DestinationsTips for Dining in the United States

This article provides tips and information about dining in the United States as well as alcoholic beverage consumption, smoking and vaping in bars and restaurants.

Dining Tips

Cooking in the U.S. is not just hamburgers, pizza and fast food! Our fast food and fast casual restaurant chains have been very successful at introducing American style fast food around the world, now people from many lands believe it is what we all eat in the U.S. As the melting pot of many different cultures, the U.S. has also become the mixing pot for many different cuisines, and we have a rich variety of foods to choose from. You will find a wide variety of fast food and fast casual chain restaurants serving all sorts of delicacies from American style hamburgers, BBQ, hot dogs and fried chicken to Italian pizza, Mexican tacos, Greek Gyros and Chinese egg rolls. Some of the food can be quite delicious and it is almost always inexpensive and quick.

While these chains can be reliable to a certain degree, and found off many a highway exit, they certainly won’t give you the real taste for a region that sampling the local food does.  The U.S. would seem quite homogenous if you were only eating at national chain restaurants from state to state.  Instead, check out the local diners, “Mom and Pop” restaurants, independent establishments, and even just the regional fast food chains to truly embrace the culture and character of an area.  Make memories with your tastebuds: the fluffy biscuits and chess pie at The Loveless Cafe in Nashville; the green chili burger you will crave once you’ve had just one at Blake’s Lotaburger in New Mexico, and the ghosts, view, fried pickles and great food at Haunted Hamburger in Jerome, Arizona.  The USA truly is a smorgasbord!

Little Falls, New Jersey, USA – Inside the iconic art deco style Park West diner, a typical traditional American restaurant with counter seating and baked goods on display

American Cooking

American cooking (US cooking) is usually considered to consist of the traditional dishes long popular in the USA. Most were introduced by the early European immigrants but modified to take advantage of the locally available ingredients and to conform to local tastes. Fried chicken, BBQ ribs, meatloaf, baked potato, corn, baked beans and apple pie would be considered traditional American dishes.

Baby Back or Pork Spareribs BBQ roasted on a hot flaming charcoal grill

Regional Cooking

Regional cooking varies from state to state and is highly influenced by the types of ingredients locally available, as well as the cultural background of the people that settled in the area. New England cooking, native to the northeastern states; was heavily influenced by the cuisine of the original English settlers. Southern cooking has definite African influences. Cajun cooking, from the New Orleans area, is a spicy mixture of Spanish, French and African styles. California cooking is known for the use of fresh fruits and vegetables in interesting combinations with Asian, Mexican and Spanish flavorings.

Waffles with fried chicken and maple syrup is a typical southern comfort food.

Ethnic Foods

Ethnic foods of all sorts are popular everywhere in the US and readily available in most areas. Italian cuisine is popular everywhere, from fast food pizza to gourmet Italian regional cuisine. The same is true of Asian cuisine, from Chinese to Japanese to Thai to Korean. Mexican restaurants are extremely popular in the southwestern and western states and can be found throughout the rest of the states as well. In most cities you will also find restaurants serving Asian, Greek, Middle Eastern, Indian, African, South American, Caribbean, Eastern European and numerous other cultural foods.

Collage of assorted Indian dishes.

Healthy Food

Healthy food is very popular in the USA. Everyone seems to be dieting and trying to lose a few pounds. If you prefer low fat, low calorie or vegetarian food, you will have no trouble finding it in the US. Salad bars are very common and many restaurants offer low calorie or low fat items on their menus. Most restaurants also offer vegetarian and vegan options and many now inquire about food allegories before taking your food order.

Tasty burrito with vegetables, spicy salsa and lime.


Alcohol Consumption, Smoking and Vaping

Alcohol Consumption

The minimum drinking age is 21 in nearly every state. Laws prohibit anyone under 21 years old from buying, owning or drinking any alcoholic beverage. Bars and nightclubs will not permit anyone younger to enter even if parents accompany them. Restaurants that serve alcohol will allow children to enter and eat but will not serve them any alcoholic beverage.

Smoking and Vaping

Smoking and vaping are banned in all public buildings in the U.S. including bars and restaurants. Many public buildings have also banned smoking and vaping in front of doorways and require smokers to be a certain number of feet away. Even privately owned outdoor spaces like Disney World have limited smoking and vaping to designated areas.