Join the lands of fried fun, the pinnacle of puffed dough, the capital of caramel corn, and food on a stick.
From the sunny Santa Cruz, California, planks to the sweeping waterfront pier in New Hampshire, we ate our way through paper
bags and cardboard containers of fried treats and savory favorites, and learned how much of our country’s history and character
is conveyed by these tempting dishes and their timeless surroundings.
Find the Best ...
Photo: Devouring sweet treats at the historical (it’s 104 years old!) Santa Cruz Boardwalk.
Bethany Beach, Delaware
Salty or sweet should be your only major decision on vacation. Don’t feel like choosing? The chocolate-covered pretzels from Candy Kitchen in Bethany Beach, Delaware, give you both in perfect amounts. Crisis averted.
Venice Beach, California
Self-proclaimed “sausage evangelist” Jody Maroni of Jodi Maroni's Sausage Kingdom in Venice Beach, California started hawking his “haut dogs” made from duck, chicken, lamb, and pork with unexpected additions (apples, cilantro) on the Venice Boardwalk in 1979. His clean ingredients and edgy creations, such as chicken pomegranate sausages and Kobe beef dogs, have earned him a cult following. Jody’s empire now spans the west coast. Here at the mother ship, the sausages are still grilled, slathered with onions and peppers, and served in fresh-baked onion rolls.
Jersey Shore, New Jersey
There’s nothing like the Garden State in summer. You can satisfy your saltwater taffy craving along the Jersey Shore at places such as Criterion and Shriver’s. The chewy, pastel-hued treat was originally produced in the late 1800s and today comes in modern flavors like piña colada, tangerine, and root beer.
Hampton Beach, New Hampshire
Turn back the clock by biting into the yummy old-school goodness of fried dough. At Blink's Fry Doe in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, it’s revved up a notch: a slab of pizza dough is deep-fried to order. Depending on your mood, choose from cheese, garlic, pizza sauce and mozzarella, sweet honey walnut, peanut butter, chocolate, or, for traditionalists, the classic dusting of powdered sugar.
Coney Island, New York
Nathan’s Famous hot dogs of Coney Island, New York, are famous for their extraordinary snap—the crunch when your teeth cut through the taut, all-natural casing to get to the beef filling with its signature spice blend. Nathan’s dogs are rarely willing to be seen without a hefty slathering of mustard and sauerkraut.
Ocean City, Maryland
You can only order fries at Thrasher's French Fries in Ocean City, Maryland, so you don’t even have to pretend it’s not your whole meal! Follow your nose to a place where each Idaho potato is hand cut and fried in peanut oil until crispy on the outside and softly piping-hot like a baked potato inside; 410/289-7232.
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Try the nic-o-boli; a calzone, or strombolilike rolled sandwich, with pizza dough on the outside and your choice of toppings (traditional pepperoni, sweet pepper, and fresh spinach) inside at Nicola Pizza in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. While the dough and sauce are fat-free, we assure you—in the true spirit of boardwalk bites, the cheesestuffed nic-o-boli is hardly health food.
Ocean City, Maryland
The doughnuts from Ocean City, Maryland’s famous Fractured Prune are homemade, hot, and hand-dipped—and trounce all willpower. With a trove of speciality options (like Peanut Butter Cup), our advice? Don’t try to fight it.
Santa Cruz, California
Sure, the corn dogs get a lot of attention at Surf City Grill in Santa Cruz, California, but the real cognoscenti know it’s all about the artichokes. Fried in a light coating of batter that’s a secret recipe (using garlic from the nearby town of gilroy), each hot, savory bite tastes fresh—not greasy.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
This sweet is the crème de la crème of the boardwalk: rich, decadent, and always satisfying. The Fudgery in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, calls its secret recipe ‘‘America’s Favorite Fudge.’’ We concur.