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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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?