Wisconsinites can find cheese curds anywhere in the state. In Maine, even McDonald’s features lobster rolls. Seafood places in Boston think long and hard about omitting scrod from the menu.
Those regional specialties are well known. Far longer is the list of local restaurant dishes that few outside the area of availability would recognize—at least for now. How many consumers outside of Tennessee had heard of hot chicken until the restaurant mainstream embraced it?
Here’s a sampling of items that are peculiar to an area. Will liver mush or fry sauce be the next fajita?
Read on to decide.
Horseshoe sandwich (Springfield, Ill.)
Sometimes likened to Welsh rarebit, the horseshoe consists of a meat patty layered atop a thick slice of bread and covered with French fries. A cheese sauce is then ladled onto the whole thing.
A hamburger is the traditional meat choice, but modern variations include chicken breasts, ham, fish filets and sloppy Joe-like loose meat.
There is no standard cheese sauce, the point of difference between one horseshoe and another.
If it all sounds rich, consider that there is a "lite" (i.e., smaller) version. It’s called the pony shoe.
Fry sauce (Utah)
The ketchup-mayo combination is known outside of the Salt Lake state, but a local quick-service chain, Arctic Circle, claims to have originated it. Few would dispute that it’s the preferred condiment for fries in Utah.
Comparing it to Thousand Island dressing will likely draw objections from residents, who stress the purity of fry sauce. In the ideal form, there are no chunks of pickles, peppers or other ingredients that might add zing or crunch. Nor should it include a dash of hot sauce, which makes purists dismiss Raising Cane’s fry sauce as a distant imitation. Creaminess and color are supposedly what makes it.
“It might just be positioned to blow up in Sriracha-like popularity very soon,” according to Eater.com.
Cider doughnuts (Hudson Valley, N.Y.)
Other regions may flirt with the baked delectable, which uses apple cider as a sweetener and flavoring. But the swath of New York that snugs the Hudson River, a prime apple-growing region, takes its apple cider doughnuts very seriously. Any place that sells coffee is likely to feature them, with prices running roughly from 50 cents each to as much as $2.50. The price has spiked this year because of a bad apple crop for the region.
Some are dusted with sugar and cinnamon, but purists abhor that touch as a sop to the Dunkin’ Donuts mainstream.
Livermush (North Carolina)
The liver part of the name refers to the dish’s base of pig liver. The mush is the cornmeal with which it’s mixed. Scraps from the pig’s head add texture and additional flavor, and the soft pate-like mix is seasoned with sage and pepper.
Livermush is usually formed into a loaf and baked. Slices can be fried for breakfast—a la scrapple or patty sausage—or used in a sandwich, either heated or cold. Some recommend it with a slather of mustard to cut the richness.
The state is serious about its livermush. At least three towns hold annual livermush festivals, and the Livermush Exposition in Shelby will celebrate its 30th year in 2017.
Think of a casserole with a gaping fill-in-the-blank line in the recipe. A true hotdish features cream of mushroom soup, vegetables and whatever protein catches the cook’s fancy. The prototypical version set out in a 1930s cookbook called for hamburger and a local macaroni called Creamettes, along with some tomato soup for color and celery and onion for flavor. The whole thing is then baked.
It’s intriguing enough for Eater to flag it for its foodie readership.
Is there a peculiar local dish that few outside your area know? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.