The Tastiest Regional Foods You Never Knew Existed
The U.S. is a big country. Head a few states in any direction and you'll find that people not only talk differently, but they eat differently, too. Deep dish pizza in Chicago, bagels in New York — these are the well-known staples. But what about the lesser-known ones? If you look closer, you'll find that each region has signature dishes unheard of in other states. When you see these delicious foods, you'll be ready to plan a cross-country road trip!
You're probably thinking, "Why didn't I think of that?" This rich sauce hails from the Appalachian region and is traditionally served on top of biscuits for a special occasion. Don't be deceived — it's not hot fudge. It's also not as thick as fudge and not as runny as a regular chocolate sauce, either.
Go farther south and you'll find this love-it-or-hate-it signature dish. Also known as chitterlings, cooks typically prepare this food outside due to the potent smell it creates. This is because chitlins are made from boiled pig intestines. They get breaded and fried, though, so you can't really tell when you're eating them.
There's no end to the creative dishes concocted in the Southwest. If you ever find yourself in Arizona or Texas, don't be surprised if you find rattlesnake on the menu. These pesky mountain dwellers make for a tasty meal when fried, stewed, sauteed — or even thrown on the grill.
This is exactly what it sounds like. Over in Mississippi, they've been soaking pickles in Kool-Aid since Kool-Aid became a thing. Not only do you get wonderfully vibrant colors, but you get a unique flavor with each one, too.
When you think of Hawaii, you probably think of luaus, surfing and palm trees. Now, you can add loco moco to that list. Loco moco is a wildly popular dish made with white rice, a hamburger patty, a fried egg and a ladle of gravy spooned on top. It doesn't get much more savory than that.
Before you start fantasizing about Christmas, remember that reindeer are simply another type of big game. They're similar to elk and deer, so people eat them like elk and deer in some places, too. In the U.S., Alaska is where you’ll find reindeer at restaurants or packaged in the meat section of the supermarket.
This acquired taste came over from Norway, and Norwegian families often eat it around the holidays. It consists of fish that soaks in a water-and-lye mixture for several days. The process strips the fish of some protein and essentially creates a salty, shimmering jelly.
We're pretty sure this regional food is a beloved treat for everyone who tastes it. Chimichangas are popular in Arizona and are another Mexican-American favorite. This is basically a burrito that gets dipped in the deep-fryer before gracing your plate. Pair it with salad and a dipping sauce, and you'll recover from even the worst hangover in no time.
Also known as "pan rabbit," scrapple resembles a sausage patty — only it isn't one. Its name comes from the ingredients: scraps of leftover meat, usually pork, mixed with wheat flour and cornmeal. Deep-fried or broiled, scrapple is what the Pennsylvania Dutch traditionally eat with their breakfast.
Hoppin' John is served in households throughout the Carolinas, usually on New Year's Day. It's a piping-hot mix of black-eyed peas, tomato sauce, rice, ham hocks and sometimes sausage. This hearty dish originates from slaves who worked on Southern plantations and has stayed alive to this day.
If you're a connoisseur of Southeast Asian or Pacific Island cuisine, you've probably heard of taro root. This purple vegetable is what poi is made of, although the dish is typically eaten in Hawaii. They pound taro into a paste and mix it with water before serving it with pork or fish.
The name certainly isn't doing this dish any favors, but it doesn't have to. The food alone is enough to win the hearts of many, as it has in upstate New York. Just listen to this combination: home fries, macaroni, baked beans, sausage, eggs and onions. That’s a long list of delicious ingredients.
Boston Baked Beans
Boston is the city of beans — after all, its nickname is "Beantown." Boston does beans unlike anyone else, specifically by smothering them in molasses. There’s a variety of recipes, but the result is a creamy, semi-sweet dish that pairs perfectly with a hot dog.
It's not surprising that areas with unique types of animals end up putting those critters on the menu. In Florida, that's exactly what they've done with alligators. You can find crunchy "gator fingers," "alligator bites" and "Cajun-fried gator." Typically, these concoctions come with a ranch-like dip.
It turns out the Pennsylvania Dutch have created several unique foods that visitors fall in love with. One of these foods is the shoofly pie, made with brown sugar and molasses filling. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top, and you've got a thick, sweet breakfast pastry.
If you're not from Missouri, chances are you've never heard of this specific type of cheese. Provel cheese comes on anything and everything, from pizza to cheeseburgers. It’s the specialty cheese of St. Louis — all the locals know it. Sprinkled on pasta or slapped on a sandwich, it's always the go-to cheese of Missouri.
Ah, the Hot Brown. Pretty much what it sounds like, this open-faced sandwich is hot and brown, and it's an all-time favorite of Louisville, Kentucky, residents. This "culinary icon" was invented at the famous Brown Hotel — looks like the name has more meaning than we thought.
The king cake is famous in New Orleans, but its origins actually lie in France and Spain. This delectable treat is made from a twisted bread cake occasionally filled with fruit, chocolate or cream cheese and topped with colorful icing. Back in the 1800s, an uncooked bean was hidden inside as a game.
Most people know that Wisconsin is the cheese state. Passing through a Wisconsin airport, you’ll see plastic cheese-head hats and cheese keychains — people just can't get enough of it. One of the ways Wisconsinites choose to enjoy their dairy is by way of bite-sized snacks called cheese curds.
Shrimp and Grits
The history behind this Southern delicacy is an interesting one. Fishermen ate shrimp with their grits in the morning, and eventually, it became a staple of high-end restaurants. The recipe has certainly been modified and expanded over the years, but the base is always the same.
Louisiana boasts a signature comfort food called gumbo, and families cook it up on celebration days. It's essentially a smorgasbord of ingredients — shrimp, chicken, sausage and assorted vegetables — in a flavorful sauce. Some make it spicy and others don't, but everyone serves themselves a second helping.
Nope, look closer. It's not a bagel. Bialys are close cousins to the bagel, and they're also seen mostly in New York, but there are two key differences between the two. Bialys have a center depression where bagels have a hole, and they lack the iconic bagel sheen due to the manner in which they're baked.
Utah has a claim to this tasty dipping sauce, but parts of the rest of the country are picking up on it, too. What it is is a mix of mayonnaise and ketchup. And that's it! Not too complicated, but addictive nonetheless.
This monster of a dessert hails from New England and is said to have its roots in Amish kitchens. In its most classic form, it has two chocolate cake buns and a creamy vanilla filling, but you can find pumpkin whoopies in the fall. Don't let the name fool you — it's more of a sandwich than a pie.
Maine is famous for its lobster. It’s also famous for using all of the lobster, including a green digestive gland called the tomalley. The tomalley is found in the center of the lobster, and it's actually considered a delicacy among seafood lovers.
Now here's a pizza we never thought we'd see. In Connecticut, "clam pie" refers to this creative pizza topping: unshelled clams. They're spread out over a white sauce pizza with cheese and sometimes cilantro. It's not a combination many would think to try, but it's stuck around for a reason.
These airy puff pastries can be found in the Midwest, specifically in Iowa and Michigan. They're a flaky mix of flour, eggs and butter filled with almond paste on the inside and shaped into letters. The most common letter you’ll find these days is the letter "S."
After one look at a geoduck (pronounced "gooey duck"), you might think, "Is that really food?" Yep. Despite their less-than-appetizing appearance, a geoduck is similar to a clam — only much bigger. In the Pacific Northwest, they're served in stir-fries, as deep-fried snacks or sauteed in butter.
Pickled Pigs’ Feet
You'd be hard-pressed to find a restaurant serving pigs' feet up north — this is a distinctly Southern taste. Similar to pickles, pigs' feet are left to sit in white vinegar, salt and other spices until they reach the desired pickled-ness. You'll sometimes hear them referred to affectionately as "trotters."
We get it — Maine does lobster! But have you had lobster in a bun? This creative dish is typically served at roadside restaurants, and it’s one of the more affordable ways to consume lobster. It's like a hot dog — only instead of a sausage, there's a mix of lobster meat inside.