Culinary Capitals offers up an article today on U.S. cities that are considered the “capital” of a particular food.  Some are familiar and expected, while others come out of left field.

It should come as no surprise that Cincinnati is the chili capital of the world.  Even though chili is often though of as a Texan or southwestern dish, it was actually invented by a man from Cincinnati named DeWitt Clinton Pendery in 1890.  Granted, he moved to Ft. Worth shortly afterwards and brought his recipe with him, but Cincinnati’s claim to chili fame was thus born.

Cincinnati chili is wildly divergent from Pendery’s original recipe and from the more standard meat-and-beans based dish known around these parts.  People (yours truly included) may argue that the three-way, four-way or five-way sludge served by Skyline Chili and Goldstar Chili and their many competitors isn’t “chili” so much as strangely-sweet meat stew with spaghetti, but you can’t deny the fact that Cincinnati is all about chili.  After all, Cincinnati has more chili restaurants per capita than any other city in not just the nation, but the world.

More surprising entries in the food capitals article?  San Francisco is apparently the burrito capital of the nation — although one could argue that it’s more accurately the capital of Godzilla-sized burritos the size of a toddler, and not the burritos that Tex-Mex fans know and love — and that Hammonton, New Jersey, holds the widely-contested title of blueberry capital of the world.

Locally, several Texas cities have made boastful claims including the tiny town of Friona, Texas proclaiming itself the cheeseburger capital of the nation.  However, as the article points out, perhaps the boldest claim of all comes from Lockhart, the supposed barbeque capital of the world.  I’m not knocking Lockhart, by any means, but I hear that Luling would like a word with them outside…

What do you think?  Is your town a capital of a random food item?  Do you think barbeque is too great a conquest to be claimed by one master?  Share your opinions below!

Images courtesy of and


13 thoughts on “Culinary Capitals”

  1. Hi sheeats,

    What an interesting topic! Well, across the water in merry old Great Britain, Glasgow is the ‘deep-fried’ Mars bar capital of the world and the best Fish and Chips in the world can be found in Yorkshire at a place called Harry Ramsdens.

    Not being from the States, can you really give the Bar-B-Q crown to a town in America? With all due respect to the fine State of Texas, should we not be asking the Auzzies if they would like a shot at that paticular title?

    Still loving the site and thanks for posting comment on mine. T-shirts are in the pipeline!
    Haha! : )

  2. Ooh, watch it now, Grumpy. That’s how people get eaten alive around Texas. 😉

    What we call BBQ in Texas and the South is very different from what most everyone else calls BBQ. Texas BBQ is meat that’s cooked very slowly, over the course of four to eight hours, through the use of indirect heat (usually from very hot smoke). We BBQ pieces of meat like beef brisket, pork ribs and pork butt — things that need a good amount of time in the smoker before they become tender. We marinate them ahead of time and continually mop them as they smoke to keep the meat moist.

    What Australians (and Yankees) call “barbeque” is what we call “grilling,” which means you’re just cooking the food over an open flame or the heat from charcoals. Big difference. 😀

    However, if the Auzzies want to go for a grilling capital title, I say go for it. 😉

    Oh, and my husband totally agrees with you that both Harry Ramsden’s and fried Mars Bars can’t be beat. 🙂

  3. OK, first. That dreck they serve in Cincy isn’t chili. They pour it over noodles for Chrissakes.

    It’s good, but it’s not chili.

    Second: I’ve heard Memphis try to lay claim to the BBQ capitol of the world, but then they realized that they use pork, which is what we give to children here in Texas until they are competent enough to BBQ a brisket.

    The REAL BBQ capitol of the world?

    Lockheart. Followed closely by Luling.

    Houston is one of those towns that really doesn’t have a signature dish. Mostly this is because of our diversity and the wonderful range of ethnic foods that we have available to us. Of course, some view this as proof that Houston isn’t “world class” enough and have tried to foist upon us the title of “Baba Ganoush” capitol of the world, “Naan” capitol of the world, and “Vietnemese soup dumpling capitol of the world” only to realize that cities in the dish’s Country of origin already lay claim to that.

    (well, except for Naan, which we all know currently claims London as its capitol, odd I know.)

    Houston should just be happy with what it is, the restaurant capitol of the world. The alternative could be the “fried nutria rat” capitol and that’s just not “world class” I don’t care how you slice it.

  4. @ evil chef mom: Oh, you lucky girl! How I love some fresh asparagus, drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil and lightly grilled. *drool*

    @ Cory: Hear, hear! Words can’t describe how repulsed I was when I tried my first bite of Cincinnati chili. I kept thinking it might get better, but ended up tossing the entire bowl of dreck in the bin.

    And I, for one, am perfectly happy with our (perhaps self-styled) title of “restaurant capital of the world.” A-men.

  5. @ K: So you smoke as opposed to char! Much better way if you ask me. Healthier and more flavoursome. Used to have a fantastic smoker in my kitchen. It was an amazing piece of equipment, you could smoke almost anything. That was, of course, until the Environmental Health Office banned it. Typical Government.

    @evil chef mom: Asparagus is good, ain’t it! The British season has just begun today. Gonna pick up some from the farm later, blanche it and then pan-roast it with some pancetta, parmesan, some fresh, homemade Gnocchi and a dollop of Creme Fraiche. Fantastic!

  6. I’m a New Yorker, so I think it’s the center of the universe and best for everything! 😀

    Jersey blueberries are great, though, as are Jersey peaches and corn.

  7. Paris (France, not Texas) would have a pretty good case for being Food CapitAl (capitOl is a building!) of the world, if they weren’t so uppity and lacking in non-French ingredients. I will nominate it for Capital of Foods That Should Make You Grotesquely Overweight But Miraculously Don’t. (Foie Gras, Duck Confit, and Crème Brûlée on every menu, and still everyone is thin!)

  8. @ Grumpy: Those socialist bastards!

    @ ellaella: Typical. 😉 I love NYC too, though, so I can’t be too hard on you. 🙂

    @ greensandbeans: Because you’re just now telling me about it, after it already happened. My DeLorean isn’t working today; the flux capacitor is blown. Maybe next time you can tell me before the event actually happens. 😉

    @ croquecamille: Sadly, having never been to Paris (France), I wouldn’t know. But I would happily subsist the rest of my life on red wine and fatty foods — those lucky jerks. 😀

  9. Houston doesn’t seem to be the capital for any food — although it arguably was the epicenter for the first wave of old school Tex-Mex (Felix), as well as the second wave of Tex-Mex (Ninfa’s). It has been argued that the fajita started here.

    I have been trying for the last week to name a “local ingredient” indigenous to Houston. It would be very hard to be a chef member of the “local ingredient” movement if you worked here.

  10. @ anonymouseater: You are quite correct, Houston does not have any indigenous fruits or vegetables, but Texas (so I am lead to believe) is the original home to Southern Style Cuisine and Houston is the epicenter of that cuisine. Better than being known for the birthplace of pilchards. Its a whole Cuisine unique to Texas!

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