The United States has always led the world in innovation.
As proof, nations like Russia and China are constantly trying to steal U.S. military and industrial secrets in an attempt catch up to and eventually overtake America.
But U.S. innovation isn’t limited to science, the military, or industry.
U.S. chefs have also been hard work creating dishes that are uniquely American and have also put their stamp on foods from around the world and improved them and make them new American classics.
Here’s Newsmax’s list of the best, divided into sandwiches, bowl foods, entrees, and desserts.
The concept of placing meat and cheese between two slices of bread may have been the brainchild of the Earl of Sandwich, but it was the Americans who perfected it into an art form. Here are just a few examples.
New England Lobster Roll:
The first lobster roll came out of the kitchen of Perry’s, a Milford, Conn. eatery in 1929. Although it quickly caught on, it remained pretty much exclusive to Connecticut until 1965 when a Long Island, N.Y. restaurant (called The Lobster Roll) began serving it.
It originally started out as a quarter pound of lobster meat soaked in butter and served on a toasted hot dog bun. Now there are both hot and cold versions, as well as a “lobster salad,” similar to a tuna or chicken salad, but with lobster.
Although you can find lobster rolls throughout New England, the best are said to be in its state of origin — Connecticut, specifically at Lobster Landing in the town of Clinton.
“The lobster meat is always perfectly buttery with just the right amount of lemon to cut the sweetness just enough to make your mouth water,” writes one reviewer. “Get stuck into a roll or two and enjoy the tranquility of the water views.”
Here’s another regional favorite, found, as its name implies, in the City of Brotherly Love. South Philadelphia hot dog vendor Pat Olivier invented the cheesesteak in the 1930s according to local lore, initially as a steak sandwich consisting of thinly sliced ribeye steak on a crusty hoagie bun, and it soon caught on.
He eventually opened Pat’s King of Steaks, and cheese was added in the 1940s — nothing fancy, though. Cheez Whiz is traditional.
Joey Vento established Geno's Steaks in the mid-1960s across the street from Pat’s, and a rivalry was established. New toppings included fried onions, hot or sweet peppers, and sautéed mushrooms.
Despite its name, the place to get the best cheesesteak today is John’s Roast Pork, located near the Philly docks.
“Its secret weapon? A crusty seeded roll from Carangi’s Bakery,” according to Visit Philly, which adds that “in recent years it’s gained mainstream recognition, including a James Beard Foundation Award for Culinary Excellence.”
Pat’s and Geno’s are still around but came in at No. 3 and 4 respectively.
This grilled piece of heaven has two theories of origin: East coasters claim it was invented by and named after Arnold Reuben, who established Reuben’s Restaurant in New York City. Midwesterners claim it was the creation of Reuben Kulakoesky, a Jewish Lithuanian-born owner of a wholesale and retail food market in Omaha, Nebr.
But no matter who created it, the result is a creamy, salty combination of thinly sliced corned beef, Swiss Cheese and sauerkraut, all piled high with Russian dressing between two slices of buttered rye and grilled until warm and toasty.
You can find Reubens at bats, restaurants, and delis across America — sometimes open-faced, sometimes closed, on either light rye or dark, and often thousand island dressing in place of Russian. But they’re all good and 100% American.
But if it’s the very best you seek, head on out to Columbus, Ohio and stake out a spot to park your butt at Katzinger's Delicatessen, a local landmark for 30 years that calls the Reuben "the sandwich that built the business” and serves nine variations on the American classic.
On a cold fall or winter day, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a steaming bowl of soup or stew, along with a crunchy hunk of French or sourdough bread slathered in sweet creamery butter. Here’s another area where Americans have elevated the good to the great. And neither the word “soup” nor “stew” appears anywhere in their names or descriptions.
Legend has it that chili was invented by a Texas jailer who had to feed his inmates with meat that was starting to go bad. To mask the smell and taste of the dicey meat, he combined it with a lot of spices, onion and garlic, and threw in a couple handfuls of dried beans for bulk. It turned out to be the hit of the jail, and a uniquely Texas legend was born.
Whether the story is true or not, there’s something special about a good bowl of chili — its aroma, color, consistency, and taste. Today Texas hosts as many chili cook-offs as it does rodeos, with the ultimate held in the west Texas town of Terlingua.
The next time you find yourself in Houston and are hankering for a bowl of goodness, mosey on over to Goode's Armadillo Palace, where it’s “made with big chunks of venison, served in a thick and spicy cumin-kicked chili sauce and topped with a handful of shredded cheese,” according to The Daily Meal. “Onions and jalapeños are served on the side, but you’ll definitely want to add those into the mix.”
Just to the east of Texas lies Louisiana, with its own unique flavors found in Cajun and Creole cooking. Gumbo is a favorite that breaks all class barriers, and is to Louisiana what chili is to Texas. It’s also a blending of French, West African and native Choctaw culinary culture.
Gumbo made its first recorded appearance in 1803, when it “was served at a gubernatorial reception in New Orleans, and in 1804 gumbo was served at a Cajun gathering on the Acadian Coast,” according to Southern Foodways. It’s served over rice and seasoned with bay and sassafras leaves, and is typically made with either seafood or chicken and andouille sausage.
The Culture Trip reports that Billedeaux's Cajun Kitchen in Lake Charles, La., serves a hearty chicken and sausage gumbo, as well as other Cajun and Creole favorites.
New England Clam Chowder:
Unlike its tomato-based Manhattan brethren, New England chowder is a thick, milk or cream-based concoction that generally includes celery, onion, and potatoes, and sometimes even bacon.
As for where to try it, you can’t go wrong at Boston’s Union Oyster House, America’s oldest continuously operating restaurant, which has been ladling steaming servings of clam chowder since 1826.
“Union Oyster House has mastered the art of cooking chowder,” according to JetSetter. “Here, the Boston classic is complete with a hunk of buttery cornbread (tip: crumble the cornbread in the chowder). Still hungry? Don’t miss the raw bar downstairs, which shucks heaping plates of fresh oysters and mussels.”
Forget the salad and the bread stocks, it’s the entree that we go out to dinner for, and American chefs never disappoint in this category either.
Americans tend to confuse grilling with barbecuing. Grilling uses high heat, making this method ideal for steak, burgers, hot dogs, and brats. Barbecuing is low and slow, and transforms tough, inexpensive cuts of meat into feasts suitable for the gods.
Although it originated in the Caribbean, Americans perfected the art. Barbecue sauces can be either tomato-based or vinegar-based, depending on region. Other forms employ a dry rub of herbs and spices instead of a sauce. Barbecuing is generally divided among four categories: North Carolina, South Carolina, Memphis, and Kansas City.
Gayot’s Guide reviewed the top barbecue restaurants in the United States and found Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque in Kansas City, Mo., to be a cut above the rest (despite their misspelling of the word “barbecue”).
“Pitmasters pile wood-smoked meats onto slices of white bread painted with sauce at Arthur Bryant's Barbeque in Kansas City,” writes Gayot. “All the bases are covered when it comes to traditional sides: Creamy coleslaw made from finely shredded cabbage, meaty beans and fresh-cut, peel-on French fries.”
Maryland crab cakes:
Crab cakes made their first appearance in 1930, when Crosby Gaige introduced a recipe for what he called the Baltimore Crab Cake in his book, “New York World’s Fair Cook Book.”
Crab cakes combine sweet, succulent Chesapeake Bay blue crab meat with bread crumbs, eggs and seasonings, and then sautéed, baked, or deep fried.
When in Baltimore, Southern Living recommends Faidley Seafood.
“Faidley sells crab cakes so packed with subtly spiced crabmeat that you won't mind having to stand at counters to eat them,” writes Southern Living. “We can't decide between the lump and backfin versions, so we advise you try both.”
Not planning a visit to Charm City? You’re in luck. Faidley ships this delicacy nationwide.
“Life is uncertain; eat dessert first,” the adage goes, and here are a couple of America’s regional favorites.
Key Lime Pie:
This is made by combining the juice of the small limes found predominately in the Florida Keys, with sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks, which is then poured into a graham cracker pie shell. It’s then tipped with ether meringue or whipped cream.
It’s been around for a century and although no one knows for sure who came up with it, the most colorful story is that it first came out of the kitchen of someone named “Aunt Sally” in Key West.
Millionaire William Curry kept his “Aunt Sally” Key Lime pie recipe in the kitchen of his Key West mansion in which he resided during the 1800s. But no one knows who Sally was.’
Great variations on this dessert can be found all over, but Miami New Times believes you can’t go wrong with that made by Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe.
“For more than two decades, Kermit's has been serving some of the finest key lime pie, courtesy of Kermit Carpenter,” New Times wrote. “The store, which Carpenter founded with his sister Anita and her husband, has become a Key West brand and expanded to a second shop, located on iconic Duval Street.”
New York Cheesecake:
Although everyone associates cheesecake with New York, it actually can be traced back to ancient Greece, where it was served t0 the athletes at the first Olympic Games in 776 BC.
But just like pizza, it took America to perfect it. Since it arrived on our shores in the 18th century, dessert magicians have come up with literally hundreds of different recipes.
But where to find the best? TimeOut rated the best of the best that the Big Apple has to offer, and believes that Veniero’s Pasticceria and Caffe fits the bill.
“Since 1894, this East Village Italian bakery has been doling out biscotti, pastries, cannoli and, yes, deliciously creamy deep-dish cheesecake, enrichened with fresh ricotta and whole eggs,” writes TimeOut.
What Food Will We Invent Next?
Maybe, on your next great American vacation, you'll have the chance to eat some of the best food America has to offer -- or in the spirit of American innovation, you'll invent the next great American delicacy.
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