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18 American Cities with Iconic Foods

Memphis — BBQ

Barbeque has been huge in Memphis for 70 or so years, and it’s grown to be one of the most iconic styles in the nation. The modern scene began in 1948 with the world-renown Rendezvous restaurant. It’s found in an alley in downtown Memphis, but it’s not something to miss.

There’s plenty of other larger joints, like Central BBQ or Memphis Fire, but if you stumble on a hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint, don’t hesitate to hit it up. It’ll be the best thing you’ve ever eaten.

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Philadelphia — Philly Cheesesteak

Philly Cheesesteaks are known everywhere, so it makes sense that they’d represent their home city of Philadelphia. The sandwich — essentially steak, cheese, Italian rolls, and a ton of toppings — became popular in the 30s.

It’s rumored that a cab driver tried it and then, because cab drivers touch so many people’s lives, it spread like fire through the city, then the world. If you can try one from Geno’s Steaks, founded in 1966, do it.

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Chicago — Deep Dish Pizza

Chicago has one of the most famous styles of pizza in the nation: deep dish. It’s basically regular pizza, but the crust is so high on the outer edge that you can fit an unbelievable amount of toppings onto the pizza.

It’s a tried and true dish, and its fans are fiercely loyal. If you need help finding some, Giordano’s Pizzeria makes some of the best there is.

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NYC — Pizza

If any place is a rival to Chicago’s iconic pizza styles, it’s the Big Apple itself. It’s believed to be the first pizza in the States and, like the Chicago Deep Dish, is iconic because of the unique sizing it offers.

It’s such a large slice of pizza that most people opt to fold it over on itself just to eat it. It’s sold by the slice, so grab one as soon as you can.

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Buffalo — Wings

Wings are staples for any football fan, tailgating event, or big game. Despite this being a male-dominated crowd, wings were created by Teressa Bellissimo back in the 60s in Buffalo NY, where they spread like wildfire.

In fact, chicken wings are so popular that the city of Buffalo has a Chicken Wing Day they have celebrated every July for over 40 years now.

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New Orleans — Jambalaya

New Orleans is the epitome of America’s melting pot culture, and no food highlights that more than jambalaya. New Orleans is famous for far too many foods, but jambalaya is unique because it’s such a striking mash-up of Spanish, French, Caribbean, and American cultures.

It makes sense that the cultural mash-up that lead to the dish produced a dish that is essentially a combination of whatever they had available at the time of the dish’s creating back in the early 1800s. It’s survived until now because it’s delicious, so book yourself a flight to New Orleans and snag yourself some.

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Amarillo — BBQ

Barbeque is huge in Texas, probably more so than any other state. And few states would have the diversity that comes with Texas-style BBQ. Amarillo BBQ is some of the oldest, thanks in part to John Snider, the Barbeque King, who began cooking in the early 1900s.

By the mid-40s, the BBQ had grown so popular the New York Herald Tribune heard about it. There’s a lot of great BBQ to be found in Amarillo, but Tyler’s the best.

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Baltimore — Crab Cakes

It makes sense that a coastal city would feature something found only there. Something like a crab cake. Crab cake is typically broiled crab meat, and they can be massive. That’s great because they’re so delicious you’ll really want to eat until you can’t anymore.

If you love crab, pay Faidley’s Crab Cakes in Baltimore a visit. They’ve been around for over 130 years, so you know they’re good.

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L.A. — Chicken and Waffles

Chicken and Waffles have bounced all of the country, but in 1975, they called L.A. their home when Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles was born. It’s been featured in a number of movies and songs and is known to be a favorite of household-names like Snoop Dogg, David Beckham, and Obama.

These are people who afford to eat anything they want, so if they’re happy with it, you will be too.

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Milwaukee — Butter Burgers

Burgers are one of the most popular foods in America. It’s what people get when they need to snag a quick bite or when they go out to dinner with their family. They’re at any sporting event or cookout you’ll find.

Milwaukee sought to make this dish even better, and they succeeded. They merged one of our favorite things (burgers) with another (butter) by cooking the meat in it, and wow. They’re absolutely amazing.

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D.C. — Half Smoke

At some point, you’ve probably at least considered visiting the capitol. If you haven’t gone yet, here’s another reason: the D.C. Half Smoke. It’s essentially a cross between a bratwurst and a hot dog, but, wow, they’re amazing.

You can find them in restaurants and hot dog carts all around D.C.

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Seattle — Coffee

America runs on coffee, and no place does a better job of getting its caffeine fix than Seattle. It’s the home of Starbucks, and since the chain was born in the early 70s, the city has really grown to love the drink.

It has about 843 coffee shops per capita, so it’s no surprise that they’ve managed to make quite the name for themselves. 

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Corbin, KY— Fried Chicken

Alright, we know we're cheating a little here, but Kentucky is home of fried chicken, and Corbin is its birthplace. Fried chicken is a staple in almost any gathering in the South, and for good reason: it’s delicious.

It wasn’t always this popular, however. For most of history, fried foods were expensive and therefore a rare delicacy. Restaurants like the fast-food-chain Kentucky Fried Chicken made the dish more approachable by dropping the price and covering the country in places where you can devour it.

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Chicago — Hot Dog

Perhaps the only Chicago food that compete with its Deep-Dish Pizza is its hot dog. It’s basically a beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun packed with just about anything else that can fit, namely relish, mustard, pickles, onions, and tomatoes.

There are few foods that can rival how iconic the Chicago hot dog is.

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NYC — Hot Dog

A city as culturally diverse as New York can’t be limited to just one iconic food. In addition to its pizza being a beloved staple, they make some of the best hot dogs around. Its believed that the hot dog gained popularity in the 1800s in New York City — just decades before it blew up in Chicago.

This style is simpler than its Chicago-based rival, topped with only mustard, and sauerkraut.

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Cincinnati — Chili

A lot of iconic American foods came about the same way most of our culture did: immigrants. The same can be said about Cincinnati Chili, which was the result of Macedonian immigrants in the 20s. It was originally intended to be a topping for spaghetti, but it soon found its way onto hot dogs as well.

You’ll find it at any local baseball game, but if you’re ever in the Cincinnati area, hit up Skyline. There’s no way you can wrong there.

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San Francisco — Chinese

San Fran has seen its fair share of immigrants, resulting in us Americans taking the food they’ve made and claiming it as an Iconic American Staple. One such food is the Chinese food found in San Fran’s Chinatown.

It’s typically more American takes on Chinese foods, making them more like bad copies, but we love them anyway.

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Austin — Tex-Mex

Tex-Mex is extremely popular in… well, everywhere in America. You can’t go anywhere without stumbling on a Mexican restaurant with a Spanish name, but Austin does it better than anybody else. They manage to take Mexican food and change it just enough to get American sot eat it, but they do so in a way that nobody can really compete with. 

If you love Tex-Mex (you do) then definitely add Austin to your to-visit list.

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