> Iconic dish: Chicken-fried steak
Visit just about any casual restaurant in Oklahoma, and you’re bound to see chicken-fried steak on the menu. If you’re not familiar with the dish, there’s no actual chicken involved: A steak is pounded thin before being breaded and fried in the style of fried chicken. To make this legendarily artery-clogging dish even healtier, it’s usually served doused with cream-based, black-pepper-kicked gravy.
> Iconic dish: Tater Tots
Tater Tots were invented in Oregon, back in 1953. F. Nephi Grigg and Golden Grigg, the founders of Ore-Ida (whose main production facility is in Ontario, Oregon) were looking for something to do with leftover potato scraps, so they decided to grate them along with flour and seasoning and feed them through an extruder into a deep-fryer. The end result was a crispy, creamy masterpiece, and the tot was born. Though the term is widely used for similar items (some restaurants make their own), “Tater Tots” remains a registered trademark of Ore-Ida.
> Iconic dish: Philly cheesesteak
Some Philadelphia locals may be partial to the city’s famous roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and provolone, but there’s no denying that the cheesesteak is Pennsylvania’s most iconic culinary export. It was supposedly invented in Philadelphia by hot dog stand owners Pat and Harry Olivieri in the 1930s, and their stand, Pat’s remains one of the most famous places for the sandwich (it’s closest longtime competitor, Geno’s, is right across the street). It’s a simple sandwich, made by piling thinly-shaved beef and melted cheese onto a long roll; several cheeses are usually available but Cheez Whiz is the most common, and it can be ordered “wit” or “wit out” onions.
> Iconic dish: Fried calamari
Fried calamari is a staple of Italian restaurants nationwide, but the simple dish of breaded and fried squid rings is actually near and dear to the hearts of Rhode Islanders. Little Rhody is has the largest squid fishery on the East Coast, valued at about $28 million a year. Further proof of its importance to the state: Fried calamari was featured during the virtual roll call for Rhode Island delegates at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
> Iconic dish: Shrimp and grits
Shrimp and grits actually got its start as a breakfast dish, but it’s become so popular in recent decades that it’s equally accepted at lunch and dinner. It’s a traditional dish of the South Carolina Lowcountry, and is a standby at restaurants across the state, especially in Charleston. To make the dish, grits (coarse-ground cornmeal) are made creamy with plenty of milk and butter, and locally-sourced (ideally) shrimp are served atop it, occasionally with additions including bacon, green onions, and gravy.
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