The Best Road Food - From Illinois to Kentucky
Illinois Road Food
What road trip to or through Illinois would be complete without a trip to Chicago for its trademark deep-dish pizza? If you want to bite into a hunk of pizza with a thick buttery crust and tons of toppings, Chicago is the place.
The best place to get it: Although there are many contenders, most purists know that the place to go is to the source: Pizzeria Uno on Ohio Street or Gino’s East on Rush Street, both in Chicago. Both of these legendary pizzerias created the pizza that got named after this city and both offer mind-numbingly good versions of this road food. Mangia!
Indiana Road Food
Most Hoosiers agree that the two foods that best represent their state are corn on the cob (they boast it’s the best in the country) and the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich. If you’ve ever driven through Indiana, you can probably guess that all those miles of corn fields must say something about the state’s corn. The best way to have corn on the cob on your road trip is at a state or county fair where you can get a cob freshly dunked in a vat of butter for a dollar or less. Any restaurant will have it, but probably not as fresh.
The best place to get it: As far as the breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches are concerned, the number one place to get it is where most people agree it was "born" (in 1904): at Nick’s Kitchen in Huntington. The pounded-flat, breaded, and fried tenderloin is so big, it extends far outside of the bun’s confines. Topped with mustard, lettuce, tomato, and pickle slices, you’re going to have a mouthful of pork heaven.
Iowa Road Food
Yet another Great Plains state, and another even more famous for its corn, Iowa is known as the Tall Corn State. Ultimately, Iowa is all about farming and there’s nothing more "farmhouse" than homemade meals. While you’re on a road trip in Iowa, stay away from any place that tries to be citified – Iowa is pure country and that’s the kind of restaurant to look for.
The best place to get it: If you want real home cooking in a restaurant, you can find it at the aptly named Farmer’s Kitchen in Atlantic. Make sure to order the house’s specialties including their from-scratch Hot Beef Sandwich (with real gravy), fried pickles and a slice of sour cream raisin pie (the name doesn’t do it justice) and find out how good from-scratch really is. You’ll want to move in and make it your home!
Kansas Road Food
If there’s any dish that more perfectly reflects Kansas sensibilities, it’s the chicken dinner. Every popular restaurant in Kansas sells them and you simply have to stop on your way for this great road food meal. What’s a chicken dinner? Well, it’s a half chicken fried to golden perfection and served with mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, slaw, and baking powder biscuits.
The best place to get it: Lots of restaurants in Kansas serve chicken dinners, but if you want the best go straight to Brookville Hotel Restaurant in Abilene. This family-run hotel and restaurant has been serving their signature skillet-fried chicken dinners since 1933 and all that practice has made their chicken dinners perfect.
Kentucky Road Food
Kentucky is famous for its horse race, the Kentucky Derby, and for its bourbon. Combine those two and you get the Derby Bourbon Pie – a chocolate pie with walnuts or pecans and topped with a dash of bourbon. Bakers in Kentucky are many and there are other favorite desserts as well including hummingbird cake (a super-sweet Southern specialty that includes pecans, pineapple and bananas in its tender crumb and is topped with a cream cheese frosting) and chess pie (a Southern custard pie that has nothing to do with the game of chess).
The best place to get it: For the best Southern desserts you’ll ever eat, head to Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen in Louisville. Its charming old-fashioned décor and genuinely friendly customer service makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time while you tuck into your chess pie, hummingbird cake, or sundae.
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