Iconic Dishes And The Cities That Made Them Famous

Science of Pizza


Nothing says New York to me like a slice of pizza at 3am after a night of drinking. And nothing says Philadelphia like an oozing, dripping Philly Cheesesteak when I wake up with that hangover. I can’t think of Paris without the baguette, or the whole state of California without the avocado. To me, when I arrive somewhere, it’s the local fare that offers the best insight into the city. When I travel, I want to know what the homegrown cuisine is, and where the locals go to get it.

Lucky for me (and you!), I got the inside scoop, and will now give you REAL recommendations from REAL natives.

Restaurant A.A.
Montreal, Quebec

"Poutine" by Jonathunder - Own work. Licensed under GFDL 1.2 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Poutine.JPG#/media/File:Poutine.JPG

 “Poutine” by Jonathunder – Wikimedia Commons

Our kind neighbors to the north have an epic dish called poutine. If you haven’t come across this down in The States, it’s a mountain of French fries with cheese curd and brown gravy. Are you drooling? If you make it up to Montreal, and you want to know where to get this genius combination of flavors, it’s not at La Banquise (the classic everyone knows), but rather Restaurant A.A. on Rue Notres Dame. A hole in the wall Quebecois diner that makes poutine the right way. Magically, the fries stay crispy under the gravy soup. Ch’te dis!

Tacos Al Carbon
Ninfa’s or Tiotihuacan Mexican Cafe
Houston, TX

Tacos al Carbon are available at La Loma, 2527 W. 26th Avenue in Denver. The dish was photographed Wednesday night, September 15, 2010. Denver Post Photo/ Karl Gehring (Photo By Karl Gehring/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

  (Photo By Karl Gehring/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The couple whacks I’ve had at Tex-Mex have not disappointed (despite my devotion to Cali-Mex). Nothing says Houston Tex-Mex like Tacos al Carbon, or steak fajita tacos without the sizzling platter to contend with. A straight shooter, this dish from the Lone Star State. One native swore by Ninfas on Navigation for her tacos al carbon, while her fiancé insisted that Teotihuacan Mexican Café in the Heights, and the original on Irvington, serve up not only some of the best tacos al carbon, but probably the best all-around Tex Mex experience — “cheap, hand-squeezed lime margaritas, beans & Spanish rice and tortillas on the side of every entree, and a small, festive atmosphere.” He added, “All that said, Ninfas on Navigation is GROUND ZERO for Tacos al Carbon. You’s either have to start or end there.”

Well, all right then.

Toasted Ravioli
Blueberry Hill
St. Louis, MO


Wikimedia Commons

What I love about asking the natives where they get the dishes associated with their cities, they always start with, “Well, you could go here… but I go…” In this case, I was told that there are probably some smaller joints to find toasted ravioli in St. Louis, but the local fave is Blueberry Hill, “longtime pop culture-themed diner with late hours offering American fare & frequent live music.” This is Chuck Berry’s spot, and also the spot for your toasted ravioli. Legend has it, this dish originated when a chef “accidentally” dropped the ravioli into hot oil instead of boiling water. A happy accident to be certain. I say hell yes to anything dipped into a fryer, by choice or not!

The Denver Omelet
Sam’s No. 3
Denver, CO


Okay, now this might seem obvious, but I love me a classic breakfast item, and The Denver Omelet is a time-honored classic on the menu of any greasy spoon. So, what about when you’re actually in Denver? Go to Sam’s No. 3. And, as Denver is also a neighbor to New Mexico and the green chili, what about a diner with both extensive options in omelets AND Mexican dishes smothered in “kickin’ pork green chili.” skip ahead on to the next section for more green chili 411. Stay here to learn that if you add tomatoes to your Denver Omelet, that’s when it becomes Western. Now you know!

And here’s an extra Denver pro-tip: all along the roads of Colorado during this time of year, you can get something called the Palisade Peach. You can buy them by the box load, and eat them as you drive to New Mexico for the next item on our list…

New Mexican Green Chili
Tomasita’s and The Shed
Santa Fe, NM

Did you know that New Mexico has a State Question? “Red or Green?” you will be asked in any restaurant, regarding what type of New Mexican Chili you want on your food. And if you’re real savvy, you’ll say “Christmas” which will give you both! Now, the hatch chili is ALL THE RAGE. It’s one of those trendy foods people hashtag and sh*t. But my friend from Santa Fe called me up and went into a whole long rant about how the hatch chili is ONLY from Hatch, NM, and everywhere else it’s just the green chili. But I jest when I say “JUST the green chili” because you should get scooting on over to Santa Fe to taste it for yourself if you can handle the heat. Hit up Tomasita’s or The Shed in Santa Fe right about now to get this seasonal item slathered on EVERYTHING. And when you’re back in your home town and someone tries to sell you hatch chilies, ask them where they came from.