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Travel Guide > North America > USA

USA Restaurants & Eating

  
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The variety of restaurants throughout the US is remarkable. In a major city such as New York, it may be possible to find a restaurant from nearly every country in the world. One thing that a traveler from Europe or Latin America will notice is that many restaurants do not serve alcohol, or may only serve beer and wine. Another is the sheer number and variety of fast food and chain restaurants. Most open early in the morning and stay open late at night; a few are open 24 hours a day. A third remarkable fact is the size of the portions generally served by U.S. restaurants. Although the trend has moderated in recent years, portions have grown surprisingly large over the past two or three decades.

Smoking

A majority of states ban smoking in restaurants and bars by law, and many other restaurants and bars do the same by their own policy. Some have designated smoking areas. Check local information before lighting up. In recent decades, smoking has acquired something of a social stigma—before lighting up with company, remember the obligatory phrase: "Do you mind if I smoke?"

Types of restaurants

Fast food

Restaurants such as McDonald's and Burger King are ubiquitous. But the variety of this type of restaurant in the US is astounding: pizza, Chinese food, Mexican food, fish, chicken, barbecued meat, and ice-cream only begin to touch on it. Alcoholic beverages are not served in these restaurants; "soda" (often called "pop" in the Midwest through the Northwest, or generically "coke" in the South) or other soft drinks are standard. Don't be surprised when you order a soda, are handed a paper cup and expected to fill it yourself from the machine (refills are often free). The quality of the food varies, but because of the strictly limited menu, it is generally good. Also the restaurants are usually clean and bright, and the service is limited but friendly. Tipping is not expected but you must clear your table after your meal.

Take-out

Food is very common in larger cities, for food that may take a little longer to prepare than a fast-food place can accommodate. Place an order by phone and then go to the restaurant to pick it up and take it away. Many places will also deliver; in fact, in some cities, it will be easier to have pizza or Chinese food delivered than to find a sit-down restaurant.

Chain

Sit-down restaurants are a step up in quality and price from fast food, although those with discerning palates will probably still be disappointed. They may specialize in a particular cuisine such as seafood or a particular nationality, though some serve a large variety of foods. Some are well-known for the breakfast meal alone, such as the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) which serves breakfast all day in addition to other meals. A few of the larger chain restaurants include Red Lobster Olive Garden Applebee's and T.G.I. Friday's to name a few. These restaurants generally serve alcoholic beverages, though not always.

Very large cities in America are like large cities anywhere, and one may select from inexpensive neighborhood eateries to extravagantly expensive full-service restaurants with extensive wine lists and prices to match. In most medium sized cities and suburbs, you will also find a wide variety of restaurants of all classes. In "up-scale" restaurants, rules for men to wear jackets and ties, while once de rigueur, are becoming more relaxed, but you should check first if there is any doubt. This usually only happens at the most expensive of restaurants.

Diner

The diner is a typically American, popular kind of restaurant. They are usually individually run, 24-hour establishments found along the major roadways, but also in large cities and suburban areas. They offer a huge variety of large-portion meals that often include soup or salad, bread, beverage and dessert. They are usually very popular among the locals for breakfast, in the morning or after the bars. Diner chains include Denny's and Norm's but there are many non-chain diners.

Truck stop

No compendium of American restaurants would be complete without mentioning the truck stop. You will only encounter these places if you are taking an intercity auto or bus trip. They are located on interstate highways and they cater to truckers, usually having a separate area for diesel fuel, areas for parking "big rigs", and shower facilities for truckers who sleep in their cabs. These fabled restaurants serve what passes on the road for "plain home cooking": hot roast beef sandwiches, meatloaf, fried chicken, and of course the ubiquitous burger and fries -- expect large portion sizes!. In recent years the concept of the chain establishment has been adopted by truck stops as well, and two of the most ubiquitous of these, Flying J Travel Plazas and Petro Stopping Centers, have 24-hour restaurants at most of their installations, including "all you can eat" buffets. A general gauge of how good the food is at a given truck-stop is to note how many truckers have stopped there to eat.

Some bars double as restaurants open late at night. Note, however, that bars may be off-limits to those under 21 or unable to show photo ID proving they are not, and this may include the dining area.

American restaurants serve soft drinks with a liberal supply of ice to keep them cold (and fill the glass). Asking for no ice in your drink is acceptable, and the drink will still probably be fairly cool. If you ask for water, it will usually be chilled and served with ice, unless you request otherwise. In many restaurants, soft drinks will be refilled for you at no extra charge, but you should ask if this is not explicitly stated.

Types of Service

Breakfast

Many restaurants aren't open for breakfast. Those that do (mostly fast-food and diners), serve eggs, toast, pancakes, cereals, coffee, etc. Most restaurants stop serving breakfast between 10 and 11 AM, but some, especially diners, will serve breakfast all day.

Continental Breakfast is usually a cheap way of getting food in the morning. Normally only cold foods such as cereal, breads, muffins, fruit, etc. are available. Milk, fruit juices, hot coffee and tea are the typical beverages. There is usually a toaster for your bread. Most frequently seen at hotels and motels.

Lunch

Lunch can be a good way to get food from a restaurant whose dinners are out of your price range.

Dinner

Dinner, the main meal. Depending on culture, region, and personal preference, is usually enjoyed between 5 and 9pm. Most restaurants will be willing to box up your leftover food. Making reservations in advance is a good idea if the restaurant is popular, "up-scale", or you are dining in a large group.

Buffet

Buffets are generally a cheap way to get a large amount of food. For a single, flat, rate, you can have as many servings of whatever foods are set out. However, since food can be sitting out in the heat for hours, the quality can suffer. Generally, buffets serve American or Chinese food.

Sunday brunch

Many restaurants serve Sunday brunch, served morning through early afternoon, with both breakfast and lunch items. There is often a buffet. Like most other meals, quality and price can vary by restaurant.

Types of food

While many types of food are unchanged throughout the United States, there are a few distinct regional varieties of food. The most notable is in "the South" (actually the southeast), where traditional local fare includes grits (ground maize/corn porridge), collard greens (a boiled vegetable, often flavoured with ham and a dash of vinegar), sweet tea (tea mixed with sugar and served with plenty of ice), barbeque(not unique to this region, but best and most common here), catfish(served deep-fried with a breadcrumb coating), cornbread, okra, and gumbo(a stew of seafood or sausage, rice, okra, and sometimes tomatoes).

Barbeque

Barbeque, BBQ, or barbecue is a delicious American specialty. At its best, it's beef brisket, ribs, or pork shoulder wood smoked slowly for hours. The brisket and ribs are usually sliced thin, and the pork shoulder can be shredded into a dish known as pulled pork. Sauce of varying spiciness may be served on the dish, or provided on the side. Various parts of the US have unique styles of barbeque. Generally, the best barbeque is found in the southeast, with the most distinct styles coming from Kansas City, Texas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. However, barbeque of some variety is generally available throughout the country. Barbeque restaurants differ from many other restaurants in that the best food is often served at very casual establishments. A typical barbeque restaurant may have plastic dinnerware, picnic tables, and serve sandwiches on cheap white bread. Barbeque found on the menu at a fancy chain or non-specialty restaurant is likely to be less authentic.

With a rich tradition of immigration, America has a wide variety of ethnic foods; everything from Ethiopian cuisine to Laotian food is available in major cities with large immigrant populations.

Chinese cuisine

Chinese food is widely available and adjusted to American tastes. Authentic Chinese food can be found in restaurants in Chinatowns in addition to communities with large Chinese populations. Japanese sushi, Vietnamese, and Thai food have also been adapted for the American market in recent years. Fusion cuisine combines Asian ingredients and techniques with more traditional American presentation. Indian food outlets are available in most major US cities and towns.

Mexican/Hispanic cuisine

Mexican/Hispanic food is very popular, but again in a localized version. Combining in various ways beans, rice, cheese, and spiced beef or chicken with round flatbread loaves called tortillas, dishes are usually topped with spicy salsa, sour cream, and an avocado mix called guacamole. Small authentic Mexican taquerias can be found easily in the Southwest, and increasingly in cities throughout the country.

Middle Eastern and Greek cuisine

Middle Eastern and Greek foods are also becoming popular in the United States. The "gyro" (known as "Doner Kebab" or "Schwarma" in Europe) is a popular Greek sandwich of sliced, processed lamb on a pita bread topped with lettuce, tomatoes and a yogurt-cucumber sauce. "Hummus" (a ground chickpea dip/sauce) and "baklava" pastries are frequently found in supermarkets.

Vegetarian Cuisine

Vegetarian food is easy to come by in big urban areas. As vegetarianism is becoming more common in the US, so are the restaurants that cater to them. Most big cities and college towns will have vegetarian restaurants serving exclusively or primarily vegetarian dishes. In smaller towns you may need to check the menu at several restaurants before finding a vegetarian main course, or else make up a meal out of side dishes. Wait staff can be helpful answering questions about meat content, but be very clear about your personal definition of vegetarian, as dishes with fish, chicken or even small quantities of beef or pork flavouring may be considered vegetarian. This is especially common with vegetable side dishes in the southeast. Meat-free breakfast foods such as pancakes or eggs are readily available at diners.

People on low-fat or low-calorie diets should be fairly well-served in the U.S., as there has been a continuing trend in calorie consciousness since the 1970s. Even fast-food restaurants have "lite" specials, and can provide charts of calorie and fat counts on request.

For the backpacker or those on very restricted budgets, American supermarkets offer an almost infinite variety of pre-packaged/pre-processed foods that are either ready or almost ready for consumption, e.g. breakfast cereal, ramen noodles, canned soups, etc.

Etiquette

It is usually inappropriate to join a table already occupied by other diners, even if it has unused seats; Americans prefer this degree of privacy when they eat. Exceptions are cafeteria-style eateries with long tables, and at crowded informal eateries and cafes you may have success asking a stranger if you can share the table they're sitting at. Striking up a conversation in this situation may be unwelcome, however.

Table manners, while varying greatly, are typically European influenced. Slurping or making other noises while eating are considered rude in most restaurants, as well as loud conversation (including phone calls). It is fairly common to wait until everybody at your table has been served before eating. It is common to keep your napkin on your lap. Offense isn't taken if you don't finish your meal, and most restaurants will package the remainder to take with you, or provide a box for you to do this yourself (sometimes euphemistically called a "doggy bag", implying that the leftovers are for your pet). Visitors wishing to use this service option should ask the server to get the remainder "to go"; this term will be almost universally understood, and will not cause any embarrassment. Some restaurants offer an "all-you-can-eat" buffet or other service; taking home portions from such a meal is either not allowed, or carries an additional fee.

Many fast food items (sandwiches, burgers, pizza, tacos, etc) are designed to be eaten by hand.

When invited to a meal in a private home it is considered polite for a guest to ask if they can bring anything for the meal, such as ice or a dessert. The host will usually refuse except among very close friends, but it is nonetheless considered good manners to bring along a small gift for the host. A bottle of wine, box of candies or fresh cut flowers are most common. Gifts of cash, prepared ready to serve foods (except at a potluck dinner), or very personal items (eg toiletries) are not appropriate.

Restaurants in USA

German Naegelin's Bakery
Run and owned by the Granzin family, the delectable recipes and secrets of the local delicacies baked at Naegelin's Bakery have been kept since their inception in 1868. One hundred and forty three years later the strudels,... more
 1 Fans, in New Braunfels
American Huisache Grill And Wine Bar
Creative culinary combinations of fresh, many times local ingredients make the menu at Huisache Grill and Wine Bar a memorable experience. An ambiance set in an elegant building built in the 1920's, restored and brought to... more
 1 Fans, in New Braunfels
 
German American Friesenhaus Restaurant
Friesenhaus has the fix for schnitzel addicts. From Jagerschnitzel to Holzfallerschnitzel, schnitzel lovers will be satisfied. Authentic black breads and pumpkin seed breads perfectly accompany delicacies like Rouladen and... more
 1 Fans, in New Braunfels
American The Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar
Once powered by the currents of the Guadalupe River, this ex-cotton gin now known as the Gristmill Restaurant, is now most likely the most popular hot spot in Gruene. Overlooking the river, this historic building dating ba... more
 1 Fans, in New Braunfels
 
American Liberty Bistro
This elegant casual hot spot gets many new customers by word of mouth. The menu features dishes often made from traditional ingredients like chicken and seafood, but recreated into completely new and fabulously delicious d... more
 1 Fans, in New Braunfels
Seafood McAdoo's Seafood
Housed in the city's first official Post Office, built by William McAdoo in 1915, eating at McAdoo's Seafood is a trip through the edibles of the sea and local culture. The mouthwatering appetizers and entrees, straight fr... more
 1 Fans, in New Braunfels
 
Lebanese Marouch
If you were living in Beirut you could stop by this place a few times a day easily — midmornings for a piece of baklava and a thimbleful of Turkish coffee, lunch for a kebab and a bottle of Lebanese beer, late aftern... more
Low Budget, $8-15, in Hollywood
Amer/asian Kani Ka Pila Grille
Kani Ka Pila Grille in the Outrigger Reef Hotel has popular Hawaiian bands and solo artists that are the draw. Some true legends play here too. For locals, it's just fun to go into the tourist area that is Waikiki for a night on the town.  Easy pa... more
Mid Range, in Waikiki
 
Breakfast Rose Cafe
Patrons flock to this congenial ambiance primarily for its spacious, shaded, soft breezy outdoor patio and appealing array of breakfast/brunch offerings. The patio is contained by a lush vine-covered wall on one side with ... more
Mid Range, $12-15, in Venice
Breakfast Tart
This unpretentious place with a winsome outdoor patio is known for having one of the best breakfasts in the Fairfax/Mid-Wilshire area. Servings are of the country comfort variety with a California twist, delicious and jumbo size.  Corned beef hash, Eggs Ben... more
Mid Range, $7-15, in Mid-Wilshire
 
These are just 10 of 286 Restaurants in USA. Show more.




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