Every dish, whether great or modest, had to have a moment of creation. Sometimes born from necessity, others by accident, the original dishes caught on and became classics for very good reasons and have been widely imitated by r cooks all over the world. Here are ten places you can still go to get these enduringly popular American dishes where they haven’t changed a thing about the original recipe. When the Covid pandemic lifts, these restaurants will still be serving them all.
Lobster Newburg—A rich dish of lobster meat, sherry, egg yolks, cream, and cayenne pepper made famous at Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York in 1876 when the recipe was brought to chef Charles Ranhofer by a West Indies sea captain named Ben Wenberg. It was an immediate hit, especially for after-theater suppers, and owner Charles Delmonico honored the captain by naming the dish “lobster à la Wenberg.” But later Wenberg and Delmonico had a falling-out, and the restaurateur took the dish off the menu, restoring it only by popular demand by renaming it “lobster à la Newberg,” reversing the first three letters of the captain’s name. Chicken à la King and Eggs Benedict are also a Delmonico’s creation.
Bananas Foster—A dessert made from sliced bananas cooked with butter, brown sugar, flamed with rum and banana cordial and served with vanilla ice cream. The dish was created by chef Paul Blange in the early 1950s at Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans as part of a Breakfast at Brennan’s promotion that has since become a city tradition (the restaurant was opened in 1946). It was named after a regular customer, Richard Foster, owner of the Foster Awning Company in New Orleans.
Boston Cream Pie—A pie made of white cake and custard filling or topping. If chocolate icing is added, it is called “Parker House chocolate pie,” after the Parker House Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, where the embellishment was first contrived. The first mention of the dessert as “Boston cream pie” was in the New York Herald in 1855. The hotel is also responsible for Parker House rolls.
Hot Brown—A sandwich of chicken, bacon, or ham with a cheese sauce, created at Louisville’s Brown Hotel in 1926 by Chef Fred K. Schmidt as a late-night dish. It is still the specialty of the house at the hotel’s restaurants, including the English Grill, J. Graham’s Café and Lobby Bar. You’ll find it elsewhere in the city, but the oldest is still the best.
Irish Coffee— A blend of hot coffee, Irish whisky, and whipped cream. According to a plaque outside the Buena Vista Bar in San Francisco, “America’s first Irish coffee was made here in 1952. It was inspirationally invented at Shannon Airport [Ireland] by [chef] Joe Sheridan. It was fortuitously introduced by [newspaper writer] Stan Delaplane. It was nurtured to a national institution by [the bar’s owner] Jack Koeppler.” Sheridan actually created the drink in 1942 at Foynes Dock, where flying boats docked in World War II. It was promoted as of 1947 at Shannon Airport as an official welcoming beverage.
In the 19th century the term “Irish coffee” was slang for whiskey, entering print in 1875.
Muffuletta—A hero-type sandwich on a large, round Italian bread loaf stuffed with ham, Genoa and mortadella salami, cheeses, and pickled olives. It is a specialty of New Orleans, where it was created at the Central Grocery in 1906 by Salvatore Lupo based on a Sicilian sandwich, although the word itself, according to the Oxford English Dictionary does not appear in print until 1967. Muffuletta is a Sicilian dialect word for a round loaf of bread baked so that the center is hollow, so that it may be stuffed, usually with ricotta cheese.
Pizza—While the first pizza alla margherita, with tomato, mozzarella and basil (the colors of the Italian flag), was created in Naples in 1889, it was just sixteen years later that immigrant Gennaro Lombardi’s made his own at his namesake pizzeria on Spring Street in New York before others followed in the Italian communities around the city. G. Lobardi’s moved from its original address but is still on Spring Street. Enrico Caruso was a regular.
Buffalo Chicken Wings—Deep-fried chicken wings served with a hot sauce and a blue-cheese dressing originated at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, on October 30, 1964, when owner Teressa Bellissimo, having just received an oversupply of chicken wings, was asked by her son Dominic and his friends for something to nibble on. According to Dominic, “She cut off the doohickeys, fried them, drained them and swished them around in margarine. Then she improvised on the hot sauce and put blue cheese dressing—our house dressing—on the side.” Being Catholics, the Bellissimos did not eat meat on Fridays, so they waited until midnight to serve the first wings.
The dish became an immediate and in 1977 the city of Buffalo declared July 29 “Chicken Wing Day.”
Seafood Carpaccio—Upon opening Le Bernardin in New York in 1986, brother and sister Gilbert and Maguy Le Coze, from Brittany, France, committed to using American seafood as much as possible. They came up with the idea of serving raw, sashimi-like seafood paper thin, like beef carpaccio (invented at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy) and dressing it with a light mayonnaise. It was an overnight hit whose repercussions made raw fish ubiquitous on menus worldwide.
Cincinnati Chili—“Cincinnati chili” was the creation of Macedonian immigrant Athanas Kiradjieff, who settled in Cincinnati and opened a hot-dog stand called the Empress (named after the Empress Burlesque Theater in the same building), where in 1922 he concocted a layered chili (seasoned with Middle Eastern spices) that could be served in various “ways.” “Five-way” chili was the most elaborate—a mound of spaghetti topped with chili, then chopped onions, then red kidney beans, then shredded yellow cheese, and served traditionally with oyster crackers and a side order of two hot dogs topped with shredded cheese. Kiradjieff later changed the name of his chain of eateries to Empress Chili, now a chain in Ohio and Kentucky.