Regional food pride is one thing that nearly every American connects with — not to mention it always has a story that says something about the place and its history.
Of course, we know our RV Lifestyle Fellow Travelers love two of those things: stories and food.
But what kind of regional foods should you seek out to try at least once?
Great question and one I thought I would tackle by taking a look beyond Chicago deep dish pizza and Texas barbecue.
Here are 12 (and please help me build out this list in the comment section below):
Where it’s from: Midwest and Southwest
What is it: Indian tacos come in many varieties. Navajo tacos, for example, are made by piling ground or shredded beef or venison on a wide piece of fried dough, aka frybread. Add lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, and other toppings, and you’ve got yourself a hearty meal. What is frybread? Native Americans started making it based on the rations of flour and lard afforded them by the U.S. government. Today, it’s a regular part of powwows and other gatherings. And despite its lack of nutritional value, it’s a crowd favorite.
Where it’s from: South Dakota
What is it: Simply put, chislic is cubed meat. The dish is traditionally made with mutton or lamb, but it can also be made with small cubes of elk, deer, or even beef. Originally, salted and fried, it’s served in various ways today: grilled, marinated before cooking, or served with dipping sauces.
Where it’s from: Pennsylvania
What it is: A pork-based meal with German origins that dates back to 16th-century Germany. Scrapple is kind of like a meatloaf — a meatloaf made from a mixture of pig parts (the “scrap” in scrapple). In short, whatever pig parts weren’t suitable for other edible uses became a part of the scrapple. Cooked with salt and pepper, the meat is thickened with cornmeal or buckwheat, and served for breakfast.
Where it’s from: Michigan (predominantly Upper Peninsula)
What it is: Meat turnovers originally brought to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula by immigrant miners from Cornwall, England. Stuffed with meat, potatoes, onions, and spices, the flaky meat pies are beloved by locals and visitors alike. To eat one the right way, it needs to be with gravy — not ketchup. (Also, be sure to check out our Upper Peninsula 7-Day RV Adventure ebook.)
Where it’s from: Cincinnati
What it is: A breakfast sausage made of ground meat (pork, beef, or both), as well as steel-cut oats that German-American immigrants would use to make their meat mixture last long. After being formed into a loaf, the concoction is cut into slices and fried in pork fat. Because of its popularity, it is commonly referred to as “Cincinnati caviar.”
Where it’s from: Springfield, Illinois
What it is: An open-faced sandwich built from the bottom up with thick-sliced toast, hamburgers patties or ham (other meat like deep fried pork tenderloin, fried chicken, and fish filets can be substituted), french fries, and secret cheese sauce usually containing a combination of eggs, beer, butter, Worcestershire, and mustard.
Where it’s from: St. Louis, Missouri
What it is: A processed cheese made of cheddar, swiss, and provolone. It is most commonly used on St. Louis-style pizza, but can also be used in soups, atop salads, or in pasta sauces.
Where it’s from: St. Louis, Missouri
What it is: An open-faced sandwich made of Italian bread, garlic butter, ham, and Provel cheese. Renditions are sold everywhere, from cheap hole-in-the-walls to more up-scale restaurants that use house-made roast beef.
Where it’s from: Baltimore
What it is: Brought to East Baltimore by Russian Jewish immigrants in the early 1900s, these poor-man’s crab cakes are made from cod flakes, mashed potatoes, and onions, then deep fried. They are traditionally served atop a Saltine slathered with mustard.
Where it’s from: The South, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania
What it is: A pickled relish made of green and red tomatoes, cabbage, onions, and carrots, as well as any other seasonal vegetable. Served as a chilled or room-temperature condiment, it often accompanies fried fish, hamburgers, hot dogs, fried chicken, and barbecue. The version from Pennsylvania tends to be a bit sweeter than its Southern relative.
Where it’s from: Louisville, Kentucky
What it is: This hot, open-faced sandwich was created at the Brown Hotel in the 1920s for late-night diners. It is made of turkey, bacon, Mornay sauce (a béchamel that includes grated cheese), and bread that is baked until lightly browned.
Where it’s from: Rhode Island and Massachusetts
What it is: Traditionally made with Quahogs (the large clams with purple markings inside their shells), these are essentially stuffed, baked clams made with bread crumbs, chopped clam meat, and plenty of juice. Purists claim that a true stuffie shouldn’t contain anything else, while others add onions, celery, sausage, and even Portuguese stew.