Savvy chowhounds know that there’s an entire world to explore beyond the franchises that dot America’s highways, or the ‘hand-selected’ recommendations from this year’s Fodor’s guidebook. If you’re one to invoke the wandering spirits of Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, that means veering off the beaten track to scope out hyper-local, immigrant-influenced foods that rarely see the light of day outside their home turf. Think stuffies, slingers, and other regional specialties that natives proudly call their own.

From meat pies favored by miners in Montana, to deep-fried slugburgers in northern Mississippi, here we take a deep dive into America’s culinary archives to unveil 25 hidden gems that fly off-the-radar, but remain integral to this country’s cuisine.


The Slinger

Slinger1
Region: St. Louis
What it is: A mountain of hash browns, two eggs, and a hamburger patty all topped in spicy chili con carne might seem like it should be a Southwestern specialty, but this sloppy dish is actually native to St. Louis. Various versions include “the yin and yang” (a slinger covered in half chili, half gravy) and the “top one,” which places a tamale on top of the slinger. (Photo: Wikimedia/Alowplay8)

Hermit cookies

hermit_cookies
Region: New England
What it is: The autumnal flavors of the hermit cookie—which features chopped dates, molasses, and a mixture of seeds and nuts—are perfect for admiring autumn in New England. (Photo: Flickr/Katie


Braunschweiger sandwich

liverwurst_sand
Region: Mid-Atlantic
What it is: This Germanic sandwich traditionally combines a unique (typically smoked) style of liverwurst—Braunschweiger—with onions, mustard, and Swiss cheese on seeded rye bread. (Photo: Flickr/Steve Wertz)

Mirlitons

mirliton
Region: South Louisiana
What it is: A chartreuse-colored, mouth-puckering squash found locally in south Louisiana, mirlitons (also known as chayote across South America) are a staple of Creole cuisine. Each year, New Orleans plays host to the Mirliton Festival, where the garden favorite is baked, fried, and pickled in an infinite variety of ways. (Photo: Wikipedia)


Stuffies

stuffiesyelp
Region: Rhode Island
What it is: While this dish may sound like a hot new line of stuffed animals, stuffies are probably not suited for the kids’ table. A delicacy native to Rhode Island, quahog (hard clams) are stuffed with breadcrumbs, meat (often Portuguese sausage), and minced clam mixture, then baked until crispy. (Photo: Yelp/Alexandra F.)

Goetta


Region: Cincinnati
What it is: The Midwest loves its breakfast meats. In Cincinnati that means goetta. A combination of ground meat, pin-head oats, and various spices (including bay leaves and rosemary), goetta is typically eaten sliced, fried in butter, and served with apple butter, jelly, or syrup. (Photo: Wikipedia)


Knoephla soup

knoephlasoup
Region: The Dakotas
What it is: North and South Dakota know how to fight off the winter chill, and often that means gobbling down a big bowl of thick, chunky potato-and-chicken stew known as knoephla. The word, which means “little button” in German, refers to a kind of plump dumpling that anchors the soup. (Photo: Flickr/Jordan McAlister)

Spoonbread

spoonbread
Region: Appalachian
What it is: An Appalachian staple food that walks the line between corn pudding and cornbread, spoonbread is often served piping hot and drizzled with sorghum. (Photo: Flickr/yuko zama)


Pepperoni roll

pepperoni_roll
Region: West Virginia
What it is: The doughy, calzone-like cousin of the pizza roll, the pepperoni roll is a West Virginia specialty almost impossible to locate outside the state’s borders. (Photo: Flickr/Justin Grimes)

Chicken Booyah

chickenbooyahYELP
Region: Wisconsin
What it is: A Belgian stew well-loved across Wisconsin, the shredded chicken-based rib-sticker takes up to two days to prepare in specialized kettles made specifically for crafting booyah. Many of the kettles are able to serve hundreds or even thousands of guests at a time, ensuring that eating this dish is a social affair. (Photo: Flickr/Dawn J.)


Shrimp DeJonghe


Region: Chicago
What it is: Love seafood? Love casseroles? Chicago’s Shrimp DeJonghe is the best of both the comfort food and oceanic worlds. A casserole comprised of whole, peeled garlicky shrimp coated in a fine lather of sherry-infused breadcrumbs, Shrimp DeJonghe is a revered throwback. (Photo: Flickr/Dave Bolenbaugh)

Chow mein sandwich

chowmeinsandwich
Region: Massachusetts and Rhode Island
What it is: A New England specialty that can be found in cafeterias across a limited swath of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the chow mein sandwich features a sloppy mix of gravy-based chow mein noodles and meat in between two squishy hamburger buns. The sandwiches can be served either “strained” (without vegetables) or “unstrained” (with vegetables). (Photo: Yelp/Neil T.)


Slugburger

SlugburgerFLICKR
Region: Northern Mississippi
What it is: No gastropods are harmed in the making of the slugburger, which has been a northern Mississippi delicacy for well over 100 years. Finely ground beef is mixed with soybean meal, made into patties, deep-fried, and then dressed with a triumvirate of onions, pickles, and mustard. (Photo: Flickr/Southern Foodways Alliance)

St. Paul sandwich

stpaulsandwich
Region: Missouri
What it is: A Chinese-American dish native to Missouri and dating back to the 1940s, the St. Paul sandwich combines an egg foo young patty with dill-pickle slices, white onion, mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato on white bread. (Photo: Flickr/Kwong Yee Cheng)


Spiedie

spiedie
Region: Central New York
What it is: A skewered-meat dish eaten only in and around central New York, the spiedie consists of cubed meat (traditionally lamb or chicken) marinated overnight, roasted on a “spiedie spit” and then served on plush Italian bread. (Photo: Flickr/Mr. Tender Branson)

Loganberry pie

loganberry_pie
Region: Western New York
What it is: In western New York, the superstar fruit is the deep burgundy-hued loganberry, which boasts a taste roughly akin to the love child of a blackberry and raspberry. While it’s fashioned into jellies, jams, and more, the real treat is the loganberry pie. (Photo: Flickr/(OvO))


Berger cookies

BergerCookies
Region: Baltimore
What it is: Who wouldn’t love a cookie topped with a thick, gooey layer of fudge? That’s exactly what the sweet icon of Baltimore, the Berger cookie, has going for it. While the cookie’s recipe dates back to around 1834, the DeBaufre Bakery has made and marketed the Berger cookie to hordes of hungry Baltimoreans since 1969. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Fry sauce

frysauce
Region: Utah
What it is: Everyone knows how much Utah loves its Jell-O, but fry sauce is a strong runner-up. The chain restaurant Arctic Circle claims to have invented fry sauce in 1948, when the mixture of ketchup, mayonnaise, and additional seasoning quickly became a menu staple. (Photo: Wikipedia)


Pasty

PastyFlickr
Region: Montana, Michigan, Minnesota
What it is: Traditionally eaten by miners across Montana, Michigan, and Minnesota, the pasty is a version of its meat-pie sibling from Cornwall, England. A savory pastry crust is folded into a half-moon shape and stuffed with fillings like ground beef and assorted vegetables, making it a portable, hearty treat. (Photo: Flickr/Jim Hammer)

Modjeskas

ModjeskasCC
Region: Louisville
What it is: Named after a famous Polish film star for whom a Louisville, Kentucky candy-maker harbored a massive crush, modjeskas are basically large, fluffy marshmallows wrapped in soft, chewy caramel —in other words, the ultimate sticky-candy experience. (Photo: Wikimedia)


Peanuts in Coke

peanutsincokeYELP
Region: South
What it is: There’s no greater Southern summer delicacy than grabbing a bottle (or can, in a pinch) of real Coca-Cola, a bag of salty peanuts, and plopping a few of the tubers down inside the fizzy drink. The sweet-and-salty treat that awaits you at the bottom of the glass is peerless. (Photo: Yelp/Seana M.)

American chop suey

AmercinchopFLICKR
Region: Massachusetts
What it is: An Italian-American comfort food native to Massachusetts, American chop suey isn’t much to look at with its elbow macaroni, ground beef, and thick tomato-based sauce. But you can’t deny its role as comfort food. (Photo: Flickr/Jonathan Bowen)


Loco moco

Loco_Moco
Region: Hawaii
What it is: Hawaiians have created what might be the ultimate hangover pick-me-up with loco moco, which combines sticky white rice, a frizzled hamburger patty, soft-fried egg, and a dousing of brown gravy. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Persimmon pudding

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Region: Indiana
What it is: American persimmons are one of the Midwest’s greatest secrets, with a sweet flesh that’s ideal for both baking and canning. In Indiana, persimmon pudding is a bread pudding-style delicacy that rarely gets love outside of its home turf. (Photo: Flickr/Capsun Poe)


Texas caviar

Texascaviar
Region: Texas
What it is: Sorry, roe lovers: There’s no fish to be found here. Texas caviar is the tongue-in-cheek name for a Tex-Mex side dish featuring black-eyed peas, green onions, cilantro, jalapeños, tomatoes, bell pepper, garlic, olive oil, and lime juice. (Photo: Flickr/Krista)