Thursday, September 21, 2023


Iconic Midwest foods you must try on your RV travels

Growing up in the Midwest, food was just, well, food. Now that I’m older I’ve come to appreciate that there are specific foods connected to individual Midwest states, and they are all delicious! If you plan to travel and like to eat, you should check out these iconic Midwest foods.

North Dakota knoephla

Knoephla is a miniature German dumpling. It’s often combined with potatoes/pasta, vegetables, and chicken to form a thick stew. You can order knoephla in many North Dakota restaurants as well as in the state’s neighbors to the south and east. This is real comfort food, especially enjoyed on a cold Dakota night!

Nebraska runza

This popular food became the signature offering and namesake of the popular Runza® franchises, but runzas originated in the Midwest state of Nebraska. Much like a hot pocket, a runza is filled with loose meat, cheese, and a variety of additional ingredients, like bacon, vegetables, and more. It’s so good!

Minneapolis Jucy Lucy

No, that’s not a typo. And this is not a cheeseburger! Even though this sandwich includes two well-cooked burgers, the cheese is placed in between the meat, not on the top. Two restaurants in Minneapolis claim to have invented this yummy sandwich. One spells it “Juicy” and the other, “Jucy.” Either way, it’s the cutest name for a burger in all of the Midwest, and it’s delicious.

Wisconsin cheese curds

“They’re not fresh unless they squeak.” I’m talking about cheese curds. With a similar firmness and density as cheese, but a bit more springy or rubbery, fresh curds will squeak when you bite into them. These little bits of heaven are often flavored with garlic, dill, and/or other spices. They can be eaten as a snack or served with smoked sausage or pork. If you’re lucky, you might get breaded, deep-fried cheese curds at the Wisconsin State Fair.

Chicago pizza

Deep-dish pizza is synonymous with Chicago. Most restaurants top their thick, crisp, buttery-flavored crust with a chunky tomato sauce and a heaping helping of mozzarella cheese, along with your desired toppings. It’s so good!

Iowa Maid-Rite

In 1926, Frank Angell, an Iowa butcher, added secret seasonings to the ground beef he was cooking. Frank then put the seasoned beef into a bun and gave it to his delivery man. According to the delivery man, Frank’s sandwich tasted so good because it was “made right.” This complimentary pronouncement stuck and the sandwich, Maid-Rite, was born. You can still enjoy an original Maid-Rite sandwich at one of the franchises in Iowa today.

St. Louis Toasted Ravioli

“T-ravs”, or toasted ravioli, is said to have originated because a restaurant worker accidentally dropped ravioli into hot oil instead of boiling water. The chef is said to have dusted the deep-fried packets with parmesan cheese and sent them out to patrons enjoying drinks at the bar. Toasted ravioli was an instant hit, and today’s versions are much the same as the originals. “T-ravs” are often filled with parmesan cheese and spices, then breaded, deep fried, and served with marinara dipping sauce.

Kentucky Hot Browns

A chef at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, created the Hot Brown. This yummy feast begins with a slice of Texas toast (or several slices of white bread). The bread is topped with several slices of Roma tomatoes and thick-cut roast turkey breast. A mornay sauce is poured all over the top and the dish is heated in the oven. When hot and bubbly, strips of bacon along with a sprinkle of paprika and fresh parsley are added. It’s a “must try” when in Kentucky.

Indiana sugar cream pie

This official state pie of Indiana is also the official pie of the Colts! The pie crust is filled with a custard-like vanilla filling and dusted with cinnamon. Several variations of this Hoosier pie can be found throughout Indiana. Warning: This is highly addictive!

Ohio Buckeyes

The Buckeye State’s famous candy treat closely resembles the poisonous nut that falls from the Ohio Buckeye tree. Unlike its namesake, there’s nothing bad about this candy, unless you eat too many! Ohio buckeye candy is a peanut butter fudge ball partially dipped into dark chocolate so that it resembles a buckeye. They are so delicious, I dare you to eat just one!

Michigan pastie

If you’ve visited the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, you’ve probably heard about the pastie (pronounced “pah-stee”). Its delicious pastry shell is filled with beef and root vegetables and can be dipped in gravy or sometimes ketchup. Check out the Pasty Guy’s article here and plan a Pasty Trail vacation! You’ll see magnificent sights and enjoy iconic pasties all along your way.

I know, I know! I’ve undoubtedly missed one (or more) of your favorite Midwest iconic foods. Why don’t you add your top pick in the comments below?

Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.


  1. Thank you, Gail! I lived in south, central Kentucky (i.e., Bowling Green) for a few years and never heard of the Brown dish you listed. I have been to L’ville a few times and have several friends who live there. No idea until now; thank you!
    PS. People who live there pronounce it Lou-a-vul but spell it Louisville. I write it L’ville to save time. 😉

  2. Yep…pretty much hit all my favorites. We travel the Midwest quite a bit and I’m always looking forward to special food in certain states. One that is also a Midwest favorite is the BPT (breaded pork tenderloin) sandwich. Iowa, was always my go to for this treat, but recently I learned they are popular in Indiana too.

  3. The Wisconsin Pastie- what a satisfying treat, and nutritious as well. We’d get them at a bakery and the great aroma filled the car as we drove home.

  4. I live in Kentucky about 3 hours from Louisville. I’ve been to Louisville several times. And I’ve never heard of a Kentucky hot brown. Joe I’m going to have to search and try it. Thanks!

    • I live in Louisville, and am surprised you’ve never heard of the “Hot Brown”. You won’t find it in a fast food place, but many of the “sit down” restaurants have it on the menu. Very rich, and tasty!

  5. O.K. now you’ve done it, I want pizza and I want it now!
    We had a Tavern in Ballard-Fremont, “Harveys”, Audrey made the best I’m thinking Chicago style pies.
    The last few nights before closing, lines down the block. My sis and I got a couple to go after chowing down on one.
    We put them in our freezers, dang it, they are long gone into our tummy’s.
    I know where you folks are so I figured you know what I’m talking about.
    I ‘ve had a couple of lady friends in Edmonds and driven up and down the way..

    • I can’t remember if I ever went to Harvey’s in the Ballard area, but I got kicked out of Harvey’s on Hwy. 99, Edmonds, one time because I forgot my ID. (I was over 21 but they kicked me out anyway.) The only time I was ever kicked out of a tavern. I can still remember it 55 years later.😅 (My friends and I just took our business down the road a ways.) Have a good night, David. 😀 –Diane at


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