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Small cities' food specialties

I find that many small cities have certain foods peculiar to them, if not too well-known elsewhere.

I don't mean obvious things like the New York bagel, London Fish and Chips, or Athenian Gyros. For example, there is Buffalo, New York, with its spicy chicken wings and "weck" (a type of roast beef sandwich on a roll), or Cincinnati's chili served atop spaghetti. Anyone have other suggestions?

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  1. Breaded pork tenderloin sandwich.

    In Indiana, Iowa, and some of the more rural western areas of Illinois this is a very popular sandwich. A piece of pork tenderloin, flattened(tenderized), breaded, and deep fried. The tenderloin is typically 2x - 3x the size of the bun it is served on.. I like mine with pickle, onion, hot sauce , and maybe some mayo or worsteshire sauce.

    4 Replies
    1. re: swsidejim

      Jim have you seen this gallery devoted to the pork tenderloin sandwich? it's great.


      but i think the pork tenderloin sandwich is more of a widespread midwestern phenomenon instead of one cities' specialty.

      how about the "jucy lucy" yes that is how it's spelled, from minneapolis?

      1. re: soupkitten

        yes thanks for the link though, that site is an awesome collection of sandwiches.

        I agree, I guess it would be called a regional specialty as opposed to limited to one city.

        1. re: swsidejim

          The tenderloin is unique in origin to pork producing regions. When I lived in Iowa, they were my favorite. Have not seen them in Kansas or Missouri as much if ever. I go pickle & mayo on my tenderloin!

          1. re: stellamystar

            I associate roasted corn on the cob right there along with the pork tenderloin in Iowa...

    2. There's a small town south of Nashville called Fayetteville, Tennessee that is known for "Pool Room Slaw" Burgers. It's a sweet yellow slaw that they put on the burgers there and it's pretty good.

      1. I don't know how unknown it is, but I fell in love with the mustard-based barbeque pulled pork sandwich I had a few years ago in South Carolina, and haven't been able to adequately reproduce it myself.

        1. How about Owensboro, Kentucky and Burgoo? Not chilli, not barbeque, but in the same family. Sort of.

          1 Reply
          1. re: cowlbelle

            Utica, Illinois has an annual Burgoo Festival each fall.

            We went this year and sampled this stew.

          2. Along the coast of Lake MI...the local specialty is Lake Perch. Usually fried with some tartar sauce for dipping. Delish.

            1 Reply
            1. re: amanda3571

              Yep, Calumet Region soul food. Boned and buttered lake perch.

            2. Cincinnati has goetta.
              St. Augustine has Minorcan (clam or fish) chowder.

              1. Springfield Missouri, home of Springfield Cashew Chicken? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cashew_c...

                Maybe that's too obvious...

                How about the Slinger of St. Louis? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slinger

                My Blog: http://www.epicureforum.com

                5 Replies
                1. re: sirregular

                  Not sure if this qualifies, but perhaps someone could back me up. I'm from State College, PA--home of the Penn State Nittany Lions, and Creamery Ice Cream. The ice cream is made right on the campus, and it's not uncommon for the line to be out the door and wrapped alongside the building. It's known for having put ice cream makers Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield through its program. I'm pretty sure you can order the ice cream online--I'd highly recommend it!!

                  1. re: luswim06

                    Peach Paterno would definitely qualify. Also, I suppose you could add grilled sticky buns from the downtown diner to local specialties...

                    1. re: linguafood

                      I'll back you up-that is the best da*m icecream I have ever had. And the sticky buns....can you say freshman 15??

                    2. re: luswim06

                      If you're talking ice cream, you can't miss the yummy sweet stuff produced at both NC State and Clemson Universities. Clemson also makes bleu cheese that will absolutely knock your socks off.

                    3. re: sirregular

                      Mmmm... I'm definitely going to find a slinger next time I'm visiting St. Louis. After copious amounts of beer of course.

                    4. Barberton Ohio has a peculiar fried chicken with Yugoslavian roots. It is always served with hand cut fires, a hot rice sauce and vinegar based slaw or forgettable apple sauce.

                      Hopokan Gardens is the best place to go, but White House and Miliches are both very good, just don't tell your cardiologist.


                      1. Sandwiches in Pittsburgh have fries inside along with the lettuce and tomatoes, "Pittsburgh Style" steaks are charred on the outside and cold/blue in the middle. Philly is known for cheesesteak, and scrapple. Baltimore crabcakes are fabulous, as are Eastern Shore softshell crabs and boiled hardshells with Bay Seasoning. New England has fried softshell clams, Nantucket bay scallops, lobster, Maine shrimp and sea urchin. Michigan is well known for morels, Oregon for matsutakes and now truffles. Rochester has red and white hots, and "garbage plates."

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: steinpilz

                          The "Primanti's" sandwich - with the fries and slaw on the sandwich - is uniquely Primanti's, not actually something found throughout Pittsburgh. Probably the best imitator isn't even in Pgh, it's in SF at Giordano Bros. The sandwich was invented primarily for truckers who were delivering produce and meats in the wee hours of the morning. Instead of doing "sides" Primanti's just threw everything on a bun so the driver could eat it with one hand (if they had HUGE hands). To this day, a fried egg accompaniment on top is still offered as an option.

                        2. I grew up in Joliet, IL, southwest of Chicago. You can get "poorboys" all over town. Not a po' boy, a poorboy. French roll, tons of garlic butter, toasted. Cube steak cooked with more butter and garlic, topped with provolone if you'd like and grilled onions. I had no idea that these were a Joliet thing until I left and discovered I couldn't get one anywhere. I'm certain they exist elsewhere with a different name, I just don't know what that name might be...

                          1. Throughout Nebraska, and maybe some neighboring state too, there is a local fast food chain called Runza. It's based on some Central/Eastern European pie/sandwich thing that has ground beef and cabbage. It's been eons since I had one, but to say they are a unique part of the food landscape in Nebraska would be an understatement. (And, all the cities/towns in Nebraska are on the small side.) IIRC, they had fantastic fires too.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: baltoellen

                              My husband went to school in Nebraska and LOVES Runza - some call a biuerock (Spelling??). ANyway, there are 2 in Lawrence, KS (where KU is). In case you cannot get to Nebraska - FYI. They are pretty darn tasty. And, they make the dough & filling fresh.

                              1. re: stellamystar

                                On my first visit to Omaha last year, there was a Runza next to the building where I attended a meeting. I wondered what that was all about. Next time I'm there I'll have to give it a try.

                                1. re: stellamystar


                                  Krautkoche or Kraut Kuchen or Bierrocks or Runzas or....

                                  The name krautkoche (the K's are pronounced like a hard G) for this item seems to be somewhat unique to Portland. In other parts of the United States and Canada they are known as runzas and bierocks. The word bierock was not brought into Russia by the Volga Germans from Germany and cannot be traced back to Germany (it does not exist in the German language) because it is a derivative of Russian "Pirog" which means "Pie". The Volga German dialect often has a very similar sound for the explosive letters P and B; and use the soft G, which sounds like K. Thus, pirog becomes bierock. It is probably not a coincidence that bierocks are close in both name and preparation to the Eastern European pierogi, Turkish börek, Albanian Byrek, and Yugoslavian Burek.


                                  A krautkoche, bierock or runza is a yeast dough bread pocket with a filling consisting of beef, cabbage or sauerkraut, onions, and seasonings. They are baked in various shapes such as a half-moon, rectangle, round (bun), square, or triangle. In Nebraska, the runza is usually baked in a rectangular shape. The bierocks of Kansas, on the other hand, are generally baked in the shape of a bun.

                                  Both the bierock and the runza sandwich have German-Russian roots going back to the 18th century. The term ''bierock'' comes from the Russian word ''pirogi'' or ''pirozhki'' and is the name for any food consisting of a filling stuffed into dough. The recipe was passed down from one generation to the next, and was brought to the Midwest of America, and particularly to the states of Kansas and Nebraska, by the Volga Germans. Originally bierocks were served to ranch and field workers for lunch. Today bierocks and runzas are enjoyed at any time and can often be found at church fund-raisers and socials in the Kansas and Nebraska area. In 1949, Sarah "Sally" Everett and her brother, Alex Brening, opened the first "Runza Drive-Inn" in Lincoln, Nebraska. The trade name and trademark of Runza Restaurants now belong to Donald R. Everett, Sarah's son.
                                  also found in Fresno:

                                  1. re: bbqboy

                                    I have never heard of these foods, but they sound really good. We have sauerkraut balls in Akron, and obviously pirogi in Cleveland, but this is food new to me.


                                    1. re: Kelli2006

                                      Bierocks were among my favorite school foods growing up in Fresnbo, California. I make them now with fondness.

                                    2. re: bbqboy

                                      Something very similar was featured on that Alton Brown road trip series that followed the Mississippi. ISTR a husband/wife team with a shop in Minn.- they had been making them for 20-30 years or so. Does this ring a bell with anyone? Think one of them were of Russian descent...

                                      1. re: bbqboy

                                        Bierock = pirog = piroshki (Polish) = borek (Turkish) = boereg (Armenian)...it just goes on and on. All dough envelopes encasing meat, cheese, vegetables, what have you. Something portable you could take with you when you were herding, hunting, farming, fishing - and, later, mining or working in a factory - that includes its own wrapping, so you don't need a plate or utensils or a box to carry it in. Probably the closest thing to a universal food format we have.

                                  2. Cincinnati's Skyline Chili, goetta (a mixture of meats/organs/barley etc. all baked together into some yummy goodness), La Rosa's pizza (the sauce is to die for, i always get my pizza loaded with meat toppings, but i make the exception at La Rosa's...all i ever want there is plain cheese pizza so i can taste the sauce better).

                                    Chicago style deep dish pizza, Italian beef sandwiches.

                                    Ice wine from the Toronto/Niagara area.

                                    Montreal smoked meat from...Montreal! I usually go to a restaurant there called Dunn's that specializes in smoked meat...big establishment downtown, open 24/7.

                                    There's a restaurant in Toronto called Vegetarian Haven which makes everything not just vegetarian but completely vegan. They have a vegan cheesecake that is the best I've ever had hands down...and it's VEGAN. Nobody ever believes me on this one until I take them, so far I've converted 100% of my friends that I've taken there...okay so maybe this isn't a local thing, rather just a specific restaurant, but it's still amazing...

                                    Prairie oysters from any of the prairie states/canadian provinces? I guess that's more of a regional thing.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Piggy Smalls

                                      "Montreal smoked meat" is sold EVERYWHERE in Canada. It's a regional specialty the same way "New York pizza" is in the states- actually less so. Dunn's is a chain with locations all over the country.

                                      1. re: Piggy Smalls

                                        There is lots of good Vegan Cheesecake here in Minneapolis. I know at least three places that make it.

                                      2. Pittsburgh's steak salad - topped with french fries. You toss it all together with dressing. Gosh those are good. I haven't had a Pittsburgh client in a few years, so I haven't had a steak salad in a while. St Louis has fried raviolis - I've had them elsewhere, but I think they started in St Louis, that's where I had them the first time, about 15 years ago.

                                        Most of the Buffalo stuff is covered already (beef on weck, chicken wings) but loganberry comes to mind too. I forgot to get my loganberry fix when I was in Buffalo for Christmas.

                                        1. El Reno, OK - onion-fried burger - onions are mashed into the patty as it grills; also a version of the Coney Island which includes a bright red wiener, chili and a very sweet slaw.

                                          West, Texas has a reputation for kolaches. Actually there are people of Czech descent all over Texas, particularly between Houston and the hill country, and many small towns with more than one kolache shoppe, but West has developed a reputation.

                                          Lockhart, TX, barbeque capitol of Texas

                                          Elgin, TX, sausage capitol of Texas, famous for Elgin ‘hot guts’ sausage.

                                          Galveston, TX, has a specialty called the Bronco burrito - scrambled eggs, cheese, potatoes, bacon, chorizo, and refritos on a large flour tortilla, served at several places but originated at The Donut Shoppe on Broadway.

                                          Not a small town but San Antonio has a special version of a burger called a bean burger which includes refritos and corn chips among the condiments - quite tasty.

                                          John T. Edge’s Burgers and Fries notes several other unique burgers which are popular in limited areas if not just one town.

                                          Actually it's pretty hard to find a food that's unique to just one town.

                                          1. Only in the part of central NY state near Binghamton, they make spiedies: grilled skewers of pork or chicken pieces that have been marinated in something similar to Italian dressing. Restaurants serve the skewers with pieces of squishy white sandwich bread. Local markets sell marinated spiedie meat, as well as bottles of the marinade.

                                            1. In the South Carolina Low Country (Georgetown, Charleston) either Perlow or Chicken Bog.

                                              Both are rice dishes made with sausage and chicken. Delicious.

                                              1. Australia has it's own weird local food things, too.

                                                Y'all know about the iconic Aussie meat pie??

                                                Well, in Adelaide a pie is served on a plate, doused with pea soup.

                                                Called a pie floater.

                                                The rest of the country think it's mad.

                                                Melbourne is the only place in OZ (so I believe) that serves scallops with the roe attached. It's illegal to sell it thus in the rest of the country.

                                                Go figure.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: purple goddess

                                                  Pie on top of Pea Soup? Wow! At least the pie is savory...right?

                                                2. Two that are very specific:

                                                  Woonsocket RI: A sandwich called a dynamite. From www.quahog.org: "Fried hamburger, peppers, onions, tomato sauce, and crushed red pepper, served on a torpedo roll. Like a sloppy Joe on crack." I've never tried one, probably because I limit my visits to Woonsocket.

                                                  Waterville ME: Dagwoods. Cousin to the Italian, a type of sub widely found in Portland and elsewhere in Maine that is served on a soft (some might say squishy) roll. Dagwoods are basically the same ingredients (meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, green peppers, olives, and if you're smart, bacon) served in pita bread.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Bob W

                                                    I spent a lot of time in Woon in the late 70s/early 80s and never heard of "dynamite". I did, however, learn all about raw snail salad at the Bijou on Cass. Seemed to be a number of French Canadians around those parts. Places that actually had tourtiere on the menu for Christmas Eve. You don't see that everywhere.

                                                    I actually misread the post the first time through and thought there were quahogs on top of hamburger. Now THAT would be an interesting sandwich!

                                                  2. Well, it used to be just a Quebec thing, but it's recently spread all over Canada. Poutine - fries, gravy, and cheese curds. Yes, it's a heart attack in a cup, but what guilty pleasure isn't these days? Even some of the big chains have started to offer it in Canada (BK, Wendy's, but not McD's).

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: KevinB

                                                      I think McDo's has poutine on its menu in QC...a chain in QC called Mike's has a number of different poutine permutations.

                                                      I was never a fan of poutine and you are right it is heart attack in a cup.

                                                    2. Oh, and muffaletta - can you get these anywhere outside Louisiana? Had one from the Central Grocery in New Orleans a decade or so ago, and it still resounds in my memory.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: KevinB

                                                        I always wondered what poutine was-there were some earlier threads on that. I had a muffaletta once on a short stop in New Orleans-excellent!! I have seen it on menus around here (SC) sometimes, but haven't had the guts to try it again because I know it will never be the same!!

                                                        1. re: KevinB

                                                          Poutine hasn't made it here so far as I know (Houston) but muffalettas are fairly common and have been for years and years. The biggest locally based po-boy chain, Antone's, offers one as do many places that identify as Cajun or Italian.

                                                        2. Santa Maria, in central California between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, is famous for Santa Maria Tri-Tip. It's a beef tri-tip roast, seasoned with a spice rub, grilled (preferably over red oak), sliced across the grain and served with fresh salsa, pinquito beans, green salad, and warm tortillas or French bread.

                                                          Here are my favorite recipes for the whole deal:


                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                            Do you realize that you have just opened up a years worth of reading for me with your website. I will be hunched over the computer, ignoring the kids and trying all your recipes and ideas for a very long time. Thankyou I think. I will start with the Tri-tip and report back. :)

                                                            1. re: chocchipcookie

                                                              :-> :-> :->

                                                              Glad you like it! It's a little excessive, but I have fun with it!

                                                            2. re: MsMaryMc

                                                              I was going to say that...

                                                              Santa Maria tri-tip is one of the only regional specialty cuisines in Ca. It's the only one I can think of anyway...

                                                              1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                                I grew up eating this food. My dad and few others were amoung the first group to start this. We were serious about it my dad and brothers built custom BBQ/smoker made from local rocks from the mountains that sat in our yard in order to make the best bbq tri-tip you ever tasted. I learned to make salsa at 10 yrs. old. Thanks for the memories.

                                                              2. porkroll egg and cheese.

                                                                nope. it aint canadian bacon....

                                                                1. Fun topic. Here in Central IL the Horseshoe is popular. It originated in Springfield, IL. It's thick toasted bread (usually sourdough) topped with hamburger or ham, french fries piled on top of that, then all is covered in a cheese sauce. Sounds awful, looks worse, but is really quite tasty. My local pub adds mushrooms between the meat and fries. They also offer a smaller version of this mess they call a "pony".
                                                                  By the way, pork tenderloin sandwiches as described above are also extremely popular here in Central IL.

                                                                  1. Two more brilliant Kentucky specialties: the Louisville Hot Brown, and Henderson's barbecued mutton. Actually, the mutton used to be a regional thing, but now it's pretty much down to just one place in Henderson...and it's closed on Sundays, which has so far been the only times I went through there. The Hot Brown is more ubiquitous, being offered in the original form (roasted turkey on a slab of toasted bread, topped with sliced tomato, sharp cheddar cheese sauce and a couple slices of bacon and then run under the salamander) or in one of the many variations all over the middle-Southeast.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                                                      Seems like back in the 70s I ran into several places in Ky. that served BBQed mutton. If I'm remembering righr they were little road side stands where you would expect to get a burger or a hot dog .
                                                                      BBQed pork steaks in St. Louis.

                                                                      1. re: tusti

                                                                        "Used to be" is the key. Back around then my bass-player brother was living in Evansville, Indiana, and playing regular gigs in Louisville. His routine was to head to Kentucky after his day job and pick up a mutton sandwich from his favorite stand to eat on the way. And my ex-wife and I stumbled over some in around '76 when we were exploring between Land Between the Lakes and Cadiz, at a roadside inn/cafe. It was the first I'd ever tasted, and it was really good.

                                                                      2. re: Will Owen

                                                                        Mutton is no longer widely offered? I didn't know that. It's found on the menus of some Texas bbq joints - it's not all brisket, pork ribs and sausage here. Gonzales Food market in Gonzales is one that's kind of famous for offering it.

                                                                      3. It seems as if California is not well represented here so I will throw a few out there. In San Diego (no longer a small town but can still feel like one) there is the fish taco, which we stole from Mexico, but every taco shop around sells them and there are heated discussions as to which are the best. San Diego style burritos--which only contain meat, guacamole & salsa--no fillers like rice, beans or lettuce. And finally a "California Burrito" which is usually a carne asada burrito (meat, guacamole, and salsa) to which french fries and cheese are added. On that note, carne asada fries are popular, the insides of a carne asada burrito on top of fries with melted cheese.

                                                                        1. I'm surprised nobody has mentioned dipping a dill pickle in Kool Aid...as seen on Feasting on Asphalt.

                                                                          1. Rocheseter NY has the Nick Tahou's Garbage Plate:
                                                                            It's a mix of home fries, mac salad, and a protein (could be two cheeseburger patties, hot dogs, eggs, or even fried fish), topped by what they refer to as hot saucem but is really a meat gravy, and then raw onions and mustard (the last two are optional).
                                                                            It is a Rochester institution and the only way to end a night of serious drinking!

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: HungryRubia

                                                                              That makes Loco Moco sound like a Diet Plate!

                                                                              1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                You guys are so right! It is sooo bad for you but sooo good! I haven't had one in almost 8 years and sometimes the craving is unbelievable!

                                                                            2. Not really a city, but my husband was telling me about South Dakota's Tiger Meat. Basically Steak Tartare, except served in small town bars on crackers and made with hamburger. He is requesting I make it for him.

                                                                              1. The ubiquitous Door County, WI fish boil.

                                                                                Really sounded horrible to this East Coast boy, but wasn't bad.