Gooey butter cake, Cincinnati chili, toasted ravioli—when it comes to delicious food, a restaurant in the Midwest knows how to do it right. The region is famous for its foods that are as unique as they are iconic—where else can you find beer cheese soup and Detroit-style square pizzas? Midwestern dishes manage to combine taste, texture, and comfort into every dish.
Although Midwestern recipes are soul-warning, they may be trickier to find while dining out in other parts of the country. Because of this, we put together a list of restaurant dishes that you'll (probably) only easily come across in the Midwest, along with some recommendations on where exactly to snag them if you're in the region.
From Limburger sandwiches to toasted ravioli, here are iconic Midwestern foods that are a must-try.
Don't expect to find a Limburger sandwich in many places outside of the Midwest. This tasty delicacy, which is made using buttered rye bread, onions, mustard, and Limburger cheese, has been a go-to for Wisconsinites for decades. Baumgartner's Cheese Store and Tavern, located in Monroe, Wisconsin, is said to have some of the best Limburger sandwiches around.
Chicago-Style Hot Dog
Hot dogs are done a bit differently in the Midwest. For starters, Chicago-style hot dogs are stuffed with toppings. If you're ever in the Chicago area be sure to try Superdawg, a popular old-school drive-in that serves up some of the best Chicago-Style hot dogs around. Here you can order pure beef hot dogs piled high with kosher dill pickles, chopped Spanish onions, hot pepper, mustard, and mouthwatering piccalilli, which is a relish made from pickled vegetables and spices.
If you love pizza, then you may want to give Detroit-style pizza a try. Known for its recognizable square shape and crunchy corners, this pizza came about when the founders of Buddy's Pizza in Michigan decided to bake their pies in steel automotive plant pans. Over 75 years later, Buddy's is still whipping up this beloved dish.
Sure, you may be familiar with bacon and eggs for breakfast but have you ever dug into a slinger? Featuring eggs, hash browns, ground beef, chili con carne, and cheese, this dish is a diner staple in the Midwest: The Mud House in St. Louis serves up a variation that incorporates pickled red onions and roasted potatoes, whereas Rooster, also in St. Louis, has a version that includes andouille sausage.
Beer Cheese Soup
Yes, beer cheese soup is exactly what it sounds like—a steamy soup made with beer, cheddar cheese, and milk. This unexpected Midwestern must-have dates all the way back to medieval Europe where it was served for breakfast. Today, it's enjoyed by Midwesterners at eateries such as the Milwaukee Brathouse—a local spot that serves a homemade version of this dish featuring red pepper and hickory smoked bacon.
Gooey Butter Cake
Forget ho-hum vanilla or chocolate cake, in the Midwest, it's all about decadent gooey butter cake. Crafted using yellow cake mix, powdered sugar, and butter, this cake is said to have originated in 1930s St. Louis when a German baker miscalculated ingredient proportions for a traditional cake recipe. A good place to try out this sweet treat is Russell's in St. Louis, where up to 9 different variations of this Missouri-born classic are served.
Walleye, a freshwater fish, appears on many menus throughout the Upper Midwest. One spot that serves this dish is a restaurant called Old Fashioned in Madison, Wisconsin. The eatery offers a platter of fried walleye served alongside poppy seed coleslaw, tartar sauce, rye bread, and matchstick fries.
Cincinnati Chili is a Midwestern classic that puts a twist on a traditional chili recipe. Loaded with Mediterranean-spiced meat sauce, spaghetti, and shredded cheese, a famous spot in the Midwest to enjoy this dish is Blue Ash Chili in Ohio. Here they offer a 6-way Cincinnati Chili, complete with sliced jalapenos, that has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives.
Maid Rite Sandwich
Since 1926, Midwest-based Maid-Rite restaurants have been serving Maid-Rite sandwiches, a signature "loose meat" sandwich served on a warm bun. The dish got its start in Iowa, but today is loved throughout the Midwest.
A popular dish you'll find in the Midwest is toasted ravioli, a delicious appetizer made by breading and deep-frying ravioli. Some people say that some of the best-toasted ravioli is from Anthonino's Taverna in St. Louis.