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Ah, the West, where signature foods range from pies and french fries to seafood stew and a few dogs, too, the meat-filled kind. These 13 dishes define some very different states spread across the Western U.S.
Alaska: Reindeer sausage
Watch out, Rudolph. This sausage, a staple on Alaskan menus, really does have reindeer meat in it. "It's more similar to a beef smoked sausage or kielbasa than, say, a pork breakfast sausage," says Maya Wilson, author of the Alaska From Scratch Cookbook. "They have a nice snap when you bite into them, not unlike bratwurst." (Her favorite spot for reindeer weenies is Hot Dogs a la Carte in Soldotna, Alaska, a few hours south of Anchorage.)
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Arizona: Sonoran hot dogs
An all-beef frankfurter wrapped in bacon. That's the meaty centerpiece of the Sonoran hot dog, which is swaddled in a large football-shaped bun; covered in beans, onions, jalapeños, mayo, and other sauces; and served with a grilled yellow chili pepper on the side. Your cardiologist may cringe, but Arizonans take pride in this iconic Southwestern junk food (also known as a Mexican hot dog, given its south-of-the-border origins). Good places to try one include El Güero Canelo, with three Tucson locations, and the Phoenix hot dog stand Nogales Hot Dogs.
A hearty stew of mixed seafood and tomato sauce spiked with garlic and herbs, cioppino was introduced to San Francisco by immigrant Italian fishermen from Genoa sometime around the mid to late 1800s (its name probably comes from "ciuppin," the Genoese word for "little soup"). The first restaurant known to have served cioppino is Alioto's, still in business after more than 90 years on the city's Fisherman’s Wharf. Or you can get a top-notch bowl at Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing, near Monterey (Phil's also serves another must-try San Francisco treat, Dungeness crab). You're not done with cioppino until you've sopped up the briny broth with a chunk of crusty bread — preferably sourdough.
Colorado: Rocky Mountain oysters
The word "gross" springs to mind when discussing these so-called oysters, which are actually bull or buffalo testicles. But, rolled in flour with salt and pepper and deep fried, they have become a dish that some Coloradans adore (with all the requisite jokes). Yes, some say the meat tastes like chicken, but other fans compare the flavor to veal and the consistency to scallops. Bruce's Bar in Severance is known for the delicacy, and baseball fans at Denver's Coors Field can order Rocky Mountain po'boys (Rocky Mountain oysters topped with garlic slaw, guacamole, green chili ranch dressing, pico de gallo and cotija cheese on a roll).
"Some dishes are replicated well all over, but it's never quite the same as having them where they originated."