When you think of Nebraska, you might think of corn, cowboys, and the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Or maybe vast prairies, farming, and Warren Buffett. Either way, the Cornhusker State has given the world a lot of great things. including some finger-licking good food that should be on every gourmet’s radar. As you’d expect of a state known for its agricultural production and cattle farming, beef and corn both do big business on menus. But then again, so do cheeseburger pizzas, Rocky Mountain oysters, and cheese frenchees… all washed down with gallons of Nebraska’s official drink, Kool Aid. Here are ten of the tastiest foods that Nebraska is known for.
1. BBQ Ribs
You might be able to find BBQ ribs in other states, but according to the locals, the best ribs around are found in Nebraska. Although the state doesn’t have a signature BBQ style like certain other regions, it’s common for pitmasters to give the meat a boost with extra spices and to use micro-smokehouses to enhance the flavor. Either way, they’re delicious.
2. Rocky Mountain Oysters
If you’re a pescatarian, don’t think you’re safe ordering Rocky Mountain oysters in a restaurant. You might want to think twice if you spot prairie oysters or cowboy caviar on the menu, as well. This traditional Midwest cowboy fare might sound like it comes straight from the sea, but names can be deceiving. The dish is actually made from bull testicles (or bull ‘oysters’) that have been skinned, coated in flour, rubbed in salt and pepper, and deep-fried till golden. It’s not a meal for the faint of heart, but for culinary daredevils with an appetite for adventure, these deep-fried nuggets are a must-try.
3. Raisin Pie
Appropriately enough for a dessert that also goes by the name ‘funeral pie,’ raisin pie used to be a staple at funerals in Nebraska, thanks mainly to the fact it can be left out at room temperature rather than stored in the refrigerator. It’s still widely available at older, more traditional restaurants across Nebraska, and remains a popular dish with home cooks.
4. Kool Aid
It might be guzzled from one end of the States to the next, but Kool Aid is a proud Nebraskan by birth. As Wikipedia explains, it was invented in 1927 by Edwin Perkins in his mother’s kitchen in Hastings, Nebraska. Perkins discovered that extracting the liquid from a liquid concentrate called Fruit Smack created a highly flavored powder that could be easily and cheaply shipped around the country. Perkins moved production to Chicago a few years later, but Kool Aid is still considered Nebraska’s official soft drink. If you’re in the vicinity of Hastings on the second weekend in August, join in the celebrations as the town pays tribute to the beverage during the annual Kool-Aid Days summer festival.
5. Cheeseburger Pizza
Cheeseburger plus pizza… what’s not to love? Possibly quite a lot if you’re Italian, but for junk food lovers who don’t mind sacrificing tradition for cheesy, meaty goodness, this Nebraskan favorite is too good to resist. Made from a crispy crust loaded with bacon, cheese, beef, chopped dill pickles, onions, tomatoes, and other tasty cheeseburger toppings, it combines the best of two worlds in one irresistible creation. It’s so popular in some parts of the state, many pizzerias say it’s their top seller.
6. Cheese Frenchees
Cheese frenchees won’t do a lot for your heart health, but if you’re the kind of person who laughs in the face of cholesterol, they make an unbeatable snack. If you haven’t come across one before, think of a pimped-up grilled cheese sandwich, made with a dash of mayo, cut into triangles, coated in a crispy, crunchy batter of crackers or cornflakes, and deep-fried until golden. Now, imagine tucking into that with a serving of french fries or onion rings on the side, and you’ll be as close to cheesy, carby nirvana as you can get in the Midwest.
7. Runza Sandwich
As State of Dinner points out, Nebraska doesn’t have an official state food, but if it did, it would probably be the Runza sandwich. Made from soft, hollowed-out bread filled with a finger-licking good mixture of well-seasoned beef, cabbage, and onions, it’s the tastiest hot pocket you’ll ever wrap your lips around. Its creation is credited to Sally Everett in the 1940s, who took the basics of the German immigrant dish bierock and turned it into a sandwich that many people describe “as Nebraskan as Cornhusker football.”
8. Dorothy Lynch Dressing
According to Only in your State, Dorothy Lynch dressing is tasty enough to stick a straw in the bottle and suck it straight up. We’ll take their word for it, but even if you don’t want to go that far, it’s a rare meal in Nebraska that can’t be improved with a few dollops of this sweet, tangy, French-style dressing. If you come across a Nebraskan without at least a few bottles lurking at the back of the refrigerator, be suspicious.
9. Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
Widely available at almost every hole-in-the-wall joint across the state, deep-fried pork tenderloin sandwiches are a must-try for any out-of-stater looking for an authentic Nebraskan eating experience. It’s not the prettiest or neatest looking sandwich in the world, but once you get your head around the fact that more of the contents live outside the bun than in it, it’s a beautiful thing. Enjoy it sizzling hot with plenty of pickles, mayo, mustard, lettuce, and onions.
10. Butter Brickle Ice Cream
Nebraska has gifted the world with no end of fabulous culinary inventions, not least Butter Brickle ice cream. Butter Brickle, a sweet, chocolate-coated toffee was actually invented in Council Bluffs, Iowa by candy manufacturer John G. Woodward Co. in 1924. But while Iowa can lay claim to the candy, Nebraska – and specifically the Blackstone Hotel in Omaha – can lay claim to having been the first to chop the candy bar into pieces and add it to ice cream. Coincidently, the Blackstone is also the birthplace of that other fine Nebraskan delicacy, the Reuben.