The One Food You Have to Try in Every State
From pizza to meat pies and lots of regional, rare, and heritage-influenced bites in between, we scoured the United States for the authentic foods that locals love, expert foodies want to get their hands on, and original meals that you won’t be able to get anywhere else.
Alabama: Tomato pie
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Tomato dishes roll deep in Alabama, but there is one that stands out from the rest—tomato pie. Fresh tomatoes, bacon, and basil make up the heart of the dish and then it’s covered in sauce. The dish has roots back to the 19th century when it started as a sweet dish that used buttered and sugared green tomatoes. Love all things America? Don’t miss these 100 unique products made in the U.S. of A.
Alaska: Reindeer dog
While Alaska is definitely known for salmon, it’s the Reindeer dogs you need to try in the northernmost state. Made from Alaskan caribou (no, you’re not really eating Rudolph!), these dogs are smoked and seasoned with coriander, then split, grilled, and served on a steamed bun. Around for years, the craze really picked up in 1999 when the food was featured in Rick Sebak’s 1999 Hot Dog Program.
Arizona: Cheese crisps
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Being close to the Mexican border, there are a lot of influences on Arizona’s cuisine. One thing that is pretty unique to the area—cheese crisps. Different from a quesadilla, cheese crisps are baked on a pan (like a pizza pan) and served open face. Cheese crisps are rarely found outside the state, but rumor has it you might spot some in San Diego.
Arkansas: Chocolate gravy
While Arkansas may be known for its fried catfish, the food that keeps all the locals talking is the state’s chocolate gravy. Chocolate gravy dates back to the earliest part of the 20th century as the use of cocoa powder spread. It’s usually served over country-style biscuits as part of an artery-clogging breakfast.
Made famous in San Francisco, cioppino is a dish that was traditionally served to fishermen at the end of the day. While it traditionally consisted of a combination of leftovers from the day’s catch, tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, and wine, it’s now served in restaurants using different styles of seafood.
Colorado: Rocky Mountain oysters
You can’t go to Colorado and not try the Rocky Mountain oysters, even if they are a bit, um, weird. Yes, they really are cattle testicles. But, they are usually fried so that makes it all better. The dish is lovingly referred to as “cowboy fare” and said to have been created by cattle ranchers. These are the 10 restaurants around the world that serve up the weirdest dining experiences.
Connecticut: Clam pie
A pizza and seafood lover’s dream, the clam pie is a must-have when you are visiting Connecticut. The pie, which originated in the city of New Haven, is a pizza crust is covered with clams, grated parmesan, olive oil, garlic, and oregano. We will take two, please, and we mean pies, not slices. Here are 11 more unexpected pizza toppings that are actually amazingly delicious.
A regional dish that started in Pennsylvania, scrapple has become so popular in Delaware that it is now known as one of the most iconic dishes to eat. Dating back to the Colonial times, scrapple is one of those pork dishes that tastes delicious—as long as you don’t know what’s in it. The state hosts an Apple-Scrapple Festival that attracts thousands of visitors every year and Delaware-based Dogfish Brewery, debuted a scrapple-flavored beer. Find out the must-try craft beer in each of the 50 states.
Florida: Key lime pie
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Cuban sandwiches, conch fritters, and fresh-squeezed OJ dominate menus in and around Florida, although it seems as if nothing can compare to the state’s signature dessert, key lime pie. The pie is named after the state’s key limes, which are a signature in the Florida Keys, however, there seems to be an issue with the recipe. Not one single recipe can be pinpointed as the original, although each variation claims authenticity. Find out the surprising birthplace of 20 of your favorite foods and drinks.
Georgia: Peach cobbler
Georgia is known for its peaches and in this state, they don’t mess around with their peach cobbler. A staple on restaurant menus around Georgia, the world’s largest peach cobbler was served up at the 2016 Georgia Peach Festival with an impressive 75 gallons of peaches, 32 gallons of milk, 150 pounds of sugar and flour, and 60 pounds of butter, per WGXA.
Spam may be top-of-mind when you think about Hawaiian fare, but the national dish of Hawaii is actually called Poi. Made from taro root, poi is mixed with water to create a pudding-like consistency. Poi has its roots in the Polynesian culture, which largely influenced the staple foods on the Hawaiian Islands.
Idaho: Finger steaks
You may think, “something potato, duh,” when you think iconic food in Idaho, but the one food you will need to get your hands on when you visit this state is finger steaks. Somewhat like chicken nuggets, finger steaks are twice-battered pieces of sirloin that are fried and served with your choice of dipping sauce on the side.
Illinois: Italian Beef Sandwich
While everyone knows about Chicago-style pizza, here is a local delicacy you should put on your food radar—an Italian beef sandwich. A variation of a French dip, the Italian beef sandwich was invented in Chicago’s South Side. The sandwich has origins dating back to the early 20th century when Italian immigrants working in Chicago’s meatpacking district would slow roast the meat—they were allowed to take home the more undesirable cuts—to make it more tender and then simmered it in a broth that would add flavor.
Indiana: Hoosier sandwich
A pork Tenderloin-based bite, a Hoosier sandwich is a must-get in the state of Indiana. Influenced by the city’s German immigrants, the Hoosier sandwich is a riff on Wiener schnitzel. However, there are many versions of the original sandwich and some may be hyper-local or only available at a specific establishment.
Iowa: Maid-Rite sandwich
In keeping in the tradition of Midwest meat sandwiches, A Maid-Rite is a must-have while visiting Iowa. A loose-meat sandwich with a special blend of spices, it is a cross between a hamburger and a sloppy Joe. It was created in 1926 by a butcher, Fred Angell, and became a franchised restaurant.
While you’re in Kansas, you’re going to want to pick yourself up some barbecue, however, you’ll want to soak that barbecue sauce up with a Zwiebach. A dinner roll made from potato water, sugar, butter, and egg, a Zwiebach made its way over to Kansas through the Mennonite community.
Kentucky: Hot Brown sandwich
If you’re a meat and cheese lover, a Kentucky Hot Brown sandwich is right up your alley. One of the most traditional meals in the state, a Hot Brown is turkey, bacon, tomato on toast, served under so much cheese sauce that you can’t find the sandwich. It originated in 1926 in Louisville’s Brown Hotel and is Kentucky’s take on the Welsh dish rarebit.
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Home to amazing Cajun food and delicious seafood, the dish you need to make sure to try in Louisiana is beignets. New Orlean’s Café Du Monde is the place to go for the flaky pastry covered in powdered sugar. Enjoy it dipped in the café’s signature coffee with chicory, served au lait style—day or night.
Maine: Lobster roll
Unlike a Connecticut-style lobster roll (which is warm and covered in drawn butter), when in Maine, you’ll get the tasty crustacean tossed with mayo and diced celery and served on a warm, grilled bun. More lobster is caught in Maine than any other state, so you’ll find it practically every street corner.
Maryland: Steamed crabs
Chesapeake Bay blue crabs are a staple in the diet of every Maryland resident. Pulled from the Chesapeake Bay, blue crabs can be eaten grilled, fried, in cakes or in soup. But, the best way to eat them is steamed with Old Bay seasoning and dipped in malt vinegar.
Massachusetts: Clam chowder
Part of coastal New England, the seafood game is also strong in Massachusetts. While clam chowder (pronounced “chowdah” in this state) has taken on various forms up and down the East coast, the Massachusetts-style soup—which is made with a milk or cream-base—is thicker than the other variations and is usually accompanied by oyster crackers.
Michigan: Meat pasties
When in Michigan, a traditional pastry should be on your list of things to eat. But, this pastry isn’t sweet. With roots back to its mining days, these pastries are filled with meat, potatoes, onions, and vegetables for the most part. Miner’s wives used to make them for the men for lunch since the laborers could heat up the pie by placing it on their shovels and placing it above a flame.
“Hotdish” is Minnesotan for a “casserole” traditionally made with veggies, cheese, and a can of mushroom soup, then topped with crispy tater tots (ground meat is optional). You’ll find one at every family gathering or at the state’s annual hotdish competition.
Mississippi: Cornbread dressing
Mississippi is the place to sample a variety of soul foods—Fried chicken, fried okra, biscuits and gravy, collard greens, catfish, and cornbread. And, speaking of cornbread, it’s the state’s cornbread dressing that needs to be ingested on a visit to Mississippi. Cornbread dressing—essentially Thanksgiving stuffing—is made with onion, celery, and sage along with the cornbread.
Missouri: Toasted ravioli
These deep-fried pockets of meat or cheese are served with marinara on the side and are said to have come to be by accident when the pasta was accidentally dropped in oil instead of water. Find out 13 more foods that were invented by happy accidents.
When you’re in Montana, get your hands on anything huckleberry. From pie to ice cream to jelly, huckleberries are a staple in the diets of Montana natives all year-round. Just don’t eat them when you’re hiking or camping: bears love them, too, and can catch their scent from miles away.
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Have you ever had a deep-fried grilled cheese? Well, that’s what a Nebraskan Frenchee is. Spelled a variety of different ways (Frenchiee or Frenchy), the ingredients are the same: It is made from American cheese and salad dressing that’s hand-dipped in egg batter and cracker crumbs and fried to a golden brown.
Nevada: Shrimp cocktail
In the city of endless buffets and upscale dinner options, one thing is for certain if you’re from Nevada—shrimp cocktail. In the last 50 years, the shrimp cocktail has become iconic of eating in southern Nevada and no matter what part of the state you’re in, biting into the steamed chilled shrimp dipped in cocktail sauce is a must-try.
New Hampshire: Maple ice cream
Staple foods in New Hampshire run the gamut from coastal to comfort. But if you’re in the state, maple ice cream and all of its variations are a sweet treat that can’t be beat. Whether it’s in a cone or in a maple nut sundae, maple ice cream is worth all of the calories. You’ll definitely want to check out the best ice cream shop in New Hampshire and the 49 other states.
New Jersey: Disco fries
Disco fries—no, not cheese fries and definitely not poutine—grace the menus at diners all over the Garden State. Roast beef, melted cheese, and gravy adorn a pile of perfectly brown and crisp French fries. These make a filling dinner or late-night snack and are perfect hangover food, too.
New Mexico: Posole
Influenced by Spanish, Mexican, and Native American cuisines, New Mexico has a plethora of eats that can’t be missed. However, posole is one of those dishes that is quintessentially New Mexican. Posole is corn boiled and soaked in slaked lime water and is the basis for a variety of stews.
New York: Pizza
Home of the Buffalo wing and apple cider doughnuts, New York has some pretty tasty things on the menu. But New York style pizza is the one that just screams, “I Love NY!” While New York has a lot of different pizza styles—including grandma and Sicilian—traditional margarita pizza made with sauce and mozzarella cheese just tastes like the Empire State.
North Carolina: Hushpuppies
Although North Carolina is the Krispy Kreme capital of the world (the doughnut brand was born here!), there are plenty of other treats to eat in the Tarheel State. At the top of the list are hushpuppies, a side dish made from a thick, cornmeal batter that was originally made to quiet hungry dogs (or so the story goes). They accompany local dishes from barbecue platters to fried shrimp and everything in between.
North Dakota: Kuchen
Kuchen has been named the ultimate North Dakota comfort food and is definitely something to try the next time you’re in the Peace Garden State. A coffee-cake-like dessert with a filling that combines custard and often a fruit such as apple, kuchen celebrates the German-Russian culture that has helped to shape the state’s cuisine.
Ohio: Cincinnati Chili
Cincinnati chili is a plate of spaghetti smothered in secret chili sauce and topped with a mound of cheese. It was brought to the area by Macedonian immigrant restaurateurs in the 1920s. The original recipe called for the spaghetti to be cooked in the chili but was modified when customers preferred the sauce as a topping instead.
Oklahoma: Fried onion burger
On this burger, the onions are actually cooking in with the meat, not merely served on top. The tradition of the fried onion burger dates back to the Great Depression when meat was expensive but onions were not. The onions were smashed in with the meat to make the burger seem bigger and more filling.
Oregon: Marionberry pie
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Home of Voodoo Doughnuts and Stumptown Coffee, you cannot leave Oregon without a slice of marionberry pie. The berry, a type of blackberry, was actually created in the state through a USDA ARS breeding program in cooperation with Oregon State University.
Pennsylvania: Philly Cheesesteak
When you’re in Pennsylvania, you simply cannot pass up a chance to get a Philly cheesesteak. The icon of Philadelphia consists of a long, crunchy roll filled with thin slices of rib-eye beef and melted cheese, typically Cheez Whiz, and topped with your choice of onion, peppers, and mushrooms.
Rhode Island: Clam cakes
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Made of flour, water, baking powder, clam juice, and chopped or minced clams, clam cakes are one of the most iconic foods in Rhode Island. Although the origin of the delicacy isn’t known and there is no evidence of an original recipe, many people believed that frugal residents created the dish from readily-available resources.
South Carolina: Hoppin’ John
While shrimp and grits are a close second, Hoppin’ John is the delicacy not to be missed. Made from traditional black-eyed peas, rice, and ham, the dish is said to have gotten its name back in the 1800s when a man named John peddled the dish in the streets of Charleston. Tradition holds that if you eat it on New Year’s Day, you’ll have good luck all year long.
South Dakota: Chislic
Chislic is deep-fried cubes of lamb, venison, or beef, served with toothpicks, garlic salt, and saltine crackers. The appetizer is most prevalent in southeastern South Dakota, but the salty delicacy shows up in other Midwestern communities, particularly those with a German Russian heritage.
Tennessee: Hot fried chicken
You can’t go to Tennessee without trying the Tennessee hot fried chicken; chicken that has been marinated in a milk-based blend of seasoning, floured, fried, and finally doused with a mixture of cayenne pepper and other spices blended in the cooking oil. It ranges from mild to outrageously hot.
Texas: Chili con carne
Chili con carne, or simply beef chili, is a thick, spicy, tomato-based stew that has been around Texas since at least the early 1800s. The staple of Texan cuisine, it’s traditionally made with beef chuck and ancho chilies. Toss on some Fritos and shredded cheese to ease the heat.
Utah: Funeral potatoes
Funeral potatoes may sound sad, but we can tell you that they are anything but. The dish usually consists of hash browns or cubed potatoes, cheese, onions, cream soup (chicken, mushroom, or celery) or a cream sauce, sour cream, and a topping of butter with corn flakes or crushed potato chips. This casserole-style dish got its name because it is often served at funerals or other large gatherings.
Vermont: Apple pie with cheddar cheese
Both maple syrup and cheese have their place in the sun in Vermont, however, if you’re looking to snag a bite of an iconic state food, apple pie with cheddar cheese is it. The Vermont Legislature also signed into an act in 1999 (the same act that declared apple as the state fruit) that a piece of apple pie should be served with, “with a slice of cheddar cheese weighing a minimum of 1/2 ounce.” A glass of milk and scoop of ice cream were also acceptable accompaniments, too.
Virginia: Brunswick stew
You may have thought Virginia ham would have made this list, but since it’s gone mainstream, we dug a little deeper. Brunswick stew is a classic Virginian dish made from tomato, corn, chicken, and butter beans that is so thick, a spoon can stand in it. The dish is said to be so beloved that a fight between Brunswick, Georgia, and Brunswick, Virginia broke out over the stew’s origin.
Washington: Sockeye salmon
While you can get salmon just about anywhere in the United States, the smoked sockeye salmon in Washington State is a have to try. Fresh because it’s caught right off the shores of the state, many locals eat it sashimi style because it’s just that good.
West Virginia: Pepperoni roll
Known to the locals as a pepperoni roll, the soft bread stuffed with pepperoni was a lunch option for the coal minors of north-central West Virginia in the first half of the 20th century. It’s still one of the most iconic local foods today.
Wisconsin: Cheese curds
Cheese curds, the squeaky kind, are a uniquely Wisconsin treat. A by-product of the cheese making process, something that is rampant in the state, cheese curds have the same firmness as cheese but have a springy, rubbery texture. And yes, they squeak in your mouth. Find out the gross foods that are popular around the world.
Wyoming: White chili
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Texas may have beef chili, but in Wyoming, white chicken chili is the bite to savor. Made with white beans and chicken in lieu of the more Spanish-influenced beef and pinto/black beans, the chili has become one of the state’s calling cards in the food department. Read on for the strangest food law in every state.