America is famous for many things. The moon landings. The rolling hills of Hollywood. And more importantly, its food. From the Philly cheesesteak to Chicago-style pizza, American cities are famous for many-world famous food exports with a fascinating history.
The USA is a big place. Forty times the size of the UK kind-of-big. And with such an expanse of land comes a melting pot of cultures, climates and people, which births some iconic regional specialities.
Ok, it might not always be the healthiest, but there is a time and a place for oozing layers of American cheese, sandwiches rammed with hunks of BBQ meat and great buckets of crispy fried chicken. It's been tough to call, but we've rounded our top four signature dishes from four classic US destinations. Be sure to scout these out on your next road trip around the States.
Philly cheesesteak, Philadelphia
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Consisting of fried beef and melted cheese, tucked into a soft, long hoagie roll, and served 'wit' or 'witout' sautéed onions, few sandwiches hold such celebrity status. Even the art of eating the sandwich to avoid clothes spillages is called the 'Philadelphia lean'. Connoisseurs will argue over what cheese to use - Provolone, American or Cheese Whiz (this one looks resistant to nuclear fallout). The addition of 'long hots' (peppers), mushrooms and mustard are also contested toppings among cheesesteak purists. The revered sandwich came from humble beginnings. Invented by Pat Olivieri at his hot-dog stand, he first sold the sandwich to a taxi driver for a dime. Now a Philadelphia sensation, you can even find a wagyu and truffle cheese version for $140 at Barclay Prime, which is served with half a bottle of champagne.
Lobster roll, Maine
The coast of Maine in New England is one of lofty pines, rocky cliffs and rough, cold waters. Such deep waters foster an abundance of 'bugs' (aka lobsters), which form the cornerstone of the Maine economy. Once dirt cheap because of their plentitude, lobster was the sustenance of Maine's poor, imprisoned and institutionalised in the mid-19th century. Now a thing of luxury, Maine is famous for its illustrious lobster roll. So much so that there's an annual festival for it, where 25,000 pounds of lobster is eaten and prepared in the world's largest lobster cooker. The sandwich anatomy is simple and distinct from those made in Connecticut – a slightly toasted hotdog roll loaded with fresh hunks of lobster lightly tossed in mayonnaise. Celery may be added for crunch.
Buffalo wings, Buffalo
Named after their place of invention and not the large cow, buffalo wings have been a huge part of US culture since the 1960s. These legendary wings were created by accident in 1964 (yes, they're younger than Brad Pitt) by Teressa Bellissimo, co-owner of the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, who had an excess of wings to use up. Now steeped in tradition, 80,000 festival goers will consume around 27 tonnes of the stuff at the annual Buffalo Wing Festival. There are some hard and fast rules when it comes to buffalo wings. Wing meat only. Hot sauce must coat the whole chicken - Franks is the go-to brand. Blue cheese sauce must be served on the side. Hands should be stained neon orange afterwards. It is also preferable to consume with a beer in front of a wall-mounted TV, watching the game.
Chicago-style pizza, Chicago
It's hard to mention the Windy City without paying homage to its iconic deep-dish pizza. Resembling more of a pie, this pizza is cooked in an oiled, deep steel pan which slightly fries the dough for a golden crunch. Unlike other pizzas, the Chicago deep dish is inverted, meaning it's packed with mozzarella, meats and then topped with tomato sauce, to prevent the cheese from burning. The result? A crunchy L-shaped crust with distinctive layers and outrageous cheese pulls. It's a knife-and-fork affair. With such deep crusts, comes an even deeper history. It all began at Pizzeria Uno in the 1940s, where entrepreneurs Sewell and Ric Riccardo wanted to quench Chicago's thirst for pizza bought by the Neapolitan migrant population while catering to American tastes. Once an immigrant tradition, this deep-pan pizza has become Chicago's signature dish.