Maine: Lobster roll
The Clam Shack (address and info)
Our NY editor Andrew Zimmer spent the summer eating his way through lobster roll joints all around the East Coast, which is alarming in its own right, but also makes him a verifiable expert in the field, and through all his travels, he never encountered anyone more passionate about lobster than Steve Kingston, the owner of The Clam Shack. From him: “Steve only serves 'new' shell because the meat is sweeter and more tender, and he has his own lobstermen he uses to supply him so he knows exactly what he’s getting. He keeps them in seawater, instead of cold water -- because he sells so many so quickly he doesn’t have to worry about them eating each other -- then boils them in salt water, shucks them fresh, and cools them on ice. The actual roll isn’t a hot dog roll, it’s a tasty white bread round roll from a local bakery called Reilly’s, and the house choice for how to get it is with both Kate’s local Maine butter AND Ken’s extra heavy mayo. It’s so (swear word) delicious.” So… there.
Maryland: Crab cake
Faidley Seafood and Fresh Fish Market (address and info)
We'll happily line up for a Baltimore pit beef on a Kaiser roll any day of the week, but when in a port state, nothing tastes sweeter than the local catch. Faidley's seafood stall is the most popular destination at the iconic Lexington Market, where Nancy Faidley-Devine dishes out 6.5oz patties of lump crab bonded by a dream team of crushed Saltines, mayo, egg, Dijon, Worcestershire, and Tabasco. The golden results are so renowned that NASA commissioned the Faidleys to make an astronaut-friendly version of the recipe, but for those unable to travel to either Maryland or outer space, Faidley's does the kindness of shipping its crab cakes anywhere in the States.
Massachusetts: Fried clams
Woodman’s of Essex (address and info)
Though Mass doesn’t have the same claim to lobster rolls as Maine, its North Shore is allegedly where fried clams got their start, thanks to the abundance of clam beds around Ipswich and Essex. Woodman’s, which will turn 100 next year, is our favorite of all of the quality fried-clam joints around these parts (and there are many), thanks to a recipe it's kept basically intact for that entire century. It involves lard, deliciousness, and salty New England secrets. Oh, and it might not count, but you might as well get a couple of Nana Bessie’s clam cakes while you’re there. And some of Gifford’s ice cream. And some pants with an elastic waistband.
Michigan: Beef Pastie
Mackinaw Pastie & Cookie Co. (address and info)
While we can debate for days who makes the best coney among the hundreds of options in Michigan (even though the answer is Angelo’s in Flint), nothing short of a leg full of black fly bites is more pure Michigan than the pasty, a humble Cornish-style, hand-held pie stuffed traditionally with beef, potatoes, and love. And while there are myriad amazing spots throughout upper Michigan and the UP that go under the radar, the Mackinaw Pastie & Cookie Co. is the meeting ground between peninsulas, offering up a perfect take on Michigan’s truest comfort food. At the risk of sounding like a troll, we recommend it covered in gravy. But really, ketchup -- or plain -- is fine too.