Rogers, of course. Why it's important: "Even though we didn't mean to at the time, we really reinvented what a sandwich could be," Wilkinson said. This is a meal. So the next time you're pumped to encounter mozzarella sticks, onion rings, or some other "I didn't know they could do that! Year: Restaurant: Toll House Inn Whitman, Massachusetts How it happened: The mainstream narrative speculates that the chocolate chip cookie was a chance discovery, positing that Ruth Graves Wakefield accidentally knocked over some chocolate into a stand mixer containing dough for her Butterscotch Drop Do cookies.
There are other ways the legend goes, but any story that makes the chocolate chip cookie out as an accident is wrong. A prodigious chef and an even better baker, Wakefield was known to keep a tight ship, and she incessantly perfected her recipes; never would a mistake have made its way to her customers' plates. Everybody seemed to love it, but I was trying to give them something different," Wakefield told the Boston Herald-American in recalling the cookie's invention. Why it's important: The Toll House Inn has since been destroyed by a fire and replaced with a Wendy's, but Wakefield's chocolate chip cookies have been so deeply imbued into the American dessert canon that it's easy to forget that they needed inventing at all.
It was one of the first times that a recipe was commodified hardly anything more American than capitalism! Pulling apart cold logs of store-bought Toll House cookie dough is often the first-ever interaction with baking, or cooking in general. Quite simply, chocolate chip cookies themselves rival apple pies for chief American dessert.
Year: Restaurant: Lawry's Los Angeles, California How it happened: Lawrence Frank and Walter Van de Kamp shaped their Beverly Hills restaurant in the image something between a Midwestern Sunday night family dinner and Simpson's in the Strand, one of London's oldest traditional restaurants, known for rolling silver carts of roast meat through the dining room to serve tableside.
The brothers-in-law -- with a budding LA restaurant empire having already opened the Van de Kamp Bakery and Tam O'Shanter Inn -- saw an opening to provide quality prime rib meals in a fine dining setting. To assure a constant flow of customers, they designed a flashier experience, where slabs of buttery tender prime rib were carved tableside on carts of Frank's design: an art deco shape cut in stainless steel, 4 feet long, and more than !
Frank wasn't wrong: Lawry's was an instant hit. Why it's important: Prime rib was literally the only entree on Lawry's menu until Otherwise, the restaurant has hardly changed over the past 80 years, remaining one of the most classic LA restaurants on Restaurant Row, giving diners a moment to revel in the theatrical doting consistency of old-school tableside service, and outliving its failed imitators. But back in the day, Sanders was a magnificent huckster, traveling the land with a dream: to give every city a solid bucket of fried chicken that would taste the same anywhere, thanks to the secret recipe and a unique pressure-frying system that ensured that extra-crispy bird, punched up by the signature 11 herbs and spices.
The first franchise was established in Today, KFC operates more than 4. Restaurant: Pizzeria Uno Year: Chicago, Illinois How it happened: Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo had but a humble vision when they decided to go into the restaurant business: create something that would satiate the voracious hunger of Midwesterners. They created a monster. Practically any bar with a kitchen serves the mess of tortilla chips, with toppings that range from convenience store foods Cheez Whiz, Velveeta to the upscale Brie, duck confit. In the s, a woman in Nashville found out that her lover, Thorton Prince, had been spending his time with multiple women around town.
Fed up with his cheating ways, she decided to get revenge by sabotaging his favorite dish: fried chicken. To her surprise, not only did he eat the entire batch of chicken, he loved it and asked for seconds. Thorton even saved some of the spicy chicken and brought it to his brothers who loved it, too. Why it's important: Hot chicken stayed a local Nashville specialty until , when the city of Nashville hosted its first Music City Hot Chicken Festival, introducing non-Nashvillians to the dish.
Since that festival, the gospel of hot chicken has spread across the country and has even been adopted by fast-food chains. In the era where food television can propel local, regional dishes to a national audience, hot chicken was the perfect subject for chef-y shows like Food Paradise and Mind of a Chef.
Year: Restaurant: Harry's Bar Venice, Italy How it happened: Many a visitor to Venice have made the obligatory pilgrimage to Harry's Bar to sip a Bellini and soak in the same ambiance that so enchanted Ernest Hemingway, Charlie Chaplin, and insert your favorite historical figure because they probably drank here. Another former patron you should celebrate: contessa Amalia Nani Mocenigo, who one day came at lunch and tearfully informed owner Giuseppe Cipriani that she could no longer eat cooked meat. According to Cipriani's son Arrigo's account in the book Harry's Bar , his father came back within 15 minutes with a plate of tissue-thin raw filet mignon drizzled with mayonnaise-mustard sauce, inspired by the vibrant red-and-white paintings of the eponymous artist.
Why it's important: While the components and presentations have come to vary widely over the years, carpaccio has come to represent an entire category of thinly sliced, artfully plated edible arrangements, from tuna to duck to all sorts of plant-based preparations. It's become so ubiquitous that many diners are unaware of its highly specific and fairly recent origins, as the younger Cipriani wryly noted: "If my father had been a bit more egotistical, or as we would say today 'PR oriented,' the famous dish could just as fairly have been called Cipriani.
As she prepared a mountain of beef burritos for the girls, one slipped off the stack and into a pot of bubbling oil. Acceptance of, and acclaim for, its rustic Cajun and Creole cuisines built slowly over the decades. Year: Restaurant: Ted Drewes St. Louis, Missouri How it happened: Ted Drewes is not like all other summertime ice cream shops in the Midwest. For one, it sells custard. For two, only Ted Drewes can correctly assert that they invented the concrete.
Thirty years after Ted Sr.
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Ted Jr. The result was a shake so dense, Ted Jr. Ever since, a Ted Drewes concrete has ranked in the echelons of foods synonymous with St. Louis, along with toasted ravioli, gooey butter cake, and, unfortunately, Provel on pizza. Then you owe a debt of gratitude to Ted Drewes. Although the history of the now-iconic clam-topped white pie that was added to the menu in the s is hazy, we do know this much: Pepe started putting chopped littleneck clams on the crust, pairing them with little more than garlic, grated cheese, oregano, and a slick of olive oil, and a hit was born.
Instead, the pecorino romano lets the clams take the starring role, and you have one of the -- if not the -- best pizzas in America Most importantly, it helped solidify seafood's place as a viable topping option. Served with heaps of a spiced-up Sauce, customers deemed it the perfect accompaniment to a cold beer. My grandmother was a genius! Think: chop suey.
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The duck, with its shatteringly crispy skin and bevy of accoutrements, soon became a best seller at the restaurant, which doubled as a social club for well-heeled San Franciscans and celebrities. Why it's important: In the United States, where Chinese menus often serve a grab bag of dishes from disparate provinces along with speciously un-Chinese appetizers like crab rangoon , Peking duck stands out because it is, by and large, faithful to the birds you might find within the great duck houses of Beijing. Year: Restaurant: McDonald's Cincinnati, Ohio How it happened: McDonald's franchise owner Lou Groen realized his Cincinnati-area restaurant was suffering a plummeting, potentially devastating drop in sales during the day period of Lent, as much of the Catholic-heavy population of southwest Ohio would abstain from meat on Fridays -- or even altogether -- per Vatican tradition during the season of repentance.
So I invented my fish sandwich, developed a special batter, made the tartar sauce and took it to headquarters.
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He told Groen whichever dish sold more over Lent would earn a permanent spot on the national menu. And, well, have you ever heard of a Hula Burger? Why it's important: Not only did the success of Groen's Filet-O-Fish single-handedly create the concept of nationally available fast seafood, it ushered in a new era of experimentation and menu expansion for the Golden Arches, and by extension, all of fast food. It made chain restaurateurs realize the value of menu diversity, and reading customer needs -- and it laid the template for the next half-century of fast-food innovation.
Year: Restaurant: Benihana New York, New York How it happened: It's difficult to talk about Benihana and its influence in terms of one specific dish, since the entire experience of dining there is every bit as much about showmanship as it is about the food. When iconoclastic Olympic-wrestler-turned-ice-cream-truck-operator-turned-restaurateur Rocky Aoki opened the first Benihana in , the huge steel teppanyaki grills served as stages where chefs would perform intricate theatrics with familiar ingredients that wouldn't challenge American palates still relatively unfamiliar with Japanese food: steak, chicken, and yes, shrimp, whose tails are removed, so that they can be artfully tossed with a spatula into the chef's hat and front pocket.
Luckily the rest of the shrimp that's left behind happens to pair wonderfully with the onion volcano-fueled fried rice hearts. Why it's important: After a glowing New York Times review turned it into an overnight sensation, Benihana was on its way to firmly embedding itself in the cultural lexicon, getting name-checked by rappers and showing up everywhere from The Year-Old Virgin to Tyrese's house. The cultural heft is a bit surprising given Benihana's relatively modest footprint 66 locations by chain restaurant standards.
It could have something to do with the dozens of imitators that have popped up around the country that have channeled its format, shrimp tricks and all. Louis, and we don't have a Benihana in St. Louis," said Jeannie Means, vice president of marketing. A group of his friends came in looking for a snack, and Bellissimo asked his mother Teressa to whip something up.
Surveying the mostly empty walk-in, she spied a bunch of chicken wings she had been planning to use in a soup and was moved to throw them in the deep fryer.
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Today, it serves more than 20 tricked-out versions. Not only can it be found in dives and fancy restaurants alike across the provinces, the dish inspires cooks in the US, too. A reporter from Chicago had written about the delightful slice of Key lime pie he ate at Joe's in , even then an iconic Miami restaurant known for, what else, its stone crab. The only problem was that Joe's didn't have a Key lime pie on its menu. Instead of balking at the mix-up, Jo Ann Sawitz, Steve's mother, embraced this as "not just an opportunity, but an obligation," as he put it.
Already an adept baker, Jo Ann configured the recipe that's still being used today: butter and graham cracker for the crust, sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, and freshly squeezed key lime juice for the filling, though the limes -- not always real Key limes as the indigenous crop was wiped out from the Great Miami Hurricane that pummeled the Keys in -- are no longer cut and squeezed by hand. Why it's important: Only four states have an official state pie, each a pillar of traditional crusted American desserts: apple Vermont , pumpkin Illinois , pecan Texas , and Key lime Florida.
And the ones they make at Joe's continue to be in such demand that there's a dedicated room where a dedicated baker churns out the tart custard pies. By far," Sawitz said. Granted, Joe's didn't invent this classic American dessert, but they quite possibly perfected it, and certainly popularized it. And even the woman who literally wrote the book on In-N-Out can't be fully sure how exactly it came to fruition. But legend posits that the clean-cut chefs who ran the flagship In-N-Out location in Baldwin Park, California in the '60s had an intense disdain for the rowdy surfers who would frequent the location, often referring to them as "Animals.
Why it's important: "Secret menus" have long been fodder for blogs, fan groups, and food journalism deep-dives this website being no exception -- and all the clandestine ordering started here. In-N-Out has only added to its cult-like status as one of the most beloved fast-food restaurants in the world by not only accommodating guests who want to play mad scientist with their menus, but fully embracing the movement.
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The invention of this ubiquitous roll has been claimed by many over the years. Why it's important: Regardless of who invented it or how closely it resembles traditional Japanese maki, the California roll has long served as the gateway drug to a broader appreciation of sushi for many Westerners -- and sushi restaurants have boomed as a result. The original version, however, barely resembles its Western cousin.
It was devised by Peng Chang-kuei, who served as the official banquet chef for the Chinese government after World War II, before emigrating to Taiwan where he created the sour, salty, and spicy dish he would name after a 19th-century Hunanese military hero. A customer in the dining room sent back an order of chicken tikka, a marinated grilled chicken dish, complaining that it was too dry.
The customer loved it, and it quickly spread throughout the UK and became one of the regions most popular dishes. Why it's important: Chicken tikka masala is the result of tradition and on the spot ingenuity, using what was available to adapt a traditional dish. Some say that the dish actually originated in the Punjab region of India a long time before the Shish Mahal story, but the controversy of the origins of the dish pales in comparison to the love that the United Kingdom has for the dish.
Year: Restaurant: McDonald's Santa Barbara, California How it happened: It might seem borderline ludicrous now, as the Egg McMuffin is as synonymous with American mornings as the Today show, but the inventor of the fast-food breakfast icon was initially scared to show his boss his new idea.