Most Famous Local Dish From Every State

ALABAMA: Chicken with white barbecue sauce

Chicken with white barbecue sauce.

Jacek Chabraszewski/Shutterstock


Alabama’s famous white barbecue sauce, which is made with mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, and ground black pepper, is described as both creamy and tangy. The sauce, which was invented in the 1920s by Bob Gibson of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama, often comes served on a sandwich, or with grilled or fried chicken.

ALASKA: Smoked salmon

a person wearing gloves handling slices of smoked salmon

Smoked salmon.

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Alaska is famous for its salmon, though whether locals prefer it smoked, grilled, or pan-seared is up for debate. For a classic Alaskan dish, pairing salmon with vegetables or a bagel and cream cheese are both good ways to enjoy the state’s most famous fish.

ARKANSAS: Fried pickles

Fried pickle chips in a white bowl

Fried pickles.

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Fans of fried pickles have Arkansas to thank for the iconic snack. The first fried dill pickles ever sold anywhere first appeared on the menu of the Duchess Drive-In in Atkins, Arkansas, in the summer of 1963, according to Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

CALIFORNIA: Avocado toast

a person cutting avocado toast with egg with a fork and knife

Avocado toast.

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California is famous for its avocados, so it should come as no surprise that avocado toast is one of the most popular and famous local dishes in the Golden State. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, California residents have been making avocado toast for more than 130 years: An issue of the Daily Alta California from 1885 lists a recipe that suggests spreading avocado “on slices of bread, and season with salt and pepper.”

COLORADO: The “Fool’s Gold” sandwich

Fool's Gold peanut butter sandwiches on a plate

“Fool’s Gold” sandwiches.

Karl Gehring/The Denver Post/Getty Images


The first “Fool’s Gold” sandwich, a sourdough loaf stuffed with peanut butter, blueberry jam, and a pound of bacon, was invented by the now-closed Colorado Mine Company, a restaurant in Denver. The sandwich shot to fame after Elvis Presley tried the sandwich and loved it so much, he took his private jet to Denver and back in one night just to order one.

CONNECTICUT: Warm lobster rolls

lobster roll on a plate with melted butter on the side

Lobster roll.

Rebecca Fondren Photo/Shutterstock


According to Culture Trip, the first documented lobster roll was served at a Milford, Connecticut, restaurant named Perry’s in 1929.

However, while you might be familiar with New-England style or Maine lobster rolls, the folks down in Connecticut do things a little differently. In a Connecticut-style lobster roll, a split bun is stuffed with warm lobster meat and just a drizzle of melted butter.

DELAWARE: Peach pie

Peach pie on a blue and white plate with a fork

Peach pie.

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Delaware’s official state dessert is peach pie, and peaches are an integral part of the state’s agricultural industry. According to the Delaware government website, “peach farming is an important part of Delaware’s agricultural heritage, as the peach was introduced to Delaware in Colonial times and expanded as an industry in the nineteenth century.”

At its peak in 1875, the state shipped 6 million baskets of peaches to market.

FLORIDA: Cuban sandwiches

Cuban sandwich halves stacked on top of each other on a white plate

Cuban sandwiches.

Old Republic Kitchen and Bar/Yelp


While these sandwiches can of course be traced back to Cuba, what we know now as a “Cuban sandwich” is largely thanks to Cuban immigrants in Tampa, Florida. According to Thrillist, the sandwiches made in Cuba and the United States had a few key differences in ingredients.

The Florida version, which used salami imported from Italy in some cases, became known as a “Cuban sandwich.”

IDAHO: Finger steaks

fried beef finger stakes on a white plate with sauce

Finger steaks.

Paul_Brighton/Shutterstock


Many have traced the origin of finger steaks — fried pieces of beef — back to Milo’s Torch Lounge in Boise. According to one local barbecue blog, the story goes that chef Milo Bybee invented the dish in 1957 as a way to make use of the restaurant’s leftover tenderloin.

ILLINOIS: Deep-dish pizza

Giordanos chicago deep dish pizza with a serving spatula

Deep-dish pizza.

Irene Jiang/Business Insider


While you might assume that all pizza originates in Italy, deep-dish pizza is actually American. According to the BBC, restaurant owners Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo introduced their own creation, an Italian-American pizza they called deep-dish, at Pizzeria Uno in Chicago’s Near North Side neighborhood in 1943.

INDIANA: Pork tenderloin sandwiches

pork tenderloin sandwich with tomato and lettuce on a white plate

A Hoosier sandwich.

Jeff R Clow/Getty Images


Pork tenderloin sandwiches, also called “Hoosier sandwiches,” can be traced back to Nick Freienstein, a Huntington, Indiana, native born to German parents. According to Eater, the dish was originally inspired by wiener schnitzel, a Viennese-style veal dish that is breaded and pan-fried.

In 1904, Freienstein began selling sandwiches and burgers out of a food cart. While veal was hard to come by in his hometown, pork was readily available. After he added pickles and onions to his fried pork tenderloin sandwich, Freienstein’s cart took off. He is credited with creating the first “Hoosier sandwich.”

IOWA: Fried catfish

fried catfish and fries in red baskets

Fried catfish and fries.

HMR2017/Shutterstock


While fried catfish is a popular dish throughout the South, Iowans are also fond of the dish.

KANSAS: Loose meat sandwiches

loose meat sandwich with pickles and chips

Loose meat sandwiches.

P Lansing/Shutterstock


A cross between a sloppy joe and a cheeseburger, loose meat sandwiches are a favorite among Kansas locals. The Nu-Way Cafe, a Wichita-based chain of restaurants, is famous for its loose meat sandwiches.

In other parts of the county, they are known as tavern sandwiches or Maid-Rites, named after the Iowa chain.

KENTUCKY: Beer cheese

Beer cheese dip in a sauce pan

Beer cheese dip.

Africa Studio/Shutterstock


According to local lore, beer cheese was invented by Chef Joe Allman for his cousin Johnnie, the owner of the Driftwood Inn near Winchester, Kentucky. According to the Downtown Winchester Beer Cheese Festival, the dish was originally created by Allman to entice customers to order more beer with their meals.

LOUISIANA: Gumbo

Gumbo in a large pot on a stove

Chicken and sausage gumbo.

Ken Durden/Shutterstock


Gumbo, a traditional stew consisting primarily of a strong-flavored stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and vegetables, is the official state cuisine of Louisiana. Its roots have been traced back to the late 1800s, and many food historians believe it to have evolved from ki ngombo, an okra-based stew brought over by slaves to colonial Louisiana

MAINE: Lobster rolls

lobster roll in red basket with waterfront harbor in the background

A lobster roll with coleslaw and french fries on a waterfront harbor in Maine.

jenlo8/Shutterstock


Maine is famous for its lobster rolls, largely due to the fact lobster is one of Maine’s most profitable exports. However, while the first lobster roll can be traced back to Connecticut, Maine-style lobster rolls often consist of cold lobster meat, rather than warm meat, dressed with mayonnaise and served in a toasted bun.

MISSISSIPPI: Mississippi mud pie

Mississippi mud pie with chocolate crust on a white plate

Mississippi mud pie.

excursionista.net/Shutterstock


Mississippi mud pie, a dessert made with pudding, cake, biscuits, ice cream, whipped cream, marshmallows, and some kind of liqueur, was reportedly invented in the Vicksburg-Natchez area near Jackson, Mississippi, according to Eater.

MISSOURI: Barbecue

Joe's Kansas City Barbecue ribs, pickles, and sides on a tray

Barbecue.

Chiquita L./Yelp


Henry Perry is known as the “father of Kansas City barbecue” — he began selling slow-smoked meats wrapped in newspaper for 25 cents in the Garment District of Kansas City, across the border in Missouri, in the early 1900s, according to Biz Journals.

He later opened Kansas City’s first official barbecue restaurant in an old trolley barn. Perry loved barbecue so much that, on his death certificate, his occupation was listed as “barbecue man.”

NORTH CAROLINA: Krispy Kreme donuts

krispy kreme donuts and a paper bag

Krispy Kreme donuts.

Rachel Askinasi/Insider


Krispy Kreme began operating in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on July 13, 1937. At the time, the owner Vernon Rudolph was only selling his donuts to local grocery stores. However, after people passing by the bakery asked about the heavenly scent, he cut a hole in an outside wall and began selling glazed donuts to people on the sidewalk.

OHIO: Cincinnati-style chili

Cincinnati-style chili with spaghetti cheese and onions

Cincinnati-style chili.

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock


According to What’s Cooking America, Cincinnati prides itself on being the chili capital of the United States with more than 180 chili parlors. Thinner in consistency and commonly served over pasta, the dish is slightly different from traditional chili.

Cincinnati-style chili also often comes topped with chopped onions, shredded cheese, beans, and even crushed oyster crackers. 

PENNSYLVANIA: Philly cheesesteak

philly cheesesteak sandwich on a roll

Philly cheesesteak.

Shutterstock


The state’s most famous food by far is the classic Philly cheesesteak, which is believed to have been invented by a hot dog vendor in 1930. The sandwich contains thinly cut steak handsomely topped with cheese on a roll, plus sautéed onions, peppers, mushrooms, mayonnaise, hot sauce, salt, pepper, or ketchup.

RHODE ISLAND: Stuffed clams

baked stuffed clams on a wood background

Stuffed clams.

ProArtWork/Getty Images


Also called stuffed Quahogs or stuffies, stuffed clams are the unofficial dish of Rhode Island. To make them, you’ll just need to mix chopped clam meat, breadcrumbs, herbs, diced onion, bell pepper, and celery together, then bake the mixture inside a clamshell.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Shrimp and grits

Shrimp and grits on a white plate

Shrimp and grits.

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock


While the exact origin of shrimp and grits is largely unknown, it’s thought that the dish might have stemmed from Charleston, South Carolina, or the larger Carolina region. Today, shrimp and grits is a favorite dish in South Carolina.

SOUTH DAKOTA: Navajo tacos

Navajo tacos with beans lettuce tomato and cheese

Navajo tacos.

val lawless/Shutterstock


Instead of traditional taco shells, those in South Dakota use frybread, which is flattened dough cooked in hot oil until puffy and crispy, to make Navajo tacos.

However, while the dish is delicious, it also has a controversial history. Native Americans living in South Dakota invented the dish, but it was less about making a tasty meal and more about survival. 

According to Argus Leader and Lisa Ironcloud, who works with food sovereignty programs, frybread was invented because Native Americans could make it using rationed ingredients like yeast and because it “filled their stomachs.”

TENNESSEE: Nashville hot chicken

Nashville hot chicken with pickles and coleslaw on white bread

Nashville hot chicken.

bhofack2/Shutterstock


Nashville hot chicken, which is famous for being extremely spicy, also has quite a spicy history. According to a previous article by Insider, the dish was originally invented when Thornton Prince, the owner of Prince’s Hot Chicken where legend says hot chicken was first created, came home to find his lover upset.

To get revenge, she served him some chicken covered in some extra-hot spices. However, Prince liked the dish so much he decided to open a restaurant and serve a version of the dish to local people in Nashville.

VERMONT: Vermont corn chowder

corn chowder in a bowl with a spoon

Vermont corn chowder.

zepp1969/Getty Images


Vermont corn chowder is a state-favorite dish made with a milk-based broth, corn, and other vegetables like onions, potatoes, and cabbage, thickened with flour or Vermont cheddar cheese. Bacon is also commonly added to the dish.

WEST VIRGINIA: Biscuits and gravy

biscuits with sausage gravy

Biscuits and gravy.

Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post/Getty Images


The roots of biscuits and gravy can be traced back to the Southern Appalachian region of the United States in the late 1800s. According to the Washington Post, the earliest version of this Southern food used sausage gravy, which was also called “sawmill gravy” at the time.

Historians believe that the food was hearty enough to power sawmill workers through their long days lifting heavy logs, and also thick and flavorful enough to make biscuits of that era “more palatable.”

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