Special Report

This Is the Best Local Sandwich to Try In Every State

Photo by Lee M. via Yelp

Finding (and digging into) regional food specialties around the country is one of the great joys of travel, and among other good things to eat, each state is home to at least one local sandwich variation that’s definitely worth hunting down. 

The great thing about sandwiches is that they can be made with almost anything: as long as it starts with bread, the world is your oyster — or maybe your oyster po’boy. Want a classic peanut butter and jelly? Go for it. In the mood for an old-school grilled cheese or turkey and Swiss? Nice. Or maybe you’d prefer to go big with a meatball sub? They’re all delicious, and they’re all among America’s favorite sandwiches

Some sandwiches draw on a region’s ethnic culinary heritage; some are inspired by what’s being hunted, grown, or fished locally; some are a spin on a local barbecue style; and some were simply invented in the state in question and have since become iconic. 

24/7 Tempo has identified the classic sandwich to try in every state, and also recommended a sandwich shop or restaurant that serves a definitive version of it. Often that place is a diner, perhaps one recommended in our list of the best diner in every state.

Click here to see the best local sandwich to try in every state

If you haven’t yet tried the definitive sandwich in your state, we suggest you seek it out. And if you’re a sandwich lover who plans to do some traveling, you’ve got a brand new bucket list.  

Alabama: BBQ chicken with Alabama white sauce
> Restaurant: Big Bob Gibson’s
> Location: Decatur

Alabama-style barbecue is known for its white barbecue sauce, which is mayo-based and kicked up with plenty of vinegar and black pepper. This sandwich pairs this sauce with its perfect counterpart: smoked chicken.

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Source: Courtesy of The Smokehouse BBQ and Catering

Alaska: Reindeer dog
> Restaurant: Smokehouse BBQ
> Location: Anchorage

When in Alaska, why not eat as the locals do and sample a local delicacy: reindeer, in sausage form.

Source: Photo by Los Reyes de la Torta via Yelp

Arizona: Torta del Rey
> Restaurant: Los Reyes de la Torta
> Location: Phoenix

A torta is a Mexican specialty, served on a round roll and usually loaded up with a variety of meats, melted cheese, and garnishes including tomato, onion, and avocado. Tortas are a standby at Arizona Mexican restaurants, and the epic Torta Del Rey (loaded with ham, pork, breaded beef, a sausage-chorizo omelette, tomato, caramelized onions, fresh avocado, and chipotle sauce) is exemplary.

Source: Courtesy of Soul Fish Cafe - Little Rock

Arkansas: Fried catfish
> Restaurant: Soul Fish Café
> Location: Little Rock

Catfish can be found in just about all of this state’s lakes and river, and fishing for them is a popular pastime here. They’re also farmed on a large scale (Arkansas produces about a third of all the farmed catfish in America). When dusted with cornmeal, fried to golden brown, and tucked into a sandwich, it can’t be beat.

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California: French dip
> Restaurant: Philippe’s the Original
> Location: Los Angeles

The French dip, thin-sliced roast beef on a roll dunked in beef jus, may be a national restaurant mainstay, but it wasn’t invented in France — it was born in downtown Los Angeles. Legend has it that it was invented by accident in 1918 at Philippe’s, when a roll was accidentally dropped into a jus-filled roasting pan.

Source: Food Stories / Wikimedia Commons

Colorado: Fool’s Gold Loaf
> Restaurant: Colorado Mine Company
> Location: Denver

This monster sandwich consists of a whole hollowed-out loaf of bread, filled with a jar each of creamy peanut butter and grape jelly and a full pound of bacon. It’s served at the Colorado Mine Company in Denver, and Elvis was such a fan that he once ordered 30 of them.

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Connecticut: Hot lobster roll
> Restaurant: Lobster Landing
> Location: Clinton

As opposed to Maine, where the lobster rolls are served cold with mayo, in Connecticut they’re served warm with a drizzle of melted butter. It’s a gourmet dish on a bun.

Source: Courtesy of Mickey's Family Crab House

Delaware: Fried soft shell crab
> Restaurant: Mickey’s Family Crab House
> Location: Bethany Beach

Soft shell crab season is something of a holiday in Delaware, where blue crabs are ample. There’s no better way to enjoy them than deep-fried and tucked into a sandwich.

Source: Photo by Alex H. via Yelp

Florida: Cuban
> Restaurant: The Floridian
> Location: Tampa

No sandwich is more closely associated with Florida than the hot and melty Cuban, and two cities in particular have claimed it as their own: Miami, where ham, pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard are pressed on Cuban bread; and Tampa, where salami is added to the mix, and where the Cuban might have been invented..

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Source: Photo by Evan G. via Yelp

Georgia: Pimento cheese
> Restaurant: Fox Bros. BBQ
> Location: Atlanta

In Georgia, pimento cheese is a point of pride for countless restaurants, where it’s served on burgers, with crackers, and between two slices of bread. Every chef has his or her own recipe, but it usually involves sharp cheddar cheese, mayo, pimentos, and a variety of spices and seasonings.

Hawaii: Spam
> Restaurant: Rainbow Drive-In
> Location: Honolulu

Yep, you read that right: Spam. The legendary canned meat was introduced to Hawaii during World War II, and the locals fell in love with it and have since claimed it as their own, in sandwiches and just about every other form imaginable.

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Source: Photo by Emilia R. via Yelp

Idaho: Breaded trout
> Restaurant: Twin Falls Sandwich Company
> Location: Twin Falls

Idaho has a variety of native trout species, and they’re plentiful in local waters. One of the most popular ways to serve them is breaded, fried, and in a sandwich.

Source: Courtesy of Al's #1 Italian Beef

Illinois: Italian beef
> Restaurant: Al’s #1 Italian Beef
> Location: Chicago

The Italian beef is the signature Chicago sandwich, with countless shops specializing in it. It’s made by slicing slow-roasted beef super-thin, loading it into an Italian roll, giving it a dunk in the cooking juices, and finishing it with giardiniera, a spicy pickled vegetable relish.

Source: Photo by Wanda M. via Yelp

Indiana: Pork tenderloin
> Restaurant: Aristocrat Pub & Restaurant
> Location: Indianapolis

A huge patty of breaded and fried “pork tenderloin” (actually pork loin) served on a burger bun and complemented with a variety of toppings including pickles, onions, lettuce, mustard, ketchup, and mayo is a Hoosier State staple.

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Iowa: Taylor’s Maid-Rite
> Restaurant: Maid-Rite
> Location: Marshalltown

The Maid-Rite, also sometimes called a loosemeat or tavern sandwich, is similar to a sloppy Joe but without the sauce. It’s an old-school sandwich served on a burger bun and usually topped with mustard, onion, and pickles. It was popularized at Taylor’s Maid-Rite, a Marshalltown institution since 1928, and today it’s found all over Iowa.

Source: Photo by Stephan Y. via Yelp

Kansas: The Rocket Pig
> Restaurant: Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que
> Location: Kansas City

Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que is a beloved Kansas City, Kansas, BBQ joint, and its signature sandwich is so good that it’s become nothing short of an icon: The Rocket Pig, loaded with saucy pulled pork, bacon, pepper Jack cheese, BBQ mayo, and fried jalapeños.

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Source: Photo by Arianna A. via Yelp

Kentucky: The Hot Brown
> Restaurant: Brown Hotel
> Location: Louisville

When in Louisville, you eat a Hot Brown! The state’s signature sandwich was invented at the city’s Brown Hotel in 1926; it’s an open-faced sandwich of white toast topped with turkey breast, bacon, tomato, and creamy Mornay sauce, baked until golden brown. Variations can be found throughout the city, but the Brown Hotel still serves the signature version.

Louisiana: Oyster po’boy
> Restaurant: Bevi Seafood
> Location: Metairie

No sandwich is more associated with Louisiana than the po’boy (short for “poor boy”), crusty & fluffy French bread with a wide variety of fillings, served “fully dressed” with lettuce, onions, pickles, and mayo. Popular fillings range from roast beef to fried crawfish, but the one to try is loaded with crispy fried Gulf oysters.

Source: Courtesy of The Lobster Pool

Maine: Cold lobster roll
> Restaurant: The Lobster Pool
> Location: Rockport

Lobster is so plentiful in Maine that many lobster shacks serve lobster that was plucked from the water less than 24 hours before. When steamed or boiled, chilled, tossed with a little mayo, and served on a split-top bun, there’s no better taste of Maine.

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Maryland: Pit beef
> Restaurant: Chaps Pit Beef
> Location: Baltimore

Pit beef is a Baltimore-area staple, but it’s hard to come by outside of the state. Chaps Pit Beef it turning out the definitive version: huge slabs of top round are grilled over charcoal, thin-sliced rare to order, tossed back on the hot charcoal for a little extra smoky flavor, piled onto a Kaiser roll, and traditionally topped with creamy horseradish-kicked “tiger sauce.”

Source: Photo by Peter D. via Yelp

Massachusetts: The Spuckie
> Restaurant: Cutty’s
> Location: Brookline

You might know it as a sub, hero, or hoagie, but in East Boston, it’s called a spuckie, named after the long pointed bread roll called a spuccadella — an Italian-American dialect word based on “spaccate,” meaning “split.” You’ll still find plenty of sandwich shops in the area turning out Italian-inspired spuckies, loaded up with traditional Italian meats and cheeses, but Cutty’s is arguably the definitive source.

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Source: Photo by David S. via Yelp

Michigan: Traditional pasty
> Restaurant: Joe’s Pasty Shop
> Location: Ironwood

Okay, so it’s not exactly a sandwich, but it’s meat inside bread. The traditional Cornish pasty, or hand pie, is hugely popular in Michigan, especially in the Upper Peninsula, where it was popularized by immigrant miners in the 1800s. The most traditional versions are filled with ground beef and vegetables.

Source: Courtesy of Carl's Gizmo Sandwiches

Minnesota: The Gizmo
> Restaurant: Carl’s Gizmo Sandwiches
> Location: Falcon Heights (Minnesota State Fair)

The Gizmo Sandwich is a Minnesota State Fair institution, and it’s become so beloved that it’s gone down as the state’s signature sandwich. To make it, a mixture of ground beef and loose Italian sausage is spooned into a long Italian roll, topped with secret-recipe marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese, and baked until melty.

Source: Courtesy of Big Apple Inn

Mississippi: Pig ear and smokes
> Restaurant: Big Apple Inn
> Location: Jackson

In Jackson, the Big Apple Inn has been a gathering place for the city’s Black community for generations. Their two specialties are “smokes” (ground smoked hot sausage on a bun) and pig ears pressure-cooked until they’re as tender as ham and served on a bun with mustard, slaw, and chili sauce. The pro move? Doubling up with both.

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Source: Photo by Steve O. via Yelp

Missouri: St. Paul
> Restaurant: Bo Fung Chinese Restaurant
> Location: St. Louis

Head to just about any Chinese restaurant in the St. Louis area and you’ll find a curious local specialty on the menu: the St. Paul sandwich, an egg foo young patty topped with dill pickles, white onion, mayo, and lettuce on white bread.

Source: Courtesy of The Corral

Montana: Elk burger
> Restaurant: The Corral
> Location: Gardiner

Elk has more protein, less cholesterol, and less fat than beef, and in Montana, where elk are plentiful, there’s no shortage of places serving up top-notch elk burgers.

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Nebraska: Reuben
> Restaurant: Barrett’s Barleycorn
> Location: Omaha

The Reuben is a luxurious deli sandwich loaded up with hot corned beef, melty Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian or Thousand Island dressing on toasted rye. It might sound like a New York classic, but it’s widely believed that it was invented at the Blackstone Hotel in Omaha. It’s since become a quintessential Nebraska sandwich, and March 14 has been proclaimed Reuben Sandwich Day in Omaha.

Source: Photo by Leung T. via Yelp

Nevada: Pastrami
> Restaurant: Sammy’s Pastrami & Burgers
> Location: Las Vegas

There’s no shortage of New York and LA expats in Las Vegas, and they’ve brought their beloved pastrami with them. You can find great pastrami sandwiches all over Las Vegas, maybe best of all at the popular Sammy’s Pastrami & Burgers.

Source: Photo by Mike Z. via Yelp

New Hampshire: Steak grinder
> Restaurant: Bill Cahill’s Super Subs
> Location: Hudson

Throughout Vermont, New Hampshire, and parts of Massachusetts, sandwiches on long rolls are referred to as grinders. The most popular grinders in Vermont are loaded up with steak and cheese; when supplemented with salami or pepperoni, peppers, onions, and mushrooms, they’re referred to as “steakbombs”!

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Source: Photo by Lee M. via Yelp

New Jersey: Taylor ham / pork roll
> Restaurant: The Greeks
> Location: Kearney

Go to any New Jersey diner worth its salt, and you’ll find Taylor ham (a fatty, salty processed breakfast meat that’s called pork roll in South Jersey) partnered with egg and American cheese on a round roll. It’s so popular it’s referred to as the “Jersey Sandwich.”

New Mexico: Green chile cheeseburger
> Restaurant: Santa Fe Bite
> Location: Santa Fe

Green Hatch chiles are so popular in New Mexico that they’ve made their way into just about every food there, from burritos to eggs to apple pie. But when chopped roasted green chiles top a cheeseburger, something magic happens.

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Source: Photo by Damien S. via Yelp

New York: Beef on weck
> Restaurant: Bar Bill Tavern
> Location: Buffalo

New York City may have its famed deli sandwiches, but to get a real taste of the Empire State you have to head up north to Buffalo, where the beef on weck reigns supreme. It’s a masterpiece of thin-sliced roast beef, topped with grated horseradish and piled onto a roll topped with salt and caraway seeds called a kummelweck.

Source: Photo by Tonya P. via Yelp

North Carolina: Pulled pork
> Restaurant: Skyline Inn BBQ
> Location: Ayden

In North Carolina, the BBQ is all about the pork, topped with a tangy vinegar-based sauce in the east and a tomato-cased red sauce in the west. It’s great on its own, but just about perfect when eaten in a sandwich.

Source: Photo by Cailtin C. via Yelp

North Dakota: Hot roast beef
> Restaurant: Charlie’s Main Street Café
> Location: Minot

Those North Dakota winters get cold, and there’s no better way to warm up than with the state’s signature hot roast beef open-faced sandwich, on white bread with mashed potatoes and beef gravy. Some even choose to melt cheese over the top and add peppers and onions.

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Source: Photo by Julianne M. via Yelp

Ohio: Goetta
> Restaurant: Eckerlin Meats
> Location: Cincinnati

Goetta is a Cincinnati specialty, and if you haven’t heard of it, well, you’re probably not from Ohio. It’s a breakfast sausage patty made with ground pork, oats, and spices, and while there are countless ways to eat it, many simply fry it up and eat it in a sandwich.

Source: Photo by Ashley D. via Yelp

Oklahoma: Chicken-fried steak
> Restaurant: Kendall’s Restaurant
> Location: Noble

In Oklahoma, chicken-fried steak is king. There’s no chicken here; it gets its name from the way that thinly-pounded steak is breaded and fried, in the style of fried chicken. It’s at its most delicious when covered in cream gravy and tucked into a roll or biscuit.

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Source: Photo by Steven H. via Yelp

Oregon: Dungeness crab
> Restaurant: Deschutes Portland Public House
> Location: Portland

Oregon waters are brimming with Dungeness crab, which has a sweet and mild flavor. When mixed with a little mayo and piled into a buttered and toasted roll, it gives even the best lobster roll a run for its money.

Pennsylvania: Cheesesteak
> Restaurant: John’s Roast Pork
> Location: Philadelphia

You guessed it: in Pennsylvania, it’s all about that cheesesteak. The signature sandwich of Philly starts with thin-sliced beef, which gets seared on a griddle before being wedged into a long roll and topped with your choice of cheese (Cheez Whiz is widely regarded as superior) and served “wit” or “wit out” chopped onions.

Source: Photo by Frank B. via Yelp

Rhode Island: New York System wiener
> Restaurant: Olneyville New York System
> Location: Providence

Just like different parts of the country are known for their barbecue and pizza styles, the same goes for hot dogs. In Rhode Island, it’s all about the “hot wieners,” or New York System wieners, served on a steamed bun and topped with a spiced meat sauce and chopped onions. They’re getting harder to come by, but Providence’s Olneyville New York System is the best place to sample them.

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Source: Photo by Sandra S. via Yelp

South Carolina: Fried bologna
> Restaurant: Mom & Pop’s
> Location: Batesburg-Leesville

Fried bologna sandwiches are a Southern specialty, and there’s a huge concentration of places that sell them in South Carolina. To make the classic fried bologna sandwich, bologna is thick-sliced and griddled until deeply browned, then eaten on white bread with toppings including yellow mustard, Duke’s mayo, American (or pimento) cheese, lettuce, and tomato.

Source: Photo by Kitty W. via Yelp

South Dakota: Walleye
> Restaurant: Drifters Bar & Grill
> Location: Fort Pierre

Walleye are abundant in the streams, rivers, and reservoirs of South Dakota, and their white flesh is firm and sweet. It makes for a mean fried fish sandwich, topped with lettuce, tomato, and tartar sauce.

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Tennessee: Hot chicken
> Restaurant: Hattie B’s
> Location: Nashville

Hot chicken may have taken the food world by storm, but it was invented right here in Nashville. Something truly magical happens when chicken is deep-fried and given a bath in super-spicy hot oil — and when nestled onto a toasty bun it’s one of the most delicious sandwiches in existence (as several fast food chains have realized).

Texas: BBQ brisket
> Restaurant: Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que
> Location: Llano

Beef is king in Texas, especially when it comes to barbecue. Smoking brisket is an art form here, where the meat is usually crusted with a pepper-heavy spice blend and smoked low and slow over post oak. It’s traditionally served with white bread to make your own sandwiches; sauce is optional.

Utah: Pastrami burger
> Restaurant: Crown Burgers
> Location: Salt Lake City

Pastrami on a burger? You better believe it. In Utah, countless burger joints serve up this beloved local specialty, in which a juicy burger patty is topped with smoky hot pastrami, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and another Utah specialty called fry sauce, a mix of mayo and ketchup.

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Source: Courtesy of Dot's of Vermont

Vermont: Grilled cheese
> Restaurant: Dot’s Restaurant
> Location: Wilmington

Vermont is renowned for its cheese, especially cheddar. And is there any better use for cheese than melted inside a buttery grilled cheese sandwich? We think not.

Source: Courtesy of Calhoun's Ham House & Country Deli

Virginia: Ham biscuit
> Restaurant: Calhoun’s Ham House & Country Deli
> Location: Culpeper

Country ham, which is slowly salt-cured and more closely resembles prosciutto than deli ham, is a beloved Virginia specialty. When thin-sliced and sandwiched between two halves of a fresh-baked biscuit, it’s a true taste of the state.

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Washington: Red king salmon
> Restaurant: Mike’s Seafood
> Location: Ocean Shores

Red king salmon is abundant in Washington state’s waters, and it’s served in countless styles throughout the state. But if you visit a casual seafood shack, the best way to enjoy it is in a sandwich.

Source: Courtesy of The Donut Shop

West Virginia: Pepperoni roll
> Restaurant: The Donut Shop
> Location: Buckhannon

The pepperoni roll is a West Virginia staple, found at everything from bakeries to gas stations. The rolls are baked with pepperoni right inside, either sliced or in sticks, sometimes with cheese as well. The spicy oil from the pepperoni seeps out into the bread as it’s baking, making for an irresistible treat.

Source: Photo by Krystal E. via Yelp

Wisconsin: Brat
> Restaurant: Charcoal Inn (North or South)
> Location: Sheboygan

In Wisconsin, no cookout is complete without some of the state’s signature bratwurst, simmered with beer, butter, and onions before being grilled to golden brown perfection.

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Source: Photo by Morgan L. via Yelp

Wyoming: Rocky Mountain oysters
> Restaurant: Bunkhouse Bar & Grill
> Location: Cheyenne

They may be called oysters, but they’re most definitely not shellfish. Rocky Mountain oysters are actually thinly-sliced, breaded, and deep-fried bull testicles, and they’re a beloved local specialty. A popular way to eat them is on grilled toast with American cheese. Don’t knock it till you try it.

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