Food trails are about more than just, well, food – they provide a unique opportunity to explore a region through a specific culinary item or dish. Because trails are usually a loose collection of food-themed destinations rather than a Point-A-to-Point-B route, you can plan a vacation around them or incorporate them into existing travel plans. These six mouthwatering food trails will tantalize your taste buds and satisfy your sense of adventure.
The green chile cheeseburger – a traditional cheesy patty topped with New Mexico's infamous Hatch green chiles – dates back to the heyday of Route 66 when one establishment ran out of bowls for its green chile and topped a burger with it, instead. Over the years, the green chile cheeseburger made its way on to the menus of restaurants, cafes, and drive-ins across the state, so whether you find yourself in Santa Fe, Roswell, or beyond, you can try one. One of the must-try highlights on the route is in San Antonio. The Buckhorn Tavern is said to serve one of the state's best burgers; owner Bobby Olguin even beat Chef Bobby Flay in the Green Chile Cheeseburger Throwdown in 2009!
This spicy route through Southeast Arizona showcases 12 family-owned restaurants, a tortilla factory and a chile farm. Don't miss El Coronado's huevos rancheros, El Charro's chalaca (a fried corn masa cup filled with chili, cheese, and salad), and La Casita Café's green chile burro enchilada style, all served with salsa (naturally). When you're not sampling the local cuisine, visit the Rex Allen Museum in Willcox, tour the mine in Morenci, bathe in nearby hot springs, or spend some time at Discovery Park and Mt. Graham International Observatory.
Winding its way through four counties in Northwest Illinois, the Blackhawk Chocolate Trail guides you to all things chocolate from candy shops to bakeries, tea rooms, and old-fashioned soda fountains. Along the way, you can shop for antiques, visit Ronald Regan's boyhood home, or taste some varietals at Hailey's Winery. Burn off those extra chocolate-sampling calories with a hike in nearby state parks, like Castle Rock State Park or Green River State Wildlife Area.
You may not know it, but Indiana serves some of the country's best baked goods, including breads, cakes, cookies, scones, and cinnamon rolls, but it's the signature Hoosier pie – a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth sugar pie – that has put many of the state's bakeries on the map. This trail directs you to some of Indiana's small towns where you can walk through historic districts, peruse boutique shops, or explore community museums. If you can only stop at one eatery, though, consider Mrs. Wick's Pies in Winchester or Triple XXX Family Restaurant in Lafayette, said to be the state's oldest drive-in.
For a change of pace, communities of BBQ connoisseurs – not restaurants – are the stops along this Texas trail. Start in Taylor, just northeast of Austin, at Louie Mueller Barbecue. Then, head south to Elgin, the Sausage Capital of Texas, where Meyer's Elgin Sausage and Southside Market and Barbeque serve perfectly smoked meats. In Lockhart, the Barbeque Capital of Texas, you'll have the choice of four restaurants: Black's Barbecue, Chisholm Trail Bar-B-Que, Smitty's Market, and Kreuz Market (don't even think about asking for sauce here). The trail ends in Luling, home to the Watermelon Thump http://www.watermelonthump.com/, a celebration promoting the city's watermelon industry, and to Luling Bar-B-Q and Luling City Market.
The Cheese Trail features 13 dairies and farms in the Finger Lakes area southwest of Syracuse, New York. Each produces small batch artisanal cheese ranging from cheddar and Swiss to chevre, fresh curds, and kefir. Local cheese shops, orchards, bakeries, and wineries compliment these stops. Before you go, call ahead, especially during the winter or on weekdays: Since these are working farms, hours may vary depending on the season.