Special Report

Signature Dishes from 50 American Cities

Source: LauriPatterson / E+ via Getty Images

Charleston, South Carolina
> Signature: Shrimp and grits

Sauteed shrimp (originally freshwater Charleston river shrimp) served over grits (ground hominy, which is starchy corn treated with an alkali solution to remove the hulls); also called breakfast shrimp or just shrimp grits. Some recipes call for adding such vegetables as onions, jalapenos, green onions, or garlic to the grits, and grated cheddar cheese is often stirred in.

Source: supitchamcsdam / iStock via Getty Images

Chicago
> Signature: Deep-dish pizza DONE

More a pie than a conventional pizza, baked in a pan, with a deep crust filled with layers of cheese, meat and/or vegetables, and sauce; also called Chicago-style pizza. It was first served at the city’s Numero Uno pizzeria in 1943. Other Chicago signatures: Italian beef sandwich, not really Italian but a Chicago invention from the 1930s, made with shaved roast beef and vegetables on an Italian roll; Chicago-style hot dogs (steamed beef wieners loaded with five or six condiments on a poppy-seed bun).

Source: bhofack2 / iStock via Getty Images

Cincinnati
> Signature: Cincinnati chili

Not chili in the usual sense but a kind of ground meat sauce flavored with cinnamon and other spices, served over spaghetti and topped with various combinations of shredded cheese, onion, and beans. The chili was invented at a Cincinnati Greek restaurant run by Macedonian immigrants in 1922. Another Cincinnati signature: goetta, a German-style breakfast sausage made with pork, beef, oats, and spices.

Cleveland
> Signature: Polish Boy

Kielbasa (a Polish-style sausage), French fries, coleslaw, and barbecue sauce on a bun. While its origins are obscure, it may have been invented at a local barbecue restaurant in the 1940s. One Cleveland restaurant serves a variation called the Drew Carey (the actor and game show host is a native of the city), which substitutes an all-beef hot dog for the kielbasa.

Source: Courtesy of Alan Light via Wikimedia Commons

Des Moines, Iowa
> Signature: Steak de Burgo

Steak (usually tenderloin) with butter, garlic, and herbs, sometimes in the form of a cream sauce. Possibly named after the Spanish city of Burgos and dating back to pre-World War II days, it has been called “a dish that is uniquely identified with Des Moines.”