As a Pittsburgher by birth, I’ve got a lot of hometown pride. (Just ask anyone who’s ever met me.) I love Heinz Ketchup, the Pirates, the Steelers, the Penguins, Mister Rogers, Andy Warhol — and our city’s famous Primanti Bros. sandwiches.
And I was really looking forward to making my homemade version of a Primanti’s sandwich while I watched the Steelers in the Super Bowl this year.
Well, that didn’t happen, but I refuse to let the disappointing end to the Steelers’ season get me down. I’m going ahead with my plan to chow down on Primanti’s while watching Kansas City and Tampa Bay go head-to-head on Sunday.
Call it sports self-care: Even if your team got shut out, you can still have a winning night with your menu. Here’s a list of regional foods celebrating every team that made the playoffs this year. Soothe yourself by snacking on a hometown favorite and remember — there is always next year.
Kansas City, Missouri: BBQ ribs and brisket
Thick, sweet and tangy are the hallmarks of the Kansas City style of barbecue sauce, slathered on everything including slow-smoked pork ribs, brisket and burnt ends. This tomato- and molasses-based sauce is one of the American classics.
Make a batch of homemade Kansas City BBQ sauce and serve a barbecue platter with your favorite meats. No smoker? No worries! Try oven-baked ribs or slow cooker brisket.
Tampa Bay, Florida: Cuban sandwiches
Tampa is one of three Florida cities (along with Key West and Miami) that calls itself the American birthplace of the Cuban sandwich. But Tampa’s version of the hearty pressed pork sandwich stands apart with one special addition: sliced Genoa salami.
Make a Tampa-style Cuban sandwich at home like they do at the city’s famous Columbia Restaurant. Substitute a crusty oblong roll for the Cuban bread and stack with ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard and dill pickle slices.
Buffalo, New York: wings
This Super Bowl favorite is a beloved bar food all over the country these days. There is no denying, however, that Buffalo is the city that put chicken wings on the map. Pay homage with a basket of crispy, saucy drumsticks and flats with a side of celery sticks.
Just make sure your wings are dripping with the simple, spicy sauce that makes any wing, whether deep-fried or oven-roasted, a Buffalo wing. Frank’s RedHot is the hot sauce of choice, whisked with melted butter.
Green Bay, Wisconsin: fried cheese curds
There is no wrong way to eat cheese. But cheeseheads of the Midwest know there is a really wonderful way to eat it, and that’s as fried cheese curds. Made with the squeaky, unaged curds that are part of the cheesemaking process, these fresh dairy bites are the pride of Wisconsin.
Dip fresh curds in batter and fry on the stovetop, or make them in the air fryer.
Cleveland: Slyman’s corned beef
A mile-high pile of corned beef is the signature sandwich at Slyman’s Restaurant, which has been slapping these teetering towers together since 1964. Each sandwich contains at least 3/4 pound meat between rye bread, so get your toothpicks ready if you’re re-creating this beast.
Add a slice of American cheese to do it the Slyman’s way, or if you want to combine two Cleveland institutions in one, sneak on a squirt of brown mustard — either Bertram Original Ball Park or Stadium brand.
New Orleans: muffuletta and king cake
In the indulgent spirit of New Orleans, why choose between sweet and savory? Have both with two delicacies that are big enough to serve the whole family. Muffuletta (or muffaletta) fills a round bread loaf with three kinds of meat and two types of cheese, along with pickled peppers and olive spread to balance it out.
And since it’s almost Fat Tuesday, it’s the season for king cake, the colorful Danish-style pastry filled with cream cheese or cinnamon and a plastic baby somewhere in there for luck. If buying or making an entire king cake is too much, make king cake doughnuts.
Los Angeles: street tacos
A city as diverse as Los Angeles has as many iconic foods as ZIP codes, but for game-watching, avocado toast is off the table (but I love it) and Dodger Dogs should be saved for baseball season.
Instead, make street tacos inspired by the many taco stands, taquerias and trucks throughout the city. Both filling and topping options are endless, but why not try Instant Pot birria (spicy stewed beef) or pork al pastor?
Fill small warmed corn tortillas with meat and top with chopped white onion, fresh cilantro and a few dashes of hot sauce or a squeeze of a lime wedge.
Baltimore: Berger cookies
Is it a cake or a cookie? Eating one of Baltimore’s regionally famous Berger cookies makes you wonder if it’s a little bit of both. Soft, fluffy sugar cookies, almost like mini cake rounds, are topped with a rich, fudgy brownie-style frosting. They’re a Charm City classic.
You can buy the original cookies from Berger’s bakery, which uses the same recipe from 1835, or make a homemade version.
Pittsburgh: Primanti Bros. sandwiches
Whether you pick capicola, the Pitts-burger (the “#2 Best Seller” on the menu), kielbasa or even tuna salad, it’s the tangy vinegar coleslaw and fresh skin-on french fries in every Primanti Bros. sandwich that make it one of Pittsburgh’s most famous foods.
This Steel City icon is easy to make at home with fresh Italian bread, tomatoes, provolone and that coleslaw. (Oh, and the No. 1 bestseller at Primanti’s? It’s beer!)
Tennessee: hot chicken
Nashville takes fried chicken to new levels with its famous hot chicken, originating in renowned Black community restaurants like Hattie B’s and Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. Marinated in hot sauce and buttermilk, then dredged in a spicy flour blend and fried, then coated in a hot and sweet sauce, it’s not for the faint of heart.
Feeling spicy? Make your own hot chicken from scratch with this recipe.
Chicago: deep dish pizza
The City of Big Shoulders has a big reputation when it comes to deep dish, with pizza purveyors like Lou Malnati’s, Gino’s East and Giordano’s all attracting devoted fans. The crisp and flaky crust is the key to cradling thick layers of molten cheese, chunky tomato sauce and sausage in each wedge.
Make it at home and grab a knife and fork for the first few bites. A high-sided cake pan works as a substitute for a deep dish pizza pan.
Seattle: salmon sushi
The fish might be restricted to flying curbside at Pike Place Market these days, but it just goes to show that in the Pacific Northwest, salmon is still king. And while you can grill it, smoke it, poach it or sauté it, salmon sushi is much easier to eat in front of the TV.
If you’re feeling ambitious, you can try your hand at rolling your own sushi, or just order your favorite salmon-based maki roll for snacking.
The Chesapeake waterways surrounding Washington, DC, have historically been a popular breeding ground for oysters, resulting in the longstanding “oyster wars” of the region. Today’s oyster farmers are more peaceable and offer a number of varieties that can be shipped to your door.
Order Virginia oysters and Maryland oysters for a compare-and-contrast platter with fresh lemon wedges.
Indianapolis: pork tenderloin sandwich
A Hoosier standard, a pork tenderloin sandwich is simple but satisfying. Pork loin is pounded to a thin disc, then breaded and panfried. The craggy, golden tenderloin stretches beyond the bun for a challenging first (and second) bite.
At home, you can bread it with anything crunchy, from traditional breadcrumbs to Saltines or buttery crackers. Wash it down with a Coca-Cola in a real glass bottle, which was designed in nearby Terre Haute, Indiana.