I'm out of town for work in Kinston, North Carolina.
It's hard to say exactly what Kinston is like, because I've spent pretty much no time outside of the office and the hotel. Just enough to pick up some carryout from such renowned bastions of North Carolina cuisine such as Applebees and Ruby Tuesday's.
I asked some people who've spent some time here where I should go to grab some food, and almost all of them mentioned this place called Bojangles. Apparently these Chicken and Biscuits are thought to be delicious and whatnot, and so I went and grabbed a Cajun Chicken Biscuit for breakfast today on the way to work... and... you know... Eh.
It was okay. I definitely wouldn't go out of my way to get it. I'd put it squarely in the Wendy's, Burger King, Rally's class of food joints. Not strictly shitty. It was tasty. But also not something overwhelmingly delicious, and certainly not something that I'd brag about if I were from here. I mean... I hear they have barbecue in this state.
So, I reported my apathy to my co-worker who now lives in Cincinnati and is from down here in the Raleigh area. He said something to the effect of "I guess it's an acquired taste thing. Like you guys and Skyline."
When he said that, I nearly choked on my gum.
You see... Cincinnati is known for a few different foods. There's Graeter's Ice Cream (touted by Oprah, herself, as her favorite). There's LaRosa's Pizza. And there's Skyline Chili.
Skyline is this chili joint in Cincinnati that features Greek style chili sauce poured over various things like spaghetti or hot dogs or baked potatoes. It's kinda soupy. It has a sweetness to it, coming from the cocoa powder and cinnamon in the recipe. It sounds weird,but as far as I'm concerned, is fucking delicious. I've grown up with it. I could eat a bowl by itself... actually I do).
I couldn't believe that this guy was comparing this weird, kind of silly, chicken and biscuits place to my beloved Skyline, and then I realized that about half of the non-Cincy natives who try Skyline just find it weird and silly. I realized that most Cincinnatians love it, but whenever they've tried to expand to other markets it's failed pretty quickly. So... maybe it's just good because it's what I know.
That leads me to the question... What are the famous regionally popular foods, and do they translate to a wider audience?
Philadelphia has cheese steak, and everyone loves that, but they also seem to have scrapple, and that isn't as popular.
New York has thin pizza. Chicago has deep dish. Wisconsin has cheese curds. Hawaii has spam.
I wonder if maybe I'd just find Skyline weird if I was born in Denver?