A list we ran last week of regional menu favorites with national potential drew a quick response from several readers: How could we have missed the much-loved specialty of their area?
We’re correcting our error here by spotlighting the local items that were brought to our attention, along with a few others we subsequently stumbled upon.
But please help us keep the discovery going. If there’s a food or menu specialty that’s peculiar to your area, please let us know by dropping a line to email@example.com.
1. Pork steaks
An apparently proud native of St. Louis mentioned this creation of the local Schnucks supermarket chain. Russell Mark, whom a quick Google search identified as a member of the Stir Crazy system, explained the steaks are actually sliced pork butt that's “grilled, simmered and grilled again with barbecue sauce.”
Others note the meat is the same as what’s used for pulled pork, and is often called pork shoulder steak. The simmering and double-grilling softens up the cut and allows it to be eaten as a steak.
A similar preparation has evolved in other areas as well, where it’s sometimes called Boston butt steak.
2. Gooey butter cake
Instead of serving a slab of crumb cake with coffee, true St. Louisans might provide a square of gooey butter cake, a local specialty that blends ample amounts of sugar, butter and flour into a dense, gooey consistency. Typically, the cake is only an inch high, and is cut into squares like a brownie.
Mark notes that gooey butter cookies are also popular in his hometown.
3. Toasted ravioli
Who knew St. Louis was such a menu R&D lab? Before digging into a pork steak, locals might have another locally created specialty: an appetizer of toasted ravioli. The pillows are the beef-filled variety, which are then battered and deep-fried until crispy. Mark recommends dusting them with grated Parmesan cheese and serving the finger food with a marinara or meat sauce, presumably on the side for dipping.
Meatloaf is typically made with ground beef. Hamloaf, a close cousin that’s well-known to residents of western Pennsylvania, also features ground pork, brown sugar and plenty of seasoning. It’s often served with a sauce that combines mustard, vinegar and more brown sugar.
Locals eat it the way others enjoy meatloaf: cut hot in slabs as a center-of-the-plate anchor, and served hot or cold in a sandwich.
5. Garbage plate
“Kitchen sink” might be a more appropriate name. In the Rochester area of New York, hearty eaters go for this little-of-everything specialty, which is a menu unto itself.
It can feature any of 10 core items: Italian sausage, steak, chicken, veal or beef hot dogs, a hamburger or cheeseburger, a grilled cheese sandwich, fried fish or eggs.
For the sake of authenticity, the center of the plate item is served atop at least two of four bases that need to be eaten with a fork: macaroni salad, home fries, french fries or beans.
The whole mound is topped with a local preparation of spicy sauce, along with such requested items as onions and mustard.
And just to take the edge off any lingering hunger: The concoction is typically served with white bread, for sopping up the grease after the chewable stuff is gone.
The gut buster is usually described as the brainchild of Nick Tahou, who for 50 years ran a Rochester dining landmark, Nick Tahou Hots. The restaurant holds a trademark on the name Garbage Plate, but slight variations on the dish are marketed under a variety of names by restaurants in and around the city.
Flaked codfish is blended with mashed potatoes a la brandade to make this specialty of Baltimore, but that’s where the similarities end. Coddies are typically made with onion, not garlic, and are then formed into patties and fried burger-style, not baked in a casserole.