50 States of Dips
Grabbing guac? Craving queso? Dips reflect history, a sense of place and evoke a strong sense of home-state pride, whether they feature locally caught seafood, export-worthy cheese or indigenous produce. So grab that cracker, chip, fry or veggie, and dig into the dips that give each state something to sing about.
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Alabama: Charred Onion Dip
When it comes to dips and sauces, Alabama may be best known for its namesake white barbecue sauce, but there’s a contender vying for unofficial state dip status: Chef Frank Stitt’s charred onion dip. At his causal Italian trattoria, Bottega Café, the celebrated Birmingham chef crafts a sweet and tangy dip to serve with potato chips and pair with aperitifs. Red onions are grilled, then charred in the wood-burning oven, then chopped and blended with sour cream, Worcestershire, Tabasco and freshly ground pepper until creamy. The smoky, addictive dip is served in a grilled onion ring with a topping of freshly snipped chives and a side of house-made potato chips for scooping.
Alaska: Smoked Salmon Dip
The salmon-rich rivers across The Last Frontier mean that the omega-rich food is a staple for many Alaskans. It’s common practice for locals to preserve their catches by drying fish in smokehouses to enjoy as-is or craft into a dip. Glacier BrewHouse smokes wild-caught Alaska sockeye salmon — prized for its firm texture, ruby color and superior taste — over alder wood, then lightly dresses it with Greek yogurt, lemon zest, capers and dill, all served with grilled bread and gherkins. It’s a fine match for any of their craft beers, particularly the Imperial Blonde, which is made with a half-pound of honey per gallon.
At Phoenix music venue Crescent Ballroom, concert go-ers and touring bands alike nosh on snacks and small plates from Cocina 10, which gets its name and menu inspiration from the Sunbelt’s I-10 highway and environs. The chips and salsa, on the "Mexican-accented road food" menu, are a local favorite. Chips, made from Sonoran-style tortillas, are served with a duo of salsas, including zippy tomatillo and chile de arbol, a fire-roasted salsa made with Roma tomatoes, serrano chiles and garlic. The salsas are so popular that the kitchen churns out more than 2,000 gallons a year; though they’ve received multiple requests to sell it, the chefs insist that that level of freshness just can’t be bottled.
Arkansas: Cheese Dip
Arkansas is often credited as the original birthplace of queso, but locals insist that their version of the Tex-Mex cheese dip is simply called cheese dip. The queso-versus-cheese-dip debate rages at family gatherings, competitive cook-offs and even congressional events, incited by a conversation between Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and Texas Senator Ted Cruz. After an unofficial taste test at Capitol Hill, Heights Taco & Tamale’s cheese dip came out on top. The Little Rock restaurant’s Melting Pot Cheese Dip — inspired by five Arkansas families’ recipes — features a four-cheese blend mixed with top-secret spices. The velvety dip is served in a cast-iron dish with a basket of fried-to-order tortilla chips. To satisfy demand, the restaurant estimates that it’s dished out more than 85,000 servings and gone through 71,144 pounds of cheese.
Californians love their avocados. And for many people, avocados are synonymous with guacamole. At San Diego’s La Puerta, the kitchen used approximately 85,000 avocados last year to satisfy demand for the house guacamole, making about 10 gallons daily from scratch. They follow a basic recipe, mashing perfectly ripe avocados and combining them with lime juice, tomatoes and onions. A topping of pico de gallo veers from tradition for a burst of freshness and pop of color, as does a cascade of panella, a smooth, fresh Mexican cheese that lends a salty-sour snap. The guacamole sits atop a hefty pile of chips.
Though Colorado is in the heart of the Rockies, its culinary scene showcases a lot of below-the-border influence, owing to its dry climate and large Hispanic community. Denver’s Chili Verde pays tribute to traditional southern Mexican dishes and family recipes, like Chef-Owner Eder Yanez-Mota’s choriqueso, a chorizo-studded cheese dip. Chili Verde’s version stars house-made chorizo spiced with guajillo, ancho and arbol chiles, blended with asadero, a semi-soft Mexican white cheese. The mixture is cured for two days, then cooked on the stove until nicely melted and melded. The dip is garnished with fried jalapeno peppers and served with corn tortillas. Don’t ask for chips — they’re not sturdy enough for scooping — instead, coax some of the stretchy choriqueso onto a corn tortilla and eat it like a cheese taco.
Connecticut: Baked Ricotta
It’s probably a good thing Heirloom is located inside a hotel. Guests who dive into the Warm Local Ricotta will want as short a distance as possible from dining room to bed. The dip is a fitting tribute to New Haven’s storied pizza scene. Heirloom is committed to local sourcing, getting the ricotta from Liuzzi Cheese Market, which has supplied cheese to New Haven pizzerias and restaurants for over four decades. At Heirloom, the ricotta is whipped with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper, then baked in an earthenware crock until bubbly. It’s finished with a drizzle of white truffle oil and an extra sprinkle of sea salt, then served with grilled ciabatta from local bakery Bread and Chocolate for dipping and spreading.
Delaware: Crab, Spinach & Artichoke Dip
With Delaware’s proximity to the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays, its restaurants lean into seafood, offering crab in many preparations, including crab dip. Buckley’s Tavern has cemented its status as a Delaware institution thanks in large part to its fan-favorite crab-spinach-artichoke dip. The combination stars sweet blue crab meat combined with spinach, artichoke hearts, cream cheese, sour cream, lemon juice and a pinch of Old Bay, a key component in any Mid-Atlantic crab dish. The mixture is baked with a Parmesan topping and served hot with warm pita wedges. Rich and savory, the dip will transport you to the beach, even if you didn’t grow up cracking crab legs at seaside family gatherings.
Florida: Smoked Fish Dip
Florida’s proximity to the water — and its bountiful seafood supply — means that fish and its many preparations figure prominently in local diets. Miami restaurateur Matthew Kuscher shares that after a fishing trip, any leftover or smaller fish are smoked and often crafted into a dip. At casual Miami seafood-focused spot The Spillover, Chef Spider Harris smokes locally caught snapper, wahoo and grouper in-house for the Florida Fish Dip, mixing the lot with salt, sour cream, mayo and Sriracha to achieve a smoky-with-a-kick flavor and a firm but creamy texture. Accompaniments include Saltine crackers, mini bottles of Tabasco and sliced jalapenos to customize your bite.
Georgia: Vidalia Onion Seafood Dip
Georgia’s Vidalia onions are heralded as American’s favorite sweet onion; in his cookbook Bobby Flay Cooks American, Bobby notes, "Vidalia onions aren’t just the most-famous onions in the world; I think they may be the only famous onions in the world." There’s even an entire museum dedicated to the prized allium. At Atlanta gastropub The Southern Gentleman, Chef Danilo Q. Myers pays homage to Vidalias by elevating the powdered-onion-soup-dip that was popularized in the 1950s, adding shellfish. He mixes diced, sautéed Vidalia onions with Maryland lump crab meat, sweet Gulf shrimp and cream cheese, plus his secret herb-spice blend for added kick, then serves it with sturdy, house-made kettle chips that are perfect for scooping.
Hawaii: Luau Cheese Dip
Hot, bubbly spinach-cheese dip is nearly universally satisfying, so when Chef Lee Anne Wong created her Luau Cheese Dip as a regular special for her Honolulu brunch spot, Koko Head Café, she put a Hawaiian spin on it, pulling in steamed kalo (or taro plant) leaves, which she describes as an earthier-tasting spinach. Kalo, one of the most important foods in Hawaiian culture and cuisine, was traditionally baked in an underground oven and pounded to make poi. For her version, Wong peels then pressure-steams kalo, removes the cooked, sticky outer layer and pounds only the starchy core, slowly adding water to achieve a loose consistency. The poi is mixed with steamed, chopped kalo leaves, cream cheese, mayonnaise and shredded Vermont white cheddar, plus an arsenal of flavor bombs like caramelized Maui sweet onions, Worcestershire sauce and fish sauce. The mixture is broiled in a mini cast-iron skillet and served with crispy kalo chips, like Hawaii’s kale chips.
Idaho: Blueberry Ketchup
What to do with all those Idaho potatoes? Turn them into French fries! Boise Fry Company takes the state’s prized tuber as inspiration for seemingly limitless combinations. You can order from eight types of potatoes and vegetables cut in five different ways, plus 10 different salts and house-made dipping sauces. In Idaho, you can’t serve fries without fry sauce (a ketchup-mayo blend), but the dipping sauce that has given BFC a cult following is the blueberry ketchup, a creamy sauce blended with real blueberries. Choose your potato (sourced from Buhl’s M&M Heath Farms) and cutting style, say shoestring Russets or curly Yukon golds, and dip them into a side of the rich, tangy sauce to see what all the fuss is about.
Illinois: Giardiniera Hummus
Chicago institution Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria is lauded for Chicago deep-dish pizza — but good pies take a while to bake. Since each pie takes about 30 minutes to arrive at the table, the Malnati family added a chips-and-dip appetizer to the menu to tide diners over. The crisp, cheese-topped pizza chips are made from the family’s prized pizza dough, and are served warm with a trio of dips: roasted garlic, cheesy artichoke and giardiniera-topped hummus. Giardiniera, a hot-and-tangy Italian pickled relish of peppers, cauliflower, carrots and green olives, is an integral part of Chicago cuisine, owing to the city’s deep Italian roots. It’s typically eaten atop Italian beef sandwiches or as part of an antipasto spread, but here, the giardiniera adds kicky zest to classic hummus; some diners order extra to make their pizza zing, too.
Indiana: Creamy Parmesan Dipping Sauce
No one can definitively say why Indiana is called the Hoosier State, but cities like Indianapolis are helping to shape its reputation as a foodie state. Jockamo Upper Crust Pizza’s namesake from-scratch pizzas rack up local accolades, but their house-made dressings and sauces deserve equal billing. The Creamy Parmesan, which has gained its own cult following, was the result of a happy accident when owner Mick McGrath tried to create a Parmesan-black peppercorn salad dressing that ended up being too thick to top lettuce. Instead of scrapping it altogether, the team decided to serve it as a dip for the house bread sticks. Made with freshly grated Parmesan, lemon juice, mayonnaise and a secret blend of spices, the dip is now so popular that the restaurant’s three locations go through around 50 gallons a week. Order extra to dunk pizza crusts into, or opt for the shrimp scampi pie, which uses the warmed sauce in lieu of marinara.
Iowa: Velvet Elvis Dip
The name Velvet Elvis may not scream "Eat me," but the Velveeta-and-Rotel-based dip served at El Bait Shop and High Life Lounge is an area favorite, named for the 50’s paintings of Elvis on black velvet. The dip also pays homage to the state’s history of pork and corn production; the Velveeta and tomato-and-green-chiles mix features spicy-sweet breakfast sausage and a side of corn tortilla chips. First-timers often order a second round, it’s so enjoyable; it’s particularly popular as a late-night snack, particularly if you’ve sampled one too many of El Bait’s 200-plus craft beers on draft.
Kansas: Kansas City Barbecue Sauce
Kansas City is known for its eponymous style of barbecue, and award-winning local joint Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que is usually at the top of the heap for its slow-smoked meats. While the barbecue is good enough to eat alone, a good sauce, like the original Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que sauce, completes the KC ’cue experience. The recipe was developed by owners Jeff and Joy Stehney, who got their start on the competition barbecue circuit, where they’ve won more than 30 Grand Championships. Their classic Kansas City-style sauce features a tomato base sweetened with brown sugar and punched up with vinegar, garlic and a variety of peppers. The thick sauce is so popular that diners use it for dipping fries and onion rings, or to dunk bites of the infamous Z-Man beef brisket sandwich.
Benedictine was created in the early 1900s, when Jennie Carter Benedict of Benedict’s Restaurant whipped up a cucumber-mayo-cream cheese dip. The refreshing, crunchy combination caught on quickly. Today, it’s often served in tea sandwiches at Derby parties, weddings and baby showers, and on sandwiches or alongside charcuterie and cheese boards on restaurant menus. At Louisville classic Bristol Bar & Grille, Chef Austin Wilson blends peeled and seeded cucumbers with cream cheese, onion puree, mayo, Tabasco and a dash of food coloring — a customary addition that gives the dip its signature green tint. The versatile spread lends itself to creative additions, like smoked jalapenos or pimento cheese, and shows up on the menu just about everywhere.
Louisiana: Smoked Tuna Dip
Louisiana native Donald Link grew up visiting family in Southern Alabama and taking trips to the Florida coast, so it’s fitting that Peche, his seafood-centric New Orleans restaurant, celebrates the flavors and foodways of the entire Gulf coast. Link’s Smoked Tuna Dip is reminiscent of the ones he enjoyed at Gulf Coast fish shacks throughout his childhood, but he adds extra Southern flair by gently smoking Gulf-caught tuna over pecan and oak woods in the restaurant’s smoker until just cooked through. The tuna is then shredded with forks to retain texture, and folded with Creole mustard, mayonnaise, sour cream and Cajun spices. The creamy, smoky dip is served with Saltines, the unofficial table cracker of NOLA seafood restaurants.
Maine: Lobster Dip
Maine lobster is highly sought after across the country, but there’s no better place to enjoy it than fresh out of the water in Maine. At Cook’s Lobster & Ale House, perched on the shores of Garrison Cove on Bailey Island, you can see the lobstermen hauling traps and delivering their daily catch. The star shellfish appears in multiple preparations on the menu, including the fan-favorite lobster dip. It starts with a white-wine-butter sauce made with both lobster meat and stock, mixed with a four-cheese blend, including ale cheese made with Maine craft beer, then heated before getting an additional helping of lobster meat. A soup bowl is filled to the brim with the rich, creamy dip and served with toasted baguette points. Wash it down with one of the Maine craft beers on draft or a local soda.
Maryland: Crab & Artichoke Dip
Maryland’s crab cakes get all the glory, but in Baltimore, crab dip gets near-equal billing. Interpretations vary, but at Mama’s on the Half Shell, the inspiration comes from the main menu. After the kitchen ran out of room to include a crab-and-artichoke entrée, the team decided to craft the flavor profile into the crab dip. The cheesy dip features cream cheese, cheddar, Boursin and smoked Gouda, all seasoned with Old Bay and then folded with artichoke quarters and sweet crab claw meat. It’s baked until bubbly and served with crackers, celery, carrots and sliced bread.
Massachusetts: Lobster & Crab Dip
Lobster and crab are two of New England’s most-prized treasures, which says a lot in a state that elevates local sports stars to hero status. Across the region the shellfish shine solo when they’re steamed or boiled, but when they team up in the Lobster & Crab Dip at Park Restaurant & Bar in Cambridge, they’re destined for legendary New England status. The dip’s been a fixture on the Harvard Square restaurant’s menu from day one and remains one of the most-popular dishes. Generous chunks of local lobster and crab are folded into a blend of minced onions, sour cream and Tabasco, topped with nutty Gruyere cheese and baked in a cast-iron crock until blistered and bubbly. The rich, creamy dip is served with a side of pita chips seasoned with oregano and Old Bay.
Michigan: Smoked Whitefish Dip
As one of the largest freshwater lakes, Lake Superior is the perfect habitat for whitefish, a cold-water fish that has traditionally been smoked to provide a food source for locals through long Michigan winters. The Vierling, overlooking Marquette’s Lower Harbor on Lake Superior, is an ideal perch from which to sample the celebrated fish. The restaurant sources whole smoked whitefish — to the tune of 40 pounds a week in summer months — from nearby Thil’s Fish House. Smoked whitefish dip is a popular appetizer; here, the restaurant serves the flaked fish alongside a spread of house made cream cheese, lemon, onion, dill and capers. Combine the two components into a DIY dip, then customize your bite with the accompanying dill toast and crisp apple slices. It’s a popular shareable appetizer, but also makes an ideal light lunch if you want it all to yourself.
Minnesota: Onion Dip
Ask any Minnesotan about dips, and the first words you’ll hear will likely be "Kemps Top the Tater," a chive-and-onion sour cream dip beloved state-wide. It’s so cherished, that Luke Shimp and Tracy Bachul, owners of gourmet burger joint Red Cow, made it a top priority to develop a house-made version for their appetizer menu. The mayo-sour cream dip gets its signature tangy-oniony bite from a blend of onions, vinegar, thyme and garlic and onion powders. The chips feature White Diamond potatoes (sourced from a Northern Minnesota farm), which are sliced extra-large and fried to order — all the better for scooping ample portions.
Mississippi: Crawfish Fondue
Sharing a state line with Louisiana, Mississippi counts a lot of Creole, Cajun and French influences in its cuisine. These influences proliferate the menu at Lou’s Full-Serv, a casual spot in Jackson’s historic Belhaven neighborhood. The flavors shine especially well in the perennially popular Crawfish Fondue. Owner Louis LaRose’s recipe features crawfish tails seasoned with a house Creole-Cajun spice blend, all sautéed with green onions, then combined with a melty blend of cheeses like shredded cheddar, Havarti, smoked gouda and provolone, and garnished with green tomato relish and LaRose’s special six-pepper blend. The hearty appetizer is served with steak fries (or crostini upon request), but the dip is so good, that some diners forgo the accompaniments altogether and eat it like soup!
Missouri: Provel Cheese Whiz
St. Louis is almost as famous for Provel as for its Gateway Arch. According to former St. Louis Post-Dispatch food critic Joe Bonwich, the processed cheese is said to have been developed by Costa Grocery and Hoffman Dairy Company to meet demand for a melting cheese with a clean bite. The buttery blend of provolone, Swiss and cheddar has a low melting point which makes it the gooey cheese of choice for topping St. Louis-style pizzas and other dishes. At his fried chicken-centric restaurant Byrd & Barrel, chef-owner and St. Louis native Bob Brazell transforms Provel into an airy, creamy cheese sauce. Each batch of his signature Provel Cheese Whiz incorporates ten pounds of Provel into a butter-and-flour roux whisked with milk, creating a silky sauce that’s perfect for dunking buttermilk fried chicken nuggets or drenching the signature fried chicken sandwich, the Mother Clucker.
Montana: MT 1000 Island
At Bozeman favorite Montana Ale Works, the team believes that food and drink taste best when seasoned with a sense of place. That ethos rings true with their bison patty melt, featuring Montana bison and a side of rancher-style beans topped with house-smoked pulled pork. But the dish wouldn’t have earned Bozeman classic status without the MT 1000 Island, served in its own ramekin for dunking each bite. The riff on Thousand Island dressing features a blend of aioli and ketchup punched up with finely chopped jalapeno-spiked pickles and lashings of sweet-hot chile sauce. The creamy-crunchy-fiery dip is so popular, it’s often ordered as its own side for dipping all manner of dishes, but especially the pepper-Parmesan French fries. Pair it with Bozeman Brewing Co.’s crisp Gallatin Pale Ale; a portion of sales are donated to the Greater Gallatin Watershed Council to keep local waters clean.
Nebraska: Chicken Sausage Dip
At steakhouse and bourbon bar The Single Barrel, Chef Brandon Harpster invented a novel way to satisfy Nebraskans’ love of sausage and cream cheese-style dips in one fell swoop using his own Italian chicken sausage. Seasoned with fennel, coriander, cayenne and red pepper, the sausage is sautéed with onions and peppers until crumbly, then mixed with cream cheese, white wine and a dash of sambal for added heat. The dip is blanketed with buttery breadcrumbs and served hot with tortilla chips, crostini and vegetables. The dip is always available, but orders go through the roof during Nebraska Cornhusker home games, when the restaurant takes on a tailgate atmosphere.
Nevada: Garden Vegetable Hummus
In a city often associated with over-the-top indulgence and all-you-can-eat buffets, Las Vegas’ more virtuous restaurants can seem like oases on the Strip. Primose, tucked away in the Monte Carlo, features a Provence-inspired outdoor garden with trees, herbs and flowers — a welcome respite from the desert heat and hubbub. The menu features seasonal, garden-inspired fare, like the Garden Vegetable Spread, a fresh take on hummus brightened with green peas and served with a vibrant array of veggies for dipping, including Kirby cucumbers, chiogga beets, watermelon radishes, pattypan squash, baby bell peppers and gem lettuce.
New Hampshire: Clam Dip
Before cars were a thing, people got around by train, and Fabyan’s Station was the stop for those venturing to New Hampshire’s scenic Crawford Notch in the White Mountains. Today, visitors travel to the White Mountains for the fresh powder at ski resort Bretton Woods, and stop by the station — fully-restored and converted into a restaurant — for gourmet burgers, craft beer and New England-inspired dishes, like the warm clam dip. The recipe was inspired by Chef Richard Larcom’s mom’s clam dip, which was a permanent fixture at every family gathering. Larcom’s take features a blend of cream cheese, cheddar and pepper Jack cheeses, minced clams, locally brewed ale, hot sauce and smoked paprika; the lot is baked until warmed through and served with house made chips. Pair with a local pint, like 603 Brewery’s 603 White Peaks IPA.
New Jersey: Marinara
With its seaside locale and plentiful Italian-American communities, New Jersey is possibly the best place in the world to eat fried calamari and marinara. The golden rings and garlicky tomato sauce duo appear in fine dining stalwarts and Jersey Shore beach shacks. At upscale Hoboken sports bar 1-Republik, the fan-favorite appetizer features lightly battered calamari seasoned with the chef’s proprietary herb-spice-flour blend; the zesty rings are perfect for dunking into the house marinara, which gets its bright flavor from San Marzano tomatoes.
New Mexico: Green Chile Salsa
When dining in New Mexico, you will often be asked "red or green?" The question refers to red or green chiles, an important distinction that Frontier’s owners, originally from Texas, learned when they opened their landmark Albuquerque restaurant in 1971. They now go through about 2,000 pounds a week, using them in burgers, burritos and their award-winning green chile salsa. The salsa gets a double dose of heat from flame-roasted green chiles and jalapenos, which are simmered with sautéed onions, tomatoes and spices and served warm. It’s so popular, diners use it not only as a dip for chips and fries, but as sauce for everything from breakfast burritos to the restaurant’s signature sweet roll. Can’t get enough? There are kettles of salsa stationed in the main dining room, so you can ladle extra onto your plate.
New York: Buffalo Chicken Dip
Buffalo wings are synonymous and eponymous with Buffalo, New York, where they were invented. The town is spoiled for choice of fried, hot-sauce-drenched wings, but beloved Buffalo institution Duff’s Famous Wings is the place for Buffalo chicken dip — or wing dip as it’s known locally. Though it’s common practice to use slow-cooked or boiled chicken breast, Duff’s features real-deal, crisp-fried wings. Once the wings have cooled, the meat is pulled and chopped into bite-size pieces and folded with their own Buffalo hot sauce, cream cheese, cheddar cheese and homemade blue cheese; the lot is then baked and served warm with tortilla chips. Ice-cold beer is an optional, but highly recommended pairing.
North Carolina: Smoked Blue Fish Dip
At The Lakewood in Durham, the seasonal menu proudly showcases North Carolina products and the farmers and producers who make it possible. North Carolina’s coastal state designation means that seafood figures prominently, as with the smoked North Carolina bluefish dip. North Carolina bluefish, which Chef Phoebe Lawless sources from Locals Seafood, is prized for its flaky texture, rich flavor and medium oil content, making it ideal for smoking. The cold-smoked fish is flaked and folded with creme fraiche and a flurry of fresh dill and parsley; the result is served with house-made potato chips. The blue fish season runs from late summer to fall, so Lawless buys as much as possible to smoke for savoring well past the season.
North Dakota: Bacon Gravy Dip
Located in the state capital of Bismarck, landmark restaurant Peacock Alley has hosted its fair share of political superstars, as seen in the photographs lining the wall. But whether you’re a U.S. president or a local regular, few can resist the lure of Peacock Alley’s bacon gravy dip. When the kitchen first blended the house bacon burger into a gravy, it was intended to be served alongside breakfast skillets. But it quickly became a hit amongst staff who used it as a dip for potato chips. Now everyone can get their fill of the homemade chips and hot gravy, which features ground, sliced bacon and lean beef, sautéed until crumbly and finished with a top-secret seasoning blend, demi-glace and cream. The thick and creamy dip has become so popular, diners order extra to top waffles, steaks and other dishes.
Ohio: Reuben Dip
Besides excelling at brewing, Lineage Brewing aims to unite Columbus locals and visitors over a pint and stepped-up pub grub, with dishes like the popular Reuben Dip. General manager and Ohio native David Day was inspired by memories of his grandma’s Saturday corned beef dinners and his dad’s signature Sunday Reubens, a corned beef sandwich with Swiss, sauerkraut and Russian dressing on rye bread. The dip gives the sandwich components a gourmet upgrade, starring brined brisket that braises in Lineage Brewing beer. It’s shredded and combined with Russian dressing (made with cream cheese instead of mayo, for heft) and house-made sauerkraut (using local cabbage). The mixture is heaped into a cast-iron casserole dish, topped with cave-aged Swiss cheese, sprinkled with caraway seeds and baked until bubbly and golden and ready for tortilla-chip dunkers.
Oklahoma: Black-Eyed Pea Caviar
Black-eyed pea caviar is a typical side at BBQ joints state-wide, but at Oklahoma City’s Iron Star Urban Barbecue, it takes a starring turn as a dip for tortilla chips. Also known as cowboy caviar, the black-eyed pea caviar is a relish-like medley of black-eyed peas, peppers, onions and scallions, dressed with lemon, vinegar and a hint of tobacco. It’s often ordered alongside the pimento cheese, another Southern staple that’s a fixture at tailgating and weddings alike. Owner Keith Paul’s version features a duo of cheeses, mayo, cream cheese and smashed pimento peppers, plus charred jalapenos for a smoky-spicy hit. Layer the pimento and cowboy caviar on top of the accompanying grilled toast for a double dose of Southern dipping nirvana.
Oregon: Dungeness Crab, Shrimp & Cheese Dip
Newport is home to one of biggest fishing ports in the Pacific Northwest, with a bustling historic bay front. Locals, fishermen and tourists alike stop by Ocean Bleu Seafoods at Gino’s to get a taste of the haul, including fish 'n’ chips and popcorn shrimp, and new favorites, like the Dungeness crab, shrimp and cheese dip, made with locally caught shellfish. Dungeness crab, prized for its sweet, mild meat, is mixed with pink shrimp, pepper Jack and Parmesan cheeses, sour cream, roasted garlic, lemon zest and Old Bay. The mixture is blanketed with bread crumbs, baked until bubbly and served with crostini.
Pennsylvania: Mustard Dip
With Pennsylvania Dutch roots, soft pretzels are as much a thing in the Quaker State as the Philly cheesesteak. At Miller’s Twist, in Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market, the soft pretzel dough is also used in roll ups, filled with everything from bacon and eggs to the city’s namesake sandwich. But simplicity reigns supreme: The most-popular order is the "regular" soft pretzel, lightly coated with butter and salt and served hot with a side of dipping mustard. The choice mustard is the sweet-with-a-kick Betsy Lantz Hot and Sweet, which comes from owner Roger Miller’s dad’s line of mustards. The mustards are made from scratch from a generations-old secret recipe in Amish country’s Lancaster County.
Rhode Island: Bloody-Mary-Nara
Rhode Islanders love a good cocktail and are particularly fanatic about brunch, so Ogie’s Trailer Park brings a little Sunday funday flair to its comfort food menu, pairing the mac and cheese croquettes with a Bloody-Mary-Nara dipping sauce. The marinara component of the sauce is taken particularly seriously, since the restaurant is close to Providence’s Federal Hill neighborhood, home to a large Italian American community. Their house-made red sauce is bolstered with a secret blend of herbs and spices and blended with the bar’s Bloody Mary mix to create a tangy-spicy dipping sauce, perfect for cutting the richness of the mac and cheese croquettes.
South Carolina: Pimento Cheese Fondue
Pimento cheese is a Southern staple, served with buttery crackers and celery sticks at gatherings for all occasions or slathered onto sandwiches, burgers and biscuits. At Greenville’s Southern Culture Kitchen & Bar, owner Chad Gangwer gilds the lily by turning the caviar of the South into a pot of liquid gold. The pimento cheese fondue features standard yellow cheddar, but for added cheesiness and flavor, it also incorporates aged sharp white cheddar, pepper Jack and Parmesan Reggiano, all mixed with heavy cream and sautéed onions, then kicked up with cayenne, smoked paprika, horseradish and ground mustard. The fondue is served with tater tots for dipping, but also makes a cameo in the baked skillet macaroni and atop pulled-pork nachos.
South Dakota: Ghost Cheese Dip
In South Dakota, some argue that chislic — chopped, deep-fried meat — is only truly chislic if it’s made with lamb, but it’s also common to make it with game, including pheasant or venison. At Ode to Food and Drinks, the preparation is unconventional across the board; chopped sirloin is dredged in egg whites and cornstarch for crunch before getting the deep fryer treatment. Instead of serving it with the typical barbecue or ranch sauces, the kitchen serves chislic with ghost cheese dip. The warm dip features a blend of shallots, celery, sour cream, cream cheese, heavy whipping cream, and ghost cheese, a Monterey Jack cheese studded with super-hot ghost peppers. The dip is so popular, it’s also served on the chimichanga, and diners order extra to top mashed potatoes or use as fry dip.
Tennessee: Baked Pimiento Cheese
Whether you call it pimento or pimiento cheese, the dip is a ubiquitous Southern staple in homes and restaurants. But at Knoxville burger-and-bourbon spot The Stock & Barrel, the dip is baked, for near-legendary results. The cheddar-cheese-mayo dip already made for a stellar burger topping, but the team was inspired to create an appetizer with it. When baked in a skillet topped with layers of goat cheese and tomato jam, the pimento cheese — a blend of shredded barrel-aged white cheddar, mayonnaise, cream cheese and diced pimentos — becomes a warm, tangy comfort, perfect for scooping with pita chips. Pair it with a bourbon flight for a true taste of the region.
In Texas, chile con queso, a spicy molten cheese dip known simply as queso, is a Tex-Mex staple that shows up seemingly everywhere, including restaurant menus, potlucks and family gatherings. At Molina’s Cantina in Houston, the chile con queso gets a meaty upgrade in The Original Jose’s Dip, named for a former waiter who garnished queso orders with taco meat. The dip became so beloved that diners asked for José’s Dip even when he wasn’t working; it remains a menu staple and fan-favorite today. The dip stars Velveeta — prized for its smooth meltability — as well as a spice blend that’s so secret you can’t even marry into it, and a hefty scoop of zesty ground beef taco filling bolstered with crushed garlic, cumin and cayenne. It’s accompanied by fresh tortilla chips, three house-made salsas and a bowl of carrot escabeche.
Utah: Fry Sauce
In Utah, fry sauce, a ketchup-mayo based sauce, is a must-have condiment pretty much anywhere fries are served. Local fast-food chain Arctic Circle (which also has locations in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming) is widely recognized as having created the sauce. Though the Original Fry Sauce was invented more than six decades ago, the recipe — beyond ketchup and mayonnaise — remains top-secret. Vividly pink, it's the dip of choice for French fries, tater tots and the fan-favorite onion rings; every year, the restaurant pours half a million pounds of Fry Sauce and diners consume more than six million one-ounce cups. Not local? The bottled sauce can be ordered online.
Vermont: Cheddar Spinach Artichoke Dip
Spinach-artichoke dip is a nationwide favorite, but at The Skinny Pancake in Burlington, the dip is elevated to the best version of itself with a triple dose of Vermont dairy. Cream cheese is responsible for the velvety texture, Cabot cheddar for its signature gooey stretch and half-and-half for its over-the-top richness. The cheesy mixture is blended with local spinach, artichokes, garlic and house hot sauce crafted from local hot peppers. The chunky dip is topped with more Cabot cheddar, baked until bubbly, and served piping hot with fried chips made from squares of the restaurant’s savory crepe shells.
Virginia: Pimento Cheese
Pimento is a Southern favorite for pretty much any occasion. Richmond restaurant Comfort offers an upscale take that’s ideal for most occasions. Chef Jason Alley is a staunch believer in Duke’s mayonnaise, which he mixes with medium sharp cheddar cheese, house-roasted peppers, grated red onion, tarragon and a couple of dashes of Worcestershire and hot sauces. He knows he’s achieved the ideal creamy texture when he can drag a Ritz through it without the cracker’s shattering. To satisfy demand, Comfort, and its sister restaurant Pasture, go through 80 pounds of cheese, 14 gallons of mayonnaise and 27 pounds of roasted red peppers every week.
Washington: Smoked Oyster Dip
When it comes to seafood dips, Washington is downright spoiled. Its location in the Pacific Northwest means that smoked salmon, crab and lobster dips abound on restaurant menus, but locals’ favorite contribution to the state’s dip canon is Taylor Shellfish Farms’ smoked oyster dip. The fifth-generation shellfish company cultivates a variety of shellfish, including several kinds of oysters, and showcases their bounty at Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bars. When they opened their original location on Capitol Hill, the space had limited cooking options — so in addition to serving freshly shucked raw oysters, the team put their smoker to good use and created a smoked oyster dip. The smoky, creamy dip features Pacific oysters from Willapa Bay that are steamed, brined and smoked over maple chips before being folded with Mexican crema, mayo and a secret blend of spices, all served with kettle-cooked potato chips.
West Virginia: Pinto Beans
Tudor’s Biscuit World is lauded for its namesake buttermilk biscuits, but the West Virginia chain-let (which now counts locations in Ohio, Kentucky and Florida, too) couldn’t launch a restaurant in the Mountain State without including a classic West Virginia duo on its down-home menu. Pinto beans and cornbread is a traditional country combo; historically, the easy, filling dish was a staple in mining communities. At Tudor’s, the pinto beans are slowly simmered with a top-secret blend of spices and "grandma’s secret ingredient," served in a bowl with cornbread and a side of chopped sweet onions. While styles of eating the iconic duo vary, it’s common practice to dunk squares of the buttery, crumbly cornbread into the deep-set bowl of beans and sop up the flavorful simmering liquid. The dish makes a fine addition to any meal, but is particularly appealing when winter comfort food cravings beckon.
Wisconsin: Beer Cheese
Wisconsinites are serious about their cheese — Green Bay Packers fans are known as cheeseheads — but they’re just as serious about their beer. The pride-of-Wisconsin foods come together in beer cheese soup, a dish that’s ubiquitous on restaurant menus across the state. Beer cheese also makes a fine dip, like at Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery, where it’s paired with local beer-coated soft pretzels. The silky dipping sauce features five Wisconsin-made cheeses, including aged cheddar, nutty Gruyere, Parmesan, smoky Gouda and Swiss, all blended with sour cream, cream cheese and their flagship Riverwest Stein amber lager, for hoppy bitterness and malt sweetness. The kitchen goes through 80 pounds of cheese per week and makes a 10-gallon batch of beer sauce every other day.
Wyoming: Warm Mustard Beer Dip
Jackson Hole landmark Snake River Grill does the Cowboy State proud with its menu of American classics with a twist, including the centerpiece-worthy Green Chile Onion Rings stacked on a branding iron "ring rod." The rings are dipped in a beer batter bolstered by whipped egg whites (for a crunchy exterior and airy interior) and pureed basil, cilantro and green chiles, which give the rings their trademark green color. It makes for a dramatic presentation, but it’s the warm mustard-beer dip that quietly steals the show. The rings are so big that the kitchen only gets two slices out of every sweet onion, so the leftover onions are caramelized then pureed for dip with spicy dark mustard, apple cider reduction and locally brewed Snake River Brewery Pale Ale.