Eating America: Signature Cheap Eats From Every State

50 Signature Cheap Eats From Every State


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50 Signature Cheap Eats From Every State

Eat Local

The bounty of delicious regional dishes unique to each state in the U.S. should satisfy just about any curious palate, whether you're a local or a tourist on the prowl for a good, cheap meal. To whet your appetite for your next road trip, we've pulled together a state-by-state list (plus Washington, D.C.) of the best local eats to try on a tight budget.

Related: Bucket-List Food Experiences in Every State

Fried Chicken, Martin's Restaurant in Montgomery
D P./Yelp
AK Alchemist
AK Alchemist/Yelp

Alaska: Reindeer

Best Place to Try It:
AK Alchemist in Anchorage

Reindeer aren't native to Alaska, but they've been a local staple since the late 1890s, when the first ones were imported from Siberia. Today, you can find reindeer burgers, reindeer sausage, and reindeer jerky all over the state. Start your morning with a cup of coffee and a breakfast burrito with reindeer sausage or grab a reindeer burger for lunch. Want more? Try cheese fries topped with reindeer or a reindeer quesadilla.

Related: 27 Restaurants for Wild Game Across America

Prickly Pear, Borderlands Brewing Co. in Tucson
Marissa P./Yelp

Arizona: Prickly Pear

Best Places to Try It:
Borderlands Brewing Co. in Tucson
HP Cafe in Sedona

Prickly pear, a type of cactus, is a regional specialty that you can find in jellies, jams, and syrups. It shows up in drinks, as well. Sip on a Prickly Pear Wheat beer at Borderlands Brewing, or order a stack of buttermilk pancakes topped with prickly pear syrup at the HP. 

Fried Pickles
Terri S./Yelp

Arkansas: Fried Pickles

Best Place to Try Them:
Picklefest in Atkins

You can find fried dill pickles nationwide, but Bernell "Fatman" Austin is credited with inventing them in 1963 at his fast-food joint in Atkins. The small town, about 60 miles northwest of Little Rock, was once home to a large pickle-making plant. The plant is gone, but the annual Picklefest celebrates its memory every Spring.

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Tacos, Kiko's Place Seafood in San Diego
Missy F./Yelp

California: Tacos and Burritos

Best Places to Try Them:
El Faro in San Francisco
Guerilla Tacos in Los Angeles 

California's taquerias always offer an array of delicious and inexpensive bites, no matter what part of the state you're in. San Diego residents take their fish tacos seriously; the Kiko's Place food truck is a favorite in San Diego. Meanwhile, Los Angeles offers up an incredible variety of taco variations with stands such as Yuca's offering Yucatán-style cochinita pibil, Leo's Taco Truck serving amazing al pastor, and creative new-school renditions coming from Guerrilla Tacos. Up north in San Francisco, the must-eat is Mission District burritos — a hefty feast of beans, rice, cheese, meat, salsa and various customizable fixings wrapped in a flour tortilla. El Faro claims to have created Mission-style burritos in 1961. 

Doughnuts, Pikes Peak Summit House in Cascade
Shayda T./Yelp

Colorado: Doughnuts and Rocky Mountain Oysters

Best Place to Try Them:
Pikes Peak Summit House in Cascade

Whether you're along the Front Range or high in the Rockies, Rocky Mountain oysters (that would be, um, bull testicles) are a local "delicacy" worth a try. You can find them all over Denver, including Coors Field. Rather indulge in something sweet? The doughnuts served at the Pikes Peak Summit House lay claim to fame as the only ones made more than 14,000 feet above sea level. 

Hot Dogs, Doogie's in Newington
Garrett S./Yelp

Connecticut: Hot Dogs and Neapolitan Pizza

Best Places to Try Them:
Doogie's in Newington
Sally's Apizza in New Haven 

Doogie's famous 2-foot hot dogs, which found their way to TV's "Man v. Food," can be loaded with everything from sauerkraut and Swiss cheese to barbecue baked beans and bacon. In the Nutmeg State, you're also going to want to head to Sally's Apizza for a slice (or three) of the namesake apizza, a thin-crust, coal-fired Neopolitan version New Haven is famous for. 

Scrapple for Breakfast
Celeste M./Yelp

Delaware: Scrapple

Best Place to Try It:
Lucky's Coffee Shop in Wilmington
Wilson's General Store in Georgetown

Scrapple (a mix of cornmeal, flour, pork scraps, and spices shaped into a loaf, sliced, and then fried) is not to everyone's taste, but it's considered a treat in Delaware. Try a scrapple sandwich at Wilson's General Store, a landmark for decades, or get eggs and a side of scrapple at Lucky's.

Washington DC Half-Smoke

District of Columbia: Half-Smoke

Best Place to Try Them:
Ben's Chili Bowl

The capital's version of a hot dog is called the half-smoke, and it's a more substantial sausage than a frankfurter. It's typically made with half beef and half pork (hence the name), smoked, and griddled before serving. The most famous place to grab one is Ben's Chili Bowl, where it's topped with mustard, onions, and homemade chili sauce.  

Key Lime Pie, Key West Key Lime Pie Co.
Tony G./Yelp

Florida: Key Lime Pie

Best Place to Try It:
Key West Key Lime Pie Co. in Key West

Key lime pie, enjoyed while your feet are up and the waves are splashing away, is a slice of heaven. In Key West, people line up down the block for the award-winning pie at the Key West Key Lime Pie Co. In the Panhandle, try a slice at the Donut Hole Café & Bakery in Destin. 

Peach Cobbler, Crystal Beer Parlor in Savannah
David J./Yelp

Georgia: Peach Cobbler

Best Places to Try It: 

Crystal Beer Parlor in Savannah 
Aunt Evelyn's in Atlanta

In Georgia, nothing says home cooking like a slice of peach cobbler. Satisfy your Southern sweet tooth with this distinctly Georgian dessert. Top off a meal at Savannah's historic Crystal Beer Parlor with a slice of the famous cobbler. Or, order one from Aunt Evelyn's. 

Original Big Island Shave Ice Co.
Fely S./Yelp

Hawaii: Kulolo and Shave Ice

Best Places to Try Them:
Pomai Kulolo on Oahu

Original Big Island Shave Ice Co. on Hawaii Island

Hawaii is filled with unique foods that are little-known on the mainland. Try the sweet taro and coconut fudge-like kulolo or grab a cup of colorful shave ice (only tourists call it "shaved ice") and cool off. Original Big Island Shave Ice Co. on the big island has been a draw since the late '50s. On the island of Oahu, you can buy small-batch, locally made Pomai Kulolo at farmers markets and stores.

The Boise Fry Co.
Christine L./Yelp

Idaho: Potatoes

Best Place to Try It: 

The Boise Fry Co. in Boise, Meridian,  Nampa

The Gem State is synonymous with spuds. The Boise Fry Co., a burger joint with locations in Idaho and neighboring Oregon, offers a DIY french fry menu with a choice of six different tubers cut five different ways (plus occasional seasonal offerings). 

Try Deep-Dish Pizza in Chicago
Michael H./Yelp

Illinois: Popcorn and Deep-Dish Pizza

Best Places to Try Them:
All over Chicago

Popcorn has been the official snack food of Illinois since 2003 — no surprise, given the 12 million acres devoted to growing corn. Chicago-based Garrett Popcorn has been stirring up flavored mixtures such as macadamia caramel crisp for more than 60 years. Deep-dish pizza is another Chicago staple. Try it from Pequod's Pizza or Gino's East

Hoosier Pie, Locally Grown Gardens in Indianapolis
Hank P./Yelp

Indiana: Hoosier Pie

Best Place to Try It:
My Sugar Pie in Indianapolis

Sugar Cream Pie is the Indiana state pie, according to the two-location shop My Sugar Pie — and it's worthy of the title, as a simple delight that's basically cream, sugar, flour, and butter. (With a hint of nutmeg.) It's so simple that it's also been known as desperation pie, finger pie, and transparent pie. Don't be dissuaded from enjoying it just because neither the Indiana Office of Tourism Development or local media will go along with the story that it's "official." 

Iowa State Fair Fare
Adam L./Yelp

Iowa: State Fair Fare

Best Place to Try It:
Iowa State Fair in Des Moines

Every state fair has food, but few states can match Iowa's celebration of agriculture. If it can be eaten, you can probably find it skewered and deep-fried. Among the foods you can sample at the Iowa State Fair: apple pie on a stick, caprese salad on a stick, fried fruit kebabs, jalapeño corn dogs, loaded taters on a stick, and unicorn lollipops.

NuWay Burgers
Emily I./Yelp

Kansas: Burgers

Best Place to Try Them:
NuWay and Ty's Diner in Wichita

Beef is a big business in Kansas, so it makes sense that you should be able to find a darn good hamburger or two in the state. The style is thin and crumbly at the NuWay, which has been grilling burgers since 1930 and has five locations in town. Ty's Diner, another Wichita tradition, has been around since the '50s. 

Ramsey's Diner
Amy C./Yelp

Kentucky: Hot Brown

Best Place to Try It: 
The Café in Louisville

Ramsey's Diner in Lexington

The Hot Brown is an open-face sandwich of turkey and bacon smothered in Mornay sauce, dusted with spices, and broiled until toasty. It was invented at Louisville's iconic Brown Hotel, but today you can find it all over the state (and a lot cheaper than the original!). Ramsey's Diner and the Café are two restaurants that get the thumbs-up from diners and food critics. 

Po'boys, Domilise's in New Orleans
Mona W./Yelp

Louisiana: Po'Boys

Best Place to Try It:
Domilise's in New Orleans

Creole and Cajun food rule in Louisiana, so don't miss the opportunity to try gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish boils, red beans and rice, boudin, or beignets. New Orleans locals recommend Domilise's po'boy sandwich, crammed with fried shrimp, catfish, or oysters. The shop has been in business since 1918. 

Lobster, Five Islands Lobster Co. in Georgetown
Bunny B./Yelp

Maine: Lobster

Best Place to Try It:
Five Islands Lobster Co. in Georgetown

Maine's coast is dotted with seasonal lobster shacks serving relatively inexpensive fare, including lobster rolls, salads, and stews. Travelers swear by the dockside Five Islands Lobster Co. Other popular spots include The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport and Red's Eats in Wicasset. 

Berger Cookies, Berger's Bakery in Baltimore
Jay M./Yelp

Maryland: Berger Cookies

Best Place to Try Them:
Berger's Bakery in Baltimore

Baltimore's Berger cookies are thick and crusty, with a generous slathering of chocolate icing on top. Berger's Bakery, with an outpost inside Lexington Market, is the go-to cookie connection. 

Legal Sea Foods
April D./Yelp

Massachusetts: Clam Chowder

Best Place to Try It:
Legal Sea Foods in Boston

The New England clam chowder is among the least expensive dishes at this well-known seafood chain. It's been on the menu since 1950 and also on every presidential inaugural menu since 1981. It's rich, creamy, and full of chunky potatoes and chewy bits of clam. 

American Coney Island
Wynne L./Yelp

Michigan: Coney Dog

Best Places to Try It:
American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island in Detroit

Every Michigander knows about Coney dogs: hot dogs  served with raw onion, chili, and mustard. In the Motor City, Coney dog fans swear allegiance to either American Coney Island or arch-rival Lafayette Coney Island. Conveniently, they're next door to one another downtown, so you can try both and decide for yourself. 

Lutefisk, Sweden
Lutefisk, Sweden by Jimmy Emerson, DVM (CC BY-NC-ND)

Minnesota: Lutefisk

Best Place to Try It:
Church suppers

Scandinavian immigrants to Minnesota brought cheap eats that the locals love — notably lutefisk, dried (and sometimes salted) whitefish that has been soaked in cold water and lye. Although a few upscale restaurants in the Twin Cities have adapted this downscale dish for their menus, the best place to try lutefisk may be one of the many church dinners in the area, especially around the holidays. Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, for example, has been holding an annual Christmas lutefisk dinner for more than 90 years. 

Mississippi Cheese Straws
Lilly C./Yelp

Mississippi: Cheese Straws

Best Place to Try It:
Mississippi Cheese Straws in Yazoo City

Mississippi is known for its cheese straws. Originally available only in a cheddar flavor, they are now served sweet, savory, and spicy, as well. You don't actually need to travel south to enjoy them. You can order online from Mississippi Cheese Straws, perhaps the best-known baker, which has been in business since 1991 and uses an old family recipe.  

Arthur Bryant's Barbecue
Chris E./Yelp

Missouri: Barbecue and Toasted Ravioli

Best Places to Try Them:
Arthur Bryant's Barbecue in Kansas City
Charlie Gitto's in St. Louis

Barbecue reigns supreme in Kansas City, where the beef, pork, and chicken are rubbed with spices and slowly smoked, and the sauce is thick, tomato-based, and made for mopping. Gates' Bar-B-Q is another local fave on the same best-of lists as Arthur Bryant's. On the other side of the state, St. Louis is famous for its "toasted" (deep-fried), meat-filled ravioli, served with a side of tomato sauce. Try the dish from Charlie Gitto's on the Hill, in the city's Italian neighborhood. 

Ashley E./Yelp

Montana: Bison

Best Place to Try It:
James Bar in Missoula

Bison is native to North America and has been source of food for as long as humans have lived in the Upper Plains. People who've tried it say it takes like a leaner version of beef. You can satisfy your curiosity three ways at James Bar: Try a green chili bison burger, bison meatloaf topped with ancho ketchup, or bison stew. 

Reuben Sandwich, Crescent Moon in Omaha
John A./Yelp

Nebraska: Reuben Sandwich

Best Place to Try It:
Crescent Moon in Omaha

Little known fact: The Reuben sandwich (grilled rye bread with pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing) is thought to have been invented in Omaha in the 1920s at the Blackstone Hotel. Today, the Reuben served at Crescent Moon (across the street from the old hotel location) is considered by many to be the best in town.

Related: A Sandwich Lover's Ultimate Bucket List

Shrimp Cocktail, The Oyster Bar at Harrah's in Las Vegas
Jackie C./Yelp

Nevada: Shrimp Cocktail

Best Place to Try It:
The Palace Station Oyster Bar in Las Vegas

Shrimp cocktail may seem like an odd dish to be associated with land-locked Nevada, but the Golden Gate Casino in Las Vegas is credited with popularizing the appetizer. It began touting its 50-cent shrimp cocktail to gamblers in 1959 and didn't raise the price until 1991 (and then only to 99 cents). The original Golden Gate Casino (and those cheap shrimp) are a thing of the past, but you can find shrimp cocktail at the Oyster Bar inside Palace Station Hotel and mountains of the peel-and-eat variety at nearly every casino buffet in town. 

Apple cider doughnuts
Apple cider doughnuts by Stef Noble (CC BY-NC-ND)

New Hampshire: Cider Doughnuts

Best Places to Try Them:
Farmers markets and orchards

Autumn in New Hampshire means apples, apple cider, and, of course, cider doughnuts, made from freshly pressed fruit. The Chichester Country Store is just one of many local favorites. You can also find them at farmers markets and orchards throughout the state or make your own

Caroline S./Yelp

New Jersey: Saltwater Taffy

Best Places to Try It:
James Candy Co. in Atlantic City
Shriver's in Ocean City

A summertime trip to the Jersey shore isn't complete without buying a bag of saltwater taffy on the boardwalk. In Atlantic City, look for Fralinger's saltwater taffy, first sold in the 1850s and now made by the James Candy Co. In Ocean City, Shriver's has been in business since 1898. 

Celina's Biscochitos
Celina's Biscochitos/Yelp

New Mexico: Biscochito

Best Place to Try It:
Celina's Biscochitos in Albuquerque

New Mexico's state cookie, the biscochito, originated among Spanish colonists who were influenced by indigenous peoples and immigrants from Latin America. The crispy, buttery cookie is flavored with cinnamon and anise. Celina's sometimes sells out, especially around the holidays, but don't worry. You can make your own with this state-approved recipe

Bagels, Ess-a-Bagel, NYC
Jackie W./Yelp

New York: Pizza and Bagels

Best Places to Try Them:
Everywhere from the Bronx to Staten Island

These two iconic New York foods rarely cost much. Sure, a premium pie or a bagel loaded with lox ain't cheap, but a cheese slice or a bagel with schmear (a thin spread of cream cheese) will rarely set you back more than a few bucks. New Yorkers will never agree on where the best pizza and bagels are, but Joe's Pizza in Greenwich Village (serving slices since 1975) and Ess-a-Bagel (another child of the '70s) in Midtown East are two safe bets. 

Pulled Pork, Smokey's BBQ Shack in Morrisville
Calvin Y./Yelp

North Carolina: Pulled Pork

Best Place to Try It:
B's Barbecue in Greenville
Bobbee O's in Charlotte

Barbecue in North Carolina differs from the barbecue in, say, Kansas City. Thinner and less sweet, North Carolina's version incorporates a healthy dose of vinegar and contains little (if any) tomato sauce. If you need something to wash down all those pulled pork sandwiches and ribs, try a cherry-flavored Cheerwine soda. 

Carol Widman's Candy
Alma C./Yelp

North Dakota: Chippers

Best Place to Try It:
Carol Widman's Candy in Fargo

Perhaps you've tasted one of these delicious snacks somewhere else, but North Dakota confectioner Carol Widman's Candy has been making "chippers" (chocolate-covered potato chips) for generations.

Pleasant Ridge Chili
Sandra F./Yelp

Ohio: Chili and Buckeyes

Best Place to Try Them:
Malley's Candy in Cleveland
Pleasant Ridge Chili in Cincinnati

Cincinnati is known for its chili, famously served three ways (spaghetti, chili, cheese), four ways (add beans or onion), or five ways (spaghetti, chili, cheese, onions, and beans). Pleasant Ridge Chili has been serving the stuff since the '60s. The Buckeye state also has a bit of a sweet tooth, especially when it comes to its namesake chocolate-dipped peanut butter balls. 

Onion Burgers, Sid's Diner in El Reno
Keith K./Yelp

Oklahoma: Onion Burgers and Fried Anything

Best Place to Try Them: 

Sid's Diner in El Reno

Fried okra is a local favorite and an inexpensive snack on the menu at just about any barbecue or burger joint worth its salt. Other cheap favorites include chicken fried steak (a breaded beef patty), fried pies (deep-fried fruit-filled turnovers), and the onion burger, which originated in El Reno, a town about 30 miles outside of Oklahoma City. 

Chalet Restaurant and Bakery
Janice H./Yelp

Oregon: Marionberry Pie

Best Place to Try It:
Petunia's Pies and Pastries in Portland

Chalet Restaurant and Bakery in Newport

The marionberry, a cousin of the blackberry, grows fat and sweet in Oregon, whose residents celebrate it with fresh marionberry pie. Petunia's in Portland earns raves for its vegan and gluten-free desserts, including pies. In tiny coastal Newport, Chalet's marionberry pie and other baked goods are delicious, patrons say.

Philly Cheesesteak from Steve's King of Steaks

Pennsylvania: Cheesesteak

Best Places to Try It:
All over Philadelphia

Of course, the Philly cheesesteak springs to mind when thinking of Pennsylvania. And in the City of Brotherly Love, several restaurants duke it out regularly for title of best cheesesteak. A few of the local faves: Steve's Prince of Steaks in Northeast Philly, John's Roast Pork (where you should also try the Italian roast pork) in South Philly, and rivals Geno's Steaks and Pat's King of Steaks, across the street from each other in East Passyunk.

D. Palmieri's Bakery
Mandy D./Yelp

Rhode Island: Pizza Strips

Best Place to Try It:
D. Palmieri's Bakery in Johnston

Pizza strips are almost exactly what they sound like: thick bread topped with tomato sauce and seasonings, but generally without cheese and served cold. D. Palmieri's is famous for them.

Shrimp and Grits, Hominy Grill
Richard R./Yelp

South Carolina: Shrimp and Grits

Best Place to Try It:
Early Bird Diner in Charleston

You could order this iconic Lowcountry dish at six different restaurants and each would be a slight variation on the traditional pan-fried shrimp served atop grits and (maybe) topped with a gravy or sauce. Foodies regularly recommend the shrimp and grits at the Early Bird. 

Chislic, Attic Bar & Grill in Sioux Falls
Shawn H./Yelp

South Dakota: Chislic

Best Place to Try It:
Attic Bar & Grill in Sioux Falls

Chislic is cubed meat — often something gamey such as lamb or venison — that's deep-fried and served in small pieces or on a skewer. Flavored with seasoned salts, sometimes battered, and often partnered with soda crackers, a serving is well within the cheap zone. Beef chislic is a favorite appetizer at the Attic. 

Prince's Hot Chicken
Nathan H./Yelp

Tennessee: Hot Chicken

Best Places to Try It:
Just about anywhere in Nashville

Hot chicken is a spicy piece of marinated and fried chicken served atop white bread. It's a Nashville specialty; there's even a Music City Hot Chicken Festival. Prince's Hot Chicken and Bolton's Spicy Chicken and Fish are two East Nashville gems.  

Breakfast Tacos, Veracruz All Natural, Austin
Julianne M./Yelp

Texas: Breakfast Tacos and Pecan Pie

Best Places to Try Them:
Within the Austin city limits

The pecan tree is the official tree of Texas and the pecan is the official state nut. No wonder pecan pie is a favorite in the Lone Star State. Skip the bakery and make your own Bessie's pecan pie, "the best pecan pie on earth," according to Texas Monthly magazine. For breakfast tacos, try Austin's El Chilito, Mi Madre's, Torchy's, Tyson's, Tacodeli … the list goes on and on, locals say. 

Scones, Penny Ann's Cafe in Salt Lake City
Tony L./Yelp

Utah: Scones

Best Place to Try Them: 
Penny Ann's Cafe in Salt Lake City
Alice's Kitchen in North Salt Lake

Utah scones, also known as Mormon scones, aren't at all like the British variety. These are deep-fried dough, often slathered with butter and jam. Start your day with the scones from Alice's Kitchen or Penny Ann's, both highly rated. 

Bragg Farm Maple Sugarhouse
George C./Yelp

Vermont: Maple Syrup

Best Places to Try It:
Anywhere in the state

Vermont produces more maple syrup than any other state in the country, meaning you don't even need to visit the Green Mountain State to sample it. Jed's Maple Products and Hidden Springs Maple are two producers that sell online. 

Virginia: Pimento Cheese
Dana B./Yelp

Virginia: Pimento Cheese

Best Place to Try It: 

Home Sweet Home in Richmond

Pimento cheese, classically a mix of shredded cheddar cheese, pimentos, mayo, and spices, is a favorite throughout the South. Spread it on crackers or slather it on two slices of bread as a sandwich. At the Home Sweet Home grilled cheese pub on West Cary, it comes as an appetizer with flatbread; in a brisket sandwich with housemade kimchi; in the River City sandwich with ham; or on the DHW Memorial Sandwich, which seems to combine the two. (It's also in the "build your own" section, so go ahead and put it on just about anything.) 

Caffe Ladro
Shauna C./Yelp

Washington: Coffee

Best Places to Try It:
Caffe Ladro and Caffe Vita in Seattle

The Pacific Northwest can be gray and gloomy for long stretches of time. No wonder Washingtonians suck down so much coffee. In Seattle, skip Starbucks and try a local cafe instead. In Spokane, hit up Indaba Coffee Roasters, and in Olympia, look to Dancing Goats

Pepperoni Rolls, Chico Bakery in Morgantown
Hannah H./Yelp

West Virginia: Pepperoni Rolls

Best Place to Try Them:

Country Club Bakery in Fairmont
Tomaro's Bakery in Clarksburg

Pepperoni baked inside a soft white bread, locally known as a pepperoni roll, is a cheap grab-and-go lunch item. Country Club Club Bakery claims to be the home of the original pepperoni roll, while Tomaro's has been around for more than a 100 years.  

Wisconsin State Fair
Arvin H./Yelp

Wisconsin: Cheese Curds

Best Place to Try Them:
Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis

Love cheese? Love deep-fried foods? Wisconsin offers a bit of both with fried cheese curds. One of the best places to find them is at the annual state fair. But there's no reason to wait, with Titletown Brewing Co. in Green Bay and the Old Fashioned in Madison serving.

Chicken Fried Steak, Luxury Diner in Cheyenne
Lenny S./Yelp

Wyoming: Chicken Fried Steak

Best Place to Try It:
Luxury Diner in Cheyenne

Cowboys need a hearty meal if they're going to stay in the saddle all day, and nothing satisfies quite like a chicken fried steak: tenderized beef, breaded and fried, then dressed in white gravy. The Luxury Diner has been a local favorite since 1926, and its chicken fried steak sometimes has 'em lined up out the door.