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Midwest 'hounds: food unique to or that defines your community/town/metro area/state

I hope this isn't considered too general a topic. If so, I hope the moderators just relocate it to the proper board, rather than delete it.

But, what food is unique to (or, if you prefer, best defines) your neck of the woods, whereever that is, and where can the best example of it be found?

For instance, I'd never had Jucy Lucy (which is a cheese-stuffed burger) until I'd come to the Twin Cities. My favorite Jucy Lucy thus far is at The Nook in St. Paul, MN which is on Hamline at Randolph.

What's yours?


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  1. St. Louis has several gastronomic peculiarities:

    Provel cheese: Processed mixture of several other cheeses. Added to pizza, salads, and cheese bread.
    Toasted Ravioli: Breaded and deep-fried meat ravioli served with a marinara dipping sauce.
    Snoots: BBQ'd pig snouts, mostly served on North side of town.
    St. Paul sandwich: Available at most hole-in-the-wall Chinese places, this is an egg foo young on white bread with tomato, lettuce, and mayo.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Extreme Glow

      Sounds good. Where's the best toasted ravioli in St. Louis?

      Why is it called a St. Paul sandwich?


      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        I wish I knew why they are called St. Paul sandwiches. I posed this question on this board back in '02, and nobody knew. Here is that discussion: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
        The St. Paul sandwich is one of the great cheap eats items in town. One of those with a half order of fried rice, and you're in lip-smacking, salty, carb heaven.

        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          Because only someone from Minnesota would put ketchup on something like that. The person who first did it probably was a transplant from St. Paul, otherwise it would be the Hinckley sandwich, Fergus Falls sandwich, Dassel-Cokato sandwich or something of the like, provided it was a town in MN.

          When I moved here from the east coast, among many other shocking quirks, I couldn't believe Minnesotans' fascination with putting ketchup on/in everything.

          1. re: MSPD

            MSPD, I didn't know you were a transplant. Yes, Minnesotans put ketchup on/in everything. Everything, that is, that they don't slather in butter. :)

            I was hoping you might chime in with more opinions about Twin Cities or Minnesota "unique" or "defining" chow, or, at least, dispute where the best jucy lucy might be found.


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Yeah, moved to MSP from the DC area in 1990. I don't feel any connection to the east coast any more -- I consider myself an MSP local.

              Off the top of my head...not MSP, but lutefisk is virtually unknown in the US outside of this region. Other things we've bandied about on here before are the Hot Dago sandwich and Booya feeds. Wild rice is highly regional. Believe it or not, herring caviar from Grand Marais is gaining serious respect and interest in the international culinary community.

              As for the Jucy Lucy, I can't find the post, but I've recently gone on record here somewhere adding them to my list of "most overrated foods". I've only had one truly enjoyable one and that was at the Nook (no argument with you there). They were the only ones not to end up with the overcooked/dried out meat that is the hallmark of the Jucy Lucy. It's just too difficult to get the cheese to the appropriately molten state without overcooking the beef.

              Honestly, part of my problem with Jucy Lucy's is that I've kind of been in a transformation in my chowhounding ways in the last several months. The balance between my love of food and my love of fitness activities has shifted way over to the fitness side. I decided to kick up the seriousness of my cycling, as well as running and keeping up my visits to the gym several times a week. I'm by far at my lowest body fat percentage/weight since the early 90's. What that means is, when I want a burger (and recognize the physical punishment and/or three tons of high-fiber Kashi cereal I'll have to endure to burn it off), I won't settle for the 1-in-100 chance that I'll get an enjoyable Jucy Lucy. I'll get the Nook's Lodge Burger, an Elvis Burger at Highland/Longfellow Grill, or something of that ilk. I pass by Copper Bleu in Lakeville on one of my most frequent cycling routes and visions of their burgers, which are very good, dance in my head for a few miles. Thankfully, they're never open at the time of day I'm riding.

              Lately, my chowhounding exploits have focused on finding the best granola (Bear Naked brand is excellent), best salads, best natural this and whole grain that, coffee, fresh fish and so on. I really should do a new post, but I've still had quite a few great meals/items out. Recent visits to Grand Italian Ice Cafe, Birchwood Cafe, Cafe Latte, Sea Salt (God bless grilled halibut tacos) and Trotter's come to mind.

              That said, all bets are off when I hit La Belle Vie tonight, but I already pre-paid for that with a crack of dawn bike ride this morning and a heart pounding interval workout last night (OK, I'm starting to sound like a disgrace to Chowhounding).

            2. re: MSPD

              There's no ketchup on a St. Paul sandwich. Egg foo yung, lettuce, sometimes tomato, sometimes pickle, always mayo, on sliced white bread out of a plastic bag.

              1. re: alan

                Reply to MSPD (for some reason, I don't see a "reply" button on his post)

                MSPD, I would be interested in hearing more about your exploits in healthy 'hounding. Please do post about them when you have time, but in an outside (new) thread of course. Trotter's--is that the little cafe around the corner from Izzy's? I've been meaning to try it, but, the lure of Izzy's is too strong and I always end up passing it up.

                Lutefisk--where do you get that--anywhere in in St. Paul that you recommend? Is it a grocery store item?

                I remember some of the past posts on the Hot Dago sandwich--they make one at the Dairy-ette in St. Paul (I've listed their address in my profile) that they've recently renamed to be more PC with the time, but my favorite Hot Dago so far is at DeGidios on West 7th in St. Paul.

                I haven't been to a booya feed yet... Maybe this summer. It's a summer thing, right?

                And, I've become a huge consumer of Minnesota wild rice. It's a staple for me now. I think the stuff is fabulous.

                Herring caviar, eh? Can you get that in the Twin Cities?

                Since you're on a health kick, I think I read about a vegetarian Jucy Lucy somewhere in the Cities, but I can't seem to remember where now--I would guess Cafe Brenda or Lucia's, but I don't see it on either of their online menus. Maybe that would meet both your requirements for healthy and tasty! I'll see if I can find it.


            3. re: The Dairy Queen

              I don't know the answer to that question as my favorite Italian restaurant (Trattoria Marcella) doesn't serve it. Some of the older places on The Hill would be your best bet such as Zia's, Cunetto's, and possibly Lorenzo's Trattoria (LT is excellent but I don't know if they serve it).

              As Alan posted, nobody knows why it's called a St. Paul.

            4. re: Extreme Glow

              Do all of the Chop Suey places do St. Paul sandwiches? Any ones that are especially good or bad, especially in the Lafayette Square area?

              1. re: jumpingjack

                The Sterns recommend Chinese Express on Hampton.


                The St. Paul of TV fame was from Kim Van on Gravois in Fox Park area.


              2. re: Extreme Glow

                If you find the fried snoots, the place will probably also serve deep fried tripe sandwiches. The was my absolute favorite indulgence. Crsip and tender batter fried tripe, on soft white bread, with yellow mustard, sliced onion, and dill pickle chips. Don't knock it, 'til you've tried it! It's one of my favorite food memories of St. Louis.

                1. re: Extreme Glow

                  How could I forget the slinger? Two cheeseburger patties and hash browns, covered in chili, and topped with an egg (or two) of your choice. Breakfast of champions.


                2. For Cincinnati

                  Cincinnati style chili (alone, on 3-4-5 ways, or cheese coneys)
                  Double Decker sandwiches

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: TJ Jackson

                    Very interesting! What makes the chili "Cincinnati style" in your opinion? Here's what wikipedia says: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cincinna...

                    And what's goetta? (Here's what I found by googling: http://www.goetta.com/index.asp?page=... It's a German breakfast sausage made of pork, beef and steelcut oats)--is that about right?

                    Do you have a favorite restaurant that you recommend for any of these?


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      The best place for "Cincinnati style" chili is Skyline. It's a local chain but they are everywhere in the city.

                      I agree that if you go to Graeter's you HAVE to get something wih chips in it. My favorite is the coconut chip - it reminds me of a mounds bar.

                      The other restaurant you should try is Montgomery Inn. They are famous for their ribs. If you are visiting Cincinnati, I would recommend the Boathouse location since it sits right on the river.

                      I can't help you with Goetta. I had it once and didn't like it. I know that some of the local diners serve it. There is also a Goetta fest but I am not sure when it's held.

                  2. I can't believe I've lived here (Cincinnati) 20+ years and still never tried Goetta!

                    I would say Graeter's Ice Cream for Cincinnati as well - anything w/chips. I know it is just ice cream, but because of the way it is made you will sometimes find chocolate chips the size of golf balls, which is indeed unique!!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: cincinnatilisa

                      Sounds terrific--you can never go wrong with MORE chocolate. Here's what I found by Googling--Graeter's makes their ice cream using the French pot process, which means just two gallons at a time. It sounds like they have their own stores and sell their ice cream to various groceries.



                      1. re: cincinnatilisa

                        It can be argued that Graeter's is not even the best ice cream in Cincinnati - I point to the venerable Aglamesis Brothers http://www.aglamesis.com/

                        1. re: TJ Jackson

                          One more Cincinnati specialty I've not seen anywhere else -- ice balls and ice cream. It's your choice of ice cream with a scoop of hand-shaved ice on top, with your choice of syrup. Schneider's in nearby Bellevue, Ky., is the palace of this specialty, but I know of several others that serve it. My favorite is vanilla ice cream with grape syrup.

                      2. Here in southeast Michigan we have nothing better to boast about than the lowly but tasty coney dog, a hot dog coated with some very starchy chili, onions, and mustard. It's pretty much the same wherever you go, but for atmosphere try Lafayette Coney Island in downtown Detroit.

                        Distinctive foods from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which is distinctive in many non-gastronomic ways as well:

                        Cudighi, a spiced Italian sausage made with red wine, served on a crispy roll. Found in the towns of Ishpeming and Negaunee, and to a lesser extent Marquette. Try Paisano's Pizza in Negaunee on the eastern end of Teal Lake, off M-28.

                        The pasty (PASS-tee, not PASTE-Y), a meat-and-rutabaga turnover of Cornish origin, often served with gravy or chutney. Stayed warm for hours in the mines, and to this day mostly served as takeout. Try Jean Kay's on Presque Isle Avenue in Marquette, or Toni's in Laurium.

                        Thimbleberry jam, a homemade western U.P. specialty. Quite expensive, but worth it. Marketed by various people through magic-marker signs posted along U.S. 41, and can also be found in souvenir shops. But the best place to get it is the Jam Pot, a monastery on M-26 in Eagle River. The monks, who are members of an unusual Eastern sect that is Catholic, not Orthodox, make it and other excellent jams themselves; also try the cookies.

                        Squeaky cheese, not quite as amazing as these others, but great for the kids. Try independent supermarkets. Of Finnish origin, I think.

                        Trenary toast is the Yooper's answer to biscotti, a twice-baked strip of cinnamon toast sold in bags. Sold in many stores, but the bakery is in Trenary, off U.S. 41 between Marquette and Escanaba.

                        1. Those all sound fabulous, Jim M! Is squeaky cheese the same as cheese curds? Or, is there something more to it?


                          3 Replies
                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            I think they're baked cheese curds. They have a "skin" that makes them squeak when you chew on them. Not totally sure about how they're made.

                            1. re: Jim M

                              While there may be baked cheese curds know in Michigan as 'squeeky cheese', in Wisconsin, the real fresh cheese curds are called that because they squeek when you bite into them. It's considered one of the signs of freshness.

                            2. re: The Dairy Queen

                              no , squeaky cheese and cheese curds are two different things . The best squeaky cheese I have found is in Pinconning , the Michigan capitol of cheese . Curds are good and all that , but squeaky cheese is simply REALLY fresh mild cheese that has been just pressed , usually available every other Thursday . After a day or three , it loses it's squeakiness . I'm pretty sure it has something to do with leftover lactic acid or something , I'm not a cheese maker . But it definately squeeks on your teeth in a most satisfying way . I just picked some up last weekend , it squeaked real good then , but now it just tastes like good mild cheese . As an aside , if you are suffering from a real pasty jones , check out Barb's Pasties in Clawson Mi. just a few miles north of Detroit on Livernois . Not as good as the Red Onion way up there , or Toni's , but pretty tasty all the same . Personally , I find the use of gravy on a pasty blasphemous . Salt only , please .

                            3. In Indiana we have shagbark syrup which comes from the shagbark hickory tree. I like it much better than maple syrup. Have never seen it any other place.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: NJP

                                Neat! I've never heard of it. Here's a place that seems to sell it online, together with some recipes.


                                Do you have a special source for buying it? Or is it readily available where you are?


                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  You can get it from Hickoryworks in Brown County, Indiana. They sell it mail or phone order. http://www.hickoryworks.com/ Great stuff. I wrote about it several years ago in the Bloomington (Indiana) paper, archived here on my blog:

                                  Among other things, it makes a wonderful barbeque sauce, but it may be best just drizzled on sweet potato fries!

                              2. Columbus, OH is pretty bland, but one specialty of the area is Johnny Marzetti. You can't find this in restaurants, but basically it's a macaroni dish with ground beef, tomatoes and cheese. The other thing is hot dogs with ketchup instead of mustard. This drive my DH, who is from Chicago, absolutely nuts. He is ashamed to go with me & kids to a hot dog joint in Chicago and have us order ketchup. It is also the HQ for White Castle & Wendy's hamburgers, so maybe that counts.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                  I surely think White Castle counts as a chowhoundly contribution by Columbus. I see that Columbus suffers from the same issue that Minnesota does, in the sense that some of the "specialty" chow is only available in the home, rather than in restaurants. In fact, I think in Minnesota, we'd probably call that Johnny Marzetti "hotdish." Sounds good!


                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    In central Minnesota, this was called "Funeral Hot Dish", as it was the dish served at all funeral luncheons.

                                    1. re: Orange Julius

                                      By the way, what are funeral potatoes? I heard them mentioned elsewhere.


                                    2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      diane, is the johnny marzetti named after the salad dressing company? any connection?

                                      regardless, marzetti salad dressings are yet another columbus contribution. ditto canned glory brand soul foods.

                                  2. Here in south-central Indiana, I'd say fried biscuits and pork tenderloin sandwiches the size of your head.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                      Don't forget the breaded and fried Morels in the spring. The season has gone by, but they are a special annual treat no matter how they are prepared. Breading with an egg wash and cracker crumbs and frying is the most common way the natives here in S.C. Indiana prepare them and they are not really a restaurant dish more of a home item. My DH loves them creamed on toast. If you don't have a picking spot or friends who will share, the groceries carry them from $25.00-$40.00/lb. Depending of weather the window of time in which to enjoy these rare treat can close quickly.

                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                        The morels sound wonderful. They sound like another of those foods that are hard to experience as an visitor. Are the fried biscuits and pork tenderloin also more of a home item or are those on restaurant menus?


                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          Fried Biscuits are a Brown County thing mainly around Nashville, In just a bit east of Bloomington. There are many places around the state and midwest to get pork tenderloin sandwiches but my hands down favorite is at the Marathon Food and Fuel Gas Station in Gnaw Bone IN. it is just east of Nashville on your wat to Columbus and I 65. Tenderloin is a misnomer the meat is actually pounded out tenderized porkloin. The the Food and Fuel they buy their meat up the road at the IGA and make them by hand. A regular sized tenderloin is as big as a dinner plate. I order a junior which is much more manageable and they don't have real mayo available in their condiments so I tote a little container of my own along. Miracle Whip would just ruin the thing. The Sterns wrote the place up in their Roadfood column in Gourmet a few years ago.

                                      2. No real Dayton specialties, except for square pizza. Instead of cutting pizza into pie shaped wedges, here in Dayton the pizzas are cut into square pieces (of course, the edge pieces aren't square, and those are my favorite pieces!) We also have Cincinnati style chili (Skyline and Goldstar) and Graeters Ice Cream, but those are imports from the big city 50 miles south of us. Oh, and MikeSells potato chips are made here. They're fried in 100% peanut oil and are better than any other potato chip I've ever tried.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: Niki in Dayton

                                          St. Louis style pizza (very thin crust, provel cheese) is also cut into squares. Local chains Imo's, Elicia's, and Cecil Whitaker's all cut them this way.

                                          1. re: Extreme Glow

                                            the diff between dayton style pizza and st. louis style is the use of provolone cheese on the latter. dayton style uses the industrial moz. local dayton chains are MARIONS and CASSANOS. a few stand alones too. DONATOS chain in columbus does it too.

                                            1. re: mrnyc

                                              I WISH it were provolone. Unfortunately, St. Louis style pizza is made with a cheesy abomination called provel (see the Wikipedia entry here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provel_c...
                                              )The use of this cheese is the chief reason not to eat St. Louis style pizza, although thousands of native St. Louisans would scream in opposition to that assessment.

                                              1. re: mrnyc

                                                You need to re-read the posts. The discussion was about the way the pizza is cut, not what was on top.

                                            2. re: Niki in Dayton

                                              Darn it! You are making me hungry and homesick. Already craving the graeters thanks to an earlier post...now the mikesells which I agree, i have yet to find better. The pizza made me think about Milanos subs...Good thing I am coming home next month...Looking forward to dinner at The Winds and homegrown corn!

                                              Also to add to the list, what about Jump's Almonized Peanuts?

                                            3. Lutefisk? Join the Sons of Norway Lodge in Minneapolis. ;) Their annual Christmas dinner is an all white food meal. Lutefisk, cod, cauliflower, potatoes, onions, hominy, lefsa, that sort of stuff.

                                              When I first arrived in Minnesota in 1970 smelt frys every spring were all the rage. The Excelsior Volunteer Fire Department held one every spring for a fund raiser. You caught them with buckets in the spring smelt runs on the rivers running into Lake Superior up on the North Shore. The smelt have died out.

                                              The Walleye sandwich is big in Minnesota bars and restaurants. The best of course is the ones you catch yourself up at the lake.

                                              Dairy Queen, don't forget the Dairy Queen is a Minnesota company origin. :)

                                              You can't get grits and black eyed peas in Minnesota.

                                              I grew up in Indiana and we ate chicken and dumplings every Sunday in our house.

                                              Breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches were a Hoosier thing reputedly started by Nick Frienstein in Huntington, IN in 1904. Originally called a veal sandwich as a derivitive of Weiner Schnitzel they evolved into pork. I think they are more popular there now than in the 60s. They are large and served on a bun. Iowa thinks they invented them but they just have them because they produce nearly half the hogs in the United States and had to adopt them by default, otherwise they would be eating loosemeat sandwiches. When you get up around Chicago they tend to go Bohemia style open face on white bread with gravy and mashed potatoes. Get farther away in places like Minnesota and they try to serve them with buttered toast and cheese. You get further away from the states that border Indiana and Iowa and they don't exist unless an "I" state expatriat opened a restaurant. Go to Houston, TX and they make them, call them a pork loin burger and describe them as like a chicken fried steak, only pork without gristle.

                                              I thought ketchup on everything was a midwest thing not solely Minnesota. Go to Canada and you put gravy on your french fries.

                                              Pasties are a Michigan Upper Peninsula phenomena. I love them. We ate our away across the UP in June eating them. Outside the U. P. they may be served only as a novelty in some places and they are not the same.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Davydd

                                                Hey, I always eat gravy on my french fries and I am from MN!

                                                1. re: cooknKate

                                                  Kansas City hounds told me a few years ago to go to Strouds for the Fried Chicken. Very good advice. They also said I should get the fries to dip in gravy. I'm not a big fry fan. I'm a huge fried chicken fan.
                                                  Not sure which I liked best, and the chicken was damn good.

                                              2. There's some great info in this thread. Davydd--you're a fount of information.

                                                I love myplateoryours recommendation to put the shagbark syrup on sweet potato fries. Sweet potato fries is an obsession of mine as of late, so, I'll have to order some and try it.

                                                Pasties I've had once or twice before--you can get them in the Iron Range cities in MN--Hibbing and Chisholm and places lie that, but, indeed, I've heard the UP is one of the best places for them.

                                                The MikeSells potato chips that are a specialty in Dayton remind me that we have the Old Dutch brand of potato chips here in Minnesota, "Old Dutch," which is, I think is a St. Paul company. http://www.olddutchfoods.com/our_stor... I've not seen them outside of MN. They are incredibly salty--an acquired taste, I think.

                                                We also have Pearson's candies here, my favorite being the salted nut roll. http://www.pearsonscandy.com/index.html Pearson's is a St. Paul company. I've not seen their candies outside of the Midwest very often.

                                                A couple of other things I've noticed in Minnesota, many diners have carmel or pecan rolls on the menu--one famous place being Tobie's in Hinkley. http://www.tobies.com/ I'm not sure if that's a tradition that extends to the Midwest outside of Minnesota.

                                                Niki in Dayton and Extreme Glow remarks remind me that we also cut our pizza criss-cross like a checker board here in MN, which I always found funny. I end up eating way too much pizza because I think, just one more slice, it's so tiny. All those tiny pieces add up!

                                                Orange Julius, good to see you here. Aren't you a connoisseur of foods unique to the Minnesota State Fair? I would love to hear some of those highlights.

                                                And, of course, in the Midwest in general there are loosemeats--which Davydd-- and sloppy joes, although I confess I'm still not clear on the difference.

                                                And all things rhubarb in early summer, since rhubarb only grows where the ground freezes. In Minnesota, I've been introduced to "hairy sauce" (kind of a syrup made of rhubarb) as well as to the slushy drink called "rhubarb freeze."

                                                That's all that occurs to me now. But, keep them coming, everyone, if you think of more. I'm so amazed by the wonderful variety the Midwest offers. And, I don't think we've heard from any Iowans or Wisconsinites yet (although Fydeaux did chime in about cheese curds.)


                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  Sloppy joes have a tomato based sauce, loose meat is plain ground beef that may have some light seasoning. Sloppy joes can also be called barbeque but I think that's a Chicago suburban school lunch term.

                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                    The Farmington Bakery, another place along my bike routes, usually has pasties. They're smaller and less hearty than the UP style (more snack sized), but I have a personal affinity for them as they remind me of ones I ate on vacation once in Bath, England. They also do great turnovers and a few other treats at Farmington Bakery.

                                                    I also meant to mention in my earlier post -- the MN fascination with food on a stick.

                                                    And "chips and gravy" are one of my favorite indulgences. I grew up with those when visiting family in central Canada.

                                                    TDQ, regarding your questions above, lutefisk can almost always be found in that obscure portion of the freezer section of most local grocery stores -- the one where you'd find hooves, beaks, innards, Jimmy Dean sausage and other questionable frozen delights. It's created an unlikely freezer case marriage of lutefisk with a food unique to Pennsylvania Dutch country, the delightful scrapple.

                                                    We also forgot perhaps the best food to originate in Minnesota in recent history -- the Honeycrisp apple. It's still foreign to most places outside of the upper midwest and Toronto.

                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                      I guess I can 'weigh in' on a couple of other things besides cheese curds. I would have to say that in my own case, its is either a situation of 'familiarity breeds complacency' (in that it's hard for me to discern what is special about Wisconsin food these days), or as Mr Ellington said, "Things aint what they used to be" (in that the special things that I remember from earlier days no longer apply).

                                                      I've spent most (not all) of my life in Milwaukee. Growing up, Mom never made fried chicken, and Col Sanders (then only available through Marc's Big Boy) was considered by her to be too greasy. So we ordered from a place called Dutchland Dairy at 64th & Silver Spring. I remember it being heavenly stuff. DD is now lost to the ages. Now the best fried chicken that I know of is at a bar called TomKen's (near State Fair Park) and a carry-out (mostly) Greek place at 84th & Lisbon called Collosus. Fried chicken isnt a "Milwaukee thing", but I think Dutchland Dairy fried chicken is. These were my favourite take-away meals as a child.

                                                      (Incidentally, the Big Boy was the hamburger of my youth, and since Big Boy is long gone from the area, much missed. I remember many great philosophical discussions over the Big Boy vs the Brawny Lad. Those of you who still have Big Boys in your area should not take them for granted!)

                                                      The Friday Night Fish Fry is something I rarely experienced as a child. Since we are not Catholic, the Friday meat prohibition was not part of my upbringing, and I didnt really start liking fish until I was in high school (Nicolet class of '72). But back then, every neighborhood tavern, Lion's Club, Elk's Club, and Masonic Lodge offered an all-you-can-eat fish fry on Friday night. While there are still some of them, and places like Arthur Treacher's never did well here because of them, I'm pretty sure that I missed out on the greater part of the Friday Night Fish Fry tradition. The one at Serb Hall is for the most part considered the best around, but there is a Greek Orthodox church on 76th st that we like a lot. (I often wondered why Cincinnati, another midwestern city with a large German/Catholic population didnt have more of these, just as I wonder why Milwaukee doesnt have more than a couple of places to get really good chili. Not enough Greeks, I suppose.)

                                                      In Brown Deer in the 60s, custard meant Dairy Queen, not Leon's. Kopp's didnt come to the north shore suburbs until MANY years later, so while I certainly love it now, I didnt grow up with it, and have trouble thinking of it as a Milwaukee thing.

                                                      Even the bratwurst, supposedly ubiquitous around here, presents a bit of a problem. Growing up, I only ever had them at someone's house, never from a restaurant (The exception being from Mickey-Lu's, a diner in my father's hometown of Marinette, way north of Milwaukee). So even today, while I can tell you where to buy great brats to grill at home, I cant tell you where to go to get a great one already made. If I'm lucky, I'll drive by a small grocery that has a stand set up (Bunzel's on Burleigh does this occasionally on weekends), but otherwise it's the Brat Stop in Kenosha (40 miles away) or State Street Brats in Madison (80 miles away).

                                                      So while Milwaukee is without a doubt a great place to live and to eat, I'm not sure what is unique about it, and if the things that were unique still are.

                                                      1. re: Fydeaux

                                                        Thank you for chiming in Fydeaux. Those are all wonderful contributions. And, yes, sometimes when something is so familiar, you forget how unique and special it is to others.

                                                        I think you're the first person in this thread to mention the AYCE fish fries. I don't know why they don't have them in Cincinnati, but we do have them in the Twin Cities, esp St. Paul. Many churches have them in their basements on Fridays during Lent, but many restaurants in St. Paul offer "fish fry" (maybe not all you can eat) on their menus on Fridays year-round. It's something I look forward to when Lent comes around.


                                                        1. re: Fydeaux

                                                          Friday fish fries are HUGE in Buffalo, NY -- all year long, not just Lent. You can't own a bar in that city and not offer of $7 fish fry. I didn't know there was any other city where that was a big deal.

                                                          1. re: johnbycz

                                                            oh there is. cleveland area. huge, huge deal all around there too. friday fish fries are served by all the ethnic clubs and local taverns. you can't throw a rock w/o hitting one in ne ohio either.

                                                          2. re: Fydeaux

                                                            ahhh, the big boy. we still have them here in detroit. it was a family favorite while growing up. however, i have not been in years. the owners of the franchise let the place slip pretty bad before filing chapter 11 and selling to new owners who have done well with upgrading store image, menu, and service.

                                                            my favorites included: the big boy (classic), the brawney (love the big slab of onion on the chopped sirloin), the slim jim (!! similar to a good panini but on hearty grecian bread), the garlic and oil salad dressing, and of course, the hot fudge brownie for desert. very good memories.

                                                        2. More St. Louis specialties:

                                                          gooey butter cake
                                                          brain sandwiches
                                                          those particular "italian salads" that are so ubiquitous
                                                          barbecued pork steaks--strictly a backyard grill thing

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: butterfly

                                                            Yes, those too. Brain sandwiches are pretty rare these days, although I haven't been looking. I'm sure you can get "park" steaks at Phil's BBQ and other places.

                                                            1. re: Extreme Glow

                                                              I assure you the brain sandwiches are still there, though, as it has always been, you might have to ask for them since they are often not regular menu items. I go out for them with my dad every time I'm in town and he knows where to find them in nearly any corner of the city we happen to be in at a given moment (even way out in the 'burbs).

                                                          2. Here's a Wisconsinite (granted, now in NYC) chiming in to this great thread. Many favorites are similar to Minnesota's: wild rice, lutefisk. Cheese curds, of course--you can find them deep fried, like mozzarella sticks but tastier, at state & county fairs. Pasties are available at a good new-ish place in Rhinelander, which features several varieties in addition to the traditional meat/potato/rutabaga concoction. In Madison, at the top of State Street just off the Square, is Miles's Teddywedgers (sp?), which features pasties for those further from the UP.

                                                            1. Don't know about funeral potatoes, exactly.

                                                              Every public gathering used to involve hot german potato salad.
                                                              Hot as in temp, not as in spicy.

                                                              peel, cube and boil potatoes
                                                              fry bacon
                                                              sautee onions in bacon grease
                                                              add vinegar, mustard, bacon, and potatoes into crock pot

                                                              Something like that. I've never had it in a restaurant, but it was a very common item at picnics and such.

                                                              Along the lines of odd family recipes, this is how my Mom made coffee:
                                                              Norwegian Egg Coffee

                                                              10 cups water
                                                              1/2 cup grounds
                                                              1 egg
                                                              1/4 cup water

                                                              Bring 10 cups of water in a kettle to a boil on the stovetop. Combine coffee grounds, egg and 1/4 cup water in a bowl. Add egg/coffee mixture to the boiled water. Boil 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1 cup of cold water. (This will settle the coffee grounds to the bottom of the kettle) Serve hot.

                                                              1. One further add--Head Cheese. It can be found at most good Meat Lockers in Central Minnesota--the best is from St. Joseph.

                                                                Not really cheese, it's all the good bits of meat from a hog head, with gelatin, blocked in a pan, and cut into squares kind of resembling a brownie. Served with a side dish of vinegr, you dunk it in the vinegar. Delicious with a side of crackers.

                                                                1. Oh! Egg coffee, hot German potato salad, and head cheese! Good additions.

                                                                  And, Hot Dish, thank you for those recommendations on where to find some of the local specialities.

                                                                  From this site http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodfaq4.... I just learned that the Eskimo Pie was invented in Onawa, IA http://www.eskimopie.com/brands/eskim... and the Pronto Pup (like a corn dog, but with flour coating instead--one of those "food on a sticks" MSPD is referring to) was invented in Minnesota.

                                                                  And, who could forget SPAM? Not exactly unique to Minnesota, but certainly invented in Minnesota. If you haven't been, the SPAM museum is quite a hoot if you happen to be driving near Austin, MN. http://www.spam.com/


                                                                  1. I would call Egg Coffee Cowboy
                                                                    or Chuckwagon Coffee .

                                                                    1. Discussion of shipping Graeter's ice cream in General Topics



                                                                      1. Butterfly, where can you get good gooey butter cake in St. Louis? Is that something you could find in a restaurant? Here's what Wikipedia has to say on the subject:



                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                          I hesitate to speak definitively about the best gooey butter cake. As a kid, it was one of those things that I would binge on so much that I would make myself ill. Once my mom made it from scratch and was so disgusted by the quantity of butter that we weren't allowed to have it again for a very long time.

                                                                          We always got ours from weird little German bakeries tucked away in neighborhoods and strip malls all over South St. Louis. I believe one was on Watson. near Another Ronnie's theater on Lindbergh in South County. And another one in a little house off 55 and Loughborough (conveniently located near my pediatrician's office!). I wonder if any of these places are still around...

                                                                          Edit: I never once ate GBC in a restaurant. It always came from the bakery.

                                                                          1. re: butterfly

                                                                            We're partial to MacArthur's Bakery on Lemay Ferry. I didn't find a web site for them though.

                                                                            I actually really love the homemade version using a yellow cake mix. A lot of butter, powdered sugar and cream cheese.


                                                                            1. re: butterfly

                                                                              Perhaps you are thinking of Carondelet Bakery?

                                                                              You can get gooey butter cake as a dessert at 1111 Mississippi. It comes with a glass of ice cold milk. Although the creme custard napoleon is not to be missed.


                                                                              1. re: Extreme Glow

                                                                                Oh, yes--that's the one by my old pediatrician's office! Wow, it hasn't changed a bit in 20 years. I'll have to make a stop there when I visit my parents this summer.

                                                                          2. These reply thingies never post in the right place. Post above is in reply to TDQ regarding bakery near Loughborough and 55.

                                                                            1. The pork loin sandwich is a good one.

                                                                              For Columbia, MO, there is:

                                                                              - The stretch, which is hash browns covered with eggs (best over-easy), then chili, then cheese, peppers, onions and hot sauce. [Broadway Diner]

                                                                              - Shakespeares pizza

                                                                              - CJ's Hot wings

                                                                              - Booches burgers

                                                                              The last three sound sort of generic, but if you're there, they are must haves. I do still maintain that CJ's BYFO sauce is the best I've had anywhere.

                                                                              1. Well, here's my take from the IL side of St. Louis:
                                                                                Snoots done very crispy lightly sauced with that great crunch like a pork rind supersized
                                                                                Brain sandwiches... cracker crumbed, fried and served on rye w/ mayo, dill pickle slice and a slice of raw onion
                                                                                Corn nuggets fresh from the fryer...crispy outside mellow sweet corn kernels in batter inside..Mmmm.. great w/ some spicy smoked BBQ sliced turkey from Larry's BBQ in Duqouin, Christopher, & Herrin
                                                                                I also have to vote for fried morels as my fav food that is the just reward of those who wander the woods searching for those elusive fungi.

                                                                                1. Well, Springfield, Ohio isn't known for much, but we have Wittenberg University and their much beloved deli, Mike & Rosy's. They steam press their sandwiches, which makes for a memorable taste.

                                                                                  1. spfldOHchow: Steam pressed sandwiches! Cool!

                                                                                    And, DetectDave, those all sound excellent. I've not heard the fried corn nuggets mentioned in this thread yet.

                                                                                    Dennis S--I did some Googling on Booches burgers and indeed there seem to be much beloved. I forgot about the stretch!

                                                                                    MSPD, I'll have to check the freezer for lutefisk next time I venture out. :)

                                                                                    Oh, and I wanted to mention Blue Cheese, Maytag Dairy Farm in Newton, IA, which came up in the “Iowa” thread that’s been bouncing about the last couple of days. http://www.maytagdairyfarms.com/aspx/...

                                                                                    And it looks like I'm going to have to try some snoots!


                                                                                    1. for cleveland and ne ohio it's easily pierogies. these are offered in just about every pub and tavern. also, not so uniqiue but great lakes fish like walleye and perch of course.

                                                                                      there are also esoteric old euro immigrant chow items like czech cevaps and hungarian restaurants. amish chow too like cheeses and the famed "trail bologna" which are cocktail platter standards.

                                                                                      here's a good one, it's a real weirdo dessert concoction found in local delis that is made of whipped cream cheese & jello and sold in clear plastic jello mold tubs. the neon-colored looking jello tubs are wild and wacky sights! the taste is well...eh, fun at a picnic or if you are a kid.

                                                                                      another fav local is 50/50 soda, a lemon-lime flavored mix. everyone had that in the fridge when i was a kid! sadly, i heard they stopped making it.

                                                                                      ok we are getting pretty micro here.

                                                                                      a more widely known and famed condiment is cleveland's awesome bertman's mustard. it's a bit better than it's twin, stadium mustard. either are worth seeking out!

                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: mrnyc

                                                                                        50/50 was marketed in Milwaukee by a company called Graf's. Their trademark was Grandpa Graf, a big friendly fellow who was ever-present in my parent's fridge when I was growing up.

                                                                                        It was probably marketed in other areas by different companies, but it appears that Canfield makes it now; I found this while doing a quick web search.


                                                                                        1. re: mrnyc

                                                                                          Can you tell me more about "Czech cevaps"? Thanks.

                                                                                          1. re: conniemcd

                                                                                            cevapicci or cevaps are basically little czech sausages usually served in a kind of pita bread sandwich. not seen to the extent of the all-pervasive pierogie, but somewhat common in the ne ohio region. here's some info:



                                                                                            1. re: mrnyc

                                                                                              You can get cevapi in St. Louis, although the Bosnia version, not the Czech version. However, this is a recent introduction into the city with the mid-90s immigration of over 40,000 Bosnians escaping the ethnic warfare in the Balkans.

                                                                                          2. re: mrnyc

                                                                                            i thought of a few more -- another oldie but goodie from downtown cleveland's salad days i thought of are or were called 'modernistic' cookies. as you can tell by the name they date from the deco days and the height of the old downtown shopping era.

                                                                                            funny thing to me living in nyc now is that any new yorker would know them as black and white cookies!

                                                                                            and also, how could i forget chef boy-ar-dee? and stouffer's frozen pizza bread? oh i know why -- we're supposed to be chowhounds - lol!

                                                                                            a better note to end on and also coming out of cleveland's wonderful little italy are the unbelievable gilly's (presti's) sour cream donuts and orlando bakery's ciabatta bread. that bread is all we ate as kids!:


                                                                                          3. Here in SE Ohio you will find mashed potatoes topped with home made noodles and yellow gravy. Standard fare at any small, local mom and pop eatery.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: mattrapp

                                                                                              I'm originally from SE Indiana-my mother has always made chicken or turkey in water, poured off the broth and cooked homemade egg noodles in the broth. It's then served over mashed potatoes.

                                                                                            2. So much terrific info being added to this thread, including Mattrapp's points about SE Ohio's mashed potatoes with noodles and yellow gravy; mrnyc's and Fydeayx's contributions about Wisconsin favorites including Czech inspired foods, jello, 50/50 pop, and Friday fish fries; kroppinkris, butterfly, and extreme glow's continuing discussion on the best gooey butter cake in Iowa; candy's input about the fried bisquits in Brown County near Nashville; and more continuing discussion on Cincinnati favorites clili, Graeter ice cream, Aglamesis Brothers ice cream, and ice balls and ice cream by xulori94, TJ Jackson, and johnbycz.

                                                                                              I wanted to link an article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune today where they talk about the bundt cake pan having been invented in Minnesota, Shakers Original American Vodka, Hope Butter, and a bit about "food on a stick obsession" at the Minnesota State Fair. http://www.startribune.com/438/v-spec... In fact, here's a link to the State Fair website's "Food Finder." http://www.mnstatefair.org/pages/food... There won't be much to see on the site until August 1, but prior year's fairs have featured Spaghetti and Meatballs on a stick, Key Lime Pie on a stick, Reuban Sandwich on a stick, Macaroni and Cheese on a stick...and so on. (Some of which were a miserable flop, some of which were pretty good.)

                                                                                              Also, a discussion of MN State Fair food lore would not be complete without a mention of the butter carvings made of the annual Princess Kay of the Milkyway Dairy Princess. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess...

                                                                                              One last thing for now, Minneapolis was once known as the Flour Milling Capital of the world. I highly recommend a visit to the Mill City Museum to learn more about the history of flour milling in the United States. http://www.millcitymuseum.org/history...


                                                                                              1. Here are a few thoughs from another Wisconsinite.

                                                                                                Here in my river town of Prairie du Chien, we have Pete's Hamburgers. The cart from which they are made and sold has been downtown since 190-something. The meatpatties are cooked on a steam table with lots of onions. They're made in a batch of 40 or so, sold to the waiting line of customers, and then the process starts over. They are served with or without onions, and your choice of catsup, yellow mustard or brown mustard. (I take 'em --with, and both mustards). If you ever had a Pete's you'll remember them. If I have two, I end up with rumble tummy--maybe alittle too much grease. But you know, somethimes you just want to have a Pete's. They are a seasonal thing too. Only on weekends, and early May to mid October.

                                                                                                Another Prairie du Chien thing is Valley's Fish Market. Mike makes pretty good smoked fish (catfish and sturgeon); catfish jerkey, frogs legs and fresh turtle meat. He does a fish fry at the shop on Fridays, but the cole slaw and potato salad are nothing to write home about.

                                                                                                I have never had a fish boil, but I think they are a big deal in Door County and NE WI.

                                                                                                Does anyone know about the carmels made by a covent of nuns located near Dubuque? I remember having thse about 15 years ago and don't know where to find them now.

                                                                                                1. WI LouLou, here's the link for the Trappistine Creamy Caramels http://www.trappistine.com/default.asp Are these the caramels you were referring to?

                                                                                                  Mrnyc, did you see the request buried in the thread by conniemcd about more info about the Czech cevaps common to Cleveland and NE Ohio? If you pop back in, I too, would love it if you would fill in more details for us.

                                                                                                  In the meantime, I did a little Googling and ended up at Wikipedia. Cevaps is Short, I think, for Cevapcici "a popular dish in the Balkans. They are small grilled rolls of minced beef, pork, or lamb, or a combination of any of these three types of meat. Usually served with chopped onions, sometimes with cottage cheese, ajvar, etc."


                                                                                                  And GoalieJeff, thank you for the addtional details on squeaky cheese.


                                                                                                  1. I'm told it's a Minnesota thing to receive a beer chaser along with a bloody mary order in a restaurant. My wife was pleasantly surprised by that one...

                                                                                                    Does this happen in any other parts of the country?


                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: gromit

                                                                                                      The Red Beer line(tomato juice& beer) is somewhere south of
                                                                                                      Minnesota. It's a regular thing in Nebraska, not so much in Kansas or Missouri.
                                                                                                      Not sure where or why Red Beer originated throughout the Middle of the country.
                                                                                                      That's not quite what you asked, but it's along the same lines.Maybe it's the only way all those Norsemen get any tomatoes in their diet.

                                                                                                      1. re: bbqboy

                                                                                                        not sure thats a usa invention. red beer is big in argentina too, and btw yes they call it red beer and not cerveza rojo. they top your draft beer with a little tomato juice. its great (esp as the big local beer, a bud-like brand called quilmes, is not that great).

                                                                                                        they also top a draft with a splash of grapefruit juice too. that one is called a clarita. it's great in the summer, try it!

                                                                                                        1. re: mrnyc

                                                                                                          Well, it's not exactly what you guys are describing. Frankly, it's not so much a "specialty", just a regional oddity.

                                                                                                          If you order a Bloody Mary you get - along with it, in a separate glass - a beer chaser. Two for one, almost? But yeah, haven't seen that anywhere else but MN. Not that I've been searching...


                                                                                                      2. re: gromit

                                                                                                        The beer chaser with a Bloody Mary is pretty popular in Wisconsin as well.

                                                                                                      3. Another food that I haven't seen outside of the midwest is the homemade angel food/honeycomb candy. Sometimes dipped in chocolate--similar to the UK's crunchie bar, but better. I love that stuff.

                                                                                                        1. KC area Candy-
                                                                                                          Cherry Mash, Valomilk, Jianas Bros. Ribbon Candy, Bogdon's Reception Sticks.....
                                                                                                          I'm sure there's more.

                                                                                                          1. The caramels made by the nuns at Our Lady of the Mississippi in Dubuque Iowa are my favorite, especially the box that consists of a simple, yet devastating, slab of pecan-loaded caramel. I bring a plastic, serrated knife with me when going to buy the caramel. Otherwise it is difficult (but not impossible, I've done it) to chew off a hunk when driving back home. Easier to use the serrated knife to cut the slab into six smaller pieces which are more manageable, allowing me to keep at least one hand on the wheel while driving. If the Abbey is closed, I drive over to New Melleray Monastery in Peosta. The Brothers there stock the caramels in their gift shop. If none of the brothers are in the gift shop, just take a box(es) of caramels off the shelf and leave the appropriate amount of money on the counter.

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: mfo22

                                                                                                              Thanks for the link and info on the carmels; I'm going to order some.

                                                                                                            2. I think pickled ring bologna originated in Flint Michigan.
                                                                                                              It tastes a lot better than it sounds!


                                                                                                              1. Thanks Fydeaux for the Graf's 50-50. they also had something called "White Soda" -- I was never quite sure what it was -- probably something to pour into a Brandy Old-Fashioned.

                                                                                                                I grew up just north of Milwaukee -- very German-American territory. Every town (West Bend, Slinger, Kewaskum, Fond du Lac) had a butcher who offered (in addition to the ubiquitous brat) their own versions of mettwurst, braunschweiger, souse, headcheese, and my favorite, summer sausage. Right after hunting season, those lucky to get a deer would end up with venison brats and summer sausage.

                                                                                                                Friday's NY Times, btw, featured Springfield, Illinois as a travel spot -- their unique culinary contribution is the "horseshoe" -- "a gargantuan open-face sandwich stuffed with meat (hamburger, usually), buried in French fries and smothered in cheese sauce."

                                                                                                                1. the modernistic cookies mr.nyc mentions as a cleveland classic are something that i really miss. they were actually swirled vanilla and chocolate dough, not frosted as east coast black and white cookies are. they were made by the hough bakery (now long defunct), an area institution that had the most wonderful way with sugar cookies (though i never liked the sheet cakes they were famed for).
                                                                                                                  i'm totally ignorant about cevaps, though. although i grew up with czech grandparents, we never had them and while they're no doubt available at butcher shops i don't recall seeing them on menus.

                                                                                                                  1. I don't know if the name originated at Ohio State, but as it was a staple on the residence hall menu, I assume that is how a lot of people got 'hooked'.

                                                                                                                    Thank goodness no one specializing in Texas Straw Hat, which was essentially taco meat on fritos.

                                                                                                                    Good Times!

                                                                                                                    1. I grew up in Southwest Iowa amongst the Danish, and most of my childhood food memories revolve around this. Ebelskiver dinners at ALL of the local churches and at my grandma's house-Ebelskiver are little hat looking dumpling/ pancakes that are served with butter and either syrup or preserves. I also have fond memories of Rolle Polse--a dry cured beef rolled in spices and gelatin, and wherever I move, my parents bring rolle polse care packages--even now across the Canadian border!!