Research Outline

Nuances of Classic Middle American Dishes


To inform a client project by identifying information on the differences that make classic savory Middle American dishes distinct between states, specifically for middle and upper middle-class Americans in central, mid-western and southern states.

Early Findings

Classic, Savory Middle American Dishes

  • A review of credible media resources indicates that, while there is no common definition for Middle American dishes and recipes, a variety of lists exist for the most iconic American dishes and favorite foods by state. For example:
    • CNN published an article in 2019 discussing the 50 "greatest" American dishes, including tater tots, pot roast, cornbread and biscuits 'n' gravy.
    • Traveller reported in 2019 on the "best traditional" dishes in the US, such as apple pie, the hamburger and clam chowder.
    • Eat This, Not That! covered the "most iconic" food in each American state, including peach cobbler in Georgia and corn dogs in Iowa.
    • CNTraveler similarly highlighted the "favorite foods" in the US by state, such as fried green tomatoes in Alabama and po-boys in Louisiana.
  • Based on these lists of classic US dishes, the research team identified ten commonly highlighted American meals that are also savory:

Hot Dogs

  • Although little information appears to be available regarding how different economic classes prepare hot dogs, food industry trades (e.g., Delish), food associations (e.g., National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC)) and lifestyle outlets (e.g., First We Feast) highlight significant regional differences in the preparation of this classic American dish.
  • For example, in Chicago, hot dogs are traditionally finished with an extensive list of toppings including yellow mustard, relish, raw onion and peppers.
  • In contrast, Atlanta and many other parts of the South add coleslaw and Vidalia onions as a usual part of the recipe.
  • Additionally, Texas is known for the state's chili dog, which includes chili, cheese and jalapenos, while West Virginia similarly adds chili but also includes mustard and coleslaw.
  • Meanwhile, Kansas City has a history of adding sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese to their hot dog recipes.