ALABAMA: Chicken with white barbecue sauce
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.”
ILLINOIS: Deep-dish pizza
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 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
While fried catfish is a popular dish throughout the South, Iowans are also fond of the dish.
KANSAS: Loose meat sandwiches
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
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.
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
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, 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.
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 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
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
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
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
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.
TENNESSEE: Nashville hot chicken
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
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
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.”