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Nathans Hot Dogs | Courtesy of Nathans
Nathans Hot Dogs | Courtesy of Nathans

10 Traditional American Dishes You Need to Try

Picture of Aparna Krishnamoorthy
Updated: 28 May 2017

The first thing that comes to mind when you think of “American cuisine” are classics like burgers, fried chicken, hot dogs and pancakes. Like many things American, the cuisine also has influences from elsewhere – German, British, Italian, Dutch, French, and Caribbean are only some of the cultures that have contributed to the food that is now considered typically American. Here’s our roundup of popular American foods that you will find across the country.

Buffalo Chicken Wings

Although created in the 1960s, these fried chicken wings doused in a cayenne-vinegar hot sauce (buffalo sauce) are ubiquitous bar snacks. Buffalo chicken wings was first served in the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, and are now one of the the most popular bar foods.

Tater Tots

Yes, we love French Fries too but, for an American variation on the traditional spud, you have to try tater tots. These grated potato mini-balls which are cylindrical in shape and fried with a crispy exterior are found in breakfast spots, fast food joints and diners.

Hot Dogs

Nothing complements a summer cookout or a baseball game better than an all-American hot dog. Although the creation is credited to the German Charles Feltman, who used buns to serve German sausage (hence also referred to as frankfurter or frank) to save on plates, it was Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker’s hot dog stand Nathan’s on Coney Island that turned the hot dog into a national icon. There are regional variations of it – for example, New York-style with ketchup and relish and Chicago-style served on a poppy seed bun with absolutely no ketchup.

Apple Pie

You’ve probably heard the phrase “as American as apple pie” and it’s not without reason. Probably the most iconic of American foods, apple pie was first introduced in the States by British and Dutch immigrants. However, over the years it’s been transformed into a distinctly American food experience, typically served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

Barbecue Ribs

Barbecuing food has been one of the country’s oldest traditions and has now evolved into an art, with bbq fanatics and lovers all over the country partial to their favorite styles. But whether you like Kansas City’s hearty offering, Memphis‘ wet ribs, or North Carolina’s vinegar base, one thing we can all agree on is that barbecue in America is definitely something that brings out a lot of passion!

Reuben Sandwich

The classic corned beef, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut sandwich is synonymous with American delis. There might be debate about whether this was invented in Nebraska by a grocer named Reuben Kulakofsky, or perhaps the brainchild of Arnold Reuben, the German owner of New York’s now closed Reuben’s Delicatessen, who came up with it in 1914, but either way, this sandwich is an American staple.

Biscuits and Gravy

A Southern favorite, the original biscuit was brought to the country by the British, and the ‘sawmill’ gravy was created as a cheap and filling breakfast option in the food-strapped colonies of the South during the Revolutionary War. The biscuits are traditionally made with butter or lard and buttermilk; the country gravy with meat drippings and (usually) chunks of fresh pork sausage and black pepper. Nowadays, biscuits can be found with all sorts of ingredients – bacon and chive combination is a popular one.

Meatloaf

Comfort food at its best, most American households will have a family recipe for their version. Typically, it involves ground meat and seasonings, made into a loaf shape either using a loaf pan or hand-shaped, roasted and then topped with sauce or just ketchup! Meatloaf will usually take Americans right back to their mother’s kitchen!

 

Grits

The first time you try grits,  you probably wonder what the heck it is. For those who grew up eating grits (Southern US), it’s something they can’t live without! A dish made from coarsely ground corn kernels, grits can be extremely versatile. Typically found in savory versions, they can also be made sweet. A classic dish is shrimp and grits, but grits are also a popular breakfast item, in place of oatmeal. Any which way, they are extremely satisfying.

Hamburger

The popularity of the hamburger and cheeseburger in the USA is indisputable. Traditional, gourmet, fast food, with bacon, sliders, with green chili, Juicy Lucy style… the list of variations and toppings is infinite. If there is one food that we had to pick, burgers have to be the most American of them all.