Dining in the USA can be one of the biggest pleasures for any tourists to the USA. Not only does America itself offer some tasty national dishes, but each region also offers its own specialties. If you are on the East or West coast, there will be plenty of seafood to try as well. The South of the US is known for having the most fating and some say tastiest food, while “California Cuisine,” focuses on high quality local ingredients. Each region will have it’s own thing that makes it special, and I will try and point those out in the blog articles.
Additionally, you can find really wonderful “ethnic” food from migrant communities throughout the US. For example, you will have to try Mexican food on your journey, as Latinos make up 11 percent of the American population, and the Mexican community is the largest. Chinese American food is also different than what you can find in Poland and worth trying. In each city there will be almost every type of food you can think of from Nepalese, to Thai, to Ethiopian, to Polish of course, so if you are tired of American food there is lot to choose from. Lastly, there are tons of veggie and vegan options in the cities and it’s quiet easy to be Veggie and eat well in the United States! Be adventurous and explore, that’s why you are on this adventure! Just be careful because almost everyone I know that goes to the US, comes back a few kilos heavier 😉
When traveling you should download a few apps for your phone, or check on your computer at the hotel. Some good ways to check what is recommended and available in your neighborhood are : trip advisor “restaurants” https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurants , or https://www.yelp.com. If you are vegetarian, I advise using HappyCow. If you buy the App in Poland, you can use it worldwide and it has helped me so many times when traveling, https://www.happycow.net .
Also if you are planning on camping and buying a collapsable cooler, then you can stop at grocery stores and buy drinks, beer, snacks and sandwiches for picnics and days out in nature https://tinyurl.com/yavyq87c . You can buy ice for your cooler in every store and gas station in America for a couple dollars. My favorite place to buy groceries in America is called “Trader Joes,” http://www.traderjoes.com . They have really good snack foods like chips, nuts, hummus, salsa, fruit. You will probably spend a good hour the first time you go in because you will want to look at all their products. They are in each major cities. If you are in a smaller city or town, you can always look for any grocery store. There is a huge range between the qualities of each grocery store chain and they change from region to region in the USA, so it is very hard to advise on which one is the best in your area.
If you are into organic local type of food then you should definitely try shopping at Whole Foods. You can find them in each big city in the US and they have really high quality products but you will pay a lot for it. Definitely worth checking out though. http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com . Each big town or tourist town should also have a co-op (Similar to Whole Foods) which is an organic store that is locally run and contains all your organic, gluten free, vegan products. Simply google coop or co-op in the area you are in and google will show you the way.
If you are looking for coffee, there are Starbucks everywhere, but also, each town will have smaller independent cafés, that I prefer going to. Again, just google cafés wherever you are. Remember that in most cafés and restaurants, coffee, tea and soft drinks like coke and sprite have free refills. At Starbucks you just pay a few cents to refill your drink (Not the special drinks but normal drip coffee, iced tea, or soft drinks), just go back to the counter or a waiter and ask someone if there are free refills, don’t worry, all Americans ask, it’s our custom! So save your cup in the morning wherever you go like Starbucks and when you are traveling in the afternoon or on the road, you can find another Starbucks and get a refill. Water almost always comes complementary at restaurants, and if it isn’t served you can always ask for it (I always ask for it with lemon.) Also you may like to try “iced tea,” which is very American and comes either sweetened or unsweetened with or without lemon, and is very refreshing. I always ask for half-half sweet/unsweet so that it isn’t too sugary. Try it!
Unfortunately, we always add a tip to our service and today it is customary to tip 20 percent! Yikes! But I tip 15 and 20 when it’s really wonderful service. In America, waiters make their money not being paid by a normal salary/wage at a restaurant. They make their money from the tips, so if you do not tip, the waiter isn’t getting paid for his work and time at your table. So please tip. If of course you get a horrible waiter, then you aren’t obliged to tip. I suggest going out to eat at lunch when everything is cheaper and then ordering diner at night and taking it to a park or back to a hotel and eating there, for sure you will save money on tipping and eating out. Also fast food places, street food and cafeterias are a good way not to have to tip. We don’t tip at fast-food places normally.
When it comes to drinking alcohol, today there are so many wonderful American craft micro-brewery beers to choose from in any major grocery store. I myself, love American Pale Ales, however, they are bitter and are not for everyone. Still there are even hundreds of beers to choose from in any major grocery store. My personal favorite brewing company is Uinta http://www.uintabrewing.com/our-brews . If wine is your thing, then there are so many wonderful California wines to choose from these days and each major grocery store will have a big selection. I recommend trying different kinds of red zinfandel wines, which is a grape/wine only found in California. Also it is very common for Americans to drink a “Bloody Mary” (Vodka with tomato juice) or a “Mimosa” (Champagne with fresh orange juice) for Sunday Brunches which are an American tradition to grab a late breakfast/early lunch at some good restaurant. So if you find yourself in a city or town on a Sunday Morning, go for a nice brunch somewhere.
The United States is a little funny when it comes to drinking. The first funny thing, you must be 21 years old to buy alcohol. Therefore, when you buy drinks at a bar, restaurant or store, they may “card” you and ask you for your identification. So always have your passport ready. Even if you are 40, you will probably be carded. The second funny thing is that you can drink much more and still drive than in Poland. It’s weird that America is strict about the drinking age, but then allows you to drink more and drive, but that’s the weird thing about the States. You can have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%. In Poland it’s 0.02% . I do not advise drinking and driving in America, but you should be aware of the laws. For grown men, 2 drinks is the normal limit, but you must know your own limits. Also if you do decided to have a few beers one night, the next morning you should be fine to drive, unlike in Poland. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drunk_driving_in_the_United_States . The third strange custom is that it depends on the State for the individual laws regarding drinking. For example, when do bars close? or, Where can you buy alcohol? Each State has a different “final call” on alcohol when it’s the last time to buy a drink in a bar. Often it’s 2am, but some states serve throughout the night. Some more conservative religious states like Utah and South Carolina have some very specific laws regarding drinking, for instance, you cannot buy alcohol on Sundays. Many rural counties (gmina/hrabstwa) are “dry,” which means you cannot even buy alcohol in that area. This isn’t an issue in cities or big towns but in the countryside. It depends from state to state where you can buy beer, wine and spirits, so if you are crossing states on a road trip you will need to google that state to know how you can buy alcohol. In North Carolina for example you can buy beer and wine at any grocery store, but to buy vodka or whisky you must go to a special “ABC” store that sells hard liquor. In Colorado, on the other hand, you can buy beer, wine and spirits in any store. Lastly, you should tip at a bar. Usually a buck (dollar) a drink is good rule. Sorry about it, but it’s the same for bartenders like for waiters. They make their living through their tips. If you don’t tip at a busy bar, the next time your bartender may not come to you.
If there are local foods that I suggest looking out for, I will add that directly to the blog post about that region I’m writing about in the United States. And of course there are specific culinary traditions associated with American holidays. If you can be invited for an American Thanksgiving, you will definitely get to taste the best of American food. So make friends on your next trip and get invited for a Thanksgiving for next year! It’s quiet possible in America.
Did you know that American table manners/etiquette are different in Europe?!? Really, we eat completely differently than Europeans. How do we hold our silverware – knives and forks? Where do we place our hands? That is completely different than in Poland. When you eat at a nicer restaurant, please do observe how Americans eat around you, and you will be shocked 😉 But don’t worry if you eat in the European way, nobody will treat you rudely. Soon I will post a blog on American eating customs.
Also, I will mention this here and in the blog about entertainment, but in many American states now, especially out West, you can smoke and buy marijuana for recreational (not just with a medical card) use. Those states include: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington State, and Washington, D.C. (Capital). You need to look for “dispensaries” in those states. In many other states you can smoke with a medicinal card, and police won’t arrest you. https://tinyurl.com/y82vp6f8 .
Traditional Thanksgiving Diner.