The Weirdest Eating Patterns Of Each U.S. State

Louisiana does love its crawdads. But does the cheesesteak crown belong to New Jersey?!?

We’ve all know how much Philly loves its cheesesteaks. But you know what the data tells us? The most distinctive menu item in Pennsylvania restaurants isn’t the cheesesteak. It’s actually the hoagie.

Co.Design teamed up with food industry analytics firm Food Genius to mine its database of 88,000 menus and 59 million menu items and build this map of the each state’s true crown jewel food. What you’re looking at isn’t the most popular food by state. It’s the food that most distinguishes them from the rest of the pack.

Pennsylvania claims the hoagie because it’s on more than a third of menus across the state, while only 6% of menus nationwide have hoagies on them. Meanwhile, it’s actually New Jersey that claims the cheesesteak as its most distinctive dish, not because it’s on more menus than it is in Pennsylvania, but because, with all respect to New Jersey, the state has nothing more original on its menus.

But to really see how food trends play out, we’d recommend toggling through each of Food Genius’s five most distinctive regional food trends. Cheesesteaks are on the list, along with green chilis, green bell peppers, ranch dressing, and pecans.

What you’ll see is in many ways a better portrait of our weird eating habits. Cheesesteaks are an East Coast meal, green chilis quite literally blossom out of New Mexico, green bell peppers dominate the north, pecans are beloved in the South (and for some reason, South Dakota), and ranch dressing is slathered across the Northwest to the Southeast because ranch goes great on everything. Except New York.—Mark Wilson

[Images via Shutterstock]

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74 Comments

  • Valerie Perritt Roton

    you missed in Washington. the salmon is king of the distinctive foods here.

  • Sorry. I've lived in VA my entire life. And, I like green bell peppers as much as the next person. But, the green bell pepper is NOT the most distinctive food in VA!

  • Sorry. I've lived in VA my entire life. And, I like green bell peppers as much as the next person. But, green bell pepper is NOT the most distinctive food in VA!

  • Parmesan cheese for Rhode Island? I found that to be a bit off until I noticed that they got their results from menu items. This is not a great indicator because in this case the Parmesan is an ingredient in the menu items. Providence, Rhode Island in particular has a large Italian population, as well as many pizza places. In both situations Parmesan cheese is a main ingredient in the menu items. This is certainly not an indicator to distinctive eating patterns. Rhode Island is the Ocean State for a reason. We enjoy our seafood. The state appetizer is Calamari. The official state shell of Rhode Island is the Quahaug. These reasons are why I completely disagree with this article.

  • Baw Baw

    I'm sorry but this is wrong about the state of Kentucky... Ranch dressing? I know of a few people that like eating ranch dressing with veggies or baked on chicken but I don't know very people that eat it all of the time or even eat it all unless they are eating on salad.

  • I just want to hire Gus and his team to let them unleash their full potential on some broken down sites that should be juggernauts. Guz, you are your recruits are invited to do something awesome in the foodservice/hospitality space if you want it. @QMG. Look not at what's there, but what could be under your leadership. yippee! www.aaronallen.com

  • Barbara Woolever

    golumkis and perogies were not taken intoaccount. oor the Pennsylvania Dutch pot pie or bott boi which does not have a baked crust but is cooked in a pot with dumplings or dpough. what you used was something that Philadelphia takes credit for but is not exclusive for Philadelphia.

  • Author, please take note: when writing about regional foods, "chile" vs. "chili" is a point of contention. New Mexicans do not spell chile with an 'i'. Chili is a bean and meat dish served in Texas. This is not a joke.

  • Actually, we think the only thing this infographic tells us is that a there are still a lot of menu writers using crappy, clichéd terms. Seriously, is the term "smothered" considered part of the sensory category or the preparation category?

    But our favorite part of the study? This disclaimer: "The range of Food Genius's coverage spans from Washington D.C., where the company tracks an estimated 85% of restaurants, to Alaska, from which almost all of the data comes from chain restaurants." Because lord knows, those Alaskans love them some cookies.

  • Victoria Equality Olson

    Who made this mess? What a bad joke. What the hell is a 'chip'? isn't that British for 'french fried potato'? What is 'dip'? Really. What is 'dip'? and 'prawns' are very rare in the USA. We call them 'shrimp'. If you're making a map of a country that supposedly reflects that country's tastes, use the actual language of that country. Not some hashed up sham of it. Sad, not worthy of publication. The Food Genius is an ass.