No matter where you are in the US, it’s not hard to find a Philly Cheesesteak or a Denver Omelet. You can get Chicago Deep Dish in Miami and Boston Clam Chowder in San Francisco. But despite the spread of city-specific foods around the world, there are still a few foods you have to travel to get.
If you find yourself in West Virginia, make sure you try a Pepperoni Roll. Invented by miners looking for a cheap and easy meal-to-go, the Pepperoni roll has been a West Virginia staple for almost a hundred years. Its construction is simple – take a wad of pepperoni, wrap it in sweet dough, and bake. The fat in the pepperoni seeps out while it cooks and bakes into the bread, giving it a sweet and spicy taste you’re not going to find anywhere else. Want to try the original? Head to Country Club Bakery in Fairmont, WV.
Looking for the most confusing local food possible? Then you’re going to love City Chicken, a Detroit delicacy that doesn’t actually contain chicken. Despite its name, the dish is made from veal or pork that’s skewered, battered, and fried. Originally created as a cheap working-class food in the Great Depression (when chicken was expensive outside of rural America), City Chicken has survived as a local favorite throughout the Eastern Great Lakes. You can order it at most of Detroit’s Polish restaurants, including Polish Village Café, just outside the city.
You can occasionally find cheese curds on bar menus across the country, but if you want the real thing you’ll have to go to Milwaukee, WI. They’re made from a simple combination of pasteurized milk and rennet and can be served squeaky (fresh) or fried. Where to find the best curds in Milwaukee is a contentious topic, but if you find yourself in Wisconsin you shouldn’t have a problem getting a recommendation from a local. While you’re there, make sure to pair them with a beer from Wisconsin’s New Glarus Brewery, which doesn’t export its beers across the state line.
Of all the local foods on this list, this one’s probably got the greatest variation. To make a hotdish, all you need to do is take a starch, a meat, a canned or frozen vegetable, and a can of soup and put them together in a casserole dish. Though it was traditionally made as an easy homemade dish for large groups, the hotdish has recently made its way from potluck and church dinners to gastropubs. Want to check out a modern take on a Minnesotan family classic? Make your way to Haute Dish in Minneapolis and get one with tater tots, porcini, short rib, green beans.
If you want one of the most exclusive (and most terrifying) meals in the world, look no further than Mulligans Bar in Decatur, Georgia. Aside from a booth at the Georgia State Fair, they’re the only place in the world that sells the Hamdog – a hot dog wrapped in a hamburger patty, topped with chili, bacon, cheese, onion, fries, and an egg, deep fried and served on a gigantic hoagie roll. If you attempt to eat this monster, though, make sure you book a hotel nearby. You’re going to need a nap.
Photos courtesy of @toddkeebs @moundsvillecvb @billyondollarman @sgotb