Photo: John Doukas/Shutterstock

10 Iconic American Foods and the Places That Made Them Famous

United States Travel
by Jill Meinecke Jul 14, 2015

1. Philly cheesesteak — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Photo: John Doukas/Shutterstock

What’s not to love about a long roll filled with diced steak and onions and topped with cheese? The sandwich’s thinly sliced ribeye isn’t topped with any old cheese, though. You usually have your choice of Cheese Whiz, American cheese or provolone. Perhaps the most famous rival Philly cheesesteak shops are located in the Italian Market district of South Philadelphia: Pat’s King of Steaks (order the Whiz Wit – a steak sandwich with Cheese Whiz and diced onions) and Geno’s Steaks. Sample one of each and you be the judge as to who truly deserves the title of “Inventor of the Philly cheesesteak.”

2. Deep dish pizza — Chicago, Illinois

Maybe it’s the cold weather, but somehow every food in from the Midwest seems to be casserole-like, and Chicago’s take on pizza is no exception. Chicago is famous for its deep-dish pies which are baked in a round pan and resemble more of a cake than a pizza. Characterized by large amounts of cheese and chunky tomato sauce, ordering a deep-dish from Giordano’s is a fork-and-knife affair. Deciding on a deep-dish pizza for the table routinely comes with a warning of a 45-minute bake time, but luckily Chicago is also famous for keeping the drinks pouring in the meantime.

3. Beignets — New Orleans, Louisiana

Synonymous with the English fried fritter, beignet is the French term for a deep fried pastry. A famous breakfast staple in New Orleans, cafes and restaurants like the aptly named Café Beignet on Royal Street serve the piping hot pastry topped with powdered sugar. Wash it down with a café au lait and you’ll go crazy for the pastry best described as a cross between a French pastry and American doughnut.

4. New York-style pizza — New York City, New York

Large, crispy, thin-crusted slices of heaven topped with ooey-gooey mozzarella and a layer of tomato sauce can only be one thing: New York-style pizza. Famous for its hand-tossed dough whose cooked product lends itself to being folded in half for eating, New York-style pizza is often imitated country and worldwide. Walk the streets of Little Italy in New York City and find tourists and locals alike snaking away on a folded-in-half large slice of pizza. With over 400 pizzerias in New York City alone, the fame of this Italian-originated food isn’t fading any time soon.

5. Key lime pie — Key West, Florida

The combination of sweet and tart that is Key Lime Pie has had southerners dishing up the treat to visitors and locals alike for decades. Said to have originated from resourceful Keys’ fishermen who didn’t have access to an oven or fresh milk, Key Lime’s pie (made from Key Lime juice, sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks in a pie crust) was a simple, delicious phenomenon that caught on fast. Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen in Key Largo is said to have some of the tastiest pie south of Miami and north of Cuba, so do yourself a favor and start booking your next vacation to the Florida Keys.

6. Chicago-style hot dog — Chicago, Illinois

Say it with me: an all-beef frank on a poppy-seed bun topped with diced white onions, yellow mustard, sweet relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato wedges, sport peppers, yellow mustard and celery salt. Now that you have it down, you’re officially in the Chicago-style hot dog club – so long as you promise to never, EVER even think about putting ketchup on your dog. Chicagoans are pretty serious when it comes to respecting the hard and fast rules, so don’t make the mistake of asking for ketchup when devouring a dog at Jimmy’s Red Hots on Grand Avenue.

7. Buffalo burger — Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Don’t let the name confuse you — buffalo burgers are actually made out of American bison, the behemoth land mammals who spend their lives grazing in the American West. Much leaner than beef, a buffalo burger (when cooked correctly) is a juicy, clean burger one must try if ever out west. A place that does buffalo burgers particularly well is Jackson, Wyoming. During your next stop in cowboy country (and believe me, you want to be a cowboy for day or two), stop into Local Restaurant and Bar for their Montana-raised bison burger. The $14 price tag might seem steep, but the burger is drool-worthy down to the last bite.

8. Oysters — Seattle, Washington

They say you’ve had a great oyster when you can taste the fresh ocean in your mouth. It’s no coincidence that Seattle in the northwest is fresh, delicious oyster country. First introduced to the state by Japan in the 1900s, now Kumamoto oysters are commercially harvested in bays of southern Puget Sound. Several varieties of oysters are available all over the city, and oyster bars with tastings are forever popular. Visit Ballard Annex Oyster House for a rotating variety of fresh shellfish, including, of course, oysters on the half shell.

9. Alaskan king crab — Alaska

No day is a bad day when it involves eating Alaskan king crab. Crab aficionados consistently vote Alaskan king crab to be the best in the world. Perhaps it’s the dangerous fishing expeditions by which the crabs are caught, or the frigid Alaskan winter waters that give Alaskan king crab its decadent, rich flavor. One thing’s for sure: no one really cares what makes them so darn tasty, concentrating instead on cracking open those spiny legs and scoring that oh-so-sweet succulent meat. If for some reason Alaska isn’t on your radar for a visit, go to Great Alaska Seafood Company’s website and have sweet delicious crab delivered right to your door step. Now that’s service!

10. Barbeque — The American South

Photo: Lamhub/Shutterstock

Barbeque isn’t just a cooking technique, it’s a way of life and a chief source of rivalry between the southern states. Saying barbeque originated in any one place is sure to spark a debate, or even a cook-off, as to who can better slow-cook a hunk of meat. When thinking of the word barbeque, one might picture pork slathered in Sweet Baby Ray’s; but, know that delicious beef brisket, St. Louis style ribs and slow-roasted pork shoulder smoke for hours, if not days, over hot coals or in smokers. Line yourself up a side of coleslaw, okra, collard greens, cornbread or anything combination therein.

Featured image by Tabsinthe.

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