Chosen by readers of USA TODAY and 10Best
10thKey West - Key Lime Pie
Florida's native key lime adds a unique taste to any dish in which it's used, and key lime pie is by far the most popular. Whether you like this creamy pie on the sweet side or tart side; pale yellow or light green; room temperature, cool or frozen . . . the small citrus namesake unique to toasty climes has elevated it to elite dessert status among travelers. In Key West, you can even find key lime pie dipped in chocolate, and frozen on a stick. It's the official state pie of Florida!
9thNew Orleans - Boiled Crawfish
"Boiled crawfish is a Bayou delicacy," says 10Best Local Expert Kristopher Neild. "Twist, suck, peel and slurp these fun-to-eat delicacies." New Orleans's iconic protein is typically boiled along with potatoes, corn, Andouille sausage and Zatarain’s seasoning ... these 'crawfish boils' are the makings of many a party. Crawfish are farmed and fished in the marshes and swamps across the southern part of the state, and have been popular since Native American times.
8thIndianapolis - Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
Not unlike weiner schnitzel, the cutlet in an Indianapolis pork tenderloin sandwich is a thin slice of pounded pork dipped in egg, flour and breadcrumbs, then deep fried to a tantalizing golden brown. Typically served on a bun with lettuce, pickles, onions, mustard and/or mayonnaise, the pork tenderloin sandwich is an Indiana staple.
7thChicago - Italian Beef Sandwiches
Chicagoans pay culinary homage to their city's strong Italian heritage with the popular Italian beef sandwich. Typically served on fresh Italian bread, this hefty treat is packed with sliced beef and giardiniera, a seasoned mix of pickled vegetables in vinegar or oil. Giardiniera (locally nicknamed 'gravy') fills every crevice of the sandwich; its spicy version is called 'hot mix.' Local Expert Megy Karydes recommends a taste test between sandwich rivals Al's Beef and Mr. Beef.
6thCharleston, SC - Shrimp and Grits
Two cultural influences are present in shrimp and grits, a staple menu item in America's "low country" - the marshy coast of South Carolina and Georgia. Harvesting fresh seafood is a way of life for many along this coast, while creamy grits represent the gracious southern manner of beautiful Charleston. The blend of these two local ingredients creates a warm, delicious dish that's great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
5thPhiladelphia - Philly Cheese Steak
So iconic that their home city is included in the name, Philly cheese steaks are king in Philadelphia. The hoagie-style sandwich is composed of melted cheese and thinly-sliced steak. First created in the early 1930s by Pat and Harry Olivieri, the cheese steak initially lacked the cheese component until manager Joe Lorenza allegedly added provolone cheese. Today, a famous neighborhood restaurant rivalry pits Geno’s vs Pat’s, as to whose is best.
4thMemphis - Pulled Pork
If anyone dares to question a local about the value of Memphis pulled pork compared to other regional barbecue, those are fightin' words. Savory, smoky Memphis 'cue - usually made from pork shoulder - is slow cooked in a wood-fired pit for about 13 hours. It's typically topped with a dollop of coleslaw, and served with a choice of sauces. "Pulled pork is put on everything from nachos to pizza in Memphis," says Local Expert Sally Walker-Davies. "Leftovers are also heavenly; they reheat well and taste great cold."
3rdWisconsin - Fried Cheese Curds
Wisconsin’s unique cheese curds are a delicacy within the state, and often a curiosity to those from out of state. Sometimes called ‘squeaky cheese,’ cheese curds are the solid park of soured milk, covered in a batter and then deep-fried and typically served with a side of ranch dressing. Cheese curds are used in dishes or eaten alone and are found at fairs and carnivals; local (non-chain) fast food restaurants; locally originating fast food chains like Culver’s; and in some bars.
2ndBaltimore - Maryland Crabs
Crabs are quintessential Maryland. They’re an important part of the state economy and so culturally relevant that enjoying having Old Bay spice-covered fingers is a right of passage before being considered a true Marylander. Summertime is the height of season. On any given Saturday or Sunday, countless informal gatherings convene over butcher paper-covered tables strewn with cracked shells and glasses of beer. Drive past any major road in Baltimore’s suburbs and you’ll see small trucks advertising bushels for sale.
1stAlbuquerque - Green Chile Sauce
The official state question of New Mexico - "Red or Green?" - references the two sauces which top New Mexican entrees. But green chile sauce, made from state-grown chile peppers, regularly makes an appearance on everything from cheeseburgers to eggs. Green chile's unique pungent flavor is scientifically addictive, thanks to the capsaicin present in the chiles. Locals buy roasted green chiles, or roast their own, and no Albuquerque freezer is without frozen green chile. It defines New Mexican cuisine; explore it on the The Chile Trail and in nearly every restaurant you'll visit.
Maryland crabs, cheese curds also top list
The winning nominees in our Best Iconic American Food category tell us, without a doubt, that Americans 'Will Travel for Food.' These delicious regional food specialties garnered deep and wide support, and it was exciting watching several regions of the country "duke it out" in support of their favorite taste treat.
A Mayor, a Governor, a US Senator and several social media influencers across the country stirred up a voting frenzy. It paid off for 10 lucky winners!
The 10 Best American Iconic Food Winners are as follows:
Congratulation to our winners! They've earned real bragging rights: this contest was heavily promoted across 10Best and USA TODAY and generated tens of thousands of votes. For those of you who haven't tried one or more of the winning foods . . . what are you waiting for?
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