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Food + Drink

Our Comfort Food Bible

Fried chicken, lemonade, mac and cheese and BBQ: America knows its comfort foods and does them well. But in our search for the perfect dinner joint, Yelp isn’t always the best source. For the real quintessential bites and primo mom-and-pops, we’re turning our attention to James Beard’s All-American Eats.

Principal food photography by Ben Fink

A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.

See recent posts by Chelsea Stuart

When it comes to recognition in the culinary world, a prestigious award from the James Beard Foundation is no joke. Beard himself was a serious champion of American classics, penning numerous cookbooks and fostering generations of renowned chefs, so a stamp of approval from his people is about as good as it gets.

Now, thirty years after his passing, the foundation continues to bring to the forefront the "unsung heroes of true American cooking," and naturally, we’ll eat whatever they tell us to.

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Divided by region – Southeast, Northeast, Midwest, Southwest and West – their latest collection; James Beard’s All-American Eats rounds up the best family recipes and humble neighborhood spots the US has to offer. And spoiler: at these bastions of community, timeless comfort-foods collide with Greek, Spanish, French and Eastern European-inspired flare.

If you’re more of the pay-someone-else-to-cook-it-for-me than try-to-master-it-myself-at-home type, then look to featured restaurants like Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans, Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, The Original Sonny Bryan’s in Dallas, and Langer’s Delicatessen-Restaurant in LA.

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Original #19 Hot Pastrami Sandwich, Langer's Delicatessen-Restaurant, Los Angeles

Want to try whipping up your own regional dishes? Check out the recipes (there’s more than 75) and insider tips (how to fillet a whole salmon). We’re eyeing the Tomato-Watermelon Salad (courtesy of Crooks Corner; Chapel Hill, NC), the Lemonade Cooler (Hansen’s Sno-Bliz; NOLA), Double Chocolate Pecan Whip Banana Split (Lagomarcino’s; Moline, IL), and Sunshine Cake (Watts Tea Shop, Milwaukee, WI).

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Sunshine Cake, Watts Tea Shop, Milwaukee, WI

James Beard’s All-American Eats is available for purchase through Rizzoli New York

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