13 Finger Foods Worth a Cross-Country Road Trip

Ditch the fork and knife. But warning: Napkins required. These tasty treats featured on Food Paradise can get messy. 

Lobster Elote (Santa Ana, Calif.)

Located at the 4th Street Market, Dos Chinos serves up a fusion of cuisine, with no dish wilder than its popular top-secret, off-menu item: Lobster Elote. Deep fried lobster? Check. Creamy Monterrey Jack cheese? Check. Grilled corn and garlic aioli infused with fish sauce? (Oh wow.) Check. Prepare for a taste bud explosion.

Warning: Lobster Elote isn’t always available, so get there early if you want the best chance at chowing down on this deep-fried delight.

Cinnamon Bun (Minneapolis, Minn.)

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but there’s no reason it can’t be crazy delicious, too. Picture it: Buttermilk dough slathered in a thick spread of butter and cinnamon, wrapped up in a mouthwatering swirl. (*drools*) But Isles Bun & Coffee’s Cinnamon Bun wouldn’t be complete without a healthy helping of vanilla cream cheese frosting, and at Isles you don't have to hold back. They have a tub of extra frosting, so you can add even more sweetness to your order. Is it heaven? Almost. 

Korean Fried Chicken (Chicago, Ill.)

Ah, the Windy City: top-notch museums, a standout skyline and, of course, deep-dish. But let’s get real, the Second City has plenty of incredible fare outside of thick, stuffed pizza. Case in point: Crisp, delivering chicken wings that are fried not once, but twice. Crisp takes classic flavors like BBQ and adds a unique Korean twist, making these chicken wings truly one of a kind.

Le Big Matt (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Brooklyn’s Emmy Squared gets you in the door with the promise of delicious, Detroit-style pizza, but you’ll stay for their signature burger: Le Big Matt. Named after the executive chef and owner who invented it, Matt Hyland, Le Big Matt marries two beef patties and two slices of white American cheese. What sets this meat mountain apart is the house-made Sammy sauce and toasted pretzel bun. But don’t count out the mizuna and pickles, which add a little green to your plate to make you feel healthy or whatever. 

Marshmallows (Nashville, Tenn.)

In Nashville, there’s no shortage of appetizing eats, from fluffy donuts to the best hot chicken (don’t worry, we’ll get to that). But if you’re looking for handmade treats, you’ll want to put Bang Candy Company on your to-do list. Bang Candy Company specializes in marshmallows of every kind, crafting around 16,000 per week. Distinct flavors like chocolate chili and maple bacon bourbon ensure that a Bang Candy Company marshmallow will be like no marshmallow you’ve had before.

Rose Cardamom S'More (Nashville, Tenn.)

The traditional campfire s’more is turned on its head with Bang Candy Company’s Rose Cardamom S’more. Sandwiched between a pair of buttery shortbread cookies which are each covered with chocolate, the melted Rose Cardamom marshmallow spills out on all sides making it a sticky, gooey, heavenly snack. We’ll take two, thank you.

Hot Chicken (Nashville, Tenn.)

The Music City’s ultimate can’t-miss dish? Hot chicken, of course. Hattie B’s slings out sizzling chicken measuring at five levels of heat: mild, medium, hot, damn hot and shut the cluck up. Fried for up to 20 minutes, the chicken is guaranteed to achieve optimal crunch at any heat level. But whether you’re brave (or foolish) enough to take on the “shut the cluck up," one thing is certain: don’t even bother with utensils. But you will need a napkin. Or 12. 

Waylon & Willie (Austin, Texas)

Nestled in a former cargo shipping container, Burro Cheese Kitchen experiments with flavor and texture to deliver cheesy creations that rival even your mom’s greatest grilled cheese sandwich. (Kidding, they’re better.) The most popular is the Waylon & Willie, named for country superstars Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.

The sandwiches are piled high with two kinds of cheese, rosemary caramelized onions, pepperoncinis and more, but it’s the trademark “crack sauce” that especially amplifies the taste buds. The mixture of cream cheese, plain non-sweet yogurt, jalapeño peppers and bacon is spread out on the sourdough bread with reckless abandon. You’ll want to put it on everything – but hey, it covers all the food groups, right?

Sticky Sliders (Houston, Texas)

Sliders are ideally sized to be devoured in just a few small bites, which is why Hubcap Grill turns out about 10,000 sliders per year. But there’s one menu item that sticks out, mostly because it’s drenched in peanut butter. The smooth spread is the main event in the Sticky Slider, covering both the top and bottom buns, further sandwiching together the mouthful of beef, cheese and scrumptious bacon. Don’t knock the nutty offering till you've tried it. 

Churros (Westminster, Calif.)

Grab your phone, you’ll want to snap a selfie with our next dessert. (What? Everyone else is doing it.) The Loop’s churros come with a colorful variety of glazes, dips and toppings to choose from, from the classic cinnamon and sugar to the more adventurous Matcha Crunch. Our only suggestion? Don’t settle. Go for the soft serve ice cream, too. #TreatYoSelf. 

Bada Bing (New York, N.Y.)

The hardest decision you’ll make at Sticky’s Finger Joint will be which of the 30 kinds of strips and 20 sauces you’d like to have on your plate. But you may break a sweat debating between the Bada Bing (pictured), and a more classic choice like BBQ. (The Bada Bing brings together chicken, stringy mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce for a celebration in your mouth, but you do you.) If you have room in your belly for more, order up a side of Bacon Mac Fries or Truffle Parm Fries. If not, there’s always tomorrow. Add an extra day to your trip. It’ll be worth it.  

Birthday Cake Stuffed Pretzel (Winfield, Ill.)

Whether you’re looking to satisfy your sweet tooth or appease your craving for something savory, there’s a stuffed pretzel for everyone at Gnarly Knots Pretzel Company.  The carb-loaded snack is made from a six-ingredient dough, then loaded with fillings and heated to perfection. But what’s better than a stuffed pretzel? A GIANT stuffed pretzel, jam-packed with cake and topped with chocolate icing and sprinkles. Beats your last birthday cake, doesn’t it? 

Cookie Monster (Oakhurst, N.J.)

Time for the ultimate finger food: the donut. Feed your fried cake hankering at Broad Street Dough Co., with 23 donut varieties on their everyday menu and around 75 (!) total toppings. Our pick? The Cookie Monster. It's drizzled with chocolate and vanilla glaze, cookie crumbles and a special surprise on top: eggless raw cookie dough. Because dreams do come true. 

Shop This Look