A Taste of the Midwest: From Hot Dogs to Michelin Stars

The Midwest is famous for cozy comfort foods and humble heritage dishes. From Chicago to Nebraska, restaurants serve a varied menu of unique foods. While the Midwest’s diverse history of immigration shaped the region’s culinary habits, the area’s long, dark winters played a role too. Nothing melts a January freeze like a Coney Dog or Jucy Lucie, the former having nothing to do with New York’s Coney Island and everything to do with a hot dog smothered in chili, the latter, a staple at bars in Minneapolis, best described as a cheeseburger stuffed with cheese.

Heartland cuisine gets a bad rap. It’s as if cooking that happens far from the urban centers of New York and Los Angeles isn’t cooking at all, the entire 3,000 miles between the East and West coasts existing as a sort of culinary purgatory. But where else can you get hotdish, horseshoes, loose meat sandwiches, burnt ends, frozen custard and the Midwest’s most iconic food, hot dogs?

Minnesotan Food writer Amy Thielen describes Midwestern food as “rustic, gutsy, and simple,” and while that might be true, there’s nothing simple about a Midwestern hot dog. In the Midwest, sausage is king, and the average hot dog is transformed into a “haute” dog. Whether topped with crispy Brussels sprout leaves, fennel or rendered pancetta, the hot dog is taken so seriously in the Midwest that it’s often called “five-star dining on a bun.”

In 2010, Esquire named Chicago the second best restaurant city in America. The windy city also boasts 25 Michelin-star restaurants. The Midwest isn’t a culinary purgatory. It’s the heartland of American cooking, a place where adventurous chefs tap their rural roots to create some of the most delicious dishes in the country.