Tokyo's gearing up for the Olympics, but these plans have been delayed for another year, so visit this historic location while you still can! For those who prefer coffee in the morning and sushi for dinner, check out Sushi Saito, which has three Michelin stars and only seven seats, located in the Akasaka district.

  8. Gelato - Florence, Italy

    Perhaps the most hotly debated item on our list, gelato is a treat that no traveler visiting Italy can avoid or resist. The well-documented difference between gelato and ice cream is the amount of air whipped into the batch - only 20% for gelato compared to 60% air for ice cream. This difference makes gelato denser and having a richer flavor. Although gelaterias do have some traditional ice cream flavors, they also carry certain flavors more popular for gelato, like nocciola (hazelnuts), stracciatella, and zabaione. VirtualTourist members strongly suggest Bar Vivoli, Perche No, and Grom in Florence. For those not traveling soon, Grom also has locations in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Malibu, and Osaka.

  9. Crepes - Brittany, France

    Although crepes can now be found all over, they originated in Brittany, in the northwest region of France. One unique aspect of this iconic food is it can be eaten either savory or sweet. While some people eat the savory galettes for lunch or dinner with cheese, ham, eggs, or vegetables, the more widespread interpretation is as a sweet treat, filled or topped with Nutella spread, whipped cream, or custard. Three widely recommended spots are Crêperie Tout le Monde in Douarnenez, Corps de Garde in Saint Malo, and Breizh Café in Cancale.

  10. Chili crab - Singapore

    Although chili crab can be widely found throughout Singapore and Malaysia, it is considered Singapore's signature seafood dish. Crabs are served in a bright red sweet and savory tomato and chili based sauce, often with pullman toast, crusty bread, or steamed buns to sop up the sauce. Members strongly suggest the Jumbo Seafood Restaurant in Singapore's East Coast Seafood Center, although the restaurant has five locations throughout Singapore and a new outpost in Shanghai, China.


Whether you are hungry for spicy, savory, or sweet, these selections are sure to top the competition. For more recommendations from real travelers with refined palettes, check out VirtualTourists Travel Guides, Things to Do, and forums online!


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