50 Quintessential American Dishes

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I just read a story about the top 10 dishes of Great Britain, and it got me thinking about what an American top 10 list would look like.

To be fair, our list has to be longer and not just because we’re a nation of braggarts — that would be a Texas list (and before you go all crazy on me, I’m from Texas and I say that with the utmost pride).

Geographically speaking, the USA is 38 times the size of Great Britain and population-wise, it’s five times as large, ergo, we need a bigger list than just 10 dishes.

While I’m certain that I could come up with 380 dishes in a flash, in the interest of keeping your attention, I think I’ll just rattle off 50.

To even begin talking about America’s top dishes, you have to think both nationally and regionally. While it would be easy to list the top three as apple pie, hot dogs and ice cream, I want to delve a little deeper and pick dishes that not only define us as Americans, but ones that also reflect the melting pot that is our population.

We are a nation of immigrants. Only a few of us are descendants of Native Americans. Our foods are also reflective of this ethnic stew. Some of our foods are truly native: corn, beans and squash, for example. Others came with the Spanish (cows and pigs) and Africans (okra) and other settlers. Still others brought certain cooking techniques (the French and Germans specifically come to mind).

I’m not sure if 50 is long enough to reflect the diversity among our most recognized dishes, but it’s a start. So, without further ado, here we go:

(drum roll, please)


50. Blackened redfish (thank you, Paul Prudhomme)

49. Root beer float

48. Pimiento cheese sandwich

47. Scrapple (although I’m not particularly fond of this, many, many Americans swear by it)

46. Frito pie (I’m particularly fond of this staple from my childhood)

45. Bundt cakes (any flavor, sour cream coffee cake is the most popular)

44. Green goddess dressing (over any kind of lettuce, perhaps romaine is traditional)

43. Chicken & dumplings

42. Maryland crab cakes

41. Whoopie pie (yippee!)

40. Jambalaya

39. Cioppino (San Francisco would be hurt if I left them out, they’re sensitive that way)

38. Shoofly pie

37. Iceberg wedge with blue cheese dressing

36. Pecan sticky buns

35. Denver Omelet

34. Peach cobbler

33. New England clam chowder

32. Buttermilk pancakes

31. Brunswick stew

30. Philly cheesesteak

29. Chicken fried steak with cream gravy (don’t forget the biscuits)

28. Fried rice (of course we fry the rice, we’ll fry anything)

27. The Po’boy (oyster, shrimp or even roast beef for purists)

26. Shrimp & grits (I personally like the New Orleans style but the South Carolina version rocks, too)

25. Brown Betty

24. Cedar-planked salmon (Seriously? Only one Northwestern dish? I need to go to Portland)

23. Cobb salad

22. Meatloaf

21. King Ranch chicken casserole

20. Kansas City spareribs (notice I didn’t say BBQ — remember, I’m from Texas and we think we invented BBQ)

19. Succotash

18. Fried catfish

17. Soft shell crabs, fried of course

16. Black-eyed peas

15. Seafood gumbo

14.Wisconsin cheese soup

13. Collard greens (or mustard greens)

12. Grilled cheese (fancy schmancy or plain)

11. Mashed potatoes

10. Chicken pot pie

9.  Bowl of chili (red, green, white or even Cincinnati-style with spaghetti)

8. Steamed Maine lobster

7. Chimichanga (yes, it was invented north of the border, although who was first is still in dispute)

6. Chocolate chip cookies

5. Mac & cheese

4. Shrimp cocktail

3. Southern fried chicken

2. Texas BBQ beef brisket

1. Turkey & dressing

(keep scrolling….)

(a little further…)

(almost there…)

(patience…)



0. The hamburger (had to include it — it’s my favorite)

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “50 Quintessential American Dishes

  1. Pingback: The Local Beet: Chicago » The 50 Quintessential Local Dishes/Foods

  2. Bravo to Rob from The Local Beet for coming up with his own list of local top 50 dishes. I learned something, too.

    Not sure what black truffle explosion is (and if it’s really local) but then again, Rob had never heard of King Ranch casserole.

    (http://www.texasmonthly.com/ranch/readme/kingranch.php)

  3. Pingback: The Local Beet: Chicago » 50 Quintessential Local Dishes to Celebrate Terra Madre Day

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