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The Best Pizza in All 50 States

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Though cities like New York and Chicago are most renowned for their pizza, every state in the U.S. has their own standout favorite. Whether it is a slice for the road, a piping hot pie, or a creative concoction of rare ingredients, there's a reason pizza is universally loved. Check out our list of must-try pizza in all 50 states.

1. ALABAMA // MATER'S PIZZA AND PASTA EMPORIUM

Location: Gadsden and Albertville, Alabama

COURTESY MATER'S PIZZA AND PASTA EMPORIUM

Since 1978, Gadsden’s Mater’s Pizza has been serving their "world famous" pasta and pizza. Using fresh, homemade dough and a signature blend of cheeses, Mater's is a family favorite in the town's historic district. They expanded the original location to include the Oyster Bar, and have a game room and TVs throughout the restaurant. A second location in Albertville opened in 2013.

2. ALASKA // MOOSE'S TOOTH PUB AND PIZZERIA

Location: Anchorage, Alaska

If you find your stomach rumbling while you’re driving along Seward Highway in Anchorage, stop in Moose's Tooth for breadsticks, oven-baked sandwiches, salad, and of course, gourmet pizza. Meat lovers will enjoy The Classic, which comes with heaping piles of pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, mozzarella, provolone and marinara sauce. Be sure to also try one of the 40 beers (or two sodas) crafted by their own Broken Tooth Brewing.

3. ARIZONA // PIZZERIA BIANCO

Location: Phoenix, Arizona

COURTESY PIZZERIA BIANCO

When you think of great pizza, Arizona may not immediately come to mind, but James Beard-awarded chef Chris Bianco changed that when Food & Wine called his first restaurant "arguably the best pizza in America" in 2009. A former New Yorker who headed west to work with farm-to-table champion Alice Waters, Bianco opened his own shop in 1988 and later expanded Pizzeria Bianco in downtown Phoenix. His simple and delicious pies, like the Biancoverde, use fresh, homegrown ingredients like fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, ricotta, and arugula. For $3 more, add some wood roasted mushrooms for a slice of heaven in the desert.

4. ARKANSAS // VINO’S

Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

There may be no greater combination than a slice of pizza with an ice cold beer. At Vino’s pub and brewery, you can grab hand-tossed slices combined with a long list of toppings from ham and extra cheese to chopped garlic and fresh meatballs, all served on a hot and crispy New York-style thin crust. Enjoy your slice with a medium-bodied Firehouse Pale Ale, or a house-brewed Razor Bock.

5. CALIFORNIA // BARONE'S PIZZERIA

Location: Woodland Hills, California

For three generations, Barone's has been serving piping hot, rectangular pizzas (tagline: "We don't cut corners") to Southern California. Started by a few siblings in 1945 and using their grandparents' recipes from Sicily and Naples, Barone's combines fresh dough, homemade Italian sauce, and a secret cheese blend into their delicious pizzas—which once brought legends like Frank Sinatra and John Wayne to eat regularly. Start off with some fried zucchini or meatball sliders and then dig in to their specialty House Marguerite pizza (available at their Westlake Hills location). They have a list of ingredients to make your own pie, and also offer pizzas that are gluten-free.

6. COLORADO // DOWNSTAIRS AT ERIC’S

Location: Breckenridge, Colorado

If you happen to find yourself in the beautiful mountain town of Breckenridge, follow the locals’ advice and grab some grub at a family-friendly sports bar (and arcade) that has been serving Coloradans since 1989. At Downstairs At Eric’s, start off with some sweet chili wings, potato skins, or fried jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese. Take a chance on the Garbage Pizza, the house favorite which has a little bit of everything.

7. CONNECTICUT // FRANK PEPE PIZZERIA NAPOLETANA

Location: Various locations, Connecticut

If you are craving the variety of crispy, thin crust pizza referred to as New Haven-style thanks to Frank Pepe's original location, make sure to try the tomato pie at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana. Since 1925, Pepe has been using coal-fired ovens to create a "crisp, charred, chewy crust" on pizza pies. The original tomato pie is made using simple ingredients—just tomatoes, grated Pecorino Romano, garlic, oregano, and olive oil—and is still available on the menu. (With or without anchovies.) Try the white clam pie, which over the years has become the most famous, with its flaky crust covered in olive oil, oregano, garlic, grated cheese and fresh littleneck clams.

8. DELAWARE // MARGHERITA'S PIZZA

Location: Newark, Delaware

On any given night, you’ll find college kids swarming this pizza joint, which is conveniently located on Main Street at the heart of the University of Delaware. It’s not just the location that makes this cheesy oasis so popular: The college staple churns out some of the best pizza in the state. You can find a wide variety of specialty slices behind the counter, but if you want something really special, order a pie of the White Buffy: a white pizza covered in buffalo chicken and slathered in blue cheese dressing.

9. FLORIDA // ANDIAMO! BRICK OVEN PIZZA

Location: Miami, Florida

Nestled in an enclosed glass building, a Historical Landmark building in Miami has been the home of award-winning brick oven pizza since it opened in 2001. Andiamo! offers many specialty pies using fresh and inventive ingredients. The Sunday pie includes meatballs, tomato sauce, mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, pepperoncini, parmesan, and basil. If you are feeling bold, choose Frankie Five's Special, which is topped with chicken, broccoli rabe, roasted potatoes and garlic, caramelized onions, mozzarella, and red pepper flakes.

10. GEORGIA // ANTICO PIZZA NAPOLETANA

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Just steps away from Georgia Tech's campus on Atlanta’s Westside is Antico Pizza, home to some of the best food in Atlanta. The open kitchen and communal seating make for a vibrant atmosphere, but the pizza here is the main attraction. If you enjoy something rich and decadent, try the house specialty—creamy buffalo mozzarella, Cipollini onions, roasted mushrooms, and white truffle oil served well done with a charred crust.

11. HAWAII // KULA LODGE AND RESTAURANT

Location: Maui, Hawaii

Even those in paradise crave pizza for dinner sometimes. If you’re spending time on Maui visit Kula Lodge and Restaurant. Ask for seating in the Garden Terrace, where the wood-burning oven resides, and take in a sunset dinner with an open view of Maui’s Western side. Try the No Ka Oi, a crispy pizza with Portuguese sausage, Poblano peppers, sweet onion, and—of course—fresh pineapple.

12. IDAHO // ENOTECA

Location: Ketchum, Idaho

Enoteca Restaurant and Wine Bar in Ketchum has starters like house-cured meats and artisanal cheeses, but the wood-fired pizza is what you come for. They have various specialty pizzas for you to choose from, like the Wine Auction, which features gorgonzola and grapes, or the Strega, with homemade pesto and prosciutto.

13. ILLINOIS // VITO AND NICK’S

Location: Chicago, Illinois

When you think Chicago pizza, a deep dish pan pizza may be what comes to mind. The best pizza in the Windy City, though, is the cheese pizza at Vito & Nick’s. The cash-only South Side pizza spot was established in 1932, and serves the best thin crust, cut in square slices, and was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

14. INDIANA // MOTHER BEAR'S PIZZA

Location: Bloomington, Indiana

Mother Bear's has been serving Bloomington’s best pizzas since 1973. At Mother Bear’s choice is the key. Dine in or takeout, choose from 6-, 10-, or 14-inch pies made with a selection of cheeses and sauces, and even select from three types of pie: traditional pan, deep dish, or thin crust. If that is too many decisions to make on an empty stomach, just go for the "Paulie Pine Nuts" Pesto Pie with fresh pesto, tomatoes, mozzarella, and spinach.

15. IOWA // PAGLIAI’S PIZZA

Location: Iowa City, Iowa

Iowa City has been enjoying the family-run Pagliai’s Pizza since they first opened in 1957. The pizzeria serves beer as well as soft drinks, and a number of toppings are available on their pies. For the works, order the Palace Special (a cheese pizza with sausage, beef, pepperoni, mushroom, and onion), or select your own toppings like black olives, peppers, and Canadian bacon—or the less traditional sauerkraut or broccoli.

16. KANSAS // TOPP'D PIZZA

Location: Kansas City, Kansas

Topp’d Pizza is a Kansas newcomer that aims to serve pizza fresh and fast. This fast casual pizza joint serves 9-inch personal pizzas in less than five minutes, without skimping on ingredients. All their meats are grilled on location, and everything from dough to sauce to dressings are house-made. Enjoy a personal or large 13-inch pie with your choice of original, garlic and herb, honey wheat or gluten-free crust and choose from a wide variety of toppings (including vegan options), or try one of many signature pies offering unique flavors like peanut sauce or slow-roasted pulled pork. 

17. KENTUCKY // BOOMBOZZ CRAFT PIZZA

Location: Louisville, Kentucky

BoomBozz now has several locations, but was welcomed with excitement in Louisville in 1998. Since then, they've been named one of the best of Louisville. Of the many gourmet pizzas to choose from, the Tony's Supremo, Fire Roasted Fajita, and Smokehouse Brisket are standouts. Or opt for a classic like their 17-inch New York-style cheese pie.

18. LOUISIANA // CASCIO’S MARKET BISTRO

Location: Bossier City, Louisiana

COURTESY CASCIO'S MARKET BISTRO

The best pizza in Louisiana might also be the best culinary invention in the state, too. Cascio’s started out as a father-daughter run grocery and produce stand in 1945. Known for homemade sausages, they make thin crust pizzas three ways: Pies come in either 10- or 16-inch with your choice of classic Margherita, or sausage or pepperoni. But try the Pizzaletta, their own creation inspired by the state's famous muffuletta sandwich. They fill the pizza crust with salami, ham, olive salad, sliced provolone, and top it with another pizza crust that is covered in mozzarella cheese!

19. MAINE // OTTO PIZZA

Location: Portland, Maine

Portland's Otto Pizza has been using high-quality local ingredients and an out-of-the-box approach for their pizzas since 2009. One of their most popular pies, The Masher, is a pizza with mashed potatoes, scallions, and bacon. If you are vegetarian, try their mushroom and roasted cauliflower pizza, or opt for the four cheese concoction that combines ricotta, fontina, asiago, and mozzarella.

20. MARYLAND // MATTHEW’S PIZZA

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Matthew’s is proud of their distinction as being "Baltimore’s first pizzeria," and has been a local institution since opening in 1943. They've racked up 76 awards for their amazing pizza pies in the past 30 or so years, and were included in Business Insider’s Best Pizza in Every State. They use traditional and regional ingredients like Maryland crab to enhance their pizzas and appetizers. Give the 4 Seasons Pie a try—it uses hand-grated mozzarella, artichoke hearts, black olives, anchovies, mushrooms, and prosciuttini.

21. MASSACHUSETTS // EMMA’S PIZZA

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Cambridge’s Emma’s Pizza specializes in cracker-thin-crust pizza and has been doing so since the '60s. They offer two dozen different pizza combinations, or you can choose to create your own using one of their 30 toppings and three sauces. Start with the Kendall, named for their Kendall Square location: it combines roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, rosemary sauce, and mozzarella.

22. MICHIGAN // BUDDY’S PIZZA

Location: Detroit, Michigan

Buddy’s Pizza introduced their square pizzas to Detroit in 1946, and now have 11 locations in the metro area, serving some of the Motor City’s best pies. They've grown a lot in the last 70 years, and now offer gluten-free and multi-grain crust. For a classic though, order their award-winning Sicilian-style pepperoni pizza, where the meat is layered beneath Wisconsin cheese.

23. MINNESOTA // BLACK SHEEP PIZZA

Location: Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota

A full dining experience can be had at Black Sheep Pizza—they serve up wine, beer, draft root beer, and fresh squeezed lemonade, salads, and of course, plenty of pizza. Their pies come in 12- and 16-inch sizes, or order the Sicilian, which is essentially a Grandma: a square pizza with mozzarella, sauce, and extra virgin olive oil.

24. MISSISSIPPI // PIZZA SHACK

Location: Jackson, Mississippi

Pizza Shack has collected dozens of awards since opening in 2005, when three lifelong friends opened the pizza parlor of their dreams. Start off with an antipasta salad or Buffalo wings, and since you're in Mississippi, opt for the Cajun Joe for the main event: spicy marinara and andouille sausage, chicken, peppers, and onions.

25. MISSOURI // PI PIZZERIA

Location: Various locations, Missouri

Pi Pizzeria has multiple restaurants across St. Louis (as well as in Cincinnati and D.C.), and it specializes in craft beer, deep dish, and cornmeal crust pizzas. Next time you're in the Lou, start with a Bada Bing salad (which includes walnuts, gorgonzola, and the namesake dried bing cherries), and take a bite out of a slice of Bucktown, which is covered in mozzarella, roasted chicken, artichokes, peppers, green olives, red onion, feta, and sundried tomatoes.

26. MONTANA // EUGENE’S PIZZA

Location: Glasgow, Montana

The pride of Glasgow, Montana may be Eugene’s Pizza a family business that has been feeding locals for over 40 years. Purchased in 1967, the pizzeria was passed to the owner’s children in 1992. Choose one of their popular suggestions like pepperoni, tomato, and garlic or mushroom and black olives, or select your own. If you’re in the mood for something on the sweeter side try the BBQ Chicken pizza. It’s made with spicy chicken, a blend of mozzarella and cheddar cheese, and then topped with a swirl of homemade BBQ sauce. Yum.

27. NEBRASKA // LA CASA PIZZARIA

Location: Omaha, Nebraska

La Casa Pizzaria has been proudly advertising their "legendary pizza and pasta" dishes for over 60 years. Enjoy beer and wine tastings in the lounge, order some fried ravioli or eggplant parmesan, but don’t forget to try some thin crust Neapolitan pizza. For a taste of an Omaha classic, get the hamburger pizza. With ground beef, onions, seasoning and mozzarella and Romano cheese, this pie is a must.

28. NEVADA // SOUTH CREEK PIZZA COMPANY

Location: Reno, Nevada

Start off with fire roasted mortadella, garlic shrimp, and a wedge salad and move on to the aptly named Afterburner pizza at South Creek Pizza Company. This pizza special has Mama’s meatballs, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, red onions, basil, and is topped with sea salt and SarVecchio parmesan cheese. Hot chopped cherry peppers come on the side.

29. NEW HAMPSHIRE // PIGTALE

Location: Nashua, New Hampshire

Farm to table is the draw at Nashua, New Hampshire’s PigTale. They use ingredients sourced locally whenever possible to create the small plates, salads, pizza, and delicious craft cocktails they serve. Their namesake pizza is a creative crispy pie loaded up with bacon, smoked pork, sausage, pickled onion and fontina cheese. For pescetarians, try the shrimp scampi pie which has Gulf shrimp, garlic, baby heirloom tomatoes, and fresh basil.

30. NEW JERSEY // RAZZA

Location: Jersey City, New Jersey

Razza is an upscale pizza joint in the heart of Jersey City, intent on serving you food with the utmost care. The bread—and the butter even—is homemade and all the ingredients they use are hand selected. Try the Project Hazelnut that combines fresh mozzarella, locally grown hazelnuts (care of Rutgers University), ricotta and local honey.

31. NEW MEXICO // BACK ROAD PIZZA

Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Back Road has remained a local favorite in Santa Fe since it opened in 1997. Everything you eat—from the pizza dough, roasted meats, and sauces to dressings—are freshly made in house each day. You can order a basic cheese pizza, one with your favorite topping, or choose from 11 Primo toppings they offer like Kalamata olives or Chevre. They also offer piping hot calzones, classic subs, and appetizers, depending on how hungry you feel.

32. NEW YORK // JOE’S PIZZA

Location: New York, New York

New York is a pizza town, so choosing the best is hard. New Yorkers are diehard about who makes the best pie and can argue the merits of Totonno’s, Di Fara’s, or Patsy’s with passion. But, if you want a classic New York slice you should have it with a classic New York experience, so grab a cheese or pepperoni from Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich village. Fold it and eat it while walking down the street. You might drip a little grease down your chin, and you’ll definitely burn your tongue, but the combination of perfectly melted cheese and crispy bottom crust is the very best.

33. NORTH CAROLINA // PURE PIZZA

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina

Pure Pizza’s philosophy is to provide healthier pizza by using fresh high-quality ingredients, to stay committed to the environment, and to provide fair wages to their employees. All in all, a positive atmosphere and mission. Stop in and have a She-Rex which is mozzarella, mushroom, onion, pepper, and topped with greens tossed in lemon vinaigrette.

34. NORTH DAKOTA // BLACKBIRD WOODFIRE

Location: Fargo, North Dakota

Truck Pizza was a mobile wood-fired oven that served pizza every summer at events and festivals and, finally, opened a brick and mortar restaurant, Blackbird Woodfire, in 2014. They serve tapas, salads, and a bunch of specialty pies like the Sausage Apple that is made with house-made sausage, Granny Smith apple, Béchamel cream sauce, fresh sage, parmesan cheese, and micro greens.

35. OHIO // BAR CENTO

Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Bar Cento is full-fledged Italian eatery with house made pasta dishes and house specials and sides, but their pizza was rated the best in Ohio by both Zagat and Food Network. The Sunnyside has pancetta (made in house) and provolone, and is topped with a fried egg and black pepper so it works for brunch or dinner.

36. OKLAHOMA // ANDOLINI’S PIZZERIA

Location: Multiple Locations, Oklahoma

Tulsa’s Andolini’s Pizza was established in 2005, and has since expanded to another two locations across Oklahoma, as well as in the form of a food truck doling out slices around Tulsa. If you feel like keeping it simple, go for the Marzano pesto pie. Pistachio pesto, mozzarella, and San Marzano tomatoes are cooked together to gooey perfection.

37. OREGON // APIZZA SCHOLLS

Location: Portland, Oregon

At Apizza Scholls picking up pies can take over an hour on busy nights. Luckily, they have an arcade with DigDug, Ms. Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong to play while you wait. Once you are seated there are tons of pizzas to choose from, and all of them are 18 inches of amazing. The Diablo Blanca has tomato pesto, mozzarella, ricotta, herbs, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh jalapeño.

38. PENNSYLVANIA // PIZZERIA BEDDIA

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

At 4:00pm most afternoons, lines start forming in anticipation of Philadelphia’s Pizzeria Beddia’s 5:30 p.m. opening. This place is cash only, has no seating, and rotates pies seasonally, but once 40 pies have gone out—they’re out. You can try the chewy, crispy cheese pie, or go with a special like a recent pie with asparagus, fresh cream, oyster mushroom, and ramps.

39. RHODE ISLAND // FRANK AND JOHN FROM ITALY

Location: East Greenwich, Rhode Island

Independently owned and operated by the same family for over 40 years, Frank and John’s is where you go for authentic Italian pie in East Greenwich. This is a no frills pizza joint that offers casual dining and top notch Italian food.

40. SOUTH CAROLINA // REBEL PIE

Location: Florence, South Carolina

Though they have many great items to choose from on their menu, Rebel Pie is all about pizza. They have white pies, pesto pies, build your own pies, and even dessert pies. You can’t go wrong here, no matter what you order, but take a chance on their rotating Rebel Pie of the month for a unique creation!

41. SOUTH DAKOTA // FIERO PIZZA

Location: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Fiero Pizza has a number of specialty pies for you to choose from if you don’t feel like building your own pizza. I’d go with the Fresh Farmer. It has a spicy tomato sauce base and mozzarella, hot sausage, spinach, egg, parmesan cheese, and roasted pepper chili oil. Sounds like you’ll need to wash it down with a cold drink.

42. TENNESSEE // PIZZA PERFECT

Location: Nashville, Tennessee

With a name like Pizza Perfect, you better nail a plain cheese pizza. Though they have many creative pies (like the Dante’s Chicken Pie) you may be just as happy with a pitcher and a large thick Sicilian cheese pie, thick and gooey and baked fresh to order.

43. TEXAS // ANTONIO’S FLYING PIZZA

Location: Houston, Texas

For over 40 years the Rosa family has been making hand-tossed pizzas, pasta dishes, and desserts for Houston’s residents. Whether you’re in the mood for a traditional or deep dish Sicilian pie, you won’t leave hungry after visiting Antonio’s Flying Pizza.

44. UTAH // NICOLITALIA

Location: Provo, Utah

They call it Boston Italian style pizza here, and it is crazy good. Their specialty pies include the Italian Stallion and Eye of the Tiger, but if you really want to try something special, order the Queen Margotte which is topped with alfredo sauce, fresh tomato, chopped spinach, dry basil, parmesan cheese and Nicolitalia’s secret spice.

45. VERMONT // FOLINO'S

Location: Shelburne, Vermont

Folino's is BYOB, but luckily they are housed in the same building as Fiddlehead Brewing Company, so you can pop next door and grab a few beers before heading over for a Margherita pie, Folino’s specialty. The Green Mountain setting and delicious New Haven-style pie provides a beautiful evening.

46. VIRGINIA // PUPATELLA

Location: Arlington, Virginia

Pupatella’s website proudly announces itself "Best Pizza in Virginia." The fried arancini (rice balls) and fresh mozzarella, as well as their pizzas, are authentic Neopolitan cuisine. They offer red (sausage and onion with smoked mozzarella) or white (creamy burrata with cherry tomato, pine nuts and basil) pizzas, and will make you feel like you’re in Naples.

47. WASHINGTON // SERIOUS PIE

Location: Seattle, Washington

Serious Pie bakes their pizza in a 600-degree, stone-encased, wood-fired oven, so we get why they're so serious about their pizza. They have three locations across Seattle and also boast artisan cheeses from around the world.

48. WEST VIRGINIA // LOLA’S PIZZA

Location: Charleston, West Virginia

Lola’s offers brunch, lunch, and dinner and a wide array of sandwiches, salads, and, of course, pizzas. Their simple and tasty pies are available for dine-in or carryout and cooked to bubbly perfection in a stone hearth. Some intriguing options include bacon and white cheddar, spinach and feta, and spicy shrimp and sausage.

49. WISCONSIN // PIZZA BRUTTA

Location: Madison, Wisconsin

Pizza Brutta uses freshly made Fior di latte, tomato sauce, and dough for their Neopolitan style pizzas. They have over 20 combinations to choose from as well as salads and sandwiches (lunch only). Plus, they partner with organic suppliers, and you won't find fresher Wisconsin cheese anywhere else.

50. WYOMING // ROXIE’S ON GRAND

Location: Laramie, Wyoming

This American bistro is a warm and inviting restaurant in Laramie. In addition to full dinners and appetizers, they make brick oven-fired pizzas in classic combinations like tomato and mozzarella, spicy meatball, or the decadent Lobster supreme.

This story was updated in November 2016.

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18 Tea Infusers to Make Teatime More Exciting
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Make steeping tea more fun with these quirky tea infusers.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. SOAKING IT UP; $7.49

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That mug of hot water might eventually be a drink for you, but first it’s a hot bath for your new friend, who has special pants filled with tea.

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2. A FLYING TEA BOX; $25.98

There’s no superlaser on this Death Star, just tea.

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3. SPACE STATION; $9.99

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This astronaut's mission? Orbit the rim of your mug until you're ready to pull the space station diffuser out.

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4. BE REFINED; $12.99

This pipe works best with Earl Grey.

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5. A RIBBITING OPTION; $10.93

This frog hangs on to the side of your mug with a retractable tongue. When the tea is ready, you can put him back on his lily pad.

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6. ‘TEA’ ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE; $5.95

It’s just like the movie, only with tea instead of Beatles.

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7. SHARK ATTACK; $6.99

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This fearsome shark patrols the bottom of your mug waiting for prey. For extra fun, use red tea to look like the end of a feeding frenzy.

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8. PERFECT FOR A RAINY DAY; $12.40

This umbrella’s handle conveniently hooks to the side of your mug.

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9. AN EGGCELLENT INFUSER; $5.75

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Sometimes infusers are called tea eggs, and this one takes the term to a new, literal level.

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10. FOR SQUIRRELY DRINKERS; $8.95

If you’re all right with a rodent dunking its tail into your drink, this is the infuser for you.

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11. HANGING OUT; $12.85

This pug is happy to hang onto your mug and keep you company while you wait for the tea to be ready.

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12. ANOTHER SHARK OPTION; $5.99

If you thought letting that other shark infuser swim around in the deep water of your glass was too scary, this one perches on the edge, too busy chomping on your mug to worry about humans.

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13. RUBBER DUCKIE, YOU’RE THE ONE; $8.95

Let this rubber duckie peacefully float in your cup and make teatime lots of fun.

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14. DIVING DEEP; $8.25

This old-timey deep-sea diver comes with an oxygen tank that you can use to pull it out.

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15. MAKE SWEET TEA; $10

This lollipop won't actually make your tea any sweeter, but you can always add some sugar after.

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16. A SEASONAL FAVORITE; $7.67

When Santa comes, give him some tea to go with the cookies.

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17. FLORAL TEA; $14.99

Liven up any cup of tea with this charming flower. When you’re done, you can pop it right back into its pot.

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18. KEEP IT TRADITIONAL; $7.97

If you’re nostalgic for the regular kind of tea bag, you can get reusable silicon ones that look almost the same.

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14 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Hollywood Food Stylists
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Hollywood food stylists are little short of magicians—only instead of pulling rabbits out of hats, they’re turning piles of mashed potatoes into ice cream sundaes. Indeed, making food (or food-like products) appear photogenic and appetizing onscreen is a job for a true illusionist. Mental Floss spoke to a few food stylists working in TV, film, and commercials—from Game of Thrones to Taco Bell—to bring you the tricks of their magical trade.

1. MOST OF THE FOOD BEING FILMED IS REAL.

While food stylists are well-versed in the old-school swap tricks—using a pint of white glue to impersonate a glass of milk, for example—those are being phased out. Now, directors want actors to interact with their food, and high-definition camera lenses have made the fake stuff much more obvious. Plastic food props only appear in the background of scenes today, where they're less visible and susceptible to scrutiny.

“I only deal with real food,” says Chris Oliver, who has styled food for movies including Gone Girl (2014) and TV shows such as Seinfeld and Big Little Lies. “You also have to think about how a character would cook something or put a plate together. Realistic food is not all beautiful and perfect. I make ugly food and burnt food, too.”

There’s a trend in commercial food styling to present dishes that are less-than-perfect, too. Shellie Anderson, who styles food ads for clients including Burger King and Ragù, says it’s the consumers who are demanding food look more realistic and therefore more approachable.

“People are tired of seeing something in a TV commercial and then ordering it in a restaurant and it doesn't look the same,” she says. “You don’t want it to look staged anymore. You want a burger to look like the cheese naturally dripped off and landed on the plate.”

2. THEY GO THROUGH A LOT OF FOOD ...

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If a food stylist needs one sprig of parsley for a shoot, they’ll often order 10 bunches. They never know what the condition of the parsley is going to be when it arrives from the produce vendor, or if the shoot is going to require more than they originally planned for. Carving a turkey in a scene? That may require two dozen birds if an actor keeps flubbing his line.

“It really depends on how much of a story point the food is and how important the scene is for the director,” Oliver says.

Food stylists usually have relationships with produce vendors, who can look for products with the specific size, shape, and color that stylists need. No bruises or dents, and no frozen lettuce! But stylists can hide those things if they have to.

Ice cream is infamously hard to keep intact because it melts so quickly. Food stylists have been known to replace the scoops with dollops of meringue, which don’t melt, or butter rolled in sugar. Oliver makes her sundaes the day before and sticks them in the freezer, spoons and straws and all. If they freeze rock hard overnight, they can last a few hours on set the next day before being replaced with another sundae lined up in the deep-freeze. Anderson sprays her ice cream with cold spray, an aerosol can of super-chilled gas used for cooling electronics.

3. ... BUT THE FOOD RARELY GOES TO WASTE.

On film and TV shoots, there are rarely leftovers. In fact, good food stylists often compete with the caterers: Actors usually have to eat the food during their scenes, and the crew finishes off the scraps. While shooting a Chinese New Year scene for the show Fresh Off the Boat recently, actress Lucille Soong told Oliver, who was styling that episode, that she was going to skip lunch because she wanted to enjoy eating her food on camera. “That was pretty freaking flattering!” Oliver says.

Because Oliver works on multiple TV shows in a single day, if an item doesn’t get used on set and never comes out of her cooler, she can just take it back to her shop and recycle it for use on another show. If something can’t be used again, she’ll take it home and make salsa or jam. “When it gets really old, I'll just stick it in vodka,” she says.

Commercial shoots tend to have more unused food. Anderson says anything that’s still edible will be given to a food pantry. “I once donated an entire swordfish when we did a commercial for a fish restaurant,” she says. “We never even used it. So I kept it on ice and took it to a men's homeless shelter. They were thrilled to have it.”

4. THEY VALUE FOOD SAFETY.

Another reason food stylists swap out on-camera food so much is because of safety concerns—hot and cold foods need to be kept at certain temperatures that may not be practical on-set. Sushi-grade tuna may be replaced with watermelon, for example, because the fish spoils so easily.

Oliver requires all of her employees to have a food handler’s license. She also only works out of commercial kitchens (including the one on her fully-equipped food styling truck). But not every food styling team does; some prepare food in their homes. “The reason that I get so much work is that everybody knows I'm a chef and I have a real kitchen,” Oliver says. “People trust my food. I’ve done a bunch of movies with Reese [Witherspoon] because she knows that if I’m on set, the food is safe to eat.”

5. WOMEN DOMINATE THE FIELD.

woman styling food
iStock

While there are a few well-known male food stylists, for the most part the key food stylists in the U.S. are women. (Both of Anderson’s daughters are food stylists, too.) The reason for this dates back decades.

Before food styling became its own career in the 1990s, it was up to network employees with home economics degrees (almost always women) to cook on-camera food. Then props departments became responsible. “But props guys can’t even make spaghetti,” Oliver says, laughing. So according to her, these guys would go home and ask their girlfriends or wives to make whatever food was required for the next day’s scene. “Eventually they would just hire their girlfriends or wives to do it; keep the money in the family,” she says. “I know five food stylists who at one time were in relationships with prop masters.”

Also in the 1990s, networks began making more multi-camera TV shows. A lot more food began appearing on screen, and actors openly discussed their dietary restrictions. They were vegan, sugar-free, and low-carb all of a sudden. Oliver trained at the Culinary Institute of America and had worked in restaurants and catering jobs before stumbling into this career. “Because I was a chef, and I understood how food works, I knew how to feed people and make food last on set,” she says. “And I could charge anything I wanted to.”

To get a job as a food stylist today, it helps to know someone already in the industry and have a culinary background. Everyone starts as an intern, and then may be able to work their way up to being an assistant and then a stylist. “Not everybody can be a food stylist,” Anderson says. “You have to be able to cook, but you still have to be creative. And you have to be able to work fast and under pressure.”

6. THEY LIVE OUTSIDE OF LOS ANGELES NOW.

Now that movies and TV shows are frequently filmed all over the world, instead of just on sets in Los Angeles, food stylists can be based anywhere. There is a concentration of stylists who live in Vancouver, British Columbia, for example, because that's where many shows are now filmed. Labor laws also often require production crews to hire locally, so residing outside of L.A. can be a real advantage.

Some commercial food stylists, like Anderson, are flown in for shoots. “Food stylists can make or break a commercial,” she says. “And if you have trouble and you don't know what you're doing, it can be a real problem for production.” This is especially true on out-of-the-country shoots, when stylists don't have the resources that they’re used to. So clients who know her and her skill level, such as Taco Bell, will fly her to wherever they're filming.

7. THEY TALK LIKE CHEFS AND FILMMAKERS.

hand styling pancakes
iStock

Food stylists use a mix of back-of-the-house kitchen lingo and film jargon. Some examples: The “hero” is the food that is written into the script, is being shot, and must appear in front of the actor. “Bite and smile” is when an actor takes a bite of food and pretends to like it. “All day” is the total number of items needed; if they needed five turkeys on a set, they would say “five all day.”

8. NOT EVERYONE WANTS TO BE IN THE MOVIES.

Food stylists usually specialize in different media: film, TV, commercials, or print editorial. Stylists often prefer one over the other. Print editorial is shot in a controlled studio and tends to have more leeway for creativity. Commercials are tied to a brand’s specifications. Film and TV shoots on location are in unpredictable settings and can be physically demanding. But everyone tends to work long, 12- to 14-hour days. For commercials, it can often take three days to shoot one 30-second spot.

When working on a movie or TV show, the actors’ demands usually take precedence over the food needs. After working on one film, Anderson had had enough and dedicated herself to commercial work. “When I do commercials, the food is the star,” she says. “So [the directors] want to make sure I have everything I need. On a movie, they could care less about you.”

9. FOOD STYLISTS DON’T JUST MAKE FOOD.

Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford, Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter on Hannibal
NBC

Sometimes food stylists are expected to create sci-fi props—what would a person eat in the year 3000?—or fantasy items that they have no experience with. While working on the TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Oliver made gooey, edible slime from her imagination. “I also had to roll with the [actors’] different dietary needs,” she says. “I had to be able to make vegan slime, sugar-free slime, gluten-free slime, gelatin-free slime … Slime, any way you want it.”

Oliver also has to make items that you don’t really want to put in your mouth. While filming the TV show Big Little Lies, she made green-colored vomit for actress Reese Witherspoon of cucumbers and parsley. She says it was tasty, like green gazpacho. For a war film, she had to make 400 pounds of “dirt” for a group of prisoners of war to eat. She got Pakistani soil shipped to California so she could match it exactly. (Her recipe: ground-up Oreos and graham crackers, mixed with brown sugar and white sugar.)

Janice Poon, the food stylist behind the cannibal-centric TV show Hannibal, had a more challenging obstacle: how to make dishes that resembled human flesh. She refused to do research on cannibalism websites, she told HopesAndFears.com, but she studied a lot of anatomy books. “I’m just like Dr. Frankenstein,” Poon said. “I’m always stitching things, exchanging, putting one kind of meat on a different bone, patching stuff together. ... The key is to let the viewer’s imagination do more of your work.” She transformed veal shanks into human legs, and used prosciutto slices to mimic slivers of a human arm.

10. THEY PACK SOME SERIOUS GEAR.

When shooting, stylists need to be prepared for anything. They carry tools including tweezers, scissors, paint brushes, knives, offset spatulas, wet wipes, syringes, rulers, Q-tips, and spritz bottles.

“Think about your kitchen: all of your mixing bowls and utensils … I have that times 10 in my kit,” Anderson says. She also has a torch on hand for quick-cooking burgers and cold spray for extending the life of ice cream. Other stylists may have glycerin for adding shine or Kitchen Bouquet sauce for adding color. Poon often uses a white ceramic knife so she can see what she's doing on dark sets and work more quietly, so as not to disturb the acting process.

Food stylists sometimes work in erratic environments. Oliver brings her own 17-foot, cab-over truck to shoots. “It has a lift gate and everything's on wheels, so I can take everything out and have a kitchen in the middle of the desert, if I want,” she says. Inside, she has a full commercial kitchen: a six-burner stove, refrigerator, microwave, grill, freezer, prep tables, storage, TV, and a generator.

11. THEY’RE SKILLED AT IMPROV.

When production starts, the prop team sends memos to actors or their reps asking about food allergies and dietary restrictions. As trained chefs, most food stylists are happy to accommodate such limitations, cooking convincing swap-outs. “I find out what they will eat and make it happen,” Oliver says.

For example, Poon once made a convincing vegan “raw meat” on Hannibal using only grains. “I made lamb tongues out of bulgur and water,” Poon told HopesAndFears.com. “It’s like making a Lebanese kibbeh. You mix cracked wheat with water and it makes a kind of mush that holds together. The texture is a little 'nubbly,' so I added a pink food coloring, made little tongues out of kibbeh dough, steamed them up, and they were my little lambs’ tongues.”

Sometimes a director changes his or her mind at the last minute, and what was supposed to be a spaghetti dinner, for example, is now a breakfast spread. So the food stylist will squish down the meatballs and turn them into sausage patties. In an interview with NPR, food stylist Melissa McSorley recalled a time when a movie director suddenly decided to cut open a birthday cake she had made. The problem: It wasn’t real.

“So we had to cut the cake that was made out of Styrofoam, and I had to use a saw in order to do it because none of my knives could get through it,” McSorley said. “And then we had to layer in cake so it did look like it was real and then we had to send people scurrying to many markets to find white layer cake so it looked like people in the background could be actually be eating the cake.”

12. THERE’S ALWAYS THE SPIT BUCKET OPTION.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, David Bradley in Game of Thrones
HBO

Professional actors will often pick at the food in front of them, but not eat it because they know their scenes are going to require a lot of takes; they could be eating birthday cake for eight hours straight. Others dive right in. For a scene in The Guilt Trip (2012), actress Barbra Streisand had to pretend she was in a steak-eating contest. Oliver says they went through more than 300 pounds of meat for that scene’s three-day shoot and Streisand was totally game.

“But there’s a part towards the end where she has to eat really quickly and do a line without, you know, choking and dying,” Oliver says. “So I switched out the steak with seared watermelon. She took one bite and it sort of dissolved in her mouth, so she could do her line. If you watch it, and you really listen, you can hear the crunch of the watermelon.”

Sometimes, though, the spit bucket is the only option. In season one of Game of Thrones, the character Daenerys Targaryen had to eat a whole horse heart. But the actress who plays her, Emilia Clarke, actually had to eat 28. They were made of solidified jam, which tasted like “bleach and raw pasta,” she told The Mirror. “It was very helpful to be given something so truly disgusting to eat, so there wasn’t much acting required. Fortunately, they gave me a spit bucket because I was vomiting in it quite often.”

13. SOMETIMES THEY’RE SURPRISED BY THE FINAL PRODUCT.

Food stylists who work on multiple projects at a time, like Oliver, can’t always stick around to see how their food will be used. They may later find out that a gorgeous spread was relegated to the background, or worse. For a scene in Seinfeld, Oliver was once asked to prepare a perfect, glistening turkey. “Later I was home watching the episode and they had put the turkey on Kramer!” she says. “I was literally crying I was laughing so hard. Never in a million years did I think my turkey was going to end up with a guy’s head.”

14. THEY THROW EPIC DINNER PARTIES.

Food stylist preparing vegetables
iStock

You’d think that being around food all day would make food stylists tired of making things look nice. But most food stylists love to cook, and on the days they aren’t working, they love to throw parties. “People always expect to have beautiful food,” Anderson says. “And I don't disappoint.”

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