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Food Week

The Weirdest Eating Patterns Of Each U.S. State

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

[Images via Shutterstock]

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

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Most Distinctive Food by State

Relative Popularity: Ranch Dressing

Relative Popularity: Green Chile

Relative Popularity: Green Bell Pepper

Relative Popularity: Cheesesteak

Relative Popularity: Pecan

  • New York
    Term NY (%) U.S. (%) Diff. (%)
    eggplant 54 37 17
    cutlet 29 13 16
    roll 50 37 13
    parmigiana 25 14 12
    cold 35 25 11
  • The map above shows each state's top ingredient or dish, but Food Genius also tracks sensory terms such as "creamy" and preparation terms like "blended." We've included those words in the Top 5 chart for each state. Touch a state to see its top terms, or explore distinctiveness maps for the five terms above.

    Ranch Dressing Each state's top ingredient or dish, but Food Genius also tracks sensory terms such as "creamy" and preparation terms like "blended." We've included those words in the Top 5 chart for each state. Touch a state to see its top terms, or explore distinctiveness maps for the five terms above.

    Green Chile Each state's top ingredient or dish, but Food Genius also tracks sensory terms such as "creamy" and preparation terms like "blended." We've included those words in the Top 5 chart for each state. Touch a state to see its top terms, or explore distinctiveness maps for the five terms above.

    Green Bell Pepper Each state's top ingredient or dish, but Food Genius also tracks sensory terms such as "creamy" and preparation terms like "blended." We've included those words in the Top 5 chart for each state. Touch a state to see its top terms, or explore distinctiveness maps for the five terms above.

    Cheesesteak Each state's top ingredient or dish, but Food Genius also tracks sensory terms such as "creamy" and preparation terms like "blended." We've included those words in the Top 5 chart for each state. Touch a state to see its top terms, or explore distinctiveness maps for the five terms above.

    Pecan Each state's top ingredient or dish, but Food Genius also tracks sensory terms such as "creamy" and preparation terms like "blended." We've included those words in the Top 5 chart for each state. Touch a state to see its top terms, or explore distinctiveness maps for the five terms above.

    Relative Popularity (Difference between term's frequency on menus in state vs. U.S.)

    • 10
    • 20
    • 30
    • 40%
    • -15
    • -5
    • 5
    • 15
    • 25
    • 35% and up

    Top 5 Distinctive Terms, All States

    The charts below show each state's top five menu terms. View this page at larger widths to see maps for the most popular ingredient in each state, and nationwide popularity maps for ingredients such as ranch dressing and green bell peppers.

        Source Food Genius Methodology Food Genius tracks term appearance on unique menus. So even if "bacon" appears eight times on Waffle House's menu, and there are 20 Waffle House locations in Georgia, Food Genius only increases the count for "bacon" in Georgia by one. 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. Graphic Gus Wezerek