As we celebrate Independence Day over the weekend, we should all reflect on what makes America great. Aside from our freedoms and beautiful landscapes, there’s no denying we’ve come up with some of the most indulgent and comforting cuisine. And sure, some of our favorite dishes are inspired by other cultures and we’ll give credit where credit is due, but there’s no denying that we’ve evolved them into our own version of classic American fare. Before we begin, we need to acknowledge that picking favorites is hard, and that we’ve only featured a handful of much-loved American staples on this list, all of which can be found at BRGR Kitchen (shameless plug).
Our love affair with the burger dates back a hundred-plus years, but unlike other now world-famous dishes, the hamburger is a purely American invention. And we pride ourselves with this gastronomical invention, enjoying them in an impossibly endless number of ways, with some feeding into only our wildest of dreams.
For burgers we start at the historic source, Louis’s Lunch in New Haven, Conn., which makes a pretty good claim to having invented the hamburger itself more than a century ago. Their burger debuted with raw onion, tomato and nothing else, served on toasted white bread.
We’re definitely glad the burger has evolved since then, or else we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the many different variations BRGR has to offer. Like the Number 3 (pictured above) which packs peppered bacon, white onions, Bread & Butter pickles, triple American cheese & special sauce all on a ½ pound chuck & short rib blend patty.
2. Hot Dogs
We are in the height of America’s grilling season, which means more than 150 million hot dogs will be consumed in this country over July Fourth weekend. It’s cheap, tasty, great for grills and forgiving of even the worst home-chefs. Quite frankly, the hot dog is the quintessential summer nosh.
The first signs of the frankfurter in America appeared in New York during the 1860’s, where German immigrants sold wieners from a pushcart. However, the man most responsible for popularizing the hot dog in the United States was Nathan Handwerker, a Jewish immigrant from Poland who worked at a hot dog stand at Coney Island in 1915. After saving up enough money to start a competing stand, Nathan’s Famous was born. Sold at 5 cents (half the price of his competitor’s stand), Nathan’s dogs grew wildly popular by the Great Depression and were known by all throughout the United States. They we’re so beloved in America, that they were even served to King George VI of England and his queen when President Franklin hosted a picnic in Hyde Park in 1939. And the king even asked for seconds.
You don’t need to go all the way to Coney Island to eat like royalty. BRGR’s Standard Frank has all the Chicago-style fixings: mustard, pickle spears, sport peppers, relish, onions, tomatoes & celery salt all nestled between a poppyseed egg bun.
Another classic between-the-bread item is this guy: the B.L.T. (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato). It’s no wonder why American’s love this sammy: it’s simple, to the point, and has bacon. Let us repeat: there’s bacon.
The BLT can be traced back to the early 1900’s, with mentions in the 1903 Good Housekeeping Everyday Cook Book. It wasn’t until after World War II that the sandwich grew in fame, due in part to the rapid expansion of supermarkets that made ingredients available all year-round. Although it’s not for certain who coined the acronym, it’s been hypothesized that it was conceived in the American restaurant industry as shorthand for the sandwich, so for the sake of this blog post we’re going to assume that’s true.
There are several variations of the BLT, but BRGR takes it up a notch with sugar-cured bacon, iceberg lettuce, beefsteak tomatoes & mayo all on toasted ciabatta bread. Let’s just say if summer had it’s own themed sandwich, this would be it.
4. French Fries
It would be a crime to not serve all the previous mentioned dishes with America’s favorite side dish. Although our European friends have a sore spot for the origin of French fries, we can all agree that they’ve become a fine example of classic American fare.
The field of fry history has yet to reach maturity, but it’s well accepted that we’ve embraced fries later than burgers. Some say the conjoining of burgers and fries came in the late 1910’s after servicemen returned from World War I with a taste for French frites, others say they grew into their own in the 1930’s when restaurants started employing efficient and relatively inexpensive deep fat cookers.
To whatever cause is responsible for these crispy potato sticks, Americans love them nonetheless. And they have expanded in quite some way as well, refashioning into the form of sweet potato fry, tater tots, curly friends, steak waffle, crinkle... you get the picture.
And then of course, you have to wash it all down with a cold beverage...