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Cuisine of the Midwestern United States (2)

Regional specialties


In Missouri, much of the cuisine is influenced by that of the Ozarks. Barbecue, both pork and beef, is popular in both St. Louis and Kansas City, as well as in much of the Southern half of the state. In the bootheel, the favored food tends to be distinctly Southern.

A take out bag from Yocco's Hot Dogs, a regionally well-known hot dog chain founded in 1922.It is in this part of the state that sweet tea is readily available everywhere. Missouri also leans heavily on beer and bratwurts, and St. Louis features the "brain sandwich", the "St. Paul Sandwich", toasted ravioli, St. Louis-style pizza, gooey butter-cake, and many other cuisines that are popular throughout the state. Chinese food is also very popular in the state, with Springfield being a big example.

Fishing is a very popular sport throughout the state, with the presence of Missouri's many rivers and lakes, and like in Wisconsin, many fish fry events are popular throughout the state featuring catfish and large-mouthed bass. Like many of its fellow Midwestern states, Missouri is at the forefront of corn and soybean production, and items such as corn-on-the cob, mashed potatoes, basically a typical Midwestern meal, are very popular throughout the state.

The middle of the state, known as the "Missouri Rhineland", lies along the valley of the Missouri River, and is known for its wineries.


Illinois is a top producer of corn and soybeans, but corn, particularly sweet corn, figures most substantially in its cuisine. Chicago-style foods tend to dominate in Northeastern Illinois, while other parts of the state mirror adjoining regions.

Springfield, Illinois, and the surrounding area are known for the horseshoe sandwich.


A popular dish seen almost exclusively in Indiana is sugar cream pie, which most likely originated in the state's Amish community. Persimmon pudding is also a favorite Indiana dessert very difficult to find outside of the Hoosier State.

The pork tenderloin sandwich is a popular state food. Beef and noodles is another homespun Hoosier dish.

Frogs' legs are traditional in old-fashioned Indiana restaurants, and brain sandwiches have a following. Fried biscuits with apple butter are served at many restaurants in southern Indiana, as are fried-brain sandwiches.


The cuisine of Iowa includes the pork tenderloin sandwich, consisting of a lean section of pork tenderloin that is pounded flat, breaded, and deep fried before being served on a seeded hamburger bun with any or all of ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and dill pickle slices.

The main ingredient of this dish bears a similarity to schnitzel and may be related to the German immigrants who originally populated central Iowa. Iowa is also the center for creamed corn production and consumption.

Iowa is the center for loose-meat sandwiches, such as those popularized by Maid-Rite, although they can also be found in western Illinois, Indiana and Nebraska.


Western and northern Michigan are notable fruit-growing and wine-making regions. The Northwestern region of Michigan's Lower Peninsula accounts for approximately 75 percent of the U.S. crop of tart cherries, usually about 250 million pounds.
Cornish immigrant miners introduced the pasty to Michigan's Upper Peninsula (UP) as a convenient meal to take to work in the numerous copper, silver, and nickel mines of that region. The pasty is today considered iconic of the UP.


Perhaps the most iconic Minnesota dishes are lefse and lutefisk, brought to the state with Scandinavian immigrants. Lefse and lutefisk dinners are held near Christmas and have become associated with that holiday. Lutefisk is a traditional dish of the Nordic countries made from stockfish (air-dried whitefish) and soda lye (lut). Walleye is the state fish of Minnesota and it is common to find it on restaurant menus. Its popularity with Minnesotans is such that the residents of the state consume more of the fish than does any other jurisdiction. Battered and deep-fried is a popular preparation for walleye, as is grilling. Many restaurants will feature walleye on their Friday night fish fry, which is popular at locales throughout the state.

Minnesota is known for its church potlucks, where hotdish is often served. Hotdish is any of a variety of casserole dishes, which are popular throughout the United States, although the term "hotdish" is used mainly in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Hotdishes are filling comfort foods that are convenient and easy to make.

Bars are the second of the two essentials for potlucks in Minnesota. According to You Know You're in Minnesota When...: 101 Quintessential Places, People, Events, Customs, Lingo, and Eats of the North Star State by Berit Thorkelson, the bar is a Minnesota staple and a "typical Minnesota dessert". Thorkelson notes that bars are not included in Webster's Dictionary, and the word pronunciation of the "ar" is with "a pirate-like arrr" followed by a soft clipped s. Rice Krispie treats are considered bars in Minnesota, but brownies are not.

The immigrants that settled in the state in the 1800s were predominantly from Central and Eastern Europe (particularly Germany) and Scandinavia. They brought with them taste preferences that largely remain to this day. Those Minnesotans with this Northern European ancestry, in general, avoid hot spices in favor of earthy or aromatic spices.

Eggs, meat and potatoes are mainstay foods. Recipes using local wild game such as bison, deer, or elk are also common. Warm baked goods along with stews and hearty soups are also a favorite in the winter given the extreme Minnesota climate. Other popular dishes statewide include glorified rice, Jell-O salad, and krumkake.

The state is a productive area for chicken, dairy and turkey farms and crops such as corn, soybeans, and sugar beets. It is also a leading producer of wild rice.


A popular way to order pizza is "fold over" style. A fold over pizza has a layer of crust on the bottom and on the top, with typical pizza toppings in between. Unlike a calzone or turnover, in which the ingredients are completely sealed in with dough, a fold over resembles a sandwich.

Cincinnati-style chili is a dish consisting of spaghetti noodles, a thin meat chili, covered with shredded cheese, as served by Skyline Chili and others.

In the Cleveland area, a popular dish (apparently unheard of outside the area) are Sauerkraut Balls. Sauerkraut Balls are meatball-like snack foods eaten as appetizers or as bar food. These were reportedly invented in Akron, Ohio, but are more properly a derivative of the various ethnic cultures of Northeast Ohio, which includes Akron and Greater Cleveland. A once-famous but now closed restaurant in Vermilion, Ohio, was McGarvey's, which was famous for its Sauerkraut Balls as well as for its charismatic owner, Captain Eddie, and its location near the scenic Vermilion River.

Clam bakes are more popular in Northeast Ohio than any other region of the United States outside of New England. The region was originally the Connecticut Western Reserve, and its first settlers came from Connecticut and other New England states. A typical clam bake in Northeast Ohio includes a dozen clams with a half chicken, sweet potatoes, corn, and other side dishes. Seaweed is not used and the clams, chicken, and sweet potatoes are all steamed together in a large pot. The spelling "clambake" is usually preferred in this part of the country.


The Friday night fish fry, typically fried perch or walleye, is ubiquitous throughout Wisconsin, while in northeast Wisconsin along Lake Michigan, the Door County fish boil holds sway.

Besides beer, Wisconsinites drink large quantities of brandy, often mixed into the unique Badger libation, the "brandy Old Fashioned sweet." The drink originated in 1947 at Chissy's Pub, owned by Harry Chisholm, in Waldo, Wisconsin.

Seymour, Wisconsin, claims to be the birthplace of the modern hamburger, although several other locations make similar claims. The southern Wisconsin town of Racine is known for its Danish kringle.

Wisconsin is "America's Dairyland," and is home to numerous frozen custard stands, particularly around Milwaukee and along the Lake Michigan corridor, as well as many cheesemakers, ranging from artisans who hand-craft their product from the milk of their own dairy herds to large factories. Cheese curds are common as a snack or fried as an appetizer.

Wisconsin is also well known for summer sausage and bratwurst.


These dishes, while not all exclusive to the Midwest, are typical of Midwestern foods. Although many foods are shared with other U.S. regions, they often feature uniquely Midwestern preparation styles.

  • barbecue
  • beans
  • beef, especially steak, pot roast and prime rib
  • bread-and-butter pickles
  • beer
  • beer cheese soup
  • brain sandwiches
  • brandy
  • bratwurst
  • cabbage
  • cabbage roll, also known as stuffed cabbage
  • cheese, including cheese curds
  • Chicken Vesuvio
  • Chicken paprikash
  • chislic
  • cole slaw
  • Coney Island hot dog
  • diner fare
  • Door County fish boil
  • doughnuts
  • duck
  • freshwater fish, including catfish, perch, trout, walleye and whitefish and other panfish, often breaded and fried
  • fried chicken
  • frogs' legs
  • frozen custard
  • fruit, especially apples, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, peaches and strawberries
  • fruit wines
  • fruit pies
  • German potato salad
  • goulash
  • hamburgers
  • head cheese
  • horseshoe sandwich
  • hotdish or casseroles
  • ice cream cone
  • Italian beef
  • gyros (loaf-style)
  • Jello salads
  • Johnny Marzetti
  • lefse
  • lutefisk
  • maple syrup
  • meatloaf
  • morel mushrooms
  • pancakes
  • pasties
  • pea salad
  • persimmon pudding
  • pierogi
  • pizza, with several regional styles
  • pork
  • potatoes, including mashed potatoes, potato pancakes, and potato salads
  • ramps
  • roast beef
  • sauerbraten
  • sauerkraut
  • sausage, including bratwurst, kielbasa, summer sausage, ring bologna, and other ethnic types, as well as hot dogs, with several regional styles
    shrimp DeJonghe
  • steak
  • stollen
  • sugar cream pie
  • sweet corn, on the cob, in creamed corn and in corn relish
  • turkey
  • wild rice

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