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The Cuisine of the Coast

Funnel cakes, caramel corn, saltwater taffy, hot dogs, fish tacos, lobster rolls: No trip to the beach would be complete without sampling the boardwalk fare, the walk-up stands and the fresh seafood. These coastal cities are just as famous for their food as they are for their waterfronts.

St. Ignace, Michigan

Michigan is more closely associated with cold than with coast, but in the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) region, the town of St. Ignace is the first community to greet those crossing the Straits of Mackinac from the Lower Peninsula. With a marina, lighthouses and views of the Mackinac suspension bridge, the small town delivers plenty of waterfront charm.

But St. Ignace has another somewhat unlikely claim to fame: the pasty. Never had one? Pasties are traditionally savory Cornish pastries. The best way to describe a pasty is if you took the filling from a pot pie and wrapped it up in the crust, sort of like a calzone or an empanada.

Michigan’s U.P. has an unusual history with the pasty, which immigrants from all ethnic groups widely adopted as a handy meal while working in the regional copper mines.

In St. Ignace, Lehto’s Pasties will mark its 70th year in 2017. Lehto’s still serves its beef pasties with potatoes, onions and rutabaga, as well as chicken and vegetable versions in gravy folded up in a flaky crust.

Bessie’s Original Homemade Pasties has been in business for nearly 60 years and serves up three pasties: chicken, veggie and the original beef pasty made with steak. Suzy’s Pasties offers beef, veggie and turkey pasties.

San Diego, California

There’s a lot of lore surrounding San Diego’s love affair with fish tacos, but the most common legend is that local surfer Ralph Rubio brought the taco back after a surfing trip to Baja in the 1970s. Rubio opened his small walk-up restaurant serving fish tacos in 1983 in Mission Bay and today owns more than 200 Rubio’s restaurants around the country.

The foundation is always the same: battered fried fish served on a soft corn tortilla with a creamy sauce. From there, “everyone has their own version,” said Edna Gutierrez, public relations manager for the San Diego Tourism Authority.

There’s no shortage of food trucks serving up the San Diego specialty, and visitors should look for the longest lines; “those are usually the best,” she said. In 2015, The Daily Meal blog voted taco truck Marisco’s German the best fish taco in San Diego and the No. 7 best taco nationally.

George’s at the Cove is known for its fish tacos and offers group dining and private events. The restaurant has three levels, each with its own concept, but the open-air Ocean Terrace on the third level is the place for fish tacos and sweeping ocean views.

George’s chef Trey Foshee also owns Galaxy Taco, where groups of 80 can reserve the entire dining area for a build-your-own-taco bar, or smaller gatherings can use the private dining room or patio. Oscars Mexican Seafood is a local chain known for its fish tacos, and visitors can still grab a fish taco at the original Rubio’s.