Cuisine of the Midwestern United States

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Midwestern cuisine is a regional cuisine of the American Midwest. It draws its culinary roots most significantly from the cuisines of Central, Northern and Eastern Europe, and Native North America, and is influenced by regionally and locally grown foodstuffs[1] and cultural diversity.[2]

Everyday Midwestern home cooking generally showcases simple and hearty dishes that make use of the abundance of locally grown foods. Its culinary profiles may seem synonymous with "American food." Quoted in a 2007 interview with the Daily Herald, Chef Stephen Langlois, a pioneer in the Midwestern local food movement, described it: "Think of Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey and cranberry sauce and wild rice and apple pie."[3]

The Midwest's restaurants also offer a diverse mix of ethnic cuisines as well as sophisticated, contemporary techniques.[citation needed]


Seen highlighted in red, the region known as the Midwestern United States, as currently defined by the U.S. Census Bureau

Sometimes called "the breadbasket of America," the Midwest serves as a center for grain production, particularly wheat, corn and soybeans. Midwestern states also produce most of the country's wild rice.[4]

Beef and pork processing have always been important Midwestern industries, with a strong role in regional diets. Chicago and Kansas City were historically stockyard and processing centers of the beef trade and Cincinnati, nicknamed 'Porkopolis', was once the largest pork-producing city in the world.[5] Iowa is the center of pork production in the U.S.

Far from the oceans, Midwesterners traditionally ate little seafood, relying on local freshwater fish, such as perch and trout, supplemented by canned tuna and canned or cured salmon and herring, although modern air shipping of ocean seafood has been increasing Midwesterners' taste for ocean fish.[6]

Dairy products, especially cheese, form an important group of regional ingredients, with Wisconsin known as "America's Dairyland."

The upper Midwest, a prime fruit-growing region, sees the extensive use of apples, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, peaches and other cold-climate fruit in its cuisine.

As with many American regional cuisines, Midwestern cooking has been heavily influenced by immigrant groups. Throughout the northern Midwest, northern European immigrant groups predominated, so Swedish pancakes and Polish pierogi are common. Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas, Ohio and Illinois were destinations for many ethnic German immigrants, so pork sausages and potatoes are prevalent. In the Rust Belt, many Greeks became restaurateurs, imparting a Mediterranean influence. Native American influences show up in the uses of corn and wild rice.[7]

Traditionally, Midwestern cooks used a light hand with seasonings, preferring sage, dill, caraway, mustard and parsley to hot, bold and spicy flavors. However, with new waves of immigrants from Latin America and Asia moving into the region, these tastes are changing.

This section of the region is also headquarters for several seminal hamburger chains, including McDonald's in Chicago, Illinois (founded in California, but turned into the iconic franchise by Ray Kroc beginning with a still-standing store in Des Plaines, Illinois). The Midwest is also home to Hardee's in St. Louis, Missouri, Culver's in Sauk City, Wisconsin; Steak n Shake, founded in Normal, Illinois, and now based in Indianapolis; Wendy's in Dublin, Ohio. Diner chain Big Boy, known for burgers, is headquartered in Warren, Michigan.[8] Both Pizza Hut (now based in Plano, Texas) and White Castle (based in Columbus, Ohio since 1933) were founded in Wichita, Kansas.

Besides Pizza Hut, the Midwest is home to the other largest pizza chains in the U.S.: Little Caesars and Domino's Pizza, both based in Michigan (respectively in Detroit and Ann Arbor), and Papa John's Pizza, founded in Indiana (though its current headquarters are just outside the federally defined Midwest in Louisville, Kentucky, across the Ohio River from the chain's original home of Jeffersonville).

Bratwurst with sauerkraut and potatoes

A Wurst mart, sometimes spelled Wurstmart or Wurst Markt, is a variation on a fish fry found predominantly in German-American communities. Wurst marts are usually held by churches as fundraising events, where people will pay for a buffet of sausages and other side dishes. Common side dishes include mashed potatoes, gravy and sauerkraut. Wurst Mart comes from the German word "Wurstmarkt", meaning sausage market. Wurst marts are found mostly in small rural German-American communities in the Midwest, particularly around St. Louis.

Urban centers[edit]

Major urban areas in the Midwest feature distinctive cuisines very different from those of the region's rural areas, and some larger cities have world-class restaurants.

Barberton, Ohio[edit]

Part of the greater Akron area, this small industrial city with a strong Central and Eastern European heritage has a culinary contribution called Barberton Chicken, created by Serbian immigrants, deep fried in lard, and usually accompanied by a hot rice dish, vinegar coleslaw and french fries.


The ethnic mix of the people of Chicago has led to a distinctive cuisine of restaurant foods exclusive to the area, such as Italian beef, the Maxwell Street Polish, the Chicago-style hot dog, Chicago-style pizza, chicken Vesuvio and the jibarito, as well as a large number of steakhouses.

Chicago also boasts many gourmet restaurants, as well as a wide variety of ethnic food stores and eateries, most notably Mexican, German, Polish, Italian, Greek, Indian/Pakistani and Asian, often clustered in ethnic neighborhoods. Many of these cuisines have evolved significantly in Chicago. For example, the Greek cheese dish saganaki was first flambéed at the table in Greektown.[9]

Chicago is the Midwest's center of molecular gastronomy, likely due to the influence of Grant Achatz.[10][11]

As a major rail hub, Chicago historically had access to a broad range of the country's foodstuffs, so even in the 19th century, Chicagoans could easily buy items like live oysters[12] and reasonably fresh shrimp. Chicago's oldest signature dish, shrimp de Jonghe, was invented around the turn of the 20th century. Today, flights into O'Hare Airport bring Chicago fresh food from all over the world.


The Queen City is known for its namesake Cincinnati chili, a Greek-inspired meat sauce (ground beef seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, bay leaf, cumin, and ground chilis), served over spaghetti or hot dogs. Unlike chili con carne, Cincinnati-style chili is almost never eaten by itself and is instead consumed in "ways" or on cheese coneys, which are a regional variation on a chili dog.

Goetta, a meat-and-grain sausage or mush made from pork and oats, is unique to the Greater Cincinnati area and "every bit as much a Queen City icon"[13]:244 as Cincinnati chili. It is similar to the traditional porridge-like German peasant food stippgrutze but incorporates a higher proportion of meat-to-grain and is thicker, forming a sliceable loaf. Slices are typically fried like sausage patties and served for breakfast.[5] More than a million pounds of goetta are served in the Cincinnati area per year.[5]

The city has a strong German heritage and a variety of German-oriented restaurants and menu items can be found in the area. Cincinnati's Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, an annual food and music celebration held each September, is the second-largest in the world.[14] Taste of Cincinnati, the longest running culinary arts festival in the United States, is held each year on Memorial Day weekend. In 2014, local chefs and food writers organized the first annual Cincinnati Food & Wine Classic, which drew chefs and artisan food producers from the region.[15][16]

The area was once a national center for pork processing and is often nicknamed Porkopolis, with many references to that heritage in menu-item names and food-event names;[5] pigs are a "well-loved symbol of the city."[5]


Cleveland's many immigrant groups and heavily blue-collar demographic have long played an important role in defining the area's cuisine. Ethnically, Italian foods as well as several Eastern European cuisines, particularly those of Poland and Hungary, have become gastronomical staples in the Greater Cleveland area. Prominent examples of these include cavatelli, rigatoni, pizza, Chicken paprikash, stuffed cabbage, pierogi, and kielbasa all of which are widely popular in and around the city.[17] Local specialties, such as the pork-based dish City Chicken and the Polish Boy (a loaded sausage sandwich native to Cleveland), are dishes definitive of a cuisine that is based on hearty, inexpensive fare. Commercially, Hector Boiardi (aka Chef Boyardee) started his business in Cleveland's Little Italy.[17]

Sweets specific to the Cleveland area include the coconut bar (similar in many respects to the Australian Lamington).[18] Coconut bars, which are found in many Jewish bakeries in the area, are small squares of cake that have been dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut.[19] In Italian bakeries around the Cleveland area, a variation of the Cassata cake is widely popular. This local version is unlike those typically found elsewhere being that it is made with layers of sponge cake custard and strawberries, then frosted with whipped cream. In a celebrity-chef nod to this version, Mario Batali said that the Cassata cake at Corbo's was the best in the United States.[20]


Schmidt's Sausage Haus in German Village, Columbus, Ohio

The Columbus, Ohio area is the home and birthplace of many well-known fast food chains, especially those known for hamburgers. Wendy's opened its first store in Columbus in 1969, and is now headquartered in nearby Dublin. America's oldest hamburger chain, White Castle, is based there. Besides burgers, Columbus is noted for the German Village, a neighborhood south of downtown where German cuisine such as sausages and kuchen are served. In recent years, local restaurants focused on organic, seasonal, and locally or regionally sourced food have become more prevalent, especially in the Short North area, between downtown and the OSU campus. Numerous Somali restaurants are also found in the city, particularly around Cleveland Avenue.

Columbus is also the birthplace of the famed Marzetti Italian Restaurant, opened in 1896. Owner Teresa Marzetti is credited with creation of the beef-and-pasta casserole named after her brother-in-law, Johnny Marzetti. The restaurant's popular salad dressings became the foundation for the T. Marzetti Company, an international specialty foods manufacturer and distributor, headquartered in Columbus.


Competing, neighboring Coney Island hot dog restaurants in Detroit

Detroit specialties include Coney Island hot dogs, found at hundreds of unaffiliated "Coney Island" restaurants. Not to be confused with a chili dog, a coney is served with a ground beef sauce, chopped onions and mustard. The Coney Special has an additional ground beef topping. It is often served with French fries. Food writers Jane and Michael Stern call out Detroit as the only "place to start" in pinpointing "the top Coney Islands in the land."[13]:233

Detroit also has its own style of pizza, a thick-crusted, Sicilian cuisine-influenced, rectangular type called square pizza. Other Detroit foods include zip sauce, served on steaks; the triple-decker Dinty Moore sandwich, corned beef layered with lettuce, tomato and Russian dressing; and a Chinese-American dish called warr shu gai or almond boneless chicken.

The Detroit area has many large groups of immigrants. A large Arabic-speaking population reside in and around the suburb of Dearborn, home to many Lebanese storefronts. Detroit also has a substantial number of Greek restaurateurs. Thus, numerous Mediterranean restaurants dot the region and typical foods such as gyros, hummus and falafel can be found in many run-of-the-mill grocery stores and restaurants.

Polish food is also prominent in the region, including popular dishes such as pierogi, borscht, and pączki. Bakeries concentrated in the Polish enclave of Hamtramck, Michigan, within the city, are celebrated for their pączki, especially on Fat Tuesday. Hungarian food is featured in nearby eastern Toledo, Ohio with Tony Packo's Hungarian hot dog, a form of kolbász.

Chinese restaurants in the Detroit area serve Almond boneless chicken,[21] a regional Chinese-American dish consisting of battered fried boneless chicken breasts served sliced on a bed of lettuce with a gravy-like chicken flavored sauce and slivered almonds.[22]

In nearby Ann Arbor the Chipati, a tossed salad, is served inside a freshly baked pita pocket with the "secret" Chipati sauce on the side. The Chipati's origination is claimed by both Pizza Bob's on S. State St. and by Pizza House on Church St.


Indianapolis was settled predominantly by Americans of British descent and Irish and German immigrants, so much of the city's food draws upon these influences. Much of the food is considered to be "Classic American Cuisine". Later immigrants included many Jews, Poles, Eastern Europeans and Italians, all of whom influenced local food. Two of the city's most distinct dishes are the pork tenderloin sandwich and sugar cream pie.

A fast-growing immigrant population from places such as Mexico and India is also beginning to influence the local food. The area offers many diverse, locally owned ethnic restaurants, as well as nationally and internationally renowned restaurants. Indy is also home to many local pubs.

Kansas City[edit]

Kansas City is an important barbecue and meat-processing center with a distinctive barbecue style. The Kansas City metropolitan area has more than 100 barbecue restaurants[23] and proclaims itself to be the "world's barbecue capital." The Kansas City Barbeque Society spreads its influence across the nation through its barbecue-contest standards. The oldest continuously operating barbecue restaurant is Rosedale Barbecue near downtown Kansas City. Other popular barbecue restaurants are Gates Bar-B-Q, Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que and Arthur Bryant's. Both Arthur Bryant's and Gates Bar-B-Q sell bottled versions of their barbecue sauces in restaurants and specialty stores in the surrounding areas.


The capital and second-largest city in the state of Wisconsin, Madison has a diverse and cosmopolitan food scene, with influences from Germany, Ireland, Scandinavia, Italy, and other areas. One representative is Dane County Farmers' Market, the largest producers-only farmer's market in the nation.[24][25]

Mansfield, Ohio[edit]

Mansfield is the home of two well-known food companies. Isaly Dairy Company (AKA Isaly's) was a chain of family-owned dairies and restaurants started by William Isaly in the early 1900s until the 1970s, famous for creating the Klondike Bar ice cream treat, popularized by the slogan "What would you do for a Klondike Bar?". Stewart's Restaurants is a chain of root beer stands started in Mansfield by Frank Stewart in 1924, famous for their Stewart's Fountain Classics line of premium beverages now sold worldwide.


German immigrants settled Milwaukee. Sauerkraut, bratwurst, beer, and other traditional German favorites continue to be popular, both in homes and at Milwaukee's famous German restaurants. Milwaukee also offers a diverse selection of other ethnic restaurants.

Served under various names, a favorite sandwich for Milwaukeeans and Wisconsinites consists of a brat (often butterflied to lay flat) on top of a hamburger in a kaiser roll.

Like Chicago and Detroit, Milwaukee also has a large Polish population and the associated dishes like Kielbasa, Pierogi and Paczki.

Frozen custard is a local favorite in the Cream City, with many competing stands throughout the area.[26]

Cheese curds are another local favorite, and Wisconsinites enjoy them "squeaky" (cold), or fried (usually in batter).

Also known as Brew City,[26] Milwaukee is home to many breweries and the traditional and nominal headquarters for national beer brands.[27][28]

Minneapolis and Saint Paul[edit]

Minneapolis and Saint Paul offer a diverse array of cuisines influenced by their many immigrant groups, as well as those restaurant chefs who follow the trends of larger cities. Within Minnesota, at-home fare varies broadly within various ethnic groups and their culture, historically, the overall majority of Minnesotans were of Northern European ancestry, many with farming backgrounds and many home-cooked meals still reflect this, with comfort food items such as hotdish, hearty soups and stews and meat and potatoes commonly being served. Many Minnesotans claim some Scandinavian heritage, and while iconic dishes such as lefse and lutefisk are quite commonly served at home as well as church potlucks and community get-togethers, few Twin Cities restaurants serve these items. Traditionally wild rice has been popular in Minnesota, which has been gathered in area lakes by Native Americans for centuries; In the fall, the Twin Cities share along with Green Bay, Wisconsin, the tradition of the neighborhood booyah, a cuisine and cultural event featuring a hodge-podge of ingredients in stews. One item of note: Minneapolis and Saint Paul pioneered the Jucy Lucy (or "Juicy Lucy"), a hamburger with a core of melted cheese.

American restaurants in the Twin Cities supply a wide spectrum of choices and styles that range from small diners offering simple short order grill fare and the typical sports bars and decades old supper clubs to high-end steakhouses and eateries that serve new American cuisine using locally grown ingredients. Most types of American regional cuisine can be found at restaurants in the Twin Cities. Barbecue restaurants in the area tend to feature a combination of the various regional styles of this type of cooking. In the inner cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, it's not uncommon to find a few Chicago-influenced African American barbecue restaurants. Recently Minneapolis is becoming central to the newly thriving Native American cuisine movement.[29][30] It has been announced that a Native American restaurant by Sioux Chef author and educator Sean Sherman called Owanmi will be part of the Water Works, a park development project overlooking St. Anthony Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge, set to open in 2019.[31][32]

Germans comprise the majority of the state's ethnic heritage and one can find authentic German cuisine at the Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter in nearby Stillwater, and at the Black Forest Inn and the Gasthof zur Gemutlichkeit both found in Minneapolis. The latter restaurant is in Minneapolis' Northeast community which is also home to thriving Czech, Polish, Ukrainian and other Eastern European restaurants such as Jax Café, Kramarczuk's, Mayslack's and the former Nye's Polonaise lending this area an old world character and charm. The Twin Cities can also boast of authentic French, Irish, Italian and Russian restaurants. Spanish tapas restaurants exist, but are more trendy than homage. In the Twin Cities, pizzerias tend to be American rather than rustic Italian. Pies tend to feature thinner crusts, and are usually cut into squares (Also known as "tavern cut" or "party cut"). Rustic Italian pizzerias however, are not absent. A few do exist, and feature inventive styles of pizza.

Authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants are quite popular in the Twin Cities, as there are Hispanic neighborhoods in both Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Many entrepreneurs have taken authentic Mexican cuisine into the suburbs as well. Latin American purveyors are also pioneering their home cuisines from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Peru and the Spanish Speaking West Indies offering authentic churrasco and ceviche among their dining options.

Asian cuisine was initially dominated by Chinese Cantonese immigrants that served Americanized offerings. In 1883 Woo Yee Sing and his younger brother, Woo Du Sing, opened the Canton Cafe in Minneapolis, the first Chinese restaurant in Minnesota.[33][34] Authentic offerings began at the influential Nankin Cafe which opened in 1919,[35] and many new Chinese immigrants soon took this cuisine throughout the Twin Cities and to the suburbs. Authentic Chinese cuisine from the provinces of Hunan and Szechaun and from Beijing, Shanghai and Taiwan are relatively new. The cuisine of Japan has been present since the opening of the area's very first Japanese restaurant, Fuji Ya in 1959. Since then, sushi and teppanyaki restaurants have also become increasingly more common. In the 1970s the Twin Cities saw a large influx of Southeast Asian immigrants from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The urban areas are now proliferated by Vietnamese phở noodle shops, banh mi and Thai curry restaurants. Since 1976 Supenn Supatanskinkasem (now Harrison) has been cooking and serving Thai food through her Minnesota State Fair Booth, Siam Café, and Sawatdee chain of Thai restaurants. Thanks to her persistence and success, others have opened Thai restaurants and there are now more than 100 establishments throughout Minnesota offering the food of Thailand.[36] Cambodian cuisine has also flourished given the large Hmong population familiar with it. Korean restaurants are few, as possibly their dining style and flavors have not been as adopted into the American mainstream. In the Twin Cities suburbs, Oriental buffets are popular for offering different Asian cuisines together. Restaurants offering other cuisines of Asia including those from Afghanistan, India, Nepal and the Philippines are also fairly recent additions to the Twin Cities dining scene and have been well received. Local ingredients are often integrated into Asian offerings, for example Chinese steamed walleye and Nepalese curried bison.

The Twin Cities are home to many restaurants that serve the cuisines of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. There are numerous Greek restaurants that range from fine dining to casual fast food shops that specialize in gyros. In both Minneapolis and Saint Paul, there exist long established Jewish cafes and delicatessens. Lebanese restaurants have also had a long time presence in both cities.

Authentic offerings of Arab cuisine, as well as other Middle Eastern cuisines, exist in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan area. Egyptian, Iranian (Persian), Kurdish, and Turkish restaurants can be found throughout the Twin Cities.

Related cuisines from Northeast Africa can also be found throughout the Twin Cities metropolitan area. While restaurants that serve Ethiopian dishes have been in the Twin Cities for decades, more recent immigrants from Somalia have also opened a number of restaurants in Minnesota.[37] Somali cuisine consists of an exotic mixture of native Somali, Ethiopian, Yemeni, Indian, Persian, Turkish and Italian culinary influences.[38]

In addition, West African immigrants have introduced their own unique cuisine in recent years. There is also a presence of Afro-Caribbean restaurants, with the famed Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis being home to two Caribbean restaurants.

The University of Minnesota has been a center for food research with inventions such as the Haralson, Honeycrisp and SweeTango apple varieties. The Minnesota State Fair offers a sampling of many cuisines each year and Twin Citians claim that the all-American Corn Dog and Pronto Pup made their very first appearances there. Much like other states in the Midwest with a significant dairy industry, deep fried cheese curds are very popular at carnivals, city festivals, baseball games, county fairs, and the aforementioned Minnesota State Fair. Additionally, many important agricultural conglomerates, including Cargill, General Mills/Pillsbury, and International Multifoods make their home in Minneapolis-Saint Paul. The Betty Crocker food brand (named after a non-existent housewife) was born there. Several national restaurant chains, such as Buca di Beppo, Famous Dave's and the now defunct Chi-Chi's started in the Twin Cities. Buffalo Wild Wings, Dairy Queen, KarmelKorn Shoppes, the former Old Country Buffet, Orange Julius and T.G.I. Friday's (a division of Carlson Companies) are also well known chains headquartered in the Twin Cities.


Omaha has some unusual steakhouses such as the famous Gorat's, several of which are Sicilian in origin or adjacent to the Omaha Stockyards. Central European and Southern influences can be seen in the local popularity of carp and South 24th Street contains a multitude of Mexican restaurants. North Omaha also has its own barbecue style.

Omaha is one of the places claiming to have invented the reuben sandwich, supposedly named for Reuben Kulakofsky, a grocer from the Dundee neighborhood.

Bronco's, Godfather's Pizza, and the Garden Cafe are among the chain restaurants that originated in Omaha.

Omaha also has a thriving local pizza scene, with popular restaurants including Zio's, La Casa, Mama's and Valentino's. However, Big Fred's and Johnny Sortino's are the two that routinely vie for the title of the best pizza in town.

The cheese frenchee is also a local favorite and staple, originating from the original King's Food Host fast food restaurants. Today in Omaha, you can find them at Amigos/Kings Classic and Don & Millies fast food restaurants.

St. Louis[edit]

Pork steaks cooking

The large number of Irish and German immigrants who came to St. Louis beginning in the early nineteenth century contributed significantly to the shaping of local cuisine as confirmed by a variety of uses of beef, pork and chicken, often roasted or grilled, as well as a variety of desserts including rich cakes, stollens, fruit pies, doughnuts and cookies. Even a local form of fresh stick pretzel, called Gus's Pretzels, has been sold singly or by the bagful by street corner vendors.

Mayfair salad dressing was invented at a St. Louis hotel of the same name, and is richer than Caesar salad dressing. St. Louis is also known for popularizing the ice cream cone and for inventing gooey butter cake (a rich, soft-centered coffee cake) and frozen custard. Iced tea is also rumored to have been invented at the World's Fair, as well as the hot dog bun.

Although St. Louis is typically not included on the list of major styles of barbecue in the United States, it was recognized by Kingsford as "America’s Top Grilling City" in its second annual list of "Top 10 Grilling Cities."[39] A staple of grilling in St. Louis is the pork steak, which is sliced from the shoulder of the pig and often basted with or simmered in barbecue sauce during cooking. Other popular grilled items include crispy snoots, cut from the cheeks and nostrils of the pig; bratwurst; and Italian sausage, often referred to as "sah-zittsa," a localization of its Italian name, salsiccia. Maull's is a popular brand of barbecue sauce in the St. Louis area.

Restaurants on The Hill reflect the lasting influence of the early twentieth century Milanese and Sicilian immigrant community. Two unique Italian-American style dishes include "toasted" ravioli, which is breaded and fried, and St. Louis-style pizza, which has a crisp, thin crust and is usually made with Provel cheese instead of traditional mozzarella cheese.

A Poor boy sandwich is the traditional name in St. Louis for a submarine sandwich. A St. Paul sandwich is a St. Louis sandwich, available in Chinese-American restaurants. A Slinger is a diner and late night specialty consisting of eggs, hash browns and hamburger, topped with chili, cheese and onion.

Regional specialties[edit]


Illinois is a top producer of corn and soybeans,[40] but corn, particularly sweet corn, figures most substantially in its cuisine. Chicago-style cuisine is dominant in Northeastern Illinois, while other parts of the state mirror adjoining regions.

Springfield, Illinois, and the surrounding area are known for the horseshoe sandwich.


A popular dish seen almost exclusively in Indiana is sugar cream pie, which most likely originated in the state's Amish community. Persimmon pudding is also a favorite Indiana dessert very difficult to find outside of the Hoosier State.

The pork tenderloin sandwich, a sandwich of boneless pork loin that has been pounded flat, breaded, and fried, is a popular state food; Huntington is the likely first appearance in 1913.[13]:290 Beef and noodles is another homespun Hoosier dish.[41]

Frog legs are traditional in old-fashioned Indiana restaurants,[42] and brain sandwiches have a following.[43] Fried biscuits with apple butter are served at many restaurants in southern Indiana, as are fried-brain sandwiches.[44][45]


Iowa is the leading pork producer in the United States.[46] This is reflected in Iowan cuisine, which includes the pork tenderloin sandwich (or simply 'pork tenderloin'), consisting of a lean section of boneless pork loin that is pounded flat, breaded, and deep fried before being served on a seeded hamburger bun with any or all of ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and dill pickle slices. In Iowa, the meat of a pork tenderloin sandwich is often far larger than the area of the bun.

Recipes compiled and published by the Des Moines Register include salmon mousse, fresh gazpacho, apple coleslaw, cabbage n' macaroni slaw, other slaws, soups, and dips, and various salads like turkey-melon, shrimp-yogurt and pasta-blackbean, including one gelatin-based salad made with 7Up, lemon-lime gelatin, crushed pineapple, marshmallow and bananas. Other gelatin based salads included blueberry salad and a "Good Salad" which included a mix of puddings, orange gelatin and citrus fruits.[47]

Basic soups included cauliflower-cheddar garnished with scallions, cream of carrot made with milk and rice, and beef noodle soup made with frozen vegetables and beef bouillon. Various beverage offerings included cool apple-mint tea, a citrus mix that included orange juice, lemonade powder and club soda, as well as coffee flavored with cinnamon.[47]

Iowa is the center for loose-meat sandwiches, also called tavern sandwiches and appearing on many menus by each restaurant's unique name for them.[13]:266 They originated in the region in the Ye Olde Tavern restaurant in 1934 before being popularized by Maid-Rite in 1936, which now has franchises in other midwestern states.[48] The Sioux City take-out restaurant "Tastee Inn and Out" originated in 1955 and is now one of the last extant tavern sandwich specialty single-restaurant operations in the country.[49] In Illinois, this sandwich is also known as a "loose hamburger sandwich".[50]

Dutch letters, pastries filled with almond paste and shaped like an 'S,' are also common in Iowa.[51]

Iowa is the leader in corn production in the United States; Iowans celebrate this with numerous sweet corn feeds during the summer months.


Alcoholic beverages[edit]

As of November 2006, Kansas still has 29 dry counties and only 17 counties have passed liquor-by-the-drink without a food sales requirement.[52] Today there are more than 2600 liquor and 4000 cereal malt beverage licensees in the state.[53]


Michigan is a large producer of asparagus, a vegetable crop widespread in Spring. Western and northern Michigan are notable in the production of apples, blueberries, and cherries. The Northwestern region of Michigan's Lower Peninsula accounts for approximately 75 percent of the U.S. crop of tart cherries, usually about 250 million pounds (11.3 Gg).[54] A popular dish, Michigan Chicken Salad, includes cherries and often apples. Fruit salsas are also popular with cherry salsa being especially prominent. Michigan's wine and beer industries are substantial in the region. The Traverse City area is a popular destination to visit wineries and the state makes many varieties of wine, such as Rieslings, ice wines, and fruit wines. Micro-breweries continue to blossom creating a wide range of unique beers. Grand Rapids was voted Beer City USA 2013 in the Beer City USA poll, with Founders being the largest of Grand Rapids' breweries. Bell's, another large Michigan craft brewery is located further south in Kalamazoo.

Michigan is the home of both Post and Kellogg, with Battle Creek being called Cereal City. Vernor's ginger ale and Faygo pop also originate in Michigan. Vernor's ginger ale is often used as a home remedy for an upset stomach.

Coney Islands, a type of diner originating with Greek immigrants in Detroit, are fairly common throughout the state.[13]:233 A Coney is many times a natural casing hot dog on a bun, topped with raw onion, mustard, and Coney sauce, a type of chili. Cheese may be added as well and variations are found throughout the state, with each city claiming theirs is the best. These diners usually also have gyros served with cucumber or honey mustard sauce, as well as hamburgers, sandwiches, breakfast and dinner entrees. Most Coney Islands are open 24 hours and also a popular place to get a late or early coffee.

In Polish communities throughout the state Pączki can be found every year on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) in a wide assortment of flavors including lemon, blueberry to custard. Pierogis, goulash, and Polish style sausage are common specialties in many restaurants.

Fish fries are common on Fridays and during Lent. Fish fries are usually set up buffet style typically consisting of items including rolls, potatoes (typically in the form of french fries and mashed), salad, coleslaw, apple sauce, deep fried fish and sometimes fried shrimp and baked fish. Fish is generally popular throughout the state due to the state's location on four of the Great Lakes. Trout, walleye, perch and catfish are common. Whitefish is a regional specialty usually offered along the coast, with smoked whitefish and whitefish dip being noteworthy.

Cornish immigrant miners introduced the pasty to Michigan's Upper Peninsula (U.P.) as a convenient meal to take to work in the numerous copper, silver, and nickel mines of that region.[13]:270 The pasty is today considered iconic of the U.P.

Fudge is commonly sold in tourist areas, with Mackinac Island being most famous for its fudge, traditionally chocolate, but there is a wide variety of flavors from mint to maple and may include nuts, fruit, or other candy pieces.


A Tater Tot hotdish at the Saint Paul, Minnesota, Winter Carnival
Minnesota potluck

Perhaps the most iconic Minnesota dishes are lefse and lutefisk, brought to the state by Scandinavian immigrants. Lefse and lutefisk dinners are held near Christmas and have become associated with that holiday. Lutefisk is a traditional dish of the Nordic countries made from stockfish (air-dried whitefish) and soda lye (lut). Walleye is the state fish of Minnesota and it is common to find it on restaurant menus. Its popularity with Minnesotans is such that the residents of the state consume more of the fish than does any other jurisdiction. Battered and deep-fried is a popular preparation for walleye, as is grilling. Many restaurants will feature walleye on their Friday night fish fry, which is popular at locales throughout the state.

In northern Minnesota, along the North Shore of Lake Superior, commercial fishing has been practiced for generations.[55] Settlers were used to the cold, rugged work as many of these immigrants came directly from the coastal fishing villages of Norway.[56][55] Ciscoes (also known as lake herring), lake trout, lake whitefish, and rainbow smelt are still commercially fished today.[55] Shops along the North Shore that sell smoked local fish caught from the waters of the big lake are very popular with tourists and locals alike.[57][58]

Minnesota is known for its church potlucks, where hotdish is often served. Hotdish is any of a variety of casserole dishes, which are popular throughout the United States, although the term "hotdish" is used mainly in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Hotdishes are filling comfort foods that are convenient and easy to make. "Tater Tot Hotdish" is a popular dish, and as Minnesota is one of the leading producers of wild rice, wild rice hotdishes are quite popular.[59] Minnesota goulash, a combination of tomatoes, macaroni, ground beef and creamed corn is popular as well.

Bars are the second of the two essentials for potlucks in Minnesota.[60] According to You Know You're in Minnesota When...: 101 Quintessential Places, People, Events, Customs, Lingo, and Eats of the North Star State by Berit Thorkelson, the bar is a Minnesota staple and a "typical Minnesota dessert".[61] Thorkelson notes that bars are not included in Webster's Dictionary, and the word pronunciation of the "ar" is with "a pirate-like arrr" followed by a soft clipped s.

The immigrants that settled in the state in the 1800s were predominantly from Central and Eastern Europe (particularly Germany) and Scandinavia. They brought with them taste preferences that largely remain to this day. Those Minnesotans with this Northern European ancestry, in general, avoid hot spices in favor of earthy or aromatic spices.

In the northeastern section of the state, in the region collectively known as the Iron Range, the Mesabi Range area is known for Cornish pasties. The pasty, a meat and vegetable combination in a pastry crust, was brought to Minnesota by way of early miners as an easy lunch for those working deep in the iron mines.[62][63] It remains a favorite for both "locals" and summer tourists.[64]

The Iron Range of Minnesota is also known for serving Porketta, a pork roast highly seasoned with fennel and garlic and served either sliced from the roast or pulled and served as a sandwich.[65][66][67] Porketta was brought to Minnesota by Italian immigrants and while similar to porchetta, it is a distinct dish to the area.[68][69]

A traditional Slovenian nut bread called potica served at Easter and Christmas is still very popular in northern Minnesota. It is a yeast dough rolled and stretched paper thin and spread with a mixture of ground walnuts, butter, eggs, cream, and honey or sugar. It is then rolled jellyroll fashion and baked. Traditionally it was spiraled in a round pan, but now one is more likely to find it baked as a loaf.[70]

The state is a productive area for chicken, dairy and turkey farms and crops such as corn, soybeans, and sugar beets and as such, eggs and meat along with potatoes and vegetables are mainstay foods. Warm baked goods along with stews and hearty soups are a favorite in the winter given the extreme Minnesota climate. Recipes using local wild game such as bison, deer or elk[71][72] are also common. Other popular dishes statewide include glorified rice, Jell-O salad, and krumkake.


In Missouri, much of the cuisine is influenced by that of the Ozarks. Barbecue, both pork and beef, is popular in both St. Louis and Kansas City, as well as in much of the southern half of the state. In the Bootheel, sweet tea is commonly available at restaurants. Missouri also leans heavily on beer and bratwurst, and St. Louis features the fried brain sandwich, the St. Paul sandwich, toasted ravioli, St. Louis-style pizza, gooey butter cake, the slinger, and many other dishes that are popular throughout the state.

Fishing is a popular sport throughout the state, and many fish fry events feature catfish and large-mouthed bass. The "Missouri Rhineland" along the valley of the Missouri River is known for its wineries.[73]


A significant population of Germans from Russia settled in Nebraska, leading to one of the state's most iconic dishes, the Runza sandwich. Large numbers of Czech immigrants, particularly to southeastern Nebraska, influenced the culture and cuisine of the area.[74] Wilber, Nebraska is the self-designated "Czech Capital of the U.S.A." and celebrates an annual "Czech Days" festival at which Czech food, such as kolaches, roast duck, and pork and dumplings, is served.[75][76] In 2015, Nebraska resettled the largest number of refugees per capita in the United States and Lincoln, Nebraska has been a significant resettlement location for refugees since the 1980s, particularly Vietnamese-Americans.[77] A large Vietnamese-American population in Lincoln has created Vietnamese markets—which sell ingredients, such as fresh persimmon, not typically found in Midwestern grocery store chains—and Vietnamese restaurants which sell cuisine such as pho and Bánh mì.[77]

Nebraska is also known as the "Cornhusker State" in reference to the abundance of corn grown in the state. Corn is a common fixture of late-summer and autumnal meals in Nebraska in dishes such as corn souffle, corn chowder, cornbread, and corn on the cob. Early pioneers relied heavily on corn and cornmeal in everything from breads, (cornbread, corn mush rolls); to soups, (corn soup, Indian meal mush); and desserts, (green corn pudding, popcorn pudding, sweet corn cake).[78]

North Dakota[edit]

Cuisine in North Dakota has been heavily influenced by both Norwegians and Germans from Russia, ethnic groups which have historically accounted for a large portion of North Dakota's population. Norwegian influences in the state include lefse, lutefisk, krumkake, and rosettes. Much of the Norwegian-influenced cuisine is also common in Minnesota and other states where Norwegians and their descendants live(d), although Norwegian influence may be the greater in North Dakota than any other state, as Norwegians played a large role in settling the area, and nearly one-third of North Dakotans claim Norwegian ancestry. Norwegian ancestry was historically more widespread throughout the northern half and eastern third of North Dakota, and therefore plays a stronger role in local cuisine in those parts of the state.

German-Russian cuisine is primarily influenced by that of the Schwarzmeerdeutsche, or Black Sea Germans, that heavily populated south-central and southwestern North Dakota (an area known as the German-Russian Triangle), as well as areas of South Dakota. While large numbers of Wolgadeutsche, Germans from Russia who lived near the Volga River in Russia (several hundred miles away from the Black Sea), also settled in the United States, they did not settle in large numbers in the Dakotas. Popular German-Russian cuisine includes kuchen, a thin, cheesecake-like custard pastry often filled with fruit such as cherries, apricot, prunes, and sometimes cottage cheese. Fleischkuekle (or fleischkuechle) is a popular meat-filled thin flatbread that is deep-fried and served hot. Another German-Russian specialty in the area is knoephla, a dumpling soup that almost always includes potatoes, and to a lesser extent, celery.


A confection popular in the state of Ohio is the local variation of a peanut butter cup known as a 'Buckeye'. Coated in chocolate, with a partially exposed center of peanut butter fudge, in appearance the candy resembles the chestnut that grows on the state tree, commonly known as the Buckeye.

Cincinnati-style chili is a Greek-inspired meat sauce, (ground beef seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, bay leaf, cumin, chili powder, unsweetened dark chocolate, salt and pepper), used as a topping for spaghetti or hot dogs. Additionally, red beans, chopped onions, and shredded cheese are offered as extra toppings referred to as "ways."

A popular snack food in Ohio are Sauerkraut Balls, a meatball-sized fritter containing sauerkraut and some combination of ham, bacon, and pork. The recipe was invented in the late 1950s by two brothers, Max and Roman Gruber for their five star restaurant, Gruber's, located in Shaker Heights, Ohio. These were a derivative of the various ethnic cultures of Northeast Ohio, which includes Akron and Greater Cleveland. An annual Sauerkraut Festival is held in Waynesville, Ohio.[13]:279 at which sauerkraut balls, along with other sauerkraut specialities, are served.

Clam bakes are very popular in Northeast Ohio. The region, which was originally part of the Connecticut Western Reserve, was initially settled by people from Connecticut and other New England states. A typical Northeast Ohio clam bake typically includes clams, chicken, sweet potatoes, corn, and other side dishes. Unlike in New England, seaweed is not used and the clams, chicken, and sweet potatoes are all steamed together in a large pot.[79]


Wisconsin is "America's Dairyland," and is home to numerous frozen custard stands, particularly around Milwaukee and along the Lake Michigan corridor. The state also has a special relationship with Blue Moon ice cream, being one of the only places the flavor can be found. While the flavor's origins are not well documented, it was most likely developed by flavor chemist Bill "Doc" Sidon of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The state is also well known as a home to many cheesemakers. Currently, Wisconsin boasts 58 Master Cheesemakers, who are all qualified through an extensive process set by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. The program is the only one of its kind outside of Europe. However, Wisconsin cheesemaking is even more diverse, ranging from artisans who hand-craft their product from the milk of their own dairy herds to large factories. Colby cheese was first created in Wisconsin in 1885 (named after the town it came from), and Brick cheese was first created in the state in 1877. The state has also played origin to Blue Marble Jack cheese, and is the only producer of Limburger cheese in the United States. Cheese curds can be eaten separately "squeaky," or cold, as a snack, or covered in batter and fried as an appetizer, often served with ranch dressing as a dipping sauce.

Arguably the most universal Wisconsin dessert would be the cream puff, a type of profiterole that is a famous treat at the Wisconsin State Fair. The southeastern Wisconsin city of Racine is known for its Danish kringle, a sweet flaky pastry often served as a dessert. The capital city of Madison, Wisconsin was home to Carson Gulley, a famous local African American chef of the University of Wisconsin–Madison from the 1920s to the 1950s. He is credited with creating the famous dessert Fudge-Bottom pie and spreading its popularity.

The Friday night fish fry, often battered and fried perch or walleye, is traditional throughout Wisconsin, while in northeast Wisconsin along Lake Michigan, the Door County fish boil holds sway. The supper club is another common phenomenon of Wisconsin culinary heritage and often a destination for fish frys, which usually feature a portion of aforementioned fish, along with various sides: a fried food such as french fries and onion rings are common, along with condiments of tartar sauce and cole slaw (especially crimson slaw, a variety of cole slaw that incorporates Wisconsin's cranberries) and garnishes of parsley and lemon wedges.

Besides its "Cheesehead" status, Wisconsin has a reputation for alcohol consumption. Common traits of "drinking culture" are embedded in Wisconsin traditions, from festivals and holidays to everyday life. Many large breweries were founded in Wisconsin, largely in Milwaukee, which gained the epithet "Brew City" before the turn of the century: Miller, Pabst, Schlitz (all from and originally based in Milwaukee) and Leinenkugel all began as local favorites before entering the national and international markets. Wisconsin has experienced a resurgence in this industry, however, with numerous microbreweries and craft beers now being created and exported. Several other favorites include Ale Asylum, Capital, Sprecher, and New Glarus, the latter being well known for the Spotted Cow Farmhouse Ale. Besides beer, Wisconsinites also drink large quantities of brandy,[80] often mixed into the unique Badger libation, the "brandy Old Fashioned," which can be sweet, sour, or press. Another though considerably more recent brandy-based cocktail is the Wisconsin Badger, derived from a mix of brandy, cranberry juice, and cherry schnapps—all very Wisconsin-inspired ingredients. Pewaukee, Wisconsin is also home to the alcoholic beverage Rumchata, described as an horchata recipe containing the primary ingredients of rum and Wisconsin cream.

Cooking with alcohol is also quite standard across the state. Wisconsinites commonly boil or braise their sausages (especially bratwursts) in several types of beer (most often a pilsner) with butter and onions, and "Beer batter" fish, typically walleye or perch, as well as cheese curds and onion rings are also common fare. Beer cheese soup is another beloved recipe, usually made from a variety of beer and a sharp cheddar or more mild colby cheese, with sausage, potatoes, and green onions. Another ubiquitous but perhaps less-mentioned recipe involving alcohol is "Beer Butt" or "Beer Can" Chicken (similar to drunken chicken), a vernacular meal involving a whole chicken slow-roasted, typically over a fire, with a can of usually amber beer directly inserted into the poultry's cavity; the result being a tender meat soaked inside with the flavors of the beer chosen.

"Booyah" is another very common and hearty Wisconsin meal, found especially in the Northeast region of the state. The origins of this dish are disputed, but the Wisconsin origin contends that the word is a vernacular Flemish or Walloon Belgian spelling of the French word bouillon, in this context meaning "broth." Recipes vary but common ingredients usually involve chicken or other meats—beef, pork, or ox tail are most often used—as well as a mirepoix of vegetables, commonly onion, celery, carrots, cabbage, peas, potatoes, and rutabaga. The ingredients are all cooked together in a special kind of large, cast-iron kettle often known as a "booyah kettle," over low heat for several days.

Wisconsin cuisine also features a large amount of sausage, or wurst (German for "sausage"). The state is also a major producer and consumer of summer sausage, as well as the nation's top producer and consumer of brats. Brats are typically boiled in a mix of beer, butter, and onions, served on a bratwurst bun, and topped with sauerkraut and often a spicy, brown style mustard. The city of Madison, Wisconsin, the state's capital, plays host to the annual "World's Largest" Brat Fest, a four-day-long festival incorporating music, recreational activities, and of course bratwursts grilled on a 65-foot-long grill. At Miller Park in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin's deep affection for sausage plays out in the Sausage Race, a mascot race involving racing sausage mascots representative of some of the most common sausages found in the state: bratwurst, kielbasa, Italian sausage, the hot dog, and chorizo. Venison sausage, Andouille sausage, and Belgian trippe are a few other common sausages found in the state, though they do not constitute a part of the Sausage Race. Miller Park is also notable for being the only U.S. stadium in which brats outsell hot dogs.

Seymour, Wisconsin, claims to be the birthplace of the modern hamburger,[81] although several other locations make similar claims. Certainly, however, the "Butter Burger" is a uniquely Wisconsin take on the classic American dish. Traditionally, a pad of butter is worked or "stuffed" into the raw hamburger patty before grilling.


These dishes, while not all exclusive to the Midwest, are typical of Midwestern foods. Although many foods are shared with other U.S. regions, they often feature uniquely Midwestern preparation styles.

See also[edit]


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