Travel is valued for numerous reasons by individuals from around the world. Whether it be experiencing a completely different culture, escaping everyday life, or creating unforgettable memories, the travel bug is certainly addictive. Experiencing local cuisine is pretty important to many who wish to truly delve into the local way of life. For journeys near or far, there are few who would turn down a delicious authentic meal while traveling.
But how many are brave enough to experiment with the more “exotic” dishes that they may encounter in their travels? Such dishes can be found right in the United States. It turns out that the U.S. is not only home to crisp apple pie and mouthwatering deep-dish pizza that have many foaming at the mouths. There are many specialty dishes in the U.S. that are far more bizarre than the average household meal. Perhaps even strange enough to appeal to the taste buds of America's culinary expert, Andrew Zimmern.
Zimmern has showcased some undeniably “different” cuisine on his television series Bizarre Foods America. From sea cucumber in Alaska to North Carolina pork brains, Zimmern has unveiled his fair share or unappetizing dishes. Some of the foods listed below may be too “out there” even for the Bizarre Foods America star to try.
25 The Doughnut Burger - America's Favorite Pastry...A Burger?
For those unable to choose between sweet and savory, the doughnut burger satisfies both cravings. This bizarre dish may not seem so cringe-worthy or exotic. However, the juice from the burger that soaks into the doughnut, as described by Susannah Breslin at Forbes, may be what prevents people from trying this dish.
If you can get past the image of a bloody doughnut and a potential heart attack that may follow, doughnut burgers are perfect to satisfy your taste buds.
24 Chicken Gizzards - Caution: Not A Chicken Wing
The name of this southern dish could be the most unappetizing part. Fried chicken is a common food in just about every U.S. state. Fried chicken gizzards, however, may not be as easy to locate on a menu unless you are in the south. According to Atlas Obscura, a gizzard is a muscular organ in a bird’s digestive tract responsible for grinding food.
For those curious about what this fried bird organ tastes like, any southern chain restaurant or café will most likely have chicken gizzard on the menu.
23 Pickled Pig Feet - Calling All Pickle Lovers!
Even the pickle enthusiast may find this food difficult to stomach. As with most hog parts, it is common to find southern dishes that feature the foot of a pig. Such dishes include boiled pig feet, roasted, or barbecued, explains Southern Living. The pickling method is probably the most unappealing, especially if one does not have a liking for pickles to begin with.
According to Southern Kitchen, pickled pig feet are just another means in which every part of the pig is used and preserved.
22 Jell-O Salad - Preserve Leftovers In Jell-O...
You can make a salad from just about anything, including lettuce, fruits, vegetables, pasta, and even Jell-O. This gelatin dessert dates back to medieval Europe, when it was enjoyed only by the elite, according to Serious Eats. Transforming this once prestigious dish into a salad came more so out of convenience than satisfying taste buds.
According to Serious Eats, America in the mid-19th century experienced significant changes to its food systems. To preserve leftovers longer, women began encasing their food in gelatin. While fish Jell-O salad may sound bizarre, it is far less messy than the average salad.
21 Koolickles - Sweet And Sour Pickles
The Southern states are often praised for their fantastic dishes and mouthwatering cuisine. Koolickles, however, are probably not viewed as such. According to Atlas Obscura, Koolickles originate from the Mississippi Delta and are sold at many community stores for cheap prices. This funky snack is simply a pickle soaked in Kool-Aid – a treat for pickle lovers looking to indulge in different pickled foods.
While pickled watermelon rinds and pickled eggs are relatively common throughout the U.S., Koolickles are unique and certainly not for everyone.
20 Chicken and Waffles - No More Berry-Covered Waffles!
Whether it be grilled chicken, curry chicken, baked chicken, or fried chicken, this bird is eaten in various cultures. It may be difficult, however, to find chicken served over waffles outside of the U.S.
According to Snappy Gourmet, it is uncertain if chicken and waffles originated in the south, in Harlem, or from the Pennsylvania Dutch. Regardless of its origin, this food may be strange but could make a great meal for someone who can’t decide between the breakfast or lunch menu.
19 Scrapple - Don't Be Wasteful!
The cultivators of this pork dish certainly knew the importance of never wasting one’s resources. This Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine is made from the leftover scraps of a butchered pig that are cooked, rolled in cornmeal and flour, and fried. According to York Daily Record, when the German pioneers came to the U.S., they were determined to avoid wasting valuable animal parts.
Rebecca Orchant praises this value in The Huffington Post stating, “Firstly, we really admire the desire to waste nothing, to be thankful for the food in front of us, and to make the most of what we have.”
18 Hog Maw - New Way To Do Sunday Roast
If you happen to be a fan of scrapple, you may want to give hog maw a taste. This Pennsylvania Dutch food does not really look strange, stuffed with sausage, potatoes, onions, and other savory ingredients, according to York Daily Record. Its unique feature that may cause some stomachs to churn is that the ingredients are stuffed inside the stomach lining of a pig.
If you muster up the courage to taste hog maw, it may help to imagine that you are eating stuffed bacon, according to Ambitious.
17 Grits - Backbone Of Southern Cuisine
It is nearly impossible to journey to the south without finding grits on restaurant menus. This dish was first introduced by the Native Americans in the 16th century, according to Culture Trip. Grits are a combination of ground corn, butter, and milk, commonly eaten with shrimp to make it slightly less plain and mushy tasting.
This dish may not look appetizing for the hype that has been built around it. Nevertheless, it is a U.S. southern cuisine that has been passed down for generations.
16 Deep-Fried Butter - Fat, Sugar, And Salt Fried Into One!
America has undoubtedly earned a less than stellar reputation on the world culinary stage when it comes to health. Deep-fried butter takes this notion to an entirely new level. For those prepared for the potential clogged arteries, deep-fried butter is a dish you must try. Better yet, taste Abel Gonzales Jr.’s deep-fried butter at the State Fair of Texas.
According to Texas Monthly, Gonzales is “the high priest of frying” at this fair. He has even gained recognition by Zimmern, who has dubbed Gonzales as “the Willy Wonka of the Texas State Fair.”
15 Chitterlings - Plug Your Nose...
The history of US cuisine has showed time and again the value of utilizing every last part of an animal in cooking. Chitterlings are another testament of this mentality responsible for various pork dishes.
Although chitterlings may resemble pasta upon first glance, they are actually hog intestines. Chitterlings are traditionally cooked outside to mask the terrible smell of the pig’s innards, says What’s Cooking America. While chitterlings are not as common as they once were, brave foodies can find this delicacy freshly served in southern states.
14 Ambrosia Salad - Salad Or Dessert?
Ambrosia salad has been enjoyed as both a dessert and salad since the late 1800s, according to Alabama Chanin Journal. This strange dish is traditionally made with layers of orange slices, coconut, and sugar. Many variations of ambrosia salad have been adapted with ingredients that include banana, cherries, raisins, nuts, and marshmallows.
While a salad of marshmallow fluff and whipped cream may sound like a stomach ache waiting to happen, Alabama Chanin Journal says that adding coconut makes a wonderful difference in taste.
13 Red-Eye Gravy (Poor Man's Gravy) - Watch The Coffee!
The next time you spill your coffee on your food, give it a taste. Perhaps you have invented a new dish. Whether or not red-eye gravy was really created by an accidental coffee spill, it certainly a unique twist on traditional gravy. Known also as poor man’s gravy, this sauce is made by mixing gravy and coffee, says What’s Cooking America.
For an extra boost of energy on Thanksgiving Day, simply add a dash of coffee to the usual gravy recipe.
12 Elk Burger - Low In Calories
The hamburger is an iconic staple of US cuisine. However, it may not be every day that one comes across an elk burger, a bizarre food for those who are unfamiliar to the Midwest. In Wyoming, elk can be found on the open plains, the thick forests, and numerous restaurants.
Andrew Zimmern has indulged in elk tongue on national television. While an elk burger certainly sounds more appetizing than tongue, there are many who may prefer their burger from a cow.
11 Burgoo - The Mystery Stew...
Those who have yet to visit the state of Kentucky are most likely strangers to burgoo, a stew-like dish. This unique delicacy boasts a bit of mystery for adventurous foodies in regards to what meat the burgoo contains. From pigeon to squirrel, this Kentucky dish has seen it all, says USA Today.
If you find yourself experiencing the famous Kentucky Derby at some point, you can enjoy an authentic bowl of burgoo while trying to guess what meat you are eating.
10 Rattlesnake Stew - Dine Like A Cowboy...
Rattlesnake stew has undoubtedly earned its place on the bizarre food list. The thought of feasting on a rattlesnake may send a shiver up one’s spine. On the other hand, those wondering what it feels like to be a cowboy may be in their glory with this unique stew.
According to Fast Casual, Zoup! (a fresh soup company) developed a rattlesnake stew dish that was met with a range of reactions from disgusted customers to high curiosity. Zoup! dedicated months of work and experimentation to perfect their homemade rattlesnake stew, a dish that is not for the faint of heart.
9 Reindeer Pizza - Sorry Blitzen!
If you are thinking of tasting this pizza, it would be wise to avoid telling young children that Rudolph’s friends are one of the toppings. While reindeer pizza is found in Alaska, it is a delicacy that originates from Norway and Finland who first started putting smoked reindeer on their pizzas, says Peculiarly Tasteful.
This pizza may be delicious and worth trying on a visit to Alaska - if you can look past the fact that you may be eating one of the Santa’s reindeer.
8 Fried Alligator - Tastes Like Chicken!
If you are visiting Florida for your next winter weather getaway, you can experience the state’s fried alligator dish. According to Food & Wine, the ribs are the most common part of the gator to eat.
While fried alligator sounds bizarre, Food & Wine confirms that alligator actually tastes similarly to chicken. Even Andrew Zimmern praises this strange white meat, saying it is one of the healthiest proteins. Nevertheless, even tourists who love chicken may be opposed to dining on a plate of alligator meat.
7 Frito Pie - AKA, Junk Food Nachos
A bag of Frito chips is a typical lunch box item and can be found in vending machines, gas stations, and fast food sandwich restaurants. A Frito pie, however, is a bit more unlikely to come across on a daily basis. Despite the name, a Frito pie more closely resembles nachos than a pie, says Eater.
This junk food dish is debated to have originated in either New Mexico or Texas, according to Eater. Regardless of where it comes from, this Frito and chili mix is enjoyed by residents and visitors of both states.
6 Chicken-Fried Steak - No Cheap Meat Gets Left Behind!
America has a knack for frying just about any food it can get its hands on – Oreos, bubblegum, pig ears, beer. The list is endless and even includes cheap, unwanted meat, otherwise known as chicken-fried steak. This meat dish is commonly accompanied by a hot plate of mashed potatoes, vegetables, and white gravy.
According to Thrillist, Texans love this specialty, in which they bathe a “flawed piece of meat” in buttermilk batter and fry it to create southern comfort food at its finest.
5 Possum Pie - Looks Can Be Deceiving...
Roadkill has no place in the kitchen, right? This dessert upholds this rule of thumb, containing no meat ingredients, to the surprise of many. This Arkansas dessert is named after road kill because it “plays possum”, pretending to be something it is not, according to Arkansas Life.
A typical possum pie contains a top layer of whipped cream with a thin layer of chocolate fudge hidden in the center. While this bizarrely-named food may not be much of a challenge to eat, it makes for a funny story to tell friends and family that you have tried possum pie.
4 Chocolate Covered Fried Bacon With Sprinkles - Fair Ground Cuisine
Chocolate is adored worldwide and is often mixed with salty items to bring out a mouthwatering taste. Chocolate covered popcorn and chocolate covered pretzels are perfect examples of delicious treats that combine both chocolate and salty foods. Chocolate covered fried bacon with sprinkles on top may sound more like a sundae than a tasty snack.
This fried food is often found at state fairs and food trucks. Fair-goers may be sent into a food coma after experiencing the combination of chocolate, fried bacon, and sprinkles.
3 Lobster Ice Cream - Does Something Smell Fishy...
New Englanders pride themselves on the high-quality seafood dishes that the northern Atlantic provides them with. Maine is home to some of the most delicious lobster one could ever taste. It seems only right that Maine would also be where lobster ice cream originates from.
According to Out of Office, a customer visited Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium in Maine around 1988. After making a comment that the shop had every flavor other than lobster ice cream, the manager told the customer to “come back tomorrow.” The next day, the client returned to find a new flavor: lobster ice cream.
2 Tomato Pie - Where's The Cheese?
Not to be confused with pizza, tomato pie comes from New Jersey and may resemble a quiche more than an average pizza pie. The ingredients of this dish are as straightforward as its name, says Ambitious, containing only tomato sauce and fresh tomato slices in a pie crust.
Pizza lovers who value the gooey combination of melted cheese, tomatoes, herbs, and crust may find this unique take on pizza unacceptable. Different approaches towards tomato pie have emerged with toppings of grated cheese, mayonnaise, and basil.
1 Native Fry Bread - Fried Food's Ancestors
It appears that Native Americans were eating fried food long before state fairs and KFC came to be. According to Ambitious, when the Native Americans were forced to relocate from Arizona to New Mexico, they were only provided with canned goods, flour, sugar, and lard. The Native Americans made due with what little they had and created what is now known as Native American fry bread.
If fried food causes your stomach to churn, it is best to avoid this fry bread when placing your taco order in America’s southwest.