Fried green tomatoes at Bernie’s Southern Bistro, 2904 NE Alberta St., 282-9864, berniesbistro.com.
Fried Green Tomatoes, the 1991 movie, is based on
Irondale, Ala.’s Whistle Stop Cafe, which still makes a mess o’ maters.
Bernie’s version is buttery but still fresh and light. More.
Alaskan reindeer sausage sandwich at Beez Neez, 440 SW 3rd Ave., 547-7213, beezneezsausages.com.
Mmmmm, Rudolph. More.
Chimichanga at Taqueria Portland, 820 SE 8th Ave., 232-7000.
Someone in Arizona—Phoenix’s Macayo’s and Tucson’s El Charro both make claims—accidentally dropped a fully stuffed burrito into a deep fryer. Eventually, actual Mexicans started making this staple, as you’ll find at this inner-Southeast taqueria. More.
Fried pickles at Crown Q, 445 NE Killingsworth St., 281-0373, crownqmarket.com.
Bernell “Fatman” Austin of Atkins, Ark., started battering, frying and selling pickles out of his Duchess Drive In in 1963. The family still has a secret recipe, served only at the Atkins Picklefest. Crown Q does a nice version with sliced dill and creamy sauce for $5. More.
Korean tacos at Koi Fusion, various locations, koifusionpdx.com.
The version of the Korean taco we know came from the nation’s most diverse city, Los Angeles, where in 2008 chef Roy Choi began stuffing corn tortillas with beef bulgogi and barbecued short ribs. Portlander Bo Kwon opened Koi Fusion in May 2009, with a concept The New York Times described as “borrowed from Mr. Choi’s in the manner that 50 Cent sampled Biggie Smalls.” More.
Coma pot brownie at Pure Oregon Dispensary, 2410 N Mississippi Ave., 954-3902, pomeds.com.
Colorado will forever be known as the first state to serve up legal weed brownies as treats instead of medicine. In Oregon, they’re still medicine. But, as they say, a spoonful of sugar helps it go down. More.
Apizza at Apizza Scholls, 4741 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 233-1286, apizzascholls.com.
Apizza, New Haven’s famous riff on Neapolitan, is often regarded as the best pizza in the world, with a thin, chewy and tangy crust that’s cooked hot and fast, often over coal. Apizza Scholls’ pies come out of a super-hot electric oven crisp but pliable and kissed with char. After that crust and bright sauce, the toppings are almost superfluous. More.
Scrapple at the Woodsman Tavern, 4537 SE Division St., 971-373-8264, woodsmantavern.com.
Scrapple is a relic of colonial days, when people couldn’t afford to waste meat. It’s a loaf of slurried pig—snout, eyeball, liver and heart—made mealy with corn and served fried. Nonetheless, the weekend brunch scrapple served with maple glaze at the Woodsman Tavern is a remarkably civilized experience. More.
Key lime pie at Palio, 1996 SE Ladd Ave., 232-9412, palio-in-ladds.com.
Fun fact: Traditionally, cooks didn’t even bake Key lime pies, simply allowing a chemical reaction between sweetened condensed milk and acidic citrus juice to cook the eggs, like a meringue ceviche. The best we’ve had in town is cooked by a mysterious couple and delivered to this wonderful little Ladd Circle coffeehouse three times a week. More.
Brunswick stew at A Little Bit of Smoke food cart, Southwest 9th Avenue and Alder Street.
A tangy, spicy, smoky, one-pot meat dish with beans, tomatoes and corn, all simmered in stock, Brunswick stew makes appearances at church suppers and hunting camps throughout the South. The hearty $7 version at this downtown food cart has smoked chicken and potatoes. And they even throw in a mini moon pie. More.
Plate lunch at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, 4328 SE 82nd Ave., No. 1500, 200-5599, hawaiianbarbecue.com.
The plate lunch isn’t authentic Hawaiian, but it’s what you get after a trip to the beach. There’s white rice and/or macaroni salad with meat, usually pork, katsu or teriyaki beef or chicken. L&L actually comes from the islands, with restaurants in every neighborhood on O‘ahu. More.
P.R. Nelson milkshake at Blueplate Lunch Counter, 308 SW Washington St., 295-2583, eatatblueplate.com.
This old-school diner blends ice cream made with Idaho’s state fruit, the huckleberry, with housemade Purple Haze hibiscus syrup for a shockingly sweet shake, with bits of fruit skin and a mountain of whipped cream. More.
Italian beef at Bridge City Pizza, 5412 SE Woodstock Blvd., 777-4992, bridgecitypizza.com.
This staple of Chicago’s South Side is a thin-sliced, sauteed roast beef sandwich drenched in meat-dripping “jus,” with giardiniera hot peppers on top. Bridge City’s comes wetter than an otter’s pocket, and chock-full of meat and jus that’s been prepped for days. Hunch forward or plan on changing your shirt. More.
Pork tenderloin sandwich at the Burger Guild, 4926 SE Division St., 401-287-4373, theburgerguild.com.
According to legend, Nick’s Kitchen in Huntington, Ind., was the first to make this spaceship of a sandwich. It features a large, buttermilk-soaked, breaded pork cutlet that extends well beyond the bun meant to house it. This cart’s version has everything Indiana’s does except tomatoes. More.
Maytag blue cheese at Cheese Bar, 6031 SE Belmont St., 222-6014, cheese-bar.com.
Acclaimed by some as America’s finest blue cheese, the Maytag’s first “wheels” were made in 1941 at Maytag Dairy Farms in Newton, Iowa, with homogenized cow’s milk instead of sheep’s milk. Cheese Bar’s Steve Jones serves it with pride: His father used to work at Maytag Dairy Farms. More.
Meat Lover’s pizza at Pizza Hut, various locations, pizzahut.com.
The famous barbecue comes from Missouri, sorry. Kansas invented not a food but a means of producing it—from the first train-supplied chain restaurant, Harvey House, to the original White Castle, to Pizza Hut in 1958. To this day, when you call Pizza Hut for delivery, you’re actually calling a Kansas call center. Kansas? Are you there? Please bring extra peppers. More.
The Double Down at KFC, various locations, kfc.com.
Two strips of bacon, two slices of cheese and some of the Colonel’s secret sauce sandwiched between two fried chicken fillets in lieu of bread. Lick as you may, your fingers will never again be clean. More.
Beignets at the Parish, 231 NW 11th Ave., 227-2421, theparishpdx.com.
Beignets are a deep-fried Creole dessert pastry that are light, airy and covered with heaps of powdered sugar that, when inhaled through the mouth, will induce coughing fits in novice tourists. The Parish’s Sunday brunch beignets are the closest you’ll get in Portland to those served at New Orleans landmark Cafe du Monde. More.
Lobster roll at Maine Street Lobster, 8145 SE 82nd Ave. (Cartlandia pod), 770-480-3437, mainestreetlobstercompany.com.
Maine’s most famous roadside food is wicked simple: a heap of juicy lobster bits doused in butter and served cold on a toasted roll. The owners of the Maine Street Lobster cart fly in lobster twice a week. More.
Blue crab cakes at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, 850 SW Broadway, 221-4518, ruthschris.com.
Crab cakes are a secondary religion in Maryland. Only the plentiful Chesapeake blue crab is in the dish, served as lumps with a little bit of cracker crust. It’s basically heresy to serve a blue crab cake in Oregon, where we’re proud of the more delicate flavors of Dungeness. But Ruth’s Chris has no such pieties—it’ll cost you $10 per cake. More.
Fried clam strips at the Fishwife, 5328 N Lombard St., 285-7150, thefishwife.com.
Clams are an integral part of summer in coastal New England, just as important as tall ships, widow’s walks and sipping a dark ’n’ stormy next to 10 men in Red Sox caps. The unassuming Fishwife’s clam basket is a heaping mound of plump fried clams atop waffle fries, served with generous helpings of tartar sauce, coleslaw and seasoned ketchup. More.
Coney dog at Roake’s, 1760 NE Lombard Place, 289-3557; 18019 SE McLoughlin Blvd., Milwaukie, 654-7075.
The “wet” chili has the consistency of pasty biscuits and gravy, and the bun’s dry, but this 10-inch hot dog has the perfect snap. You gotta know what matters. Detroit what! More.
Lutefisk at Newman’s Fish Market in City Market, 735 NW 21st Ave., 227-2700, newmansfish.com.
This Nordic dish of cod dried in lye until gelatinous is loved and hated in Minnesota, where the burg of Madison claims to be our nation’s lutefisk capital, and where the dish is popular in church basements. It seems to be more texture than taste, at least the way we cooked it. More.
Fried catfish at Miss Kate’s Southern Kitchen, 4233 N Mississippi Ave., 724-7878, misskatessouthernkitchen.com.
Mississippi Avenue is the place for Mississippi cuisine in Portland. Miss Kate’s food cart owner Charlie Hudes’ Grandma Kate was a bridge-playing socialite in Vicksburg. She would be proud of his catfish: The batter is crisp and peppery, while the meat inside is sweet, white and flaky. More.
Toasted ravioli at Alameda Brewhouse, 4765 NE Fremont St., 460-9025, alamedabrewing.com.
Created when an Italian chef in the Hill neighborhood of St. Louis dropped ravioli in hot oil, toasted ravioli in St. Louis means a plate of big, breaded pasta pillows stuffed with provolone and beef or veal, served around a bowl of dipping marinara. Alameda’s version doesn’t have meat, but it’s the only reliable source in town. More.
Elk burger at Deschutes Brewery Portland, 210 NW 11th Ave., 296-4906, deschutesbrewery.com.
Elk is higher in protein than beef, but it doesn’t taste much different when ground—milder and slightly sweeter. The Deschutes brewpub serves it on a brioche bun with Gruyere cheese, roasted shallot, thyme mayo and lettuce. More.
Reuben sandwich at Goose Hollow Inn, 1927 SW Jefferson St., 228-7010, goosehollowinn.com.
The mighty Reuben sandwich—rye, kraut, swiss, corned beef or pastrami, secret sauce—was purportedly invented by Lithuanian transplant Reuben Kulakofsky of Omaha, Neb., as part of a weekly poker game from 1920 to 1935. If there’s a 15-year poker game going on with Reubens in Portland, it’s certainly at Goose Hollow Inn. More.
Strip-club steak at the Acropolis, 8325 SE McLoughlin Blvd., 231-9611, acropolispdx.com.
It’s hard to beat the sheer Vegas-ness of the “Acrop,” a legendary strip club with gaudy décor and a convenient highway-side location. An 8-ounce steak is $6—with baked potato. More.
29. New Hampshire
Clam chowder at Chowdah in the cart pod at Kruger’s Farm Stand, 7316 N Lombard St., 867-2475.
Even on the hottest days, you’ll find people lined up in front of Chowdah. The signature soup is creamy, steaming and salty, with generous chunks of potatoes, bacon and two types of Atlantic clams. More.
30. New Jersey
Pork roll at Tasty N Sons, 3808 N Williams Ave., 621-1400, tastyntasty.com.
This processed-pork product is called a “roll” because a federal law passed the year Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle was published (1906) stopped Taylor Provisions Company from selling it as “ham.” In Jersey—and at Tasty N Sons—that pork roll is pan-fried, put on a hard roll with egg and cheese, then garnished with ketchup and mustard. More.
31. New Mexico
Green chile cheeseburger at the Blue Goose, 2725 SE Ankeny St., 235-2222.
The green chile cheeseburger best brings New Mexico’s Latinos, Native Americans and chuckwagon-fare cowboys together on one plate. The Blue Goose’s thick slab of beef is served on a soft bun with super-sweet tomato, ground chile peppers and a layer of crispy cheese. It’s one of the best things we’ve eaten during the course of this whole crazy 50 Plates project. More.
32. New York
Buffalo wings at Fire on the Mountain, 3443 NE 57th Ave., 894-8973, portlandwings.com.
At Buffalo’s Anchor Bar in 1964, someone had the crazy idea of taking the chicken wings marked for the soup pot and turning them into an icon. The Anchor Bar’s owner deep-fried them, slathered them in Frank’s RedHot, and gave birth to an American classic now found in every town in this big country. More.
33. North Carolina
Pulled pork at Tails & Trotters, 525 NE 24th Ave., 477-8682, tailsandtrotters.com.
Pulled pork is usually served with vinegar-based sauce, but there’s sort of a civil war being waged in North Carolina whether the sauce should have ketchup mixed with that vinegar. You needn’t pick sides. Nonetheless, Tails & Trotters serves its excellent, tender, vinegared pork with garlic aioli and no ketchup. More.
34. North Dakota
Lefse at Viking Soul Food in the Good Food Here cart pod, 4262 SE Belmont St., vikingsoulfood.com.
Lefse is a thin flatbread made from potatoes, cream and butter that’s hand-rolled and cooked on a griddle, then served, most commonly, with butter and sugar. They love them in North Dakota, which like neighboring Minnesota, is heavily Scandinavian. This cart has crazy salmon or rhubarb concoctions, but stick to the simple: butter and sugar. More.
White Castle sliders, available in the freezer case at Fred Meyer, various locations, fredmeyer.com.
There’s one thing pretty much everyone in Ohio agrees on, and that’s the burger. It was invented in Akron, and the best burgers there are small and topped with only rehydrated onions, dill pickle slices and yellow mustard. Don’t screw around with Portland’s ketchup-contaminated, fresh-onion sliders. Because those aren’t sliders. At least not in Ohio. More.
Chicken-fried steak at the Country Cat, 7937 SE Stark St., 408-1414, thecountrycat.net.
Chicken-fried steak is an integral part of Oklahoma’s insanely complicated state meal—though, like former Sooner football stars Adrian Peterson and Greg Pruitt, it’s from Texas. The dish is made with a cheap cut of steak and bread and fried like chicken, then sopped with gravy. The Country Cat has one with kale on the side. More.
Pierogi at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church, 8014 SE 16th Ave., 235-7129, ukrainian-church-pdx.org.
Pierogi are Eastern European dumplings filled with potatoes, sauerkraut and/or meat, widely available back in the Rust Belt. Some very nice ladies sell their own from the basement of this Sellwood church every Saturday from 11 am to 2 pm. They’re $7 a dozen (cash only), served hot with sour cream and caramelized onions, or frozen to go. More.
39. Rhode Island
Coffee milk made with Dave’s Coffee Syrup at Quin, 1022 W Burnside St., 971-300-8395, quincandy.com.
Little Rhody has, mile for mile, double the number of exotic foodstuffs found in any other state—pizza strips, gaggers, johnnycakes, stuffed quahogs—none of which makes it past Woonsocket. Make your own version of its official state beverage with an $11 bottle of coffee syrup, basically a hyper-sweet coffee concentrate. More.
40. South Carolina
Shrimp and grits at Bernie’s Southern Bistro, 2904 NE Alberta St., 282-9864, berniesbistro.com.
Coastal fishermen—particularly in Charleston, S.C.—have been waking up and frying “breakfast shrimp” in bacon grease and tossing them on grits for generations. South Carolina even named it the official state food. Bernie’s offers a wonderfully piquant take on the dish—albeit after traditional breakfast time, since Bernie’s opens at 4 pm. More.
41. South Dakota
Fry bread at Teepee’s food truck, 4926 SE Division St., 971-777-1315.
Native American author Sherman Alexie called this deep-fried staple “the story of our survival” because it helped stave off starvation on the long walks to, and lean years in, reservations. It’s the official state bread of South Dakota, which has a huge Sioux population. More.
Nashville hot chicken at Cackalack’s Hot Chicken Shack in the Good Food Here cart pod, 4262 SE Belmont St., 891-8093.
Authentic Nashville hot fried chicken is hot. Very, very hot. Not warm, not spicy—sweat-pours-out-of-your-ears-dear-God-don’t-touch-your-eyes fiery. And that’s if you order “medium.” No one in Portland is attempting real hot chicken, but this is the closest you’ll find. More.
Frito pie at Podnah’s Pit, 1625 NE Killingsworth St., 281-3700, podnahspit.com.
Podnah’s Pit makes a killer Texas red chili—so spicy, so beefy—and then Rodney Muirhead honors Lone Star tradition by making an authentic in-bag Frito pie. Because if you’re using a bowl, you might as well piss on the Alamo. More.
Pastrami burger at Kenny & Zuke’s, 1038 SW Stark St., 222-3354, kennyandzukes.com.
Nick Zukin, who has probably eaten more hamburgers than any man in Portland, went to Utah for the model of Kenny & Zuke’s burger: the pastrami-topped, fry-sauced monstrosity invented by the Greek family who ran Crown Burgers in Salt Lake City. More.
Phish Food ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s, various locations, benjerry.com.
Here’s everything Vermont is famous for (jam bands, Ben & Jerry’s, fudge) in one scoop. More.
Virginia country ham at the Bent Brick, 1639 NW Marshall St., 688-1655, thebentbrick.com.
Virginia’s famous country hams are from peanut-fed pigs, salt-cured for months and then aged until they’re a true New World prosciutto. The Woodsman Tavern and the Bent Brick both order from the highly regarded Edwards Country Hams in Surry. At the Bent Brick, it comes prosciutto-thin on a swanky board. More.
Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino at Starbucks, various locations, starbucks.com.
Once home to Nirvana, Singles and Windows 95, Seattle is now known for Macklemore, Amazon warehouses and this coffee-dusted milkshake with “rich mocha sauce, vanilla syrup, and Frappuccino® chips, blended together with Frappuccino® roast, milk, and ice. Topped with chocolaty whipped cream and Chocolate Cookie Crumbles.” More.
48. West Virginia
Pepperoni rolls at East Glisan Pizza Lounge, 8001 NE Glisan St., 971-279-4273, eastglisan.com.
Southern Italians who came for the opportunity to work in Appalachian coal mines invented this basic dish: salty, greasy pepperoni baked in puffy dough until the bright red spices soak into the bread. East Glisan’s version is stingy with the pepperoni, but the best you’ll find in town. More.
Cheese curds at Savoy Tavern, 2500 SE Clinton St., 808-9999, savoypdx.com.
Originally a byproduct of the cheesemaking process, these bite-sized globules of salty, springy cheese became a staple of Wisconsin’s state fair and now make for a nice happy-hour snack. More.
Bison burger at Buffalo Gap, 6835 SW Macadam Ave., 244-7111, thebuffalogap.com.
Where the buffalo don’t roam no more. South Portland’s 40-year-old Buffalo Gap has buffalo wings, its own barrel-aged Buffalo Trace bourbon and the option to make any of its stacked, half-pound burgers with bison instead of beef. More.
Click on the map to see each state's distinctive food and where to get it in Portland.
Matthew Singer, Pete Cottell, Mary Romano, Ap Kryza, Aaron Spencer and John Locanthi.