Special Report

Signature Dishes from 50 American Cities

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Santa Maria, California
> Signature: Santa Maria barbecue

Not a single dish but a meal consisting of grilled tri-tip or some other cut of beef served with beans, salad, garlic bread, and salsa. Though the meal, traditional in the region since the early 1930s, is called “barbecue,” the meat is cooked directly over hot coals, not long-smoked over indirect heat as with true barbecue. The beans are usually a variety called pinquitos, said to be native to the Santa Maria Valley.

Sheboygan, Wisconsin
> Signature: Bratwurst

A mildly spiced pork and beef sausage, typically pan-fried or grilled. This German-style link, brought to eastern Wisconsin by German immigrants in the early to mid-19th century, was originally made with veal. When that meat became too expensive, pork and beef were substituted. The New York Times described Sheboygan as “the capital of the kingdom of bratwurst.”

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Sioux City, Iowa
> Signature: Loose meat sandwich

Crumbled burger meat cooked with chopped onion, served on a bun. often with pickles. Said to have been created in 1924 at Sioux City’s Ye Olde Tavern and sometimes called a tavern sandwich, it has been described as a sloppy Joe without the sauce. The Des Moines-based Maid-Rite chain, founded in 1926, is Iowa’s best-known purveyor of the sandwich.

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Springfield, Illinois
> Signature:The Horseshoe Sandwich

An open-faced sandwich consisting of white toast topped with hamburger patties (originally slices of ham cut into horseshoe shapes), then strewn with French fries and napped in cheddar cheese sauce. It was created by the chef at Springfield’s now-defunct Leland Hotel in the late 1920s.

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Tampa, Florida
> Signature: Cuban sandwich

Pork, ham, salami (sometimes), Swiss cheese, dill pickles, and mustard grilled on crusty Cuban bread. It doesn’t come from Cuba, but was developed by Cuban cigar factory workers in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa, Florida, probably in the late 1800s. The Tampa City Council dubbed it the city’s signature sandwich in 2012.

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