From the cheese aficionados of Wisconsin to the crab connoisseurs of Maryland, local cuisine is a point of pride in virtually every state. But if so many places are renowned for what they’re serving, can they all live up to eaters’ expectations? Sure, some states have earned their legendary snack status, but we wondered how many really deserve the culinary prestige they enjoy. We’re not talking about satisfying tourists, either: Do residents believe their state’s most famous food is all it’s cracked up to be?
With this munchies mission in mind, we asked people from every state which local foods were most overrated. Polling more than 2,500 Americans, we uncovered local grub residents think is overrated and hidden gems they feel the general public neglects. Our findings are a tale of inflated reputations and unknown tasty treasures – and essential reading for foodies planning a road trip anytime soon.
Most Overrated Foods in America
From the mouths of locals, the mighty have fallen: Some of the most imposing culinary reputations in America don’t stand up to the scrutiny of many residents. Among the overrated, we find iconic East Coast dishes: New York’s pizza, Maine’s lobster, Massachusetts’ chowder, Pennsylvania’s cheesesteaks, and Vermont’s maple syrup. The betrayal continues as you move toward the Midwest: Wisconsin’s cheese was rated inflated by residents, and Illinois’ dismissal of its pizza cuts deeper than the dishes it’s served in. Even niche local offerings were snubbed in some places: Pasties were judged overrated in Michigan, while Minnesota residents weren’t so hot on their hotdish.
Further west, celebrated Mexican cuisine couldn’t quite pass muster for many residents in California and Arizona. Poor Idaho’s potatoes came in for criticism, while the ranching states of Montana and Wyoming had their beef dissed by locals as well. In the South, some classic reputations were called into question, such as Louisiana’s gumbo and Georgia’s peaches. Throughout much of that region, though, states tended to scorn their barbecue – a trend that brings some compelling variations in our respondents’ spellings.
In every region, the most popular choice was the efficient abbreviation: Using “BBQ” saves time and skips spelling differences altogether. This word was employed by nearly 86 percent of the Northeast, and more than 61 percent of the South and Midwest. It was slightly less popular out west, however, where a quarter of folks chose barbecue instead. And in every region, between 12 and 18 percent of residents kept things quirky, opting for “barbeque” instead.
Most Underrated Foods in America
Now, before you decide every state’s food reputation is a vicious fiction, we should note many residents felt their best-known dishes were deserving of their lore – and more. In New York and Illinois, the nation’s pizza capitals, pies were voted underrated most often by residents as well. Actually, throughout the Midwest and Northeast, many states said their pizza merited more appreciation. On the West Coast, a similar trend played out with Mexican cuisine: It was voted most underrated in California and Arizona, but also in places such as Nevada, Utah, and Oregon. Interestingly, we found the divide between “stereotypical” state foods was strong in many states, whose residents voted it both the most overrated and underrated. In Florida, residents rated seafood as the most overrated, and some who didn’t thought it was the most underrated food in the state.
Elsewhere, residents took the opportunity to praise lesser-known local delicacies. Forget the lobster: Next time you’re in Maine, grab yourself a whoopie pie, a heavenly chocolate and cream concoction the state claims to have created. Louisianans, meanwhile, said their crawfish didn’t get enough love, as did Mississippi residents about their own spin on the clawed creatures. And if you’re looking to chew on the meat of something majestic, try Wyoming or Montana, where locales swear by bison and other big game.
Use the search box in the interactive table below for a side-by-side comparison of the most overrated and underrated foods in your state. Search for a food to create a list of the other states where people think the same dish should be more/less popular.
|State||Most Overrated Food||Most Underrated Food|
|Colorado||Rocky Mountain Oysters/Mexican (Tied)||Mexican|
|Hawaii||Loco Moco/Spam (Tied)||Poi|
|Minnesota||Hotdish||Burgers (Jucy Lucy)|
|Mississippi||Fried Chicken||Catfish/Crawfish/Grits (Tied)|
|Montana||Beef||Bison and Game Meat|
|New Hampshire||Maple Syrup||Pizza|
|New Jersey||Pork Roll||Pizza|
|New Mexico||Green Chile||Green Chile|
|South Carolina||Shrimp and Grits||BBQ|
|South Dakota||Chislic||Frybread/Indian Tacos (Tied)|
|Washington, D.C.||Ben's Chili Bowl/Half Smokes (Tied)||Ethiopian|
|West Virginia||Pepperoni Rolls||Pepperoni Rolls|
|Wyoming||Beef||Bison and Other Game|
Eating and Living Well – Anywhere in America
Although our results reveal plenty of mixed opinions, one thing’s for sure: Whichever state you’re in, you can find some good grub. It may not be the exact dish you expected to enjoy, but it’s safe to say locals in the know are eating well everywhere. So if you’re planning a trip, don’t base your dining on a state’s reputation alone. A little investigation may yield something tastier or a hidden gem few get to enjoy.
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To create the charts shown above, we surveyed 2,587 Americans in all 50 states solicited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and Reddit postings for states with inadequate Mturk responses. We asked individuals to only answer questions relating to their primary state of residence. We asked the same series of questions and collected short-answer responses from each respondent. We then analyzed the answers and organized and grouped similar answers where appropriate (for instance, we grouped “Tacos” and “Burritos” with “Mexican”). We did our best to collect similar amounts of residents from each state, although some states had more representation than others. All states had at least 30 responses, but some had more than others due to response rates in certain states. Counts of responses from each state listed in the table below:
The content above is intended solely as entertainment and should not be considered an academic, scientific, or educational piece. While the content above was collected, analyzed, and presented as accurately as possible, there are limitations to our findings. While we did our best to include all answers, the variation in answers, spellings, and interpretation of responses was largely subjective. We could not ask those surveyed follow-up questions as to the meaning of their answers, so some groupings and judgment calls were made as to the meaning of answers. Because of the sample size, these figures may not represent the opinions of all members of a state and are only a small sampling.
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