Most Popular Regional Products in the United States
Sometimes a product can ingrain itself so deeply in a community that it becomes part of the cultural identity of the people. And in a country as geographically diverse and spread out as the United States, this happens more often than you might imagine.
If you stop to think about it, there’s likely something in your home right now that’s easily associated with wherever you live. Maybe it’s a certain type of hat or booze. Maybe it’s something you bring to the big game. It could easily be a special food or drink that’s only made in a specific location. It might be something you wear or say.
Let’s take a look at these region-defining products and why they are so unique.
Bottom line: It’s America’s most recognizable alcohol, and Kentucky is where it stops and ends when it comes to bourbon.
Bourbon is to Kentucky as cigars are to Cuba — the alpha in a world of omegas. For one thing, no other state is legally allowed to put its name on the label as a state-specific bourbon.
And although whiskey and bourbon production can be found in most states these days, it just doesn’t feel right if it ain’t from Kentucky.
What the Internet Thinks About Bourbon
Bottom line: Despite there being no alcohol in Cheerwine, it’s still a delectable beverage and was the first soft drink to incorporate cherry flavoring, which also helped cut down the sugar content.
It’s big in the Carolinas — bigger than barbecue and kissing your cousin — and has come to define the region and is still family owned and operated.
And speaking of slow roasting, Cheerwine is said to be the perfect palate foil for the vinegar-heavy sauces of Carolina 'cue.
What the Internet Thinks About Cheerwine
Bottom line: Nothing quite encompasses Wisconsin like the cheesehead hat. Folks in these parts apparently like to make it crystal clear to the rest of the world that they are huge fans of cheese and Packers football.
The word cheesehead was originally used by residents of neighboring states as a derogatory term. But if you’ve ever met a Wisconsinite, you know they’re prone to putting on a happy face, so locals adopted the term to describe themselves affectionately.
What the Internet Thinks About Cheesehead Hats
Bottom line: Coffee is certainly big everywhere, but it’s so synonymous with Seattle that the city is considered the world center for bean roasting and supply chain management.
Folks who live here consume more coffee than anywhere else in the U.S., and there is one coffee business per 2,308 residents.
What the Internet Thinks About Coffee
Cost: $20 to $4000
Bottom line: Like bourbon, cowboy hats are both iconic to America and widespread. But let’s be honest: Cowboy hats embody Texas and its longhorn spirit like nowhere else.
The cowboy hat was created by John B. Stetson in Philadelphia shortly after the Civil War, but it was called the "Boss of the Plains" because clearly it’s not meant for the city slicker lifestyle.
Stetson became more famous for other hat styles, and now most cowboy hats are made where they should be: Texas.
What the Internet Thinks About Cowboy Hats
Region: New England
Bottom line: It’s true that America runs on Dunkin’, as the brand’s coffee and food products are available nationwide these days, but it was born in Quincy, Mass. and remains wildly popular throughout the Northeast.
Only the New York metro area can lay claim to as deep of a Dunkin’ addiction as New Englanders. In fact, the chain’s medium-roast coffee is so ubiquitous in these markets that when Peet’s brought its dark and bold cuppa out east it took some getting used to for both coffee drinkers and the company.
What the Internet Thinks About Dunkin' Donuts
Flag of Chicago
Bottom line: There’s no city in America that takes as much pride as Chicago in its own flag.
Most people don’t even know their city has its own flag, but in Chicago, you’ll see it on the sides of buildings and front porches, in tattoos, and on T-shirts and countless other items.
Its light-blue bars and red stars against a white background are very patriotic, but also quite easy on the eyes.
What the Internet Thinks About the Flag of Chicago
Region: New Mexico
Bottom line: When it comes to food, nothing is as truly regional as green chiles.
Sure, you’ll find them everywhere, but no one is more obsessed with this capsicum than New Mexicans, who put them on everything whether fresh, cooked or as a sauce.
This is understandable, as green chiles perfectly combine an earthy quality with their approachable heat to give dishes more depth.
What the Internet Thinks About Green Chiles
Bottom line: The story goes that Spanish explorers stole this shirt from Filipino culture, and it became a Cuban mainstay in the early 20th century thanks in part to Ernest Hemingway’s obsession with the garment.
It’s also political. Latin American leaders have worn guayaberas over the decades to symbolically reject U.S. and European culture, and several U.S. presidents have appeared in South Florida with the shirt to show solidarity with Cuban immigrants.
What the Internet Thinks About Guayaberas
Bottom line: To understand Baltimore, one must start with the term "hon," short for "honey." It’s Charm City in three letters.
Hon culture first emerged in the 1950s and has endured as a sweet way of referring to someone rather than sir or ma'am. Sure, it’s not necessarily a product by the traditional definition of product, but it has serious value.
That’s confirmed by the annual two-day HonFest and the story of the restaurant owner who once tried to trademark hon. None other than celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay had to get involved after all hell broke loose.
What the Internet Thinks About Hon Culture
I (Heart) NY
Region: New York City
Bottom line: In the history of tourist kitsch, there’s no more iconic and emblazoned tagline than "I (heart) NY." It’s been used since 1977 to promote tourism statewide, but it’s most popular in the Big Apple.
And despite the fact that locals claim to detest the slogan, you will see plenty of New Yorkers with the T-shirt, coffee mug or keychain, and sometimes all three.
Is this because most New Yorkers originally came from somewhere else and are just perma-tourists?
What the Internet Thinks About I (Heart) NY
In-N-Out Burger T-Shirts
Bottom line: It used to be cool to wear an In-N-Out shirt in California.
It was as if you knew something everyone else was blind to — namely, that the chain makes a decent to good burger. It also meant you lived near one back when they were mostly in Southern California.
Then In-N-Out turned into some kind of cult experience with its secret menu and long waits for fast food. It became less cool to wear one, yet they are still beloved across the Golden State.
What the Internet Thinks About In-N-Out Burger T-Shirts
Bottom line: This garland made from flowers can be found throughout Polynesian culture, but it’s most iconic on the islands of Hawaii. They were originally used by Hawaiians to distinguish themselves from others, as status symbols and because they look nice.
Nowadays, they are given out at important life moments and as a welcoming symbol. Visitors (or locals) can even make special arrangements to be greeted at the airport with a lei.
What the Internet Thinks About Leis
Region: New Orleans
Bottom line: In the not-famous-enough novel "A Confederacy of Dunces," main character Ignatius J. Reilly runs a hot dog cart for a fictionalized version of Lucky Dogs and memorably answers a question about what’s in the weiners by saying, "Rubber, cereal, tripe. Who knows?"
In real life, Luck Dogs are a legendary drunk food in the drunk capital of America.
And for the locals, it’s very much a love-hate relationship.
What the Internet Thinks About Lucky Dogs
Region: Pennsylvania, South
Bottom line: White lightning, hooch, mountain dew, rotgut — call it what you want, but it will always be a rebellious and potent alcohol consumed solely for the sake of inebriation. It’s also American to the core, even if it was technically invented in England.
The first bootleg drivers transporting illegal moonshine became such skilled motorists by dodging the authorities that they eventually joined Bill France’s fledgling racing league — a venture seeded by a moonshiner — that eventually became NASCAR.
What the Internet Thinks About Moonshine
Bottom line: Taxidermy is big business in the Sunshine State, but the animals of choice aren’t your garden variety deer and other antlered creatures. No, down here they wrestle with alligators.
And if they win, they get someone to stuff the thing so they can proudly display it for all to see.
Come to think of it, a mounted alligator head sounds kind of cool.
What the Internet Thinks About Mounted Alligators
Region: New England
Bottom line: Hailing from Massachusetts, Moxie was among the first commercial soda brands in the country and originally marketed as a healthy tonic. It’s known for its sweet initial flavor and bitter aftertaste, which is derived from gentian root extract.
Now owned by the Coca-Cola Co., it has since become the official soft drink of Maine and is roundly loved throughout the Northeast.
What the Internet Thinks About Moxie Soda
Cost: $15K-$25K for casinos, dignity and self-respect for gamblers
Bottom line: We apologize in advance to all Nevadans, but when you hardly notice the 12 slot machines lined up in your doctor’s office, perhaps this machine does define you.
All jokes aside, these things are everywhere in the Silver State. They might as well be on Nevada’s license plate, too.
Love it or hate it, there’s no denying the power of this game of chance to make or break a person’s whole life.
What the Internet Thinks About Slot Machines
Bottom line: Many things purport to define the South — biscuits and gravy, manners, charm, fried chicken, grammatical contractions, peaches and pecans, unrecognizable accents, Baptist churches — but nothing captures this vast geographical region quite like sweet tea.
With so many states comprising the South, everyone has their take on Southern classics. But there’s only one way to make sweet tea, and it will always be that way: freshly brewed black tea spiked with copious amounts of sugar while piping hot then chilled to the core and served over ice.
What the Internet Thinks About Sweet Tea
Region: New Jersey
Bottom line: New Jersey gets a bad rap for many things, but it quietly has quite a dynamic food scene. Taylor Ham is not part of that dynamic food scene, but it’s a deli and diner staple in the Garden State and is actually worthy of its cult status.
Dating to 1856, it’s a pretty simple cured meat product — pork and spices, the recipe for which remains a secret — and is best eaten sliced and fried with egg, American cheese, ketchup, and salt and pepper on a kaiser roll.
What the Internet Thinks About Taylor Ham
Bottom line: Rally items are as much a fixture at sporting events as tailgate parties and drunk, aggressive dads. But there is only one Terrible Towel.
This Pittsburgh Steelers point-summoning device is so popular, in fact, that versions of it have been to the peak of Mount Everest and the International Space Station.
It was created and given out to fans in 1975 by WTAE, the team’s flagship radio station. Players initially hated the idea, and it almost never happened, but after the Steelers won the Super Bowl that season it became a legend.
What the Internet Thinks About Terrible Towels
Bottom line: Certainly this questionable fashion piece can be found everywhere, but there’s no more annoying application of it than in California. And that’s because it’s a lifestyle choice in the Golden State.
Californians who have no intention of ever doing a yoga pose still own yoga pants. They go out in public in said pants, doing everyday things and meeting with seemingly sane people, never stopping to ask themselves why they’re wearing a skin-tight garment reserved solely for the purposes of downward dog.
What the Internet Thinks About Yoga Pants