Special Report

Signature Dishes from 50 American Cities

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Trenton, New Jersey
> Signature: Pork roll

Processed pork-based breakfast and sandwich meat, somewhat similar to Spam or Canadian bacon, eaten sliced and fried or grilled. Invented by one John Taylor in Trenton in 1856, it was originally dubbed Taylor’s Prepared Ham, but because it didn’t fit the legal definition of ham, it was renamed John Taylor’s Original Pork Roll. In Trenton and elsewhere in northern New Jersey, it is still known as Taylor ham. Another Trenton signature: tomato pie, a pizza with the cheese and other toppings applied first and then covered with tomato sauce.

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Tucson, Arizona
> Signature: Sonoran hot dog

A hot dog wrapped in bacon and covered with pinto beans, salsa, and sometimes other toppings and served on a split-top bolillo roll. Said to have come into Arizona from Hermosillo, capital of the Mexican state of Sonora, the dogs are now sold by as many as 200 “dogueros” all over Tucson. Another Tucson signature: chimichangas, large deep-fried burritos.

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Utica, New York
> Signature: Chicken riggies

An Italian-American dish of rigatoni in a spicy, creamy tomato sauce with chicken added. No one is quite sure when and where the dish — also called Utica riggies — was invented, but it first appeared in the late 1970s or early ’80s, and one theory credits it to the Clinton House restaurant in nearby Clinton.

Washington D.C.
> Signature: Half-smokes

A spicy, smoky hot dog, usually made from a combination of coarsely ground pork and beef, typically served on a bun and topped with chili, cheese, and onions. Nobody knows how the sausage got its name, but it was first made by a meatpacking plant in Arlington, Virginia, and originally served for breakfast at that D.C. suburb’s Weenie Beenie stand. The capital’s famous Ben’s Chili Bowl restaurant, a favorite of President Barack Obama, is given credit for popularizing it.

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Winston-Salem, North Carolina
> Signature: Moravian chicken pie

Chicken and gravy — no vegetables — in a pie crust. Moravians — German-speaking Protestants originally from Central Europe — founded a settlement in what is now Winston-Salem in 1753. Chicken pie has been a staple of the community’s church suppers and bake sales there since about 1920.