7 Weird Foods You Must Try
Virtually every region has a unique food or dish that outsiders find disgusting yet the locals are so enamored with you have to believe there is something to it. We sought the best of those foods—provided it had at least one significantly weird component.
Rhode Island has a heavy Italian influence and, not surprisingly, great pizza. But go to any party (seriously, pretty much any party) and you’ll find pizza strips. (You’ll also find them anywhere from bakeries to gas stations.) It’s a wonderfully bready, focaccia-like crust with lots of olive oil, and the sauce is a thick, tomato-y paste that grasps the top of your mouth. The weird part is that’s all there is to it. No cheese and no toppings. Just the strip. Oh yeah, and it’s served at room temperature or cold. In Rhode Islandese: “It’s the best!”
Pickled items for sale at the register are popular in Mississippi, and sweet and sour pickles are nothing new. Originating in the Delta region, why it took so long for people to “marinate” dill pickles in their favorite Kool-Aid flavor (“red” being the most popular) is a wonder. They look crazy (or cool, depending on your take) with their neon colors, but you can’t argue with the great salty/sweet flavor.
Sonoran hot dog
We all agree there should be a constitutional amendment outlawing ketchup on a hot dog, but what happens when you have one topped with mayo? That’s what you’ll find in southern Arizona. The dog wrapped in bacon with a phenomenal bolillo roll is genius. Going wild with toppings isn’t crazy, so the pinto beans, onions, tomatoes, and salsa are all solid. But did you have to add the mayo? Strangely, it works.
Eskimo ice cream
Admittedly no one at Cigars & Leisure has ever tried this to verify its quality, but it was just too weird to pass up. Known as “aqutak” (or “agutuk”) to the locals in Alaska, it’s made with seal oil, animal fat (often reindeer), snow, and wild Alaskan berries—probably not the easiest items to find at the local grocery if you want to make it at home in the continental U.S.
Texas, St. Louis, Memphis, Kansas City, and other regions all have their own styles of barbecue that are wonderful. In the Carolinas, it’s all about the pulled pork. How it is seasoned, however, ranks between religion and basketball in importance. The western half of North Carolina is partial to “Lexington” style, which has a tomato base that isn’t too far from what most people think of as barbecue sauce. In the east, however, the sauce is strictly vinegar-based, usually with some brown sugar and crushed red pepper that gets worked into the meat as it’s taken from the roasted hog. Many people trying it for the first time get a weird look on their faces, but once you get a taste for it, nothing else will do.
Vastly overcooked spaghetti topped with chili, ground so fine you can hardly tell there’s meat, and a three-inch mound of shredded cheddar cheese (if you choose, pinto beans and/or onions go next, along with a wonderfully tangy hot sauce). Frankly, it doesn’t look much better than it sounds. But once you start digging in … amazing. There are a few big chains that specialize in it as well as some mom-and-pop places, but even in Ohio, the further you get from the Queen City the less likely you are to find it. Just between us, the weird secret ingredient that’s hard to place: cinnamon.
OK, we’re not anti-mayo by any stretch, but first on a hot dog and now with … corn flakes? So, basically a grilled cheese with mayo that gets breading. More proof that deep frying makes everything better. Served with a big plate of fries, this Nebraska favorite certainly screams comfort food.
For more weird food, check out Chef Erick Harcey and his lutefisk.