Ah, Pennsylvania, birthplace of our nation. The meeting place of the First Continental Congress. The state where the Declaration of Independence was signed. The place the Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution. The homeland of the first American flag. The location where colonists broke with the Church of England and established religious freedom.
But Pennsylvania is also birthplace of tons of delicious food. For those who are unimpressed at the happenings at Independence Hall, maybe some of these PA food creations will gain your respect:
1. Heinz Ketchup
Heinz started selling ketchup in its Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania, production plant in 1876 for delivery around Pittsburgh. Since then, they’ve ballooned into a world powerhouse that sells 650 million bottles a year. It’s a necessary addition to every burger and hot dog, and no BBQ would be complete without it.
Just Born candy company started making chocolate sprinkles in the 1930s in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The guy manning the machine was named Jimmy Bartholomew, so the confection toppers were called jimmies, a name still used by those from the Philly area. They’ve stuck around as a favorite ice cream and cupcake topping, because nothing goes better with a sugary treat than more sugar.
3. Hershey’s Chocolate
Not only does Pennsylvania boast the headquarters of the chocolate factory, but its got a whole amusement park celebrating the sweets. Aside from making your favorite s’mores topping, Hershey’s has also introduced the world to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, York Peppermint Patties, Kit Kat bars and more.
4. Big Macs
McDonald’s most famous burger first appeared in a Uniontown, Pennsylvania, location in 1967. A year later, it was available nationwide. If your love for Big Macs goes beyond the occasional munchies visit, get yourself over to the Big Mac Museum Restaurant in North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, which boasts the biggest Big Mac statue in the world, which you’ve got to believe was a tough claim to make with all that competition.
You knew this was coming, but what would be a Pennsylvania food post without cheesesteaks? There’s a reason the name “Philly Cheesesteak” still sticks: Pennsylvanians are dang proud of this sandwich. These sandwiches have deservedly become a national favorite. Top a soft roll with flavorful beef, melty cheese and onions and peppers, and you’ve got a meal worth bragging about.
With bragging rights as America’s oldest brewery — and a solid domestic draft that can still fit in a college budget — Yuengling got its start in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. More than 185 years later, Yuengling has kept that momentum up enough that The Wall Street Journal named its traditional lager America’s favorite beer in 2012. Oh, and did I mention, it’s President Obama’s beer of choice?
It’s impossible to eat just one potato chip, probably because Utz’s, made in Hanover, Pennsylvania, are just so dang good. The originals are thicker with a more potatoey flavor than Lay’s, but you can also grab a bag of flavors like crab chip, wavy Tabasco, Southern sweet heat BBQ, or even Yuengling if you’re feeling particularly PA prideful. Plus, the brand’s thick sourdough pretzels are pretty much the most satisfying snack you can get your hands on.
While Twinkies went off the shelves in 2012 until a new company took over the Hostess name the next year, the Tastykake game has stayed strong. And is that really a surprise? Sure the Philadelphia company’s yellow, spongy Dreamies seem similar to its competitor’s top seller, but Twinkies have nothing on the peanut buttery goodness that is Kandy Kakes or the sugar-sweet Butterscotch Krimpets.
Another Just Born product from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, these marshmallow chicks are everyone’s favorite Easter guilty pleasure for a reason. Jelly beans are hardly worth your time, and you can eat chocolate any old time of the year, but Peeps hold a special place in Easter baskets for their fluffy texture coated in enough sugar crystals to put your teeth on edge in the best of ways.
Not a submarine sandwich. Not a grinder. Not a hero. Debate it all you want, but if you’re from Philadelphia, where the term originated, you’re going to call that sandwich a hoagie. For the best experience, stuff a long roll with as much deli meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and onions as you can, then dress it up with olive oil, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper.
11. Arnold Palmers
The drink’s namesake was a golfer from Latrobe, Pennsylvania, but his legacy went beyond the sport. Arnold Palmers are the perfect mix of iced tea and lemonade that makes for the single most refreshing way to quench your thirst on a hot summer day. Add a splash of Limoncello or bourbon and you’ll be all set for your next barbecue – no beer required.
12. Turkey Hill
Quit wasting money on overpriced pints of Ben & Jerry’s when you could gobble gallons of Turkey Hill ice cream, which is produced in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Give Double Dunker — mocha ice cream with a chocolate cookie swirl and filled with chunks of gooey cookie dough — a try and you’ll forget Cherry Garcia ever even existed. If you’re not in a dessert mood, Turkey Hill makes some pretty banging iced tea too. The raspberry variety is a particularly good thirst-quencher that doesn’t skimp on fruity flavor.
Honorable Mention: Scheetz
Who knew a gas station could be such a destination? Anyone from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia or North Carolina, that’s who. This mecca of “schnackz” such as szechuan fire mac ‘n’ cheese, Old Bay wings and jalepeño cheddar pretzels — not to mention, burgerz, burritoz and subz — will satisfy just about any salty, cheesy craving you’ve got. If you’ve never been to one, a stop at its hometown of Altoona, Pennsylvania, might be next on your bucket list.
To those of you who didn’t think Pennsylvania had anything besides farmland and Amish communities, I hope that this post proved you wrong and that you think of PA next time you’re drowning your fries in ketchup or licking an ice cream cone smothered in sprinkles.