1# The Hamburger
A hamburger (also burger for short) is a sandwich consisting of one or more cooked patties of ground meat, usually beef, placed inside a sliced bread roll or bun. The patty may be pan fried, grilled, smoked or flame broiled.
Every single American will have a different idea about where to find the best hamburger in the country, ranging from fast food on the West Coast (In-N-Out Burger) to fine dining in New York (The Spotted Pig). But only one place is recognised by the Library of Congress as being the birthplace of hamburgers: New Haven, Connecticut. The year was 1900 and the establishment was Louis' Lunch, run by one Louis Lassen. Today his great-grandson, Jeff Lassen, guides the ship, which still serves burgers made from five-meat blend and cooked in a century-old cast iron grill.
2# Apple Pie:
The saying is "American as apple pie" for a reason: this sweet treat is a national institution. Forget anybody who will try to tell you pecan or key lime is better, because they are lying. The simple combination of sugar, buttery pastry and tart sliced apples produces a dessert so extraordinary people have devoted their entire lives to perfecting it. For a particularly excellent example, try the apple pie with added green chilies at the Pie-O-Neer, in Pie Town, New Mexico. Phone ahead and Kathy Knapp, the self-proclaimed "Pie Lady of Pie Town", will save you a slice.
Lunch counter, traditional, gourmet, sliders, Kobe. White Castle, Whataburger, Burger King, In-N-Out, McDonald's, Steak N' Shake, Five Guys, The Heart Attack Grill. It's hard to believe, but it all began with a simple mistake.
Or so say the folks in Pasadena, California, who claim the classic cheeseburger was born there in the late 1920s when a young chef at The Rite Spot accidentally burned a burger and slapped on some cheese to cover his blunder.
4# Clam Chowder
It is basically illegal to visit Boston without trying New England clam chowder. The fragrant soup is sold everywhere, and it looks hideous, being white and lumpy. But one taste is all it takes to fall in love. Whoever decided to mix the quahog shellfish with tender potatoes, salted pork, heavy cream and herbs is a total genius. There are many ways to eat it, but you may as well go all out and get a bread bowl at the Atlantic Fish Co., where the chefs carve out a cavity in a fresh boule, pour in the heavenly juice, then put the top back on. Edible dinnerware.
5# Hot dogs
Nothing complements a baseball game or summer cookout quite like a hot dog.
For that we owe a debt to a similar sausage from Frankfurt, Germany (hence, "frankfurter" and "frank") and German immigrant Charles Feltman, who is often credited with inventing the hot dog by using buns to save on plates.
But it was Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker's hot dog stand on Coney Island that turned the hot dog into an icon. Every Fourth of July since 1916, the very same Nathan's has put on the International Hot Dog Eating Contest (current five-time winner Joey Chestnut took the title in 2011, downing 62 hot dogs and buns in the 10-minute face-stuffing).
Meanwhile in Windy City, the steamed or water-simmered all-beef Chicago dog (Vienna Beef, please) is still being "dragged through the garden" and served on a poppy seed bun -- absolutely without ketchup.
6# Texas Barbecue
Australians might like to stoke up a barbie on the weekend, but Texans live and die by the practice. Mesquite smoked meats and tenderising rubs are common obsessions, and it is not uncommon to go to football games and find people have brought entire ranges to the parking lots that are worth upwards of five or even ten thousand dollars – a pastime called "tailgating". For excellent brisket, head to the Dallas Farmers Market, stand in line for a bit, then find a seat at Pecan Lodge. Also good are the pork links, pulled pork, beef ribs and collard greens. Basically everything.
The bane of diets and the boon of happy hours -- could there be a more perfect calorie-dense accompaniment to a pitcher of margaritas?
Less rhetorically: why does Piedras Negras, Mexico, just over the border from Eagle Pass, Texas, host The International Nacho Festival and the Biggest Nacho in the World Contest every October?
Because it was there that Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya invented nachos when a gaggle of shopping wives of American soldiers stationed at Fort Duncan arrived at the Victory Club restaurant after closing time.
Maitre d'Ignacio improvised something for the gals with what he had on hand, christening his melty creation nachos especiales. From thence they have gone forth across the border, the continent and the world.