The GREATEST American Food Ever Created

Since I eat and love so many cuisines from all around the world and those are the foods I gravitate to most often (Mexican, Thai, Chinese), it got me thinking--what are my favorite authentically American dishes or desserts? I almost feel like there aren’t a ton of things that are actually ours. The things that typical Americans eat all the time, like pizza and fries, supposedly did not even originate here. I want you to be thinking of your favorite American food that was ever created and share it at the bottom. We’ll see if any of us share the love for the same food.

Now, really I have a 1a and a 1b. Classic cheeseburgers are my 1a and I will talk about my 1b another time. My 1b is just as good as cheeseburgers and deserves its own limelight :) Hamburgers and cheeseburgers (and animal style double doubles from In-N-Out!) are just about as good as it gets in life! You just can’t go wrong with a burger.

I thought as I researched the origins of the hamburger it was going to be super obvious that it was 100% American, however, like so many foods the origin story becomes quite murky. Different people and/or countries claim to be the creator of this masterpiece. 

The first semblance of a ground meat patty was clear back in 1121-1209 when the Emperor Genghis Khan had his fierce army, who were on horseback most of the time, place scraps of mutton or lamb under their saddles to soften them as they were riding into battle. When it was time to eat they would eat them raw after they had been tenderized under the saddle.

Of course as the name suggests, Hamburg, Germany is part of the origin story as well. In Hamburg they often had chopped up beef and would form it into a patty. This was called Hamburg steak and was known as that and served in many restaurants in early America by German immigrants. This Hamburg steak didn’t have any buns, though—those didn’t come until later.

As I learned from, in 1885, Charlie Nagreen of Seymour, Wisconsin at the age of 15 was selling meatballs from his ox-drawn food stand at the Outagamie County Fair. Business wasn’t going to great and he realized it is because meatballs were too difficult to eat while strolling around the fair. In an ingenious flash of innovation, he decided to flatten the meatballs and placed them between two slices of bread and called his new invention a hamburger. He was known to many as “Hamburger Charlie”. He returned to sell his hamburgers every year at the fair until he passed away in 1951. He would entertain the crowds with guitar and mouth organ and sing this jingle:

Hamburgers, hamburgers hot; onions in the middle, pickle on top. Makes your lips go flippity flop.

The town of Seymour, Wisconsin is so certain of this claim they even have a Hamburger Hall of Fame that they built to honor Charlie Nagreen and his legacy. The town claims to be “Home of the Hamburger” and they hold an annual Burger Festival on the first Saturday of August each year. Events include a ketchup slide, bun toss, and hamburger-eating contest, as well as the “world’s largest hamburger parade”. That sounds like a really fun event to go to! 

When we lived in Iowa City a few years ago, my husband and I were so dedicated to this amazing burger from a little restaurant called Stella, that when it was half-price burgers on Monday, we took turns being the ones to go out and get in frigid 20 BELOW temps just to get that beloved burger! I can’t believe we did that, but we sure did and the place was always packed so we weren’t the only brave souls. Iowa people are cool and hard core like that.

Anyway, it’s really fun to see how far hamburgers have come! In any given town anywhere in America, you probably have your go-to spot to get a great hamburger. Out of all the places I have lived, I swear the city with the best hamburgers in America is Salt Lake City. There are SO many different ma and pop burger places where the burgers are made fresh and you can really taste it. The bacon is crispy to perfection and of course they have fry sauce, which is quite similar to the spread on the In-N-Out burger--but they dip fries in it and put it on burgers. It’s a game changer!

Where is your favorite burger from? Is it one of your very favorite top American foods? Please share your number one American food and/or your thoughts on burgers in the comments below. 


    Mary Richardson
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2014
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