- From Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza to the Colorado-born “Fool’s Gold” sandwich, every state has its own iconic dish, whether it was invented or popularised there.
- Maine and Connecticut are both famous for their lobster rolls, though each state prepares them slightly differently.
- Finger steaks were invented in a Boise, Idaho, restaurant, while beer cheese was the creation of a chef in Kentucky.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Across the US, each state lays claim to its own “signature dish,” from lobster rolls in Maine to chicken-fried steak in Oklahoma.
Insider referenced local legends and the history of different dishes to determine the most famous foods from every state, whether invented or popularised there â€” and the results might surprise you.
Here’s the most famous local dish from every state.
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.
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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.
You might not know that chimichangas were invented in Arizona.Two different restaurants in Tucson claim they originated the dish, which comprises of a large meat burrito filled with vegetables and spices, deep-fried, and topped with cheese and sauce.
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 Encyclopaedia 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.”
GEORGIA: Brunswick stew
Both Brunswick County, Virginia, and Brunswick, Georgia, lay claim to inventing Brunswick stew. However, a 25-gallon iron pot on top of a town monument in the Georgia town reads that the very first Brunswick stew was cooked inside it on July 2, 1898.
HAWAII: Kālua pork
Kālua pork, which is smoked, shredded pork shoulder sometimes mixed with cabbage, is one of Hawaii’s most famous local dishes – in Hawaiian, kālua translates as “to cook in an underground oven.”
IDAHO: Finger steaks
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
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 the Chicago’s Near North Side neighbourhood 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 favourite 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.
MARYLAND: Crab cakes
Crab cakes can likely be traced back to Native American cooking in the Chesapeake Bay region of the United States. However, the first official recipe for crab cakes appeared in a cookbook written by Crosby Gaige in the 1930s, under the name “Baltimore Crab Cakes.”
MASSACHUSETTS: New England-style clam chowder
Clam chowder has roots all over the Northeast but, according to What’s Cooking America, New England Style clam chowder was being served in Boston at Ye Olde Union Oyster House by 1836.
MICHIGAN: Wet burritos
Wet burritos, which come covered in red chile sauce and tons of cheese, reportedly originate from the Beltline Bar in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
MINNESOTA: Corn dogs
While some say corn dogs, then called “corny dogs,” were introduced at the State Fair of Texas between 1938 and 1942,Pronto Pup vendors at the Minnesota State Fair claim to have invented the first breaded-and-fried hot dog in 1942.
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.”
MONTANA: Meat pie
While meat pies originate from New Zealand and parts of Europe, they’re also really popular in Montana. Oftentimes called “pasties,” the meat pies grew in popularity due to the large population of Irish miners living in Butte, Montana, who found them easy to transport to work each day.
NEBRASKA: Reuben sandwiches
The classic Reuben sandwich, made with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing, and served on rye bread, was supposedly invented by an Omaha, Nebraska, grocer in 1925.
NEVADA: Shrimp cocktail
Shrimp cocktail may not have been invented in Nevada, or even the United States, but Las Vegas residents have certainly claimed the appetizer as their own. According to Golden Gate Hotel & Casino, the casino introduced Las Vegas to its famous, world-recognised, 50-cent shrimp cocktail in 1959. Ever since, visitors have enjoyed partaking in the city’s signature dish.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Pancakes with maple syrup
While Vermont produces more maple syrup than any other state, New Hampshire is also known for its syrup productions. True Granite State natives are known to douse their pancakes in 100% New Hampshire syrup.
NEW JERSEY: Disco fries
Disco fries, which are french fries smothered in gravy, mozzarella, and other toppings, originate from the Garden State. Local legend has it that the late-night dish got its name from the hoards of people pouring into New Jersey diners after a long night of dancing, in search of the perfect snack.
NEW MEXICO: Green chile cheeseburgers
Green chiles are the state’s signature vegetable, so it comes as no surprise that New Mexico natives would want to add the ingredient to their burgers.
NEW YORK: Pizza
New York is undeniably famous for its pizza, from cheap and cheerful $US1 slices to more gourmet versions. New York City is also home to the nation’s first pizzeria, Lombardi’s, which opened in Little Italy in 1905.
NORTH CAROLINA: Krispy Kreme doughnuts
Krispy Kreme began operating in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on July 13, 1937. At the time, the owner Vernon Rudolph was only selling his doughnuts 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 doughnuts to people on the footpath.
NORTH DAKOTA: Walleye
North Dakota is famous for its walleye, and the state is known not only for selling the fried fish on its own, but also in sandwiches.
OHIO: Cincinnati-style chilli
According to What’s Cooking America, Cincinnati prides itself on being the chilli capital of the United States with more than 180 chilli parlors. Thinner in consistency and commonly served over pasta, the dish is slightly different from traditional chilli.
Cincinnati-style chilli also often comes topped with chopped onions, shredded cheese, beans, and even crushed oyster crackers.
OKLAHOMA: Chicken-fried steak
Chicken-fried steak often comes served with mashed potato and gravy and is popular all over the South. However, one state loves the dish so much, they decided to make it official. In 1988, Oklahomans named chicken-fried steak as one of their state meals.
Clamming is a popular activity in Oregon, where the shellfish are really abundant. So, it makes perfect sense that one of the most famous dishes from Oregon would involve clams.
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 comprises of 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 together 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 favourite dish in South Carolina.
SOUTH DAKOTA: Navajo tacos
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, 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.
Texas is practically synonymous with barbecue. However, while other states have their own way of barbecuing, Texas-style barbecue focuses on beef as the main course.
UTAH: Pastrami burgers
According to a previous article by Insider, “Pastrami burgers” originated at Crown Burgers in Salt Lake City. The burgers come topped with a Thousand Island-style sauce as well as tomatoes, shaved lettuce, and onions, but can also come served with cheese or other toppings.
VERMONT: Vermont corn chowder
Vermont corn chowder is a state-favourite 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.
Virginia’s government website claims that “Virginia is for Oyster Lovers,” and there’s a reason why. Not only is Virginia home to multiple oyster festivals, but Virginia oysters can be harvested in eight different regions of the state.
WASHINGTON: Fish and chips
While fish and chips is often thought of as a quintessentially British dish, the state of Washington is famous for its flaky, fried fish and chips.
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.”
WISCONSIN: Fried cheese curds
Fried cheese curds are a favourite dish in Wisconsin, the state famous for its cheese and dairy products. According to What’s Cooking America, cheese factories in the state have to make cheese curds daily to meet the high demand for the product.
Turducken, an over-the-top hybrid food that consists of a chicken stuffed inside a duck that’s then stuffed inside a turkey all separated by layers of stuffing, was reportedly invented by Louisiana chef Paul Prudhomme in a lodge in Wyoming.