Try coming up with a list of the most quintessentially American foods and it's likely that one of the strongest associations is going to be apple pie. It's an expression for crying out loud. But what other things round out a menu of all-American dishes? Hamburgers, to be sure. And hot dogs — there's a hot dog eating contest on Independence Day. What else? Pizza, barbecue, French Fries? Do lobster rolls make the cut? Why not? So where are the country's best renditions of these classics?
Experts with deep pockets, years of firsthand research, and tons of self-righteous, in-the-know opinions have spent time tasting, researching, debating, and pontificating these matters. Here's a look at what they've found. Consider this a checklist of American classics.
Double dog at Chicago's Wiener's Circle.
Connecticut and New York City may protest a little, but Chicago is a safe place to start any conversation about hot dogs. Chicagoans take their hot dogs pretty seriously (the whole never-put-ketchup-on-a-hot-dog philosophy thing). And if you take Ed Levine's word for it, you won't have to go far as soon as you fly into the city to find not only Illinois' best hot dog, but also the best one in the country. Earlier this year the Serious Eater named Gene & Jude’s the country's best hot dog in a piece for Every Day with Rachael Ray. Chicago icons Hot Doug's and Superdawg didn't even make it to the number two spot, which was given to Aqui con El Nene.
Of course, plenty of people would beg to differ. Still, many of the same dogs made Travel + Leisure's list of America's 17 best hot dogs: Walter's, Fab Hot Dogs, The Wieners Circle, Rawley's, Superdawg, Crif Dogs, Boccalone Salumeria, Gray's Papaya, 4505 Dogs, Ben’s Chili Bowl, Hot Dog Heaven, The Red Hot, Flo's, Shake Shack, Pink's, Original New York Systems, and Hot Doug's. No love for Long Island original, Bonanza's, in business for 115 years, or Super Duper Weenie.
Short List: Superdawg, Pink's, Gene & Jude’s
Talk about where to find the best burgers in America and you’re likely to start a fight. Everyone's got an opinion on this one. Alan Richman chose the sirloin burger at Le Tub, Epicurious named 12 of the country's best but didn't rank them, Travel + Leisure did the same thing when picking their top 10, Delish noted their 25 picks, which ranged from Minetta Tavern to In-N-Out. There's Zagat's pick: Five Guys (eyeroll), and Men's Fitness really pissed off Ed Levine with its list featuring Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien as the best in the U.S.
When it comes to discussing burger experts, things get less contentious. There are few people as well-versed and respected on the subject of hamburgers as George Motz, author and director of the book and the film Hamburger America. The new edition of George Motz's Hamburger America was recently published and there are 52 important new additions — burgers from across the country at places that have perfected their craft. But before you even start with those, consider Motz's 25 Essential U.S. Burgers Checklist — 25 burgers you really need to eat. These aren't necessarily the country's best burgers but they're the most essential. And for Motz's list there is no shortlist. (Read an interview with George Motz).