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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79 Comments

  • Kristina Nolte

    NJ has pork roll or "taylor ham." It is not available in all parts of the country. I have to ship my daughter taylor ham in Virginia. Cheesesteak is Philadelphia, not NJ.

  • Patti Calimano

    This is all wrong! When I lived in NY the bagels and pizza were awesome! When I moved they were never the same. When we go back we always have to get these. You have cheese steak for NJ, yet it is usually called a Philly cheese steak. When I lived in PA that is all anyone that visited wanted. I don't know who put this together for you, but did they actually talk to people that live there?

  • Valerie Perritt Roton

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

  • Candise Emery

    Agreed! How does salmon not make the list!? Dumb. I thought mushrooms would have been on this list as well.

  • 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.

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  • 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.