The 12 Most Overrated Foods Across the Country

By Zagat Staff  |  August 12, 2014
Credit: Rebecca Feder

There are certain dishes that diners have come to associate with a city — think cheesesteaks in Philly or deep-dish pizza in Chicago — but fame shouldn't trump flavor when it comes to being the best. We're giving some of these culinary icons extra scrutiny and also calling out food trends that are long past their prime.

Are you also tired of truffle oil and eggs on top of everything? Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter at @Zagat.

  • Credit: Instagram via bev_esmeralda

    San FranciscoChowder in a Sourdough Bread Bowl

    Why It's So Popular: Sourdough is synonymous with San Francisco, and Boudin is a legendary local bakery that dates back to 1849. There's even a bakery museum at its flagship Fisherman's Wharf location. 

    Why It’s Overrated: This is good sourdough bread. No question. And we love a great clam chowder. But is this worthy of the millions who flock to the Wharf year after year for it? If you're looking for delicious soup and bread, we'll take the combos at Outerlands or Split Pea Seduction

  • New York City: The Cronut

    Why It's So Popular: Ever since pastry chef Dominique Ansel unleashed this hybrid creation, half croissant and half donut, on to the world in 2013, the lines and subsequent hysteria have been persistently absurd. Lines continue to this day, especially when there's a new flavor (Ansel mixes up the flavors seasonally), and Dominique Ansel Bakery has become a tourist hub. 

    Why It's Overrated: Critics of the Cronut have remarked that it tastes essentially like a churro with frosting. Rip-offs from competitors have abounded since the item's invention, and in some cases, we're not sure the original surpasses its imitators (the ChikaLicious Dough'ssant, for example, is pretty darn tasty). And while it's certainly inventive and delicious, we're not sure the flavor pay-off is worth waiting in a 60-minute line.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Philadelphia: Cheesesteaks from Geno’s and Pat’s 

    Why They're So Popular: If you’re looking for the part of Philadelphia that never sleeps, you’ll find it at the intersection of Ninth and Passyunk, where the brick facade of likely cheesesteak inventor Pat’s plays the authenticity card against the bombastic (and usually busier) neon-orange wedge of Geno’s. After a cameo in Rocky, the spurious rivalry became its own legend, rocketing both joints to international fame.

    Why They’re Overrated: While both shops use high-quality ingredients, these steaks are made for speed and volume, by necessity. They’re ok for tourists short on time (or when you’re heading back from a South Philly bar), but anyone in search of the best cheesesteak in the city might look elsewhere — locals shout out Joe’s Steaks & Soda (fka Chink’s), Steve’s Prince of Steaks and John’s Roast Pork as better options.

  • Credit: Courtesy Barbara Lynch Gruppo

    Boston"Fancy" Lobster Rolls

    Why They're So Popular: Because this is New England, where an obsession (real or imagined) with lobster has become something of a culinary cliché. 

    Why They're Overrated: Because sometimes the price tags feel a little obscene. We love Barbara Lynch — but $29 for a relatively small roll at B&G Oysters? $27 for Neptune Oyster's famous take? Did King Midas make that mayo? Rolls are a charming way to enjoy a dialed-down, quick-serve version of a lobster feast. When price tags start to miss the point, we're tempted to take ourselves to a no-frills joints like James Hook & Co., where a $14 favorite does just fine.  

  • Credit: Ben's Chili Bowl

    Washington, DCBen’s Chili Bowl

    Why It's So Popular: Since this family-owned business opened in 1958, it has triumphed over race riots, drug wars and a city that fled to the suburbs. Not to mention the fact that Bill Cosby and Barack Obama have famously eaten there — along with everyone who has ever partied on U Street.

    Why It’s Overrated: Perhaps this is a case of “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Many commenters listed this as the most overrated place in DC, but we think it’s a darn tasty diner experience. Yet it's good to remember that it’s really just that — a diner. If you’re expecting it to be the best thing you’ve ever eaten, you’ll likely be disappointed.

  • Credit: Pizzeria Uno

    ChicagoDeep-Dish Pizza at Pizzeria Uno

    Why It’s So Popular: Although there's still some debate about who actually invented deep-dish pizza, most trace its roots back to Pizzeria Uno in 1943. Since then, Pizzeria Due as well as others such as Lou Malnati's, Gino's East and Giordano's have followed suit with a cheese-first pie.

    Why It’s Overrated: Trust us, we love deep-dish pizza as much as the next Chicagoans. We grew up on this stuff, but for as many times as we enjoyed digging into a two-inch-thick slice of pizza, we’ve nearly choked to death on the globs of mozzarella. We prefer new deep-dish icons such as Pequod’s for their superior take on the Chicago staple.

  • Austin: Don Juan at Juan in a Million

    Why It's So Popular: An enormous pile of bacon, eggs, cheese and potato over flour tortillas for $3.95? Sounds like heaven for everyone in Austin.

    Why It’s Overrated: The quality is lacking, and with so many amazing, cheap breakfast tacos around town (Veracruz, anyone?), this classic just doesn’t cut it anymore.

  • AtlantaThe Double-Stack Burger 

    Why It's So Popular: The influence of Holeman & Finch's exclusive late-night burger looms large. This admittedly terrific burger — two thin patties, mustard, cheese, pickles — has its origins in pre-ketchup-crazed America, and now plenty of restaurants (BocadoThe General MuirOne Eared Stag, etc.) offer their variations.

    Why It’s Overrated: Look, we love a burger. But why is everyone on that double-patty tip? The cooked-through patty is easier for a kitchen to turn out in volume, especially from a restaurant that's exclusively not a burger joint, but whatever happened to thick and medium-rare, y'all? Instead of marveling at chef's mastery of a classic, we're starting to yawn…and head to our local dive bar for a burger instead.

  • San DiegoFish Tacos at Rubio's

    Why It's So Popular: If San Diego had to be known for only one food item, fish tacos would be it. The credit goes to Ralph Rubio, whose fateful trip to San Felipe introduced him to these corn tortillas cradling battered fish with cabbage and a squeeze of lime. Rubio reintroduced the tacos to San Diego, and our foodscape was changed forever.

    Why It's Overrated: As much as we give props to Rubio’s for all of the above, smaller, lesser-known taquerias around town serve up far better versions. Rubio's is the McDonald’s of fish tacos, and while its service tends to be fast and consistent throughout all 200+ franchises, these spots do the trick with homegrown care and flair.

  • Credit: Flickr via wallyg

    DenverRocky Mountain Oysters

    Why They're So Popular: If we had a dollar for every time an out-of-state visitor asked us where to find deep-fried bull-calf testicles, we’d be rich beyond our dreams. And we don't necessarily resent the assumption that tendergroins constitute a regular part of our diet — there's something flattering, after all, about being associated with such a daredevilish dish.

    Why They're Overrated: For better or worse, we’ve yet to try a Rocky Mountain Oyster that tastes like much of anything under all the breading. If it weren't for the chance to brag that you’ve tried them, you might as well be eating chicken nuggets. Chefs, consider this a challenge to prove us wrong.

  • MiamiPork Belly

    Why It's So Popular: A salty standby with a crispy outside and juicy middle. 

    Why It’s Overrated: While it was trendy years ago, now it's overplayed, making us crave a real piece of beef instead of a small slab of fat. 

  • Credit: Flickr via Sheila


    Why They’re So Popular: Thanks to our storied cattle processing and ranching history, steakhouses are nearly as tied to this region as J.R. Ewing.

    Why They're Overrated: The city's welcoming healthier options, which don't include a 32-ounce portion of red meat, lobster mac 'n' cheese and cream-laden mashed potatoes.