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.
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.
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.
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.
Arkansas: Fried catfish
> Restaurant: Kraken Killer Seafood
> Location: Springdale
The original Kraken was a Scandinavian sea monster (it’s also the name of Seattle’s NHL team, and a term attached to a recent election conspiracy theory), but in this bustling Ozark city – home of Tyson Foods, among other enterprises – Kraken just means a wide variety of fresh seafood, including a fried catfish po’boy with house-made tartar sauce that gets regularly praised as among the best in the state.
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.
> Restaurant: The New Star Bar
> Location: Pueblo
This is a knife-and-fork cheeseburger – a burger on a grilled bun that’s soaked in red or green chile sauce and topped with sliced avocado and/or fries and/or chopped onion. It first appeared sometime in the mid-20th century, most probably at Pueblo’s original Star Bar.
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.
Delaware: Crab cake
> Restaurant: Mickey’s Family Crab House
> Location: Bethany Beach
Maryland gets all the attention for crab, but neighboring Delaware makes a specialty of it, too, and a jumbo lump crab cake, broiled or fried, on a bun with lettuce, tomato, and a side of fries is a First State classic.
> 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..
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.
> 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.
Idaho: Basque chorizo
> Restaurant: Bar Gernika
> Location: Boise
Boise is the historic home to a thriving Basque community, mostly descendants of ranchers and shepherds who emigrated here from Spain in the 19th century, and Basque culinary traditions are kept alive locally. This typical sausage (made by the 76-year-old Gem Meat Packing Co.) on a French roll with grilled onions and peppers is a good example.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
> Restaurant: Stands at The Big E (Eastern States Exposition, Sept. 15-Oct. 1, 2023)
> Location: Springfield
A favorite lunch sandwich for Massachusetts schoolchildren, the fluffernutter is a sweet and salty concoction of peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff spread on white bread. The marshmallow confection, originally called Marshmallow Creme, was invented in the early 20th century, but the fluffernutter name was coined by an advertising agency only in 1960. Today, the fluffernutter is a mainstay in kid’s lunch boxes across New England. It’s rare to find it in a restaurant, but it’s a staple at Springfield’s annual Eastern States Exposition.
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.
> Restaurant: Dolsie’s Lunch Box Grille
> Location: St. Cloud
Walleye (or walleye pike) is Minnesota’s state fish – even though what’s served in the state often comes from Canada, across the border. After the filet is fried – either breaded or, as at Dolsie’s, in beer batter – it’s served on a roll with shredded lettuce, tomato, and tartar sauce.
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.
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.
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.
> 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.
> 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.
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”!
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.
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.
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.
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.
> 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.
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.
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.
> 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
> Restaurant: The Old Fashioned
> Location: Madison
The German-style pork and veal (usually) sausage known in Wisconsin as the “brat,” is found in restaurants all over the state, from backyard barbecues to family picnics to sports stadiums. Sheboygan is considered the state’s brat capital, and the city’s Miesfeld Market double bratwurst as served on a toasted, buttered hard roll at The Old Fashioned
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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