This blog post was updated on May 1, 2020.
If there’s one thing American regional cuisines do really, really well, it’s greasy food. Even the most health-conscious among us like to indulge in an artery-clogging, savory treat from time to time. Here are our suggestions for six deliciously greasy regional dishes and the best places in the US to find them.
Chicken Fried Steak
Dawson County, Texas
While chicken fried steak has, in many ways, become the state food of Texas, this decadent dish is said to have originated in Dawson County (specifically the town of Lamesa, which hosts an annual chicken-fried steak festival). Many historians point to the 19th century German and Austrian immigrants as the creators of this Texan treat. What exactly is it, you ask? Chicken fried steak (sometimes called country fried steak) is a piece of steak pan fried in seasoned batter, smothered with gravy. Is your mouth watering yet? A few locations where you can get your fill in the Lone Star state are Lulu’s Bakery and Cafe in San Antonio, Houston’s Barbecue Inn, and Hoover’s Cooking in Austin.
Pastrami on Rye
New York City, New York
A staple in kosher delis throughout New York City, the concept of pastrami on rye was created by Sussman Volk in 1888. It’s been around for over 125 years, so you know it must be good. While foodies have created their own takes on the classic dish, it’s hard to beat the original: pastrami piled high on rye bread with mustard and pickles. A few famous places in the city of eight million stories to order up include Katz’s Delicatessen, 2nd Avenue Deli, and Artie’s Delicatessen.
Key West, Florida
One of my favorite lunches is a Cuban sandwich. The irresistible combination of ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on grilled Cuban bread originated in Key West and many Cuban sandwich aficionados agree this is still the best place to try this delectable dish. Some “Key” spots to order: Sandy’s Cafe, Cuban Coffee Queen, and Five Brothers.
The ultimate post-surf session (or hangover cure) food, the Loco Moco consists of a mound of white rice topped with a hamburger patty and sunnyside-up egg, and then smothered in gravy. Talk about comfort food! The filling dish originated at the long-gone Lincoln Grill in Hilo and quickly became the most popular item on the menu (for good reason!). Some Hawaii locations where you can dig into Loco Moco include Liliha Bakery in Honolulu, Café 100 in Hilo, and Kaka’ako’s Highway Inn.
A favorite indulgence of Midwesterners is a basket of deep fried cheese curds. Of course, they don’t even need to be fried – you can eat them plain too! Cheese curds are made throughout the state of Wisconsin, but the city of Ellsworth (home of the Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery) really knows how to make and honor this regional delicacy. Each summer, the Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce hosts a cheese curd festival that’s sure to satisfy your cravings (or curiosity)! You can find other famously delicious servings of the dish in the cheese state at AJ Bombers in Milwaukee, the Old Fashioned in Madison, and pretty much any Culver’s throughout the state.
Yes, we know that poutine originated in Québec, but it’s also a staple in Maine. Poutine has become quite popular over the past few years and chefs across the US have put their own spin on the recipe (a restaurant in Chicago serves elk poutine). Call us purists, but we think the traditional dish comprised of fries, fresh cheese curds, and gravy (with some chicken thrown in) is the best. If you’re ever looking for poutine in the Pine Tree state, check out Blaze in Bangor, Duckfat in Portland, and Bar Harbor’s The Dog and Pony Tavern.
What are some of your favorite greasy foods in America? Let us know in the comments section.