Talk to me for a couple minutes and you’ll quickly learn that I hail from New York. Now, I’m going to interrupt you — before you tell me you loved your day in Times Square and Central Park when you visited, please hold the phone and take a look at a map of the continental US. New York City makes up approximately .5 percent of New York State's square mileage.
That’s like, none at all.
If NYC’s relative size to the state was a body part, it would be your toenail. Your gross and unshapely pinky toenail. Most of my beautiful state looks more like this:
That being said, when it comes to food, the big city is admittedly special. But, what about the rest of the state, you ask? What’s the food like once you pass the city limits and venture North or West?
To be honest… a lot of the time, abysmal.
But there are many, many examples of amazing food native to New York that are honestly quite difficult to find in the Big Apple. Here’s a list of some upstate/western NY classics.
Do these really need any explanation? No. You all know what these are, and they’re by far New York State’s most popular and far-reaching dish, and for good reason.
Where they were created and where they are done best are hotly debated topics, but head to Anchor Bar in Buffalo for the generally accepted place of origin.
Anyone who has tried these just had to hold back the drool from their lips merely from reading the name of this upstate staple. There are a ton of variations, but the dish’s basic formula is chicken, rigatoni and hot and sweet peppers in a spicy cream and tomato sauce.
Often times, the aforementioned Buffalo Wing’s sauce is included in the mix. For a taste of this awesome meal, head to the Utica/Rome region of New York.
Beef on Weck
Although shadowed by the region’s spicy bird limb popularity, this Buffalonian sandwich is cherished by locals and visitors alike. The name is short for what it is: roast beef on a kummelweck roll. The meat on the sandwich is traditionally served rare, very thinly sliced, with the top bun dipped in au jus. A “kummelweck” roll is a german salt-and caraway-encrusted hard roll. Usually they’ll serve it to you with horseradish, a dill pickle spear, and french fries. Charlie carves up a mean one!
The Rochester area of NYS is able to claim it’s own variation on the classic hot dog. A “white hot” is a natural sausage casing filled with uncured and unsmoked pork, beef and veal (the lack of smoking or curing allows the meat to retain a naturally white color). Zweigle’s distributes a killer version of the frank.
According to Wikipedia, the white hot has become the official hot dog of the Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Sabres, Rochester Americans and Rochester Rhinos and was the official hot dog of the Washington Nationals during the major league baseball team’s first season. Pretty neat.
The Spiedie is a sandwich very near and dear to my grub-obsessed heart. Like myself, this sandwich was born in Binghamton, NY, and ever since its genesis, it has accumulated the love of everyone with whom it comes into contact.
A spiedie consists of cubes of chicken, pork, lamb, veal, venison or beef. The delectable protein cubes are marinated 24-46 hours (sometimes up to 2 weeks) in a special marinade, then grilled on “spiedie rods” over a charcoal pit.
Lupo’s and Sharkey’s in Binghamton both have a killer rendition of the sandwich, but Spiedie marinade is also available for shipment nationwide for a little taste of central NY anywhere.
Syracuse Salt Potatoes
Upstate New Yorkers are like, kinda obsessed with salt. It probably has something to do with going back in the old days and keeping food fresh in the winters when there's 8 feet of snow or whatever.
That statistic is actually not hyperbolic in nature when discussing Syracuse NY, where some salt-loving genius invented Syracuse Salt Potatoes. The high sodium content of these salty spuds not only keeps them edible through the brutal Syracusian winters, but can also be used to chuck at drunken, orange-clad college students if they get too close to your lawn.
This side dish can be found all over central New York, usually accompanying one of the dishes mentioned above. Utica Greens come in many variations – some combination of leafy green veg (usually including escarole, but not always), meat, like bacon or pancetta or prosciutto, peppers of various sorts, and bread crumbs. The exact origins of this dish are unclear, but this killer recipe for the side will be sure to spice up plate.