18 American Foods You Have to Travel For

The most iconic, local foods that feed our country, from johnnycakes and whoopie pies to Frogmore stew
Maine's whoopie pie
ThinkStock/Alexandra Grablewski

Maine's whoopie pie

There are some foods that just don’t travel well, and we don’t mean in Tupperware. Some foods are so tied to a place that trying to recreate them or generate a passion behind them anywhere else would be a fool’s errand. There are some foods that, for one reason or another, stick to their proverbial ponds and only a few have made a name for themselves outside those culinary boundaries. But if you were to ask a local to recommend the one thing to try in their hometown, the unanimous answer would be the this mystery dish; Pennsylvanians would say scrapple, you’d hear all about johnnycakes in Rhode Island, and in South Carolina they’d suggest a heaping helping of Frogmore stew.

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All of these iconic foodstuffs come from such different histories and were created because of very different wants and needs. The Nebraskan runza, for example, originated in Russia in the 1800s and worked its way to Germany before becoming a Nebraskan specialty that, if you really get down to it, shares its home turf with Kansas. In Kansas, though, they bake their runzas in a rectangular shape rather than in the typical Nebraskan triangle. In contrast, Maine’s well-known whoopie pies originated in the U.S., though their exact origins are still debated. One widely accepted story is that it was a baker in Maine during the Depression who stumbled on the idea while baking a cake. She had a little extra batter, so plopped two small rounds on a baking sheet and spread frosting between them when they were done. Successful, she exclaimed, "whoopie! It worked!"

Foods like loco moco in Hawaii, Colorado’s rocky mountain oysters, and garlic fries in Gilroy, Calif., have begun to creep into the country’s culinary lexicon, but it’s an accepted fact that these delicacies should really be enjoyed in their place of origin. So whether its Washington D.C.’s unique half-smokes or kolaches found in Texas Hill Country, these foods are a glimpse into what feeds this country in all its nooks, crannies, and corners.