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Culinary Classics: The Most-Iconic Restaurants from Coast to Coast

Hungry for a bit of history? These steakhouses, coffee shops, burger joints and pizza stops are among the most-iconic destinations in the country.

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Photo: Pravada Photography

Philadelphia: Pat's King of Steaks

As far as sandwich wars are concerned, this is probably the biggest. The venerable Philly cheesesteak has two shops battling it out: Pat's King of Steaks and Geno's Steaks. And they happen to be located just 262 feet away from each other. Pat's was founded by Pasquale "Pat" and Harry Olivieri, and the brothers claim they invented the sub sandwich that consists of an Italian roll layered with thinly sliced, well-done beef off the flattop, grilled chopped onions, and Cheez Whiz, American or provolone cheese. It wasn't until 1966 that Geno's came around and the rivalry began. The competition between the two, however, is friendly, with current Pat's owner Frank Jr. (grandson of Harry) and his childhood friend Geno Vento (founder Joey Vento's son) agreeing to keep prices the same.

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Photo: Charlie Schuck Photography

Seattle: Pike Place Market

With the city's population nearly doubling at the turn of the century, so increased the demand for food. Local farmers seized the opportunity to capitalize on this population surge by price gouging, which did not make Seattle folks too happy. A center for fair trade was proposed and, on Aug. 17, 1907, the Pike Place Market was born. Shortly thereafter the market went from a collection of 70 vendors on a wooden roadway to a brick-and-mortar structure with the glorious arcades that still stand today. It is also here, at 102 Pike St, where the original Starbucks opened in 1971. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this culinary hub continues to expand, most recently in 2015.

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Brooklyn: Peter Luger Steakhouse

This Brooklyn steakhouse, in operation since 1887, is often brimming with large tables filled with men, yet it is the women who rule what goes on behind the scenes at this classic institution. First established as Carl Luger's Cafe, Billiards and Bowling Alley by owner Peter Luger, the restaurant was purchased at auction by Sol Forman in 1950 after Luger died and the restaurant fell into disrepair. Forman, who ran a family flatware business across the street, previously entertained clients there and knew the critical piece of preparing a great steak was how the meat was sourced. Reportedly wearing a fur hat and white lab coat, his wife, Marsha, studied proper selection for two years under a former U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector, spending hours in the plants in the gritty Meatpacking District. To this day the Forman women, led by Sol's granddaughter Jody Storch, handpick only the finest USDA prime cuts, which are then dry-aged in-house.

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Photo: Jackie Alpers

Tucson, Arizona: El Charro Café

While Union Oyster House may be the longest operating restaurant in the United States, El Charro Café is the longest operating Mexican restaurant in the nation. Unlike the Union Oyster House, this Sonoran-style Mexican eatery has been run by the same family since 1922. It started with Monica Flin, who came to Arizona by way of France and ran the front of house and back of house all at the same time. The restaurant isn't just longstanding; it is also the place where Flin invented the chimichanga. According to the family, while Flin was preparing her ground beef tacos with her young nieces, one burrito shot up into the air and landed in the scorching hot oil, causing her to shout, "Chimichanga," which essentially means "thingamajig."

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