Homesick Kitchen: How to Make 12 Signature Dishes From Cities and Restaurants You're Missing
These regional recipes can satisfy your cravings from home.
Nothing evokes a stronger sense of connection to a place than food. Whether it's a favorite meal synonymous with where you grew up or the perfect bite of a city's signature dish enjoyed on a vacation, food has the power to transport us to a different place and time.
Even with many restaurants temporarily closed and travel off the table right now, you can still send your taste buds on a trip across the country with these 12 regional dishes you can make at home. From Nashville hot chicken to Austin-style breakfast tacos and Florida key lime pie, these signature foods will bring the taste — and memories — of your favorite places into your own kitchen.
1. Nashville: Hot Chicken
No trip to Music City is complete without a serving of Nashville hot chicken. The origins of the city’s now-famous dish go all the way back to the 1930s. According to the local legend, the creator of the first plate of hot chicken was a woman seeking revenge against her womanizer boyfriend, Thornton Prince III. She added extra cayenne pepper to his fried chicken at breakfast one morning to spite him – only her plan backfired because Prince loved the dish so much that he and his brothers ended up opening their own restaurant, Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. Today, this Nashville institution remains in the family with Prince’s great-niece who manages the restaurant.
Prince’s isn’t the only place you can find hot chicken in Nashville nowadays. Since the 1930s, the trend has spread to local restaurants across the city, and both visitors and Nashville natives alike can’t get enough of the spicy dish.
How it’s served: Traditional Nashville hot chicken is served fried on two slices of white bread with a side of pickles.
Make your own: Get the recipe from Farm Flavor.
2. Cincinnati: Skyline Chili
Founded by Greek immigrant Nicholas Lambrinides in 1949, Skyline Chili is a restaurant, brand and unique style of chili named for the view of the Cincinnati skyline that could be seen from Lambrinides’ first restaurant. Also known as “Cincinnati-style chili,” the chili itself contains only meat, water and spices (including cinnamon and chocolate that give the dish its distinctly sweet flavor). Often misunderstood by outsiders who haven’t tried it, Skyline is the kind of dish you either passionately love or hate – and Cincinnatians love it. Locals debate the chili’s secret ingredient with one another while visitors wonder whether or not it’s even chili at all. But one thing is certain – the Lambrinides’ secret family recipe is now an iconic regional staple.
How it’s served: Almost never eaten in a bowl, Skyline Chili is usually served atop spaghetti noodles or hot dogs with oyster crackers and a heaping portion of shredded cheddar cheese piled on top.
Make your own: Get a copycat Skyline recipe from The Chunky Chef.
3. Austin: Breakfast Tacos
Breakfast tacos are the perfect marriage of a hearty American breakfast and south-of-the-border flavor. And while they’re popular in other parts of the country, no one does them better than Austin. The city runs on these satisfying, convenient and customizable tacos that you can find at restaurants all across town. Whether you’re looking for a quick on-the-go bite, a filling brunch or a cure for the night before, breakfast tacos are the answer in Austin.
How it’s served: Served on soft flour tortillas, Austin-style breakfast tacos can be filled with everything from scrambled eggs, potatoes and cheese to barbecue, black beans and guacamole (with hot sauce, of course). The options are limitless.
Make your own: Get 6 Austin-style breakfast taco recipes from Southern Kitchen.
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4. Minnesota: Hotdish
If you’re from Minnesota, you’ve probably had no shortage of hotdish recipes served over the years at family reunions, potlucks and church dinners. This one-dish meal is a staple across the Upper Midwest and an unofficial state dish in Minnesota. It first appeared during the Great Depression as a way to affordably feed the whole family with just a few simple ingredients, including canned soup, vegetables, meat and potatoes. Nowadays, hotdish is a beloved regional comfort food that sparks nostalgia for most locals and curiosity for most outsiders.
How it’s served: Hotdish can take on many variations but usually includes ground beef, green beans, corn, mushroom soup to hold it all together, and tater tots on top.
Make your own: Get the recipe from Farm Girl Dabbles.
5. New Orleans: Muffuletta
From Mardi Gras and Creole cuisine to jazz music and the vibrant nightlife of Bourbon Street, New Orleans has a culture all its own. So it’s no surprise that The Big Easy is home to so many signature dishes that sprung up from its unique mix of cultures over the years – red beans and rice, jambalaya, beignets, gumbo and, of course, the famous muffuletta sandwich.
This popular dish originated in the 1800s when Italian immigrants in Louisiana began selling a traditional Sicilian sesame bread (muffuletta bread) at local markets, which a New Orleans grocery used to create the first-ever muffuletta sandwich in 1906. Fast forward to more than 100 years later and you can now find this celebrated sandwich at local groceries, delis and convenience stores across the city.
How it’s served: A traditional-style muffuletta sandwich features layers of salami, ham, cheese and a signature marinated olive salad.
Make your own: Get the recipe from Farm Flavor.
6. Florida: Key Lime Pie
When you can’t pack up and escape to the Florida Keys, a slice of authentic Florida Key lime pie is the next best thing. Invented in Key West, this decadent citrus dessert is the perfect balance of sweet and tart. The pie originated back in the 1800s when natively grown Key limes were combined with sweetened condensed milk for a cool and refreshing dessert that tasted great on a hot Florida day. Today, this signature sweet is the state pie of Florida, and almost every restaurant from the Panhandle to the Keys has its own take on the classic.
How it’s served: Floridians often debate the best variation on classic Key lime pie. (Cooked or uncooked filling? Pastry or graham cracker crust? Whipped cream or meringue topping?) But they can all agree on one thing – green food coloring should under no circumstances be added.
Make your own: Get the recipe from Farm Flavor.
7. Los Angeles: Street Tacos
From Mexican restaurants to taco trucks and birria stands, the taco scene in Los Angeles is one of the best in the country. Thanks to the city’s proximity to the Mexican border and all the delicious culinary influences that come along with it, LA locals know their tacos – and where to find all the best from Pasadena to Long Beach. But even if you can’t hop on a flight to Southern California right now, the good news is that classic street tacos couldn't be easier to make at home. You can find recipes from food bloggers all over the internet, including a few of our favorites listed below.
How it’s served: There aren’t really any rules for a good street taco, but typical fillings for the soft flour or corn tortillas include carne asada, skirt steak, chicken, guacamole, jalapeños, corn, black beans and more.
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8. North Carolina: Barbecue
North Carolina is home to two main styles of barbecue – Eastern North Carolina barbecue and Lexington-style barbecue. Both are made with pork, but Eastern-style uses the whole hog and features a thin sauce made with vinegar and spices, while Lexington barbecue (also called Piedmont-style) uses only the pork shoulder and a vinegar-based sauce with tomato. Every North Carolinian will insist that one type is better than the other, but they can all agree that barbecue is an important part of the state’s culinary tradition. In fact, Carolina-style barbecue is thought to be one of the original forms of the dish in America.
How it’s served: Lexington-style barbecue usually comes with a side of red slaw and hushpuppies, while Eastern-style can be served with everything from rice and slaw to fries or mashed potatoes.
Make your own: North Carolina chef Vivian Howard shares her own recipe for Caramelized Onion Oven-Cooked Barbecue on Farm Flavor.
9. Upstate New York: Garbage Plate
While it might not have the most appetizing name, a good Garbage Plate can draw in a crowd late on a Saturday night in the college town of Rochester, New York. The first version of the dish originated in 1918 and was called “Hots and Potatoes,” renamed “Garbage Plate” years later. This all-in-one dish begins with a starchy base of home fries, macaroni salad or baked beans (or a combination of all three) topped with meats, onions and sauces of choice. The dish is polarizing to say the least – you either love it or you hate it. But each Rochester restaurant puts its own spin on the Garbage Plate for those brave enough to give it a try.
How it’s served: Traditionally served on a paper plate, a Garbage Plate can include just about any ingredients you want, although a base of fries and macaroni salad is usually the popular choice. And while most toppings and sauces are optional, hot sauce is a must.
10. Pueblo: The Slopper
Served in restaurants across Pueblo and Colorado Springs, the Slopper might be the best burger you ever try. But this isn’t any ordinary burger. The Slopper is a cheeseburger smothered in the city’s famous green chilies topped with raw onions and eaten with a fork and a knife. Each restaurant has its own special recipe for the green chili topping, which has usually been handed down from generation to generation. They often compete for the honor of Best Slopper in Pueblo, and locals and visitors enjoy different Slopper variations at more than 25 restaurants across town.
How it’s served: Sloppers usually include the buns and are sometimes topped with french fries or avocado slices.
Make your own: Get the recipe from All Things Pueblo.
11. Indiana: Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
This signature Indiana dish originated with the German immigrants who settled in the Midwest in the 20th century. What began as pork schnitzel, a popular German dish, evolved into the pork tenderloin sandwich that Hoosiers love today. Most Indiana restaurants have some version of the sandwich on the menu, and there’s even a Tenderloin Trail of more than 50 restaurants serving up the dish in Hamilton County.
How it’s served: An Indiana pork tenderloin sandwich consists of hand-breaded, deep-fried pork served on a toasted bun with lettuce, tomato and onion. While Hoosiers sometimes debate the addition of pickles, they can all agree that the tenderloin should be at least twice the size of the bun.
Make your own: Get the recipe from Food Network.
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12. Pacific Northwest: Kombucha
While kombucha is gaining in popularity around the country, the Pacific Northwest should probably be considered the kombucha capital of America. Known for its many health benefits thanks to its probiotics and antioxidants, the fermented tea has taken the wellness world by storm. And the Pacific Northwest is home to some of the best kombucha breweries in the country, many of which offer their brews in growlers the same way the local craft beer breweries do. But if you can’t make it to Seattle or Portland to take part in the kombucha culture, why not try brewing your own at home?
Make your own: Get the recipe from A Couple Cooks.