Before we go anywhere else with this, we might as well say that a good alternate title for this article would be Everybody Loves Pizza. Seriously. Pizza these days is an incredibly international dish, and has spread to the proverbial four corners of the Earth. And it's been popular in pretty much every country that it arrived in; the United States was really just the start. It seems that the combination of cheese, bread, tomato sauce, and toppings is just appealing to human beings, even if none of these things are traditional in the country (observe Japan). The sheer range of perception is also interesting: in the US it is a beloved, common, comfort food (and a major source of Misplaced Regionalism; in aforementioned Japan, it is considered more of a luxurious exotic item. The key to its success is the sheer variety it can come in: what constitutes as a "bread", "cheese" and especially "toppings" is really up to local tastes.
Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits is extremely popular in Asia, Korea especially.
Kit-Kats are so popular in Japan that they've spawned a variety of Japan-exclusive flavors because of the similarity to the Japanese phrase "kitto katsu", which translates to "surely win". Naturally, sales skyrocket during exams.
Instant coffee is more popular in Europe than in the United States, where it was developed. Incidentally, instant coffee was invented by a Japanese scientist working in Chicago; naturally, tea-crazy Japan won't touch the stuff, either.
Israelis love the fuck out of Nescafé, specifically. It will be provided in every hotel and restaurant you go to. Americans under 60 hate it.
Drip coffee was also invented in Europe and is naturally the dominant coffee-making method in North America.
Fosters is a brand of Australian lager that has declined in recent decades in its home country (Aussies sometimes claim that "Fosters is Austrailian for piss"), but it is popular in the UK, and enjoyed a bump in American sales in the 1990s (due primarily to a series of memetic commercials that affectionately parodied American perceptions of Australian stereotypes).
Corona is a fairly minor beer brand in Mexico (or was for a very long time, it's rather popular now); it is the top-selling imported beer in the US and the UK.
Clamato. It's a mixture of tomato and clam juice originally produced by the Mott's company in the United States. In Canada, it's the mixer of choice for the Caesar, a Bloody Mary variant that is the country's de facto national cocktail. In Mexico, it is mixed with beer, lime, and ice to form a michelada cocktail. In its country of origin, even mentioning it is likely to cause revulsion or references to the "RovCo Bass-O-Matic." That being said, it's popular enough among Mexican-American communities to where beer giant Anheuser-Busch nationally markets a premixed Budweiser/Clamato beverage.
The top-selling lager in the UK is Stella Artois, a Belgian beer. The Belgians themselves regard it as one of their worst beers (it's a pilsner in a country renowned for its ales; the other pale lager beers in Belgium, despite racking up a majority of beer sales, are similarly poorly regarded).
Bock is a kind of strong lager, of German origin, normally drunk in special ocasions like Christmas, Easter or Lent in the majority of the countries it's produced. But not in Portugal: one of our most popular brands of beer is Super Bock, especially north of the river Mondego, but also increasingly south of it.
A Bock is also one of the most popular brands of beer in Texas, where Shiner Bock is the drink of choice for everyone proud to call the Lone Star State home.
In a more general sense, hopped beer. Originated in Germany, and has since literally spread around the entire non-Muslim world.note And indeed the Muslim world: when the Turks and Lebanese—where Muslims have relatively loose attitudes towards alcohol—go in for a beer, it's usually a hopped pale lager, and in the majority of Muslim countries alcohol is legal and the local awful, terrible beer is a hopped pale lager that makes Pabst taste like Urquell. There's a reason that English, the language of a people with centuries of brewing tradition and vocabulary behind them, uses a German loanword to describe any malt beverage, and use the native term (ale) for a subcategory of it.
Scotch whisky is very big business in India and Japan, to the point where local distilleries in both countries attempt to market their own malt whiskies, often with Scottish imagery such as tartan on the label.
Japanese, being masters of Serious Business after all, have been quite able to make Scotch on par with Scotland. The Indians, having a poorer market and a different climate profile, have mostly turned to passing off barrel-aged rum as Scotch.
Similarly, Venezuela loves it some Scotch. Even if the country makes one of the best rum in the Caribbeans, whisky was first a luxury good, but now it's very popular specially for Christmas and New Year parties.
Four Roses Kentucky bourbon. It's one of the top brands in Europe and Asia. It wasn't even sold in the US for a fifty-year period.
Inversely, back in the 18th century, Catherine the Great, trying to wean her troops off vodka, had the military order beer from English brewers, who responded by inventing a new style of dark, malty stout with a high alcohol content (8-9% abv) to suit Russian tastes and preserve it for the long trip across the North Sea and the Baltic. The Russians didn't really go for it that much—not that they disliked it, but it didn't really replace vodka—but the style has proven extremely popular in the United States, where craft breweries usually market their high-gravity dark ales as "Russian Imperial Stout."
Another bunch who liked the new English beer for Russians more than the English or the Russians are the peoples of the Baltic, who at first in imitation began making "Baltic porter"—a dark lager that still manages to be remarkably stout-like.
A number of French wines, although popular in present-day France, owe their entire existence to the British export market; Bordeaux wine was originally made for export in English-held areas of France,note Which is where we get the term "claret" for a certain type of Bordeaux; clairet was a type of darkish rosé from Bordeaux the English liked, but eventually tastes changed to red wine, but the name of the wine remained the same and British brokers were the ones to popularize the sparkling variety of Champagne (before, the carbonation was seen as a wine fault, and no wonder—if you shook the bottle wrong, it could explode!).
The same is true of Sauternes, the great botytrised (i.e., affected by noble rot) sweet white wine of Bordeaux, which was originally created in response to Dutch demand. That said, the French have since acquired a taste for it, particularly when paired with foie gras. Speaking of which...
Foie gras was originally an Ashkenazi Jewish delicacy, produced as a by-product of fattening ducks and geese for producing schmaltz.* rendered poultry fat, used to fry meats because lard isn't kosher, butter is a dairy product that can't be mixed with meat, and the vegetable oils (particularly olive oil and sesame oil) Jews had been accustomed to using for frying meat in the Middle East and Mediterranean were unavailable in Central/Eastern Europe The rules of kashrut meant the Jews couldn't do very much with the liver (for varying reasons), but their Gentile neighbors—especially the French—went crazy for it.
Potatoes. Indigenous to Peru, they're in almost every meal in most of Europe today, and at one point, Ireland (we all know how great that turned out). This is mostly because potatoes thrive almost anywhere, so they're basically a noxious weed. A delicious, noxious weed. Not to mention, Jewish people traditionally eat Potato pancakes fried in oil around Hanukkah.
While in Ličge (Belgium) they came up with frying strips of potato in oil (according to tradition originally as a cheap substitute for fried fish, or a way to cool down dangerously hot oil), a method that soon became very popular in France, other parts of Europe and of course America.
Tomatoes were introduced to Europe from South America 500 years ago but are such an important part of so many cultures' cuisines you'd think they'd been there for thousands of years. A particularly extreme example is the Eastern Mediterranean, which only got tomatoes 200-250 years ago (via Europe, and highly delayed). Ask a Turk or Lebanese or Egyptian or Iraqi (and particularly an Egyptian, whose cuisine today stereotypically consists of drowning vegetables and meat in tomato sauce) to imagine their cuisine without tomatoes...they will have a very hard time indeed.
Speaking of Egyptians, the country has developed a peculiar taste for ketchup, even putting it on things that Americans won't (pizza?) as well as many things Americans have never even heard of (like fitir, a traditional Egyptian filled pastry, somewhat similar to pizza in that its savory forms include cheese and various other ingredients).note Egyptian fitir shops typically also do pizza, usually including traditional fitir fillings as pizza toppings. Ketchup-flavored potato chips (sometimes under the moniker "tomato") are also very popular.
Oy! Chilis! Most any hot & spicy in the world uses Chilis these days - a relatively recent import from the Americas (the Caribbean), Imagine all you hotheads without your spice fix via Chilis?
Sushi seems to be specially prone to this. Mexicans love it, for instance, and it's seen as a elegant-ish food there. The fun part comes when the new culture localizes the food. Guacamole California rolls and chipotle dressing for your oniri hmm-hmmm.
Venezuelans also love their sushi, to the point that fast food-esque sushi restaurants are in every mall in the country, and some chef created a plantain roll. The neighborhood of Los Palos Grandes in Caracas is so infamous for its high number of sushi restaurants, satirical blog El Chiguire Bipolar went to parody it
Roast Beef. While beef is certainly not unknown to Asians, roast beef is mostly a western idea, and Asians appear to love this idea - especially at ordering a roast beef sandwich at a Subway.
Historical example: Peppercorns. It used to be an exotic spice and a sign of wealth, and Europeans loved it. While it's nowhere near as popular today, it's more or less part of western cuisine, although not quite as much as salt.
It was once so rare and so popular that peppercorns could be used in exchange. As they declined in value, some contracts measured in value of pepper became a legal byword.
Lutefisk seems to be more popular in the United States (particularly Minnesota) and Canada than the Nordic nations it originated in, where it is eaten mainly for special occasions during the holidays.
The chain slowly expanded into Texas starting in 2011 with great success. People even camped overnight to be the first to try out the burgers. However, the chain stated they are not looking to expand into a 6th state anytime soon.
This is also true of many other restaurant chains with limited regional distribution. Many people will go out of their way to pursue a location of a "cult" chain while passing up its more mainstream competitors, even to the point of making a whole road trip out of it. Besides In-N-Out, other examples in the burger field alone include Culver'snote which is equally popular for their frozen custard and in-store root beer (mostly in the Midwest, although they have made inroads in the South in The New Tens), Fatburger (also California), Krystal (Southeast, predominantly Tennessee), Sonic Drive-In (South and Lower Midwest), Whataburger (Texas and adjoining states), White Castle (Midwest to New York), Arctic Circle (Utah), etc.
And outside burger chains, you have Bojangles' chicken (the Carolinas), Del Taco (mostly California, but has a handful of locations east of the Mississippi), Nathan's Famous hot dogs (New York, although the hot dogs themselves can be found in some supermarkets), Skyline Chili (Cincinnati), to name a few.
There's also the curious example of award-winning local barbecue joints. To tourists, they're like the Mecca of smoked meat. To locals, they're a relatively inexpensive place to pick up lunch. This disparity can be seen in places like Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City, with natives snacking on a $10 combo plate beneath pictures of former U.S. Presidents.
The Irish (or Europeans in general?) seem to really love Mountain Dew for some reason.
Filipinos love Spam. There are restaurants that serve nothing but different recipes heavily featuring Spam. (Spamgetti, Spamsteak, Spam soup, etc.)
Spam also has a major following in Hawaii, compared to the rest of the US. Spam sushi (aka Musubi), in particular, is a popular state food (even Barack Obama, a Hawaiian native, is a known connoisseur of the dish).
While not the brand Spam per se, Korea and China really really like the canned ham. Its virtues are a strong salty flavour and fries easily with all that oil in it, for instance in Hong Kong it's used as a condiment for breakfast macaroni in broth.
Cashews. The seed of this Northeast Brazilian tree is of course famous and popular everywhere as a delicious nut,note OK, botany nerds: not a true nut, but a seed. It's a culinary nut, though. but the places it is most widely grown and most creatively used are far, far away from the Amazon. The major ones are tropical Africa and South and Southeast Asia, which have an even better climate for growing cashews than Brazil—of the top ten producers of cashews today, Brazil comes in a rather distant sixth. Beyond that, the Indians and Southeast Asians have been particularly creative with the crop: adding it to curries, using it to thicken desserts, eating the sprouts of germinated nuts, putting interesting mixes of spices on roasted nuts, and—most peculiarly—even making liquor out of the "cashew apple" (the sweet, fragrant, but delicate accessory fruit out of which the cashew "nut" grows).
Kebab is quite popular in Austria and Germany, and you can buy it pretty much on every street corner. Kebab as it is sold there (mainly in a sandwich, with veggies, salad and sauce) was even invented in Germany, in order to adapt to the more hectic German culture.
A special variety of Kebab is very popular in Mexico and served in tacos, known as "Taco al Pastor"; main difference being that the kebab is made with pork meat. Its invention is mainly due to Lebanese immigrants who brought shawarma recipes back in the 60's and then adapted them to local cuisine, giving birth to the "Al Pastor".
Heinz Baked Beans are very popular in the United Kingdom. This is in direct contrast to the product's home country, the United States, where they haven't been sold since 1928 outside of stores specializing in British food and the occasional supermarket with a "British food" aisle catering to expatriates and the occasional anglophile (and even then, it's imported from Britain). The product's popularity has been immortalized in pop culture, most notably by The Who.
Ever since the early 1990s, Shaworma (midway between a true Arab Shawarma and a Turkish Döner Kebab) has been wildly popular in Romania, found on practically every street corner, sometimes in 3-4 shops clumped together door to door and all of them crowded at the same time, so popular that it became the butt of jokes as "the food which lowest classes can afford".
Similar to Indian food in England, Mexican food is the go-to spicy cuisine in the U.S. Like the Indian food example, it helps that there's a large Mexican-American population in the U.S., especially in the Southwest.
Chinese food is very popular in the U.S. Major cities have lots of Chinese restaurants, and even the smallest, most provincial town usually has one as well. In Germany, Chinese restaurants can even be considered one of the three pillars of generic lunchtime fast food (the other two being traditional German butcheries and the aforementioned kebab). For the U.S., it's by and large subverted in that the main "Chinese" dishes have very little origin in Chinese cuisine, being more meat-based and often including cheese, which isn't really present in authentic Chinese cuisine; many Chinese restaurants will have a different menu for Chinese customers. In areas with large numbers of Chinese immigrants, such as San Francisco, the food will be more authentic.
Due to the fact that more than half the Jewish population of Israel comes from Arab countries, in addition to a sizable Palestinian minority, Falafel and hummus have become de facto national dishes in Israel.
In addition, falafel and hummus are both quite popular in America. Falafel is a little more popular around New York (Especially New York City) and hummus is especially popular for its health benefits. Pretty much every grocery store you visit in the states will carry hummus in the deli.
Kosher food is popular with non-Jews, simply due to its perceived quality and wholesomeness.
One particular example: the stereotypical Irish dish in the United States is corned beef and cabbage; Irish immigrants to the U.S. modified bacon, cabbage, and potato dishes to use kosher corned beef because "bacon" is a very different thing in the U.S. as opposed to Europe (American cuts are fatty pork belly (which will pretty much disintegrate in boiled dishes), Irish bacon is meatier back bacon). The first wave of Irish immigrants first settled in Jewish areas, where pork was unavailable.
Baumkuchen may have Central European origins, but since it was brought into Japan by a German baker Karl Juchheim (who political views were unfortunately quite suspect; he was Driven to Suicide when Japan surrendered in August 1945), it became something more loved in Japan than in Germany.
Fettuccine Alfredo is much more popular in America than in Italy, where it was invented in early 20th century Rome by restaurateur Alfredo di Lelio. Also, the original dish contained butter but not cream.
China apparently loves KFC; it's the largest global fast-food chain in the country. A Chinese-American KFC executive who spent some time at the Asian unit has attributed this to three things: first, KFC was one of the first Western fast-food chains to break into the Chinese market; second, fried chicken is, generally speaking, a familiar dish to the Chinese (although the American recipe is obviously different), while hamburgers and such are entirely alien; and third, KFC has put hard work into tailoring its products to suit Chinese tastes, including adding uniquely Chinese ingredients like tree fungus and duck sauce to its sandwiches and by emphasizing its spicy-chicken dishes (apparently, Chinese consumers prefer their fried chicken spicy).
An interesting note is that many Chinese consider KFC a "healthier" alternative to local fast food. Not because they think greasy fried chicken is healthy, but due to the numerous health violations local fast food chains have been involved in over the years, particularly the use of gutter oil note oil that has been 'recycled' from fryers, grease traps and even slaughterhouse remnants by many of KFC's local competitors to cut operating costs.
Another Chinese peculiarity: Pabst Blue Ribbon lager is considered, at best, horse piss in its native United States, drunk out of habit by old Midwesterners, out of irony by young hipsters, and out of comedy or poverty (frequently both) by everyone else. In China? It's a premium brand sold for a fairly high price. Seriously!
In the 1980s, Kenny Rogers Roasters had a brief fling in the U.S. The chain came crashing down in the late 1990s, but continued to sporadically operate in the U.S. until the mid-2000s (the last one to close was in a mall food court in California). However, the chain was bought by a Malaysian company and has remained extremely popular in South East Asia.
Although Cincinnati-style chili (which usually includes cinnamon, allspice, etc., and is often served over hot dogs or spaghetti) is usually limited to, well, Cincinnati, the dish also has a small following into Kentucky, Indiana… and Florida, of all places.
The restaurant chain Big Boy, once nation-wide, is still fairly popular in California, Michigan, and of all places, Japan. Former Big Boy franchises Eat 'n' Park (Pittsburgh), Shoney's (South), Frisch's (Cincinnati), and JB's (Mountain states and California) also continue to exist in various capacities, although they have severed their ties to Big Boy.
White Spot, a popular burger-eatery in British Columbia, have only exceeded in expanding to Alberta. On the other-hand, the fast-food version, Triple O's, has successfully opened up three resturants in Hong Kong, where they sell twice as much as an average location back in Canada each. More locations will also open up in Seoul, South Korea.
Pasta, while originally italian, is popular everywhere in the world.
Maggi cubes, which are originally from Switzerland, are a staple ingredient of most West African dishes, to the extend where there are lots of different flavor cubes for the African market.
Burritos, and tortillas made from wheat flour in general, are not a popular or particularly traditional food item in many parts of Mexico (generally, wheat is only grown in the northern parts of the country such as Chihuahua). In los Estados Unidos, they're the most popular "Mexican" foodstuff, with "breakfast" or "Mission-style" burritos being offered by many "mainstream" American restaurants. (The fact that the wheat-growing northern regions of Mexico are the ones close to the US may have something to do with the popularity of burritos north of the border; for a long time, the Mexicans an American was likely to interact with were northerners.) Ironically, the popularity of the burrito in the US has increased its popularity in Mexico, as migrants returning home seem to miss them.
The McDonald'sMcRib is a popular sandwich with a cult following, but in most countries that serve it, it is only served periodically. In Germany, meanwhile, the McRib is so popular (and cheap, considering Germany's rate of pork production), it's the only country to serve the sandwich year round.
McDonald's and KFC in general in China, where there the stores are run as medium class restaurants rather than just a fast food chain (probably because chinese-style fast food is much cheaper than a Big Mac). Menu in China generally were much more diverse and exceptionally longer than in America where you can literally find things like fired rice or burgers with cabbage in them, and plenty else besides. At least one McDonald's in Hong Kong delivers pizzas. That has led to at least some of the international students' complaint that McDonald's in America sucks.
Countless regional brands of soft drinks have fanbases far beyond their market. Examples inclue Cheerwine (North Carolinanote but available in most of the eastern U.S. at Cracker Barrel), Vernors Ginger Ale (Michigannote Virtually impossible to find outside Michigan and the states immediately bordering; expatriate Michiganders go to great lengths to track it down or bring it back on trips home), Faygo (Michigannote the Trademark Favorite Food of Detroit natives Insane Clown Posse and therefore of Juggalos), Sprecher (Wisconsinnote especially the root beer), Nehi (South), Moxie (Massachusetts), Big Red (Texas), Ski (Illinois/Missouri/Kentuckynote it's name-dropped in "Dumas Walker" by The Kentucky Headhunters), and many more.
Fanta is quite popular in Europe.
But then it was created by the German branch of Coca Cola during World War 2, when war shortages and the Allied blockade made it impossible to produce Coke in continental Europe.
The versions of Coca-Cola, Sprite, and Fanta bottled in Mexico are popular in the U.S., most likely because they are made with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, and sold in glass bottles. These can sometimes be found at the likes of Family Dollar and Dollar General even in the smallest of towns.
In southern parts of the U.S., major soft drink bottlers will release "throwback" editions, made with sucrose, in order to get a piece of this market.
RC Cola was invented in Minnesota, but it enjoys the most popularity in the southeast US due to a borderline inexplicable association with the trailer park lifestyle.
Tea. The British love it, even though it's a Chinese invention and they only got it in the Stuart era (i.e. the 1600s). However, given how prevalent the Spot of Tea trope is, you'd think they had tea for millennia.
The British did hit on the bright idea that you could also produce tea from the Indian Camellia assamica and not just the Chinese Camellia sinensis.
Coffee is yet another one of those things that's popular everywhere, though it was discovered in the Middle East. Espresso coffee, originating in Italy, has also pretty much conquered the world. The whole world Must Have Caffeine.
The world's most keen coffee drinkers are the Scandinavians, despite the Nordic countries being far from the Middle East. Coffee means the world to them to the point that most will have a very hard time (or be literally unable to) getting through the day without a cup of coffee in the morning and preferably several more during the day. If you don't drink coffee, you are either considered rather immature (because children tend to not like the taste) or really weird, and even if you would never drink coffee yourself, you have to buy it anyway as people are required by unwritten rules to offer coffee to any guests they have.
Before the fall of the Wall, people in East Germany were so desperate for coffee that the Eastern economic organisation (Comecon) decided to start growing coffee in a big way in Vietnam. As a result, Vietnam is one of the world's largest exporters of coffee to this day.
Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, while fairly popular and well-known in its native US, has been elevated to an iconic, nearly "national dish" status in Canada, where it is known as "Kraft Dinner" or "KD". In fact, Canadians make up nearly a quarter of Kraft's weekly global sales despite being only about 0.5% of the world's population. This phenomenon has been reflected in pop culture, such as with the Canadian characters Terrance and Phillip in South Park and Barenaked Ladies "If I Had $1000000".
Maize is native to North America, and it remains quite important in the North American diet—particularly in Mexico, where it was originally domesticated. However, the crop is today grown all over the world, mostly as animal feed. And more to the point of this trope, maize has completely taken over in Southern Africa as the primary grain, which is kind of a big deal; in Southern Africa, meals traditionally revolve around a grain mush, of which you take a ball, flatten in your hand, and fill with other dishes. Historically, the all-important mush was made from millet or sorghum; today, it's all maize.
Hot dogs were invented in Germany (hence the name frankfurters), but are more popular in America than they ever were back in Europe.
The baguette originated in Austria. However, following the Napoleonic Wars, it came to France, where it became so strongly associated with France that it was given the nickname "French bread".
The same is also true of the croissant, and its close relative, pain au chocolat. Both are called viennoiserie ("things from Vienna") in French, but both are (1) stereotypically French to outsiders and (2) Comfort Food to many actual French (especially pain au chocolat, a common childhood after-school snack).
Israeli Arabs love matzah, the cracker-like unleavened bread Jews eat on Passover, where most Israeli Jews only eat it during Passover.
Tim Hortons is primarily a Canadian fast food doughnut/coffee/bakery chain (basically their answer to Dunkin' Donuts). But it has a couple of extremely successful U.S. markets, mostly around the eastern Great Lakes area (western New York, Ohio, and Michigan in particular).
Hong Kong as an export/import hub between Asian and European countries ends up developing fondness for certain European products such as Ribena blackcurrent drink and Kjeldsen's butter cookies (this spread to Chinatown shops in North America from immigrants out of Hong Kong).
Pringles potato chips are very popular in their native U.S., but are huge in Japan, with a whole line of Japan-exclusive flavors, just like Kit-Kats.
Chicken Maryland, the form of fried chicken native to Maryland (particularly the Eastern Shore), distinguished from the standard Southern version by being oven-fried and having a cream gravy made in the pan at the end. After its inclusion in Auguste Escoffier's 1934 cookbook Ma Cuisine, it became quite popular in continental Europe, Britain, Australia, and Latin America, but within the United States its popularity is more or less limited to Maryland.