Ask anyone what they make a beeline for at their hometown supermarket and chances are you’ll be tipped off to where they’re from. Each region of the country has its very own local delicacies, whether they’re packaged favorites like the Northeast’s Marshmallow Fluff or unusual roadside snacks like Southern gas stations’ peanuts straight from the slow cooker. Read on to find out about 12 foods you’ll have a hard time finding unless you’re willing to take a road trip.
Hellmann’s what? Folks from the South favor Duke’s Mayonnaise over the big-name brand to spread on sandwiches and stir into potato salad. Created almost a century ago in South Carolina by Eugenia Duke, this sought-after condiment uses more egg yolks than other brands and no added sugar, which gives the formula a tangy taste that fans adore. Duke’s was traditionally sold in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, but has recently expanded to Alabama, Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee. Photo: courtesy of Andrew Filer/ Flickr
Ask any Texan what their favorite soda is, and chances are they’ll say, ” Big Red.” If you aren’t familiar with the fizzy drink, it was developed in 1937 under the name “Sun Tang Red Cream Soda,” and was renamed Big Red in 1969. Not to be confused with the gum of the same name, Big Red has the vanilla flavoring of traditional cream soda, but with hints of fruit as well. The popular beverage spread slowly across the South, and though it’s now available in 43 states, its most loyal fans still reside in the Lone Star State.
Pull into any Southern gas station and you’ll get your fill of two things: fuel and boiled peanuts. Also available at some roadside produce stands, boiled peanuts are actually green (or raw) peanuts that have been boiled in their shells for hours until they reach a soft consistency. Serve yourself by dipping a slotted spoon into a slow cooker of nuts (choose from regular or Cajun-style) and fill up a Styrofoam cup with the salty treat. Be sure to follow the locals’ lead and grab an extra cup for the shells, plus plenty of napkins! Photo: Thinkstock
New Englanders clamor for Marshmallow Fluff, a spread made from corn syrup, sugar syrup, dried egg whites and vanillin, a natural compound of the vanilla bean. And while Marshmallow Fluff is considered to be a brand of marshmallow crème, according to the company, its unique whipping process makes it one of a kind. Developed in Somerville, Massachusetts, in 1917, it’s used in many different desserts, but is best known for its starring roll in Fluffernutter sandwiches (Marshmallow Fluff and peanut butter on white bread). Proof: In 2006 a Massachusetts state representative moved to make it the state’s official sandwich.
Sun, surf and…Spam? Yep, Hawaii is known for more than its beautiful beaches. The islands are also the home of Spam musubi, a sushi roll made with the canned pork meat, rice and seaweed wrapping. You can find the popular snack anywhere on the island, from convenience stores, like 7-Eleven, to school cafeterias. And though it sounds like a dubious delicacy, the locals swear by it. Photo: courtesy of Ewen Roberts/ Flickr
Created in 1924, Nehi Peach Soda remains a favorite among Southern sippers to this day. Those in the know sweeten the deal by pouring the sparkling beverage over soft-serve vanilla ice cream for a real treat. But it’s not easy to find the drink outside of certain Southern states—do a quick Internet search and you’ll find multiple queries from fans trying to hunt down a can near them.
This popular Mexican beverage (whose name means “fresh water”) is made from fresh fruit, sugar and water, and is sold straight out of a jug by roadside vendors south of the border. The trick, according to fans, is to “infuse the water with fruit essence without turning it into a smoothie.” The perfect thirst-quencher for a hot day, this drink has made its way to the States, too: Agua fresca is popular in Southwestern states like Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. Photo: courtesy of John F. King/ Flickr
A Cleveland pro sports game just isn’t the same without Stadium Mustard. The hugely popular condiment, which was originally only available at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, is now sold in grocery stores across Ohio. Made with no sugar, preservatives, fat, cholesterol or filler, the brand claims its fans call it “the best mustard in the world.” And that may very well be true: NASA requested the condiment on three separate space missions to satisfy an Ohioan astronaut.
South of the Mason-Dixon, pimento cheese is a comfort food staple. The recipe calls for Cheddar or American cheese, mayonnaise, diced pimientos, salt and pepper. Southerners serve the mixture—which you find in plastic tubs at any grocery store, or make at home—as a dip, on top of burgers or, in one of its most popular forms, spread on white bread and served as a sandwich.
Top-Sliced Hot Dog Buns
No New England barbecue is complete without the region’s signature top-sliced hot dog bun. Unlike the more common side-sliced bun, top-sliced buns have no crust on the sides, which allows you to toast them on the grill to achieve a perfectly crispy hot dog wrapping. Not to mention, the bread is even on both sides for a balanced distribution of bun and dog in every bite. Photo: courtesy of Paul Johnson/ Flickr
Natives of Wisconsin sure love their cheese: The state’s 1,200 cheese makers produce more than 600 varieties. And cheese curds, the bite-size solid parts of soured milk, are a regional delicacy. Pick up a pack from the supermarket’s dairy section and enjoy them at their peak freshness. You’ll know they’re straight from the dairy farm by the squeaking sound they make when you take a bite. Photo: courtesy of Dustin Filippini/ Flickr
Rhode Island’s official state drink is coffee milk, a concoction made from milk and coffee syrup. The beverage’s origins are said to date back to the 1920s and ’30s, when people would sip sweetened coffee with milk in diners and drugstores. So it wasn’t too far of a stretch for Autocrat Coffee in Lincoln to mix up their answer to the craze in 1945: sugary coffee syrup made from corn syrup, water and coffee, which has caffeinated locals ever since. Photo: courtesy of Sean Benham