Some of these foods, such as South Dakota's kuchen and Wisconsin's Friday fish fry, reflect the heartland's German immigrant history. And a few, including the Chicago hot dog (whose ancestor was born in faraway Frankfurt), now seem as American as apple pie.
Illinois: Chicago hot dog
Order this steamed all-beef dog "with the works" or "dragged through the garden," with yellow mustard, dill pickle spear, chopped onion, sliced tomatoes, neon green relish, sport peppers and celery salt. Want ketchup? Go to a different city.
Indiana: Sugar cream pie
Sometimes called Hoosier pie, this sugar cream pie is what’s referred to in culinary history as a “desperation pie.” Needing no fresh seasonal ingredients like fruit, desperation pie can be made with what you’ve got on hand, in the kitchen. Recipes typically call for sugar, cream or milk, butter and possibly the likes of flour, cinnamon or nutmeg. (Whether to include eggs can be a point of contention.) “The sugar cream pie was born on the farm, made with the simplest ingredients found in most farm kitchens,” says Michael D. Wickersham, owner of Wick’s Pies Inc., in Winchester. Using a family recipe that dates back to the early 20th century, Wick’s has been making sugar cream pies since 1944, and sold around 350,000 of them last year.
Iowa: Breaded pork tenderloin sandwich
Think Wiener schnitzel, but crafted with pork and served on a bun. The deep-fried cutlet sandwich begins with hand-pounded or tenderized center-cut pork loin that's breaded or dipped in batter, then fried until golden brown and crispy, but still juicy. A regular on restaurant menus throughout Iowa, it’s not unheard of for the pork to be bigger than the bread. If you're up for a very filling road trip, the Iowa Tenderloin Trail features 14 places to try the sandwich.
Kansas: Kansas City-style barbecue
Kansas is crazy for barbecue — especially Kansas City. It's home to the annual American Royal World Series of Barbecue, said to be the largest barbecue competition in the world, and boasts more than 100 barbecue hot spots, each with its own signature dish and devout following of foodie fans. One favorite is Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, which wins trophies at barbecue contests across the country. From ribs to chicken and pulled pork, barbecue of all forms is beloved in these parts, but the most popular dish at Joe's is the Z-Man Sandwich, with slow-smoked beef brisket, smoked provolone and onion rings atop a kaiser roll. (Vegetarian? No sweat: You can try the Portobello Z-Man made with smoked mushrooms.)
If you go to St. Louis and you don’t have toasted ravioli and gooey butter cake, you’re missing out on things that are quintessentially St. Louis..