The One Thing People in Every State Can’t Live Without
Home is where the In-N-Out is (if you're Californian).
We live in a vast and diverse nation, and every state has its own quirks and particular culture, often baffling to those who don’t live there. That’s no more true than in the must-haves that you’re likely to find in every state—the local brands, snacks, clothing items, or other items that are unique to each state.
It might be a weird food item that only those in Nebraska would know about, or an Alaskan product you’d be hard-pressed to find in the continental U.S. But it’s particular to that state and part of the local identity. Here are 50 of these local loves, one for every state. And for more wacky info on our country, check out The Craziest Fact About Every U.S. State.
Golden Flake Potato Chips (Alabama)
$18.90 for 42 1-ounce bags; goldenflake.com
University of Alabama football head coach Bear Bryant wouldn’t go without a bowl of these crispy snacks (usually accompanied by a Coke) whenever he offered up the game highlights Sunday afternoons, helping to make this a must-have when watching. Even though they were acquired by Utz in 2010, these are still a beloved local snack. And for more fun facts on junk foods, check out 20 Worst Food Myths That Still Persist.
Alaskans like the rugged outdoors, opting to catch their own food and prepare it at home. An Alaskan will catch a year’s worth of salmon during the fishing season, smoke it up, and vacuum-seal it to enjoy when the weather turns, making a smoker an essential accessory for any home in this state. And for more hilarious trivia, learn The Ugliest Statue In Every U.S. State.
Eegee’s Frozen Fruit Drinks (Arizona)
This metro-Arizona subs-and-salads spot (it has stores around Tucson and Phoenix) is beloved for its brain-freezing list of frozen fruit drinks. Made with chunks of real fruit, yet somehow sweeter than your average dessert, these come in both standard-fare flavors (lemon, strawberry, piña colada) and more exciting offerings (Prickly Pear, Lucky Lime, and Watermelon Pineapple Splash). You won’t find a more fitting way to combat the legendarily scorching Arizona sun. And for more stateside silliness, learn The Best Joke Written About Every U.S. State.
Image via eegees.com
Chocolate Gravy (Arkansas)
It doesn’t sound like it should work; gravy, after all, is savory, and chocolate is sweet. But this elevated version of chocolate sauce—made with a mix of cocoa, butter, milk, and flour and ladled over fresh biscuits, with a side of strawberries if you like—is a classic dish in Arkansas. But it’s not really considered a dessert: you’re more likely to see it at the breakfast table (perhaps served with bacon bits) than after dinner. And if you find yourself regularly starting your day like this, you may want to check out The Healthiest Breakfast You Can Eat.
In-n-Out Burger (California)
Though more of the county has grow to appreciate the delicious-and-efficient combo that is In-n-Out, this fast-casual chain will always be a stalwart California institution. With a super-simple menu (that’s hiding a few secrets, by the way) and market-fresh ingredients, it’s the kind of burger that few others try to replicate, making it one of the things Californians miss most when they leave the state.
Car Rack (Colorado)
The people in this state love to get into the great outdoors, often by car, and equally often with some serious equipment, whether skis in the winter or kayaks in the summer—making a car rack a ubiquitous sight around Colorado, 24/7/365.
Boat Shoes (Connecticut)
Folks in this state like to look casually fancy and hang out near the water (at least during warmer months), making boat shoes an essential accessory. For anyone getting in some time on the lake or the yacht club, these yuppy kicks are a style staple. What’s more, boat shoes were actually invented in Connecticut, so wearing them is a way to show off home-state pride.
Vinegar on Fries (Delaware)
It’s a beloved tradition for anyone on the boardwalk in Rehoboth to snag a bucket of fries from Thrasher’s. But since ketchup isn’t available, it’s all about adding vinegar, which the fries a satisfying kick that somehow gets even better once beach weather rolls around.
This supermarket chain has outposts throughout the south, but Florida is where it dominates (and is most beloved), offering up pretty much everything you could possibly need—and open until late, to boot. Whether you’re looking for sunblock, OJ, sandwiches, toiletries, socks (truly), or, honestly, anything that pops into your head, these stores are where Floridians stock up.
Sweet Tea (Georgia)
Sugary, cold, and with a hint of black-tea bitterness—not to mention a lemon wedge to round out the flavor—this quintessential southern drink is a must-have in Georgia. Whether it’s flavored raspberry, lemon, or, to be truly Georgian, peach, you’ll find this drink on every porch in Georgia come summertime.
This processed salty meat is a culinary staple in Hawaii, often to the bafflement of outsiders (who frankly don’t know what they’re missing). Its insane popularity goes back to the Second World War, when the military offered it, since finding fresh meat on the island was a difficult task. The stuff has since become a local favorite, generally served atop rice, and available in flavors you can’t find on the mainland (Honey Spam, anyone?).
Fry Sauce (Idaho)
A state that takes potatoes as seriously as Idaho has to take its fry-dipping sauce seriously, too. This concoction of mayonnaise, vinegar, and Worcestershire must be carefully balanced. But when done right—it takes the skill of a local—it makes for a to-die-for snack.
Speaking of condiments, anyone who’s gotten a hot dog at world-famous Portillo’s knows that relish is an essential topping. Mustard, tomato, pickles, and peppers play key roles, too, of course, but it’s the relish that ties everything together—and the thing you’re bound to find in the fridges of locals.
Corn Mazes (Indiana)
When the fall arrives, these labyrinths of corn are all but inescapable—in more ways than one. From small family-owned orchards with a few tricky twists to acres-wide farms with mind-numbingly complex patterns, this state has some of the most ambitious, hard-to navigate maize mazes in the country.
Pork Queen (Iowa)
In any other state, “Pork Queen” would seem like an insult, but in Iowa it’s a much-sought honor bestowed on one young woman every year by the Iowa Pork Producers Association. There are stringent rules and a lot of pomp surrounding the award, which is doled out at the Iowa Pork Congress in Des Moines every January.
Though the state song talks of buffalo roaming—and buffalo is the state animal—technically, it’s the North American bison that wander the plains here. And that brings a sense of pride to the state. Growing over six feet tall and weighing more than 1,800 pounds, these mighty beasts are part of any Kansan’s sense of identity.
Everyone has their own family recipe for this state-favorite stew of game meats, veggies, and spices. Several cities—Franklin, Lawrenceburg, and Owensboro, to name a few—all individually claim to be the Burgoo Capital of the World, but there is no definitive victor. And for more amazing state trivia, check out the Craziest Fact about Every U.S. State.
A sausage that grows from this state’s Cajun roots, boudin comes in a huge range of styles, from the pork white sausage of boudin blanc to the blood sausage of boudin noir (not to mention boudin made from crawfish, shrimp, and alligator). Everyone has their own approach to making it, but you won’t get more Louisiana than this dish.
Bean Boots (Maine)
L.L. Bean was founded in this state in 1912 (right in downtown Freeport) and Mainers remain loyal to the retailer. It’s a good bet you’ll find a pair of the brand’s sturdy boots—often just called “Beans”—in the closets of any local. And for more beloved state-wide offerings, here are the Best Craft Beers in Every U.S. State.
Yup, the official state sport of Maryland is jousting. This martial game—wherein a pair of riders on horseback speed at each other with lances, in an attempt to demount each other—may seem like something you’re only likely to find at a Medieval Times fair, but tournaments can still be watched throughout the year in this state. Worry not: It’s more of a ceremonial performance than the bloody battles you’ll find in Game of Thrones.
Evacuation Day (Massachusetts)
Schools and government offices in Suffolk County (where Boston is located) shut down on March 17 to honor the moment when the British were expelled from the city of Boston—a major victory for the Continental Army that was soon followed by the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. The date is still important to the state.
Michigan Sauce (Michigan)
This tomato-based topping, made with ketchup, lemon juice, brown sugar, and mustard, goes great on hot dogs. (It’s usually also served with some chopped onions). You won’t find a single sports bar in Michigan that doesn’t offer up the stuff.
Caribou Coffee (Minnesota)
Who needs Starbucks when you can head to this Minneapolis-based chain of beloved coffee shops? You’ll find turtle mochas, blended coolers, and caramel high rises, among other delicious concoctions (and seriously soothing tunes over the speakers). Minnesotans will generally pass up other chains or the fancy independent coffee shops for a Caribou classic any day of the week.
Comeback Sauce (Mississippi)
Similar to rémoulade, this creamy, spicy topping goes well on just about anything, from chopped lettuce to saltine crackers to fried fish. Originating from Jackson in the 1930s, it’s made with mayonnaise, garlic, and paprika, and is an essential accompaniment for fried green tomatoes.
Burnt Ends (Missouri)
These flavorful cuts of smoked brisket—lifted from the fatty point-end, cubed, charred, and coated in sauce—go great on sandwiches or served on their own, as long as you pair them with a side of beans or fries. The dish is a Kansas classic.
National Parks (Montana)
Home to some of the country’s most impressive National Parks, including Glacier and Yellowstone, the residents of “Big Sky Country” take the great outdoors very seriously. In fact, according to the Outdoor Industry Association, Montana has one of the highest percentages of residents participating in outdoor recreation per capita (a whopping 81 percent).
Making pocket sandwiches that are kind of a riff on calzones and a favorite for Nebraskans, with options running the gamut from BLT to BBQ bacon, Runzas a popular option for any meal. It was first founded in Lincoln, in 1949, and has since expanded to dozens of locations throughout the state.
Zappos Shoes (Nevada)
Though orders for this shoe retailer are done online, Nevadans have plenty of home-state pride for this Vegas-based giant, which continues to burnish its reputation for stellar customer service, great benefits for employees, and social responsibility. Even though it’s now an Amazon subsidiary, the company has maintained its identity and continues to be a major employer for the area. For more beloved local businesses, learn The Most Admired Company in Every U.S. State.
Steak Bombs (New Hampshire)
New Hamphire’s take on the Philly cheesesteak, these hot grinder sandwiches combine thinly sliced roast beef, provolone and mozzarella cheese, sweet onion, green pepper, and mushroom on a hefty hoagie roll. And like the legendary Philly cheesesteak rivalry (Pat’s or Geno’s—pick a side!), New Hampshire has its own rivals, each each of whom lay claim to being the originator of the sandwich—Great America Subs and USA Subs.
QuickChek (New Jersey)
These convenience stores have been a New Jersey staple since the 1960s, offering not just the usual market items you expect from a 7-Eleven, but plenty of soups, salads, sandwiches, and snacks. They’re a go-to option for drivers looking to grab a quick bite.
Bizcochito (New Mexico)
These buttery, star-shaped cookies flavored with cinnamon and anise are popular around holidays, weddings, and other special occasions and grow out of the state’s Spanish roots. In 1989, the delicacy was deemed the state’s official cookie.
Bagel with Lox (New York)
As New York as a slice of pizza or a dirty-water hot dog, a bagel slathered in cream cheese and topped with rich, smoked salmon (plus some capers and onions, if you really want the real deal) is a dish unlike anything else. Take it to go. Order delivery. Or be like a real New Yorker and scarf it down before you even leave the bodega.
Cheerwine (North Carolina)
This cherry-flavored soft drink, produced in Salisbury since 1917, claims to be “the oldest continuing soft drink company still run by the same family,” and North Carolinians could not be prouder of it. What’s more, Mark Zuckerberg is purportedly a fan.
Honey (North Dakota)
This state produces the most honey of any state in the country, thanks to a highly desirable destination for honeybees and a summertime climate that’s ideal for nectar production. According to the National Honey Board, North Dakota produces more than 17,000 tons of honey per year.
Buckeye Candy (Ohio)
Named for the Buckeye State, these Reese’s-like treats are concocted by dipping a hunk of peanut butter fudge into chocolate, creating a delicious sweet that also happens to resemble the nuts of a buckeye tree, with its shiny dark brown exterior and light brown “eye.”
Chicken Fried Steak (Oklahoma)
Made by breading a piece of beefsteak with flour and pan frying it (as you’d do to fried chicken), this hearty and delicious dish—usually covered with pepper cream gravy and served with a side of mashed potatoes, biscuits, or vegetables—was named part of the official state meal in 1988.
Craft Beer (Oregon)
The state has been on the forefront of the microbrew movement for decades and visitors have no shortage of unique, flavorful beers—IPAs, Belgian, hoppy, or sour—to choose from when they visit. Without Great Notion, Rogue, Culmination, or the dozens of other brewpubs that are so central to its identity, Portland wouldn’t be the hipster destination it is today.
Founded in 1914 in Philadelphia, this brand has become synonymous with PA, with Pennsylvanians growing up on its Cupcakes, Krimpets, Kandy Kakes, Cookie Bars, and more. What it lacks in healthy ingredients it more than makes up for in nostalgia value—and, well, flavor.
Clam Cake (Rhode Island)
A very different type of cake, these summer treats, made with chopped local clams, mixed with milk, eggs, and butter, are fried into little balls of doughy deliciousness, served with lemon wedges, and generally enjoyed by the water, whether at a crab shack or by the beach.
Biscuits (South Carolina)
Every family in South Carolina has its special biscuit recipe that it will defend as the best. Flaky, buttery biscuits are an essential complement to most meals here, and whether they are buttermilk, cheese, or cornbread, they’re a must-have.
Chislic (South Dakota)
This regional delicacy consists of deep-fried or grilled squares of bison, elk, venison, or other meats, seasoned with garlic salt and stuck with toothpicks for easier eating. Usually accompanied by saltines, its great as a snack at the bar or as a standalone meal on its own.
It doesn’t get much more Tennessee than whiskey. Jack Daniel’s, George Dickel, and plenty of other brands, both large and boutique, call the state home. Tennessee is famous for its wealth of distilleries, and whether you’re drinking neat, on the rocks, or mixed in a cocktail, it’s hard to imagine paying a visit without imbibing in the stuff.
Breakfast Tacos (Texas)
The quintessential Tex-Mex dish is a staple of almost any breakfast menu in the state, from major city centers to holes-in-the-wall further afield. Barbecue is of course a central part of the state’s cuisine, but to really appreciate the current culinary scene, go for a soft, delicious, egg-and-bacon (or chorizo) stuffed taco.
Jell-O is big in Utah, particularly the green kind. Part of it is the wholesome, family-friendly reputation of the product (which goes well in a state packed with teetotalling Mormons), but it goes beyond just an enjoyment of the gelatinous snack into a true cultural symbol. When Salt Lake City hosted the Olympic in 2002, Jell-O appeared on the official souvenir pin. Utah State University includes a plastic slide covered in the stuff in its recruiting activities. Utah residents consume twice as much lime Jell-O per capita as the rest of the world.
It’s basically the official state uniform. The outdoorsy Vermonters love their durable, checkered flannel clothing, and were rocking it (and carefully cultivated mustaches) long before hipsters in Brooklyn took it over—and they’re not about to give it up any time soon.
This state is actually the official East Coast capital for oysters. After a concerted effort on the part of the state to repopulate its oyster bays, the industry is now thriving, with eight oyster region producing eight distinct flavors, and an Oyster Trail with no shortage of stops for some delicious shellfish on the half shell.
The birthplace of Starbucks and Tully’s—not to mention home to plenty of top-notch local joints, like Espresso Vivace—is likely the most coffee-loving states in the union. Seattle’s connection to coffee is so deep you’d think the coffee bean was native to Washington.
Sheetz (West Virginia)
This convenience store chain serves up food and drink around the clock, with its signature “MTO” (“Made to Order,” that is) offers, along with a gimmicky menu full of items that swap the letters Z and H in. For instance: Coffeez (coffees) or Shweetz (sweets).
Squeaky Cheese (Wisconsin)
These satisfyingly milky, “squeaky” bites are more than just a delicious food. They’re an integral part of the state’s identity.
This state has proper cowboys (it is the Cowboy State, after all) who enjoy actual rodeos when looking for a good time. Rodeo is Wyoming’s official state sport, with almost every town hosting its own during the summer months.
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