It's morning in America, and all across the country people are rising, shining, and settling into the first meal of the day. It's breakfast, so it's going to be eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee, right? Maybe a pancake or two, or some cereal? There's a good chance that you'll be able to find a combo of those anywhere you go, but if you're eating goetta, you are almost certainly near Cincinnati. Eggs Sardou locates you in the vicinity of New Orleans, and a smear of marionberry jam has you smack dab in Oregon. 

There are some dishes and foods that are so closely tied to a place—because of agriculture, industry, or tradition—that they become part of its identity. Expats crave them when they leave, and then order the necessary ingredients to savor a taste of home. A person might dig out a dog-eared community cookbook, or visit an old haunt, take a bite and be transported back to a meal with a loved one long ago. These foods have power; they are essential.

This is not to say that every food on this list is going to be on every breakfast menu in town, or that they're regularly eaten by everyone in the region. Some have been embraced beyond their original geographic boundaries, and others have fallen out of favor. But they're all from somewhere, and you should get to know a little bit more about them. 

Alabama

Conecuh Sausage

There are plenty of sausages savored across Alabama, but there's only one Conecuh. The late Henry Sessions founded the family business in 1947, and since then, every single link and coil of the sweet, spicy, hickory-smoked pork sausage has been made in Conecuh County, Alabama. The family uses only natural hog and sheep casings for the meat, and the heavenly scent from the Conecuh Gift Shop (which also sells smoked ham, turkey, and bacon) has been known to draw in motorists off Interstate 65.

Alaska

Birch Syrup

Sap rises up in Alaska's paper birches each April, and enterprising locals take full advantage of the very short season before the trees bud to tap them for their watery contents, which they'll concentrate into birch syrup. The sweet stuff is distinctly different from its pancake-friendly Eastern cousin, maple syrup, with a spicier flavor that's great in granola, baked goods, and stirred into coffee. 

Nagoonberry Jam

According to the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Cooperative Extension Service, Tlingit elders say the Nagoonberry (a.k.a. Arctic raspberry) plant's fruits are "like little jewels popping up from the ground," and they're entirely worth getting a little (or a lot) muddy for. Nagoonberries grow low to the ground in small quantities in damp, woodsy areas in coastal and Interior Alaska. Because they're so much scarcer than the state's other wild berries—salmonberries, cloudberries, blueberries, and the like—each taste is like a treasure, and people tend to keep their secret spots close to the vest. Jam is an especially popular way to preserve this unique taste of summer even after the season is a dim memory.

Appalachia

Chocolate Gravy

"I am a gravy whisperer from Appalachia. Gather round to hear me tell of something with the power to make your life—and biscuits—richer, fuller, and more delicious. I say to you, chocolate gravy. Mountain people who were born into the realm of chocolate gravy or were converted after the age of accountability love it. People from off might be confused and skeptical, so let’s parse the concept a word at a time. Gravy: Not all are made from meat drippings. The term comes from an old southern practice of using the word 'gravy' to describe any roux-thickened sauce made in a skillet, whether sweet or savory. Chocolate: This sweet gravy—what some call soppin’ chocolate—delivers a solid, sincere cocoa experience." —Chocolate Gravy Is the Pride of Appalachia

Pork Brains and Eggs

"Though scrambled eggs and brains were eaten in every nook and corner of our country, at any time of the day, at some point the dish became known as a special breakfast in the American South. No one is specifically credited with creating scrambled eggs and brains, but the person who first did so probably figured that the two ingredients went well together because they have a similar texture when cooked." —Scrambled Eggs and Brains Are Coming Back from the Dead

California

Los Angeles: Breakfast Burritos

"The origins of the breakfast burrito are debated, but it’s largely believed that it originated not in California but in New Mexico, when it emerged as a menu item in 1975 at Tia Sophia’s—a small unassuming diner that still sits in downtown Santa Fe. It was only a matter of time before this innovation made its way west to California, where the modern burrito had already been prevalent for decades thanks to the state’s large Hispanic population. The burrito first appeared on a menu in the United States in the 1930s at the El Cholo Spanish Café in Los Angeles. By the 1980s, it was fast becoming a regular menu item at Mexican restaurants and diners throughout the Golden State. In 1991, it had officially gone national: McDonald’s introduced it as part of their breakfast menu. Now breakfast burritos are as common to California as smog and gridlocked freeways at rush hour." —The Curious Bond Between Surfers and Burritos

San Francisco: Morning Buns

"To clarify, the morning buns we’re talking about here aren’t the generic cinnamon or nut-filled rolls baked up in casserole dishes. What we call morning buns out here are made from croissant dough that is spread with cinnamon and brown sugar, rolled up, baked in muffin tins, and then dunked in cinnamon sugar. The result is a croissant, a cinnamon roll, and a muffin all in one." —The Best Morning Bun in San Francisco

Placerville: Hangtown Fry

Placerville, California, was once known as Hangtown, and it served as a hub for Gold Rush operations. Various origin myths surround the town's legendary dish, the Hangtown Fry—one involving the highfalutin notions of a man suddenly striking it rich, and another about a man attempting to delay his execution (there's a reason for the Hangtown moniker) by ordering in hard-to-get ingredients for his last meal—but they're all just attempting to explain the luxurious excess of fried oysters and bacon in one of the richest, most delicious omelets you'll ever eat.

Colorado

Denver: Green Chile Breakfast Burrito

"There’s a very particular joy in stumbling around an early-morning Denver farmers' market and finding a smiling man churning a big metal cage filled with Hatch green chiles. The smell, like wood smoke, unctuous green, and lemon-pepper, permeated the area, and I followed my senses. Green chile season had finally arrived, albeit a little early, and that meant not only could I delight in the savory aroma wafting around town, but now had the ability to buy freshly roasted green chiles for next couple months and make my breakfast sing. This meaty New Mexican and Southern Colorado capsicum not only offers a much-loved spicy, slightly fruity, and rich flavor, but gives that first meal of the day an extra-special punch." —Green Chile Season Is Here, Hatch a Breakfast Plan

Florida

Florida Keys: Grits and Grunts

Don't go strolling into a schmancy restaurant and scroll the menu looking for grits and grunts, or even fried millet and grits. It's a classic conch breakfast worth seeking out the next time you're in the Florida Keys. Top hot cornmeal grits with small, fried or poached millet or grunts (snapper may have to do) and serve the dish with avocado and "old sour"—a condiment that's made by infusing Key lime juice with salt and small, hot, red peppers for a week. 

Tampa: Toasted Cuban Bread with Cafe con Leche

Cuban bread is a ubiquitous part of Tampa cuisine—especially as part of the legendary Cuban sandwich of ham, roasted pork, salami, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard—but it pulls double duty with a shift at the breakfast table. There, it's toasted, pressed with butter, and served alongside strong cafe con leche. Dunking is encouraged.

Hawaii

Loco Moco

Take a heap of white rice, top it with a hamburger patty (Spam or other meats will do if you don't have ground beef on hand—this dish isn't fussy), slather that with gravy and a fried egg, and you've got loco moco. The dish's invention is often credited to a group of hungry Hawaiian teens in 1949 who asked a Hilo restaurant to make them something cheap and easy to prepare. It was a smash hit with the kids, who named the dish after their "crazy" or "loco" friend George Okimoto, and it's been a staple of the state's cuisine ever since.

Malasadas

A doughnut is a doughnut, which is a wonderful thing, but a malasada is a real taste of home for people from Hawaii. They're Portuguese in origin, but chains like Leonard's Bakery have made them a statewide obsession. These yeasted puffs are lavishly coated in granulated sugar, jammed with fillings like custard, coconut haupia cream, and tart fruit jelly, and best eaten hot and messily.

Illinois

Chicago: Ann Sather's Cinnamon Roll

"In 1945, a Chicago woman named Ann Sather bought a diner from a couple who were about to retire, and for 35 years, she ran it herself. In 1981, she sold the restaurant to 24-year-old Tom Tunney, who trained with her for a year to learn all her secrets—including her signature Swedish pancakes (meatballs are an optional side) and the cinnamon rolls that to this day are something of a regional obsession." —51 of the Best Breakfast Destinations in America

Indiana

Southern Indiana: Fried Biscuits and Apple Butter

How do you make a biscuit even better? Drop it in a deep fryer. And how might you improve on that? Slather it with apple butter like some restaurants do in Southern Indiana. If you've never had the pleasure, apple butter is made with, well, apples, sugar, and spices, with some versions augmented by cider vinegar and lemon juice for a sweet, tangy spread ideally suited for cutting through the fatty carb bliss of frizzled dough.

Louisiana

New Orleans: Eggs Sardou

Yes, you thought we were gonna say beignets for New Orleans—and they're great—but the argument has been made on this very site that beignets are actually better later in the day. Consider, instead, Eggs Sardou, the invention of a cook at Antoine's in the French Quarter in the 19th century. The restaurant still exists, and the dish—creamed spinach topped with buttered artichoke bottoms, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce—has swaddled roughly five billion hangovers into submission in the decades since.

New Orleans: Grits and Grillades

"Simply put, grillades—pronounced GREE-yahds, not GRILL-ahds or, god forbid, grill-AIDES—are medallions of meat, usually pork, beef or veal—pan-fried and then gently braised in a rich brown or tomato-based Creole sauce (or a combination of the two, similar to an espagnole). Spooned over grits and often topped with scattering of scallions and sometimes a poached egg, it’s a classic as beloved by brunch-hungry New Orleanians as Eggs Sardou, pain perdu, or a cup of turtle soup generously spiked with sherry. So many enthusiastic visitors to this city are quick to gush about those dishes, but few have ever done so about grillades, at least not to me. The dish seems like such a mystery to them, when to me it’s so essential." —Grillades and Grits Is the Best New Orleans Breakfast You've Never Heard Of

Southern Louisiana: Boudin

"It’s rare to encounter anyone who would admit to eating morning meat all by its lonesome. Bacon needs, at the very least, a side of toast. Ham’s partnership with the almighty biscuit is accepted as gospel. Even lox doesn’t really fly without the help of a bagel. But when it comes to boudin—the beloved, signature sausage of the Acadiana region in South Louisiana—most eaters lose the biscuit and forget the eggs. Boudin is a strong, independent sausage that doesn’t need any propping up. It’s a breakfast meat that stands out and stands alone." —Boudin Is a Sausage for All Seasons and All People

Massachusetts

Southeastern and North Shore: Linguiça and Chouriço

"Portuguese chouriço and eggs, or better still, cod cakes and eggs, are two of my favorite reasons to go home to Massachusetts," said one native, while still others cited linguiça as the breakfast meat that beckons them back. The two smoked Portuguese pork sausages—linguiça slightly spiced with vinegar, salt, paprika, and garlic; hot chouriço distinctly more so—are a staple of the region, especially in New Bedford. While other sausage makers ply their worthy wares, the North Dartmouth-based Gaspar's brand reigns supreme. 

Michigan

Upper Peninsula: Pannakakku

A sizable Finnish population settled in the Upper Peninsula, and they brought along this fantastic oven pancake. It’s a custard-like dish that can come decked and drizzled with berries and syrup, kissed with lemon and sugar, slathered in Nutella, or even topped with sausage gravy. Eggs, milk, flour, and salt are the only essential ingredients, though few Yoopers would likely complain if some sugar made it into the mix.

Minnesota

Mahnomin Porridge

Fun fact: When the Senate is in session, Minnesota's Al Franken hosts a weekly Wednesday breakfast for his staff and state's constituents in his DC office. He serves this native Minnesota dish made with wild rice brought in from White Earth Reservation, cooked down with cream, berries, nuts, and syrup. This is open to the public, but visitors are encouraged to RSVP so Franken and team know how much of it to make.

Egg Coffee

Egg coffee isn't as common as it used to be, but it's a Minnesota tradition carried over by Scandinavian immigrants and still just as pleasurable today. To make it, beat an egg and stir it into dry coffee grounds, boil that, let it steep, halt the process with cold water, let the grounds fall down, and serve. Some devotees of "church basement coffee" may even include the eggshell, but it's perfectly fine to leave it out. —Cracking an Egg into Your Coffee Is Actually Delicious

Mid-Atlantic

Scrapple

"Scrapple, as locals joke, is made of “everything but the oink,” meaning that you’d make scrapple out of whatever parts of the pig you had leftover after cutting bacon, chops, ribs, and loin. The processed pork product has the size, shape, and color of solid concrete blocks. Uncooked, it’s not much to look at. But sliced into quarter-inch-thick rectangles, hot-cooked crispy around the edges and slightly soft in the center, scrapple is a two-textured treat of salty, porky deliciousness. Even thick-cut bacon can’t match its flavor." —Why the World’s Best Breakfast Meat Isn’t Anything You’ve Ever Heard Of

Mississippi

Delta: Grits and Tomato Gravy

Yup—more grits. They're cheap, versatile, and a perfect blank canvas for showcasing ingredients and flavors particular to a region. In the Mississippi Delta, tomato gravy is a thrifty way to stretch out meat of the meal—often bacon, cured so it lasts a long time—with the fat rendered out to form the base of a roux when it's mixed with flour. Stir in cream, milk, or even water, salt and pepper, and whatever kind of tomato you have on hand—a few spoons of canned paste or diced, or fresh from your garden. Spoon that over hot grits (and if you have some cooked collards, they sure would be welcome) and enjoy.

Missouri

St. Louis: Slinger

Extra Crispy's St. Louis expat says she didn't encounter slingers much growing up and then noted, "I guess I moved away before I started having hangovers." Bingo. This morning-after diner dish varies in composition but generally includes potatoes, meat, a couple of eggs, cheese, and a scoop of chili slung over top, usually along with mustard, jalapeño peppers, and onions. The kinds of proteins and spuds may vary, but the net effect is the same: delicious reprieve.

Nevada

Buffet

There are buffets all over this great land, but they don't hold a candle to the massive spreads laid out daily at hotel and casino restaurants across the Silver State. It's a symphony of excess—especially at breakfast, when made-to-order omelet and crepe stations are flanked by mounds of seemingly boundless crab legs, smoked fish, caviar-dotted and creme-fraiche-slathered blini, and fresh fruit and pastries as far as the eye can see. And no one will stop you from going back for thirds, fourths, or even eighths. Pair that with bottomless mimosas and bellinis and it's one of the few sure bets you'll make while you're in town.

New England

Anadama Bread

This bread comes served with a thick slathering of storytelling about a Gloucester fisherman married to a woman named Anna who wasn't especially gifted in the kitchen. Night after night, she supposedly fed him bowls of cornmeal and molasses—until he got fed up, tossed some yeast and flour in the mix, and slung it in the oven muttering "Anna, damn her." There are other versions of the story, all involving the cranky husband and the unflattering curse, but the hearty loaf rises above them all.

Brown Bread

"This New England specialty isn’t like most breads you’re familiar with, as it’s not baked, but steamed. Bordering on a cake, Boston brown bread is moist and tender, a touch bitter, and mildly sweet with molasses. It might strike you as a savory English pudding, but it actually has Native American origins, from the special grain blend to the cooking method. The majority of effort in these Boston brown bread recipes comes from getting your supplies together. Once you’re good on those, the rest is as easy as Boston cream pie (which is actually a cake, and easier to make than pie, but that’s a story for another day)." —Brown Bread in a Can Is So Wicked Good

Dunkin' Donuts

America may run on Dunkin', but here, it's way more than just a doughnut shop. The 24/7 chain is so inextricably linked to New England culture that when a Dunkin' Donuts outpost finally opened in the Bay Area, hordes of East Coast expats lined up out the door. Says one Extra Crispy writer, "New Englanders are strikingly pragmatic about their relationship to the chain. My hypothesis: This is because Dunkin' Donuts means everything to them. Not a lot: everything." —Why Dunkin' Donuts Matters to Northeasterners

Griddled Muffins

Yes, every city and hamlet in every state boasts a muffin of some sort, but only in New England will the diner cook go ahead and assume that you want that blueberry-studded bad boy split in two, slathered in an obscene amount of butter (said one commenter "loads of butter... I mean loads"), and griddled on the flattop. Another added, "It’s a mystery why they’re not popular outside New England."

Red Flannel Hash

Know what's even better than a New England boiled dinner of corned beef, potatoes, and cabbage? Having all those flavors meld together overnight for a fantastic hash the next morning. The red comes courtesy of beets, added with onions and fried with butter to crisp it all up into a hearty, savory breakfast—usually topped with a couple of eggs. Some versions not made from leftovers omit the cabbage and have bacon as a stand-in for the corned beef.

New Jersey

Taylor Ham / Pork Roll

"If an invisible line separates New York and New Jersey, a real-estate line that only the most foolish and fearless ever brave cross, then let’s imagine a line separates the top of New Jersey from the bottom. Cut it down the middle and you’ll have a rough estimate of the demarcation line between 'Taylor Ham' and 'Pork Roll.' In the Northern parts of New Jersey we proudly celebrate the expansive vision of our dear John Taylor, popularizer of the brand that has captured the popular imagination of New Jersey breakfasts for generations. Below, in the darker reaches of the bowels of South Jersey and further into Philadelphia, Delaware, Maryland, and other netherlands, they call this majestic creature a “Pork Roll,” a tip of the cap to the fact that it does not technically fit the legal definition of pork as laid down in the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. When the government starts passing laws against your breakfast choices, you know you must be on the right path. Legislation is pending before the New Jersey Legislature to decide the 'Taylor Ham' / 'Pork Roll' divide that has split this great land. Governor Christie, on his radio program, decreed that the sandwich was officially 'Taylor Ham, egg, and cheese' but then added 'on a hard roll,' which opened bread-related controversy." —The Case for Taylor Ham, New Jersey’s Beloved Mystery Meat

New Mexico

Enchiladas Montadas

Of course we're going to talk about green Hatch chiles, but let's stop for a second at red. These enchiladas (also popular in Sonora, Mexico) have a massive following in New Mexico, due no doubt in part to their lavish use of New Mexican red chiles, made into a stunning red sauce. The enchiladas are stacked like pancakes, then topped (or mounted) with a couple of fried eggs, alongside rice and beans at restaurants throughout the region.

Hatch Chiles

So let's go ahead and talk about these peppers that have fanbase so devoted, they'll travel from the ends of the earth to be in Hatch, New Mexico, for the season, which includes the annual Hatch Chile Festival. Their neighbors to the north in Denver go daffy for Hatch-style green chiles—some of which may be from the region—but these are served in situ, and there's just something magic about that, especially at breakfast. The distinctly smoky flavor is simply magical in breakfast casseroles, quesadillas, tacos, grits, or any egg preparation on earth. Those enchiladas montadas above? They're pretty great with a salsa verde made with tomatillos and a happy handful of Hatch chiles tossed in. No one is going to stop you. Not in this town.

New York

NYC: Bacon, Egg, and Cheese on a Roll

"Every deli, bodega, corner store, and diner in the five boroughs has a competent-to-excellent bacon, egg, and cheese on a roll, and if they didn’t, they’d have been drummed outta business long ago. Even higher-end brunchporiums are getting in on the act, with artisanally-crafted buns, small-batch cheese, Ivy League-educated bacon, and heirloom eggs—which is great—but not the same thing at all." —The Best Freakin' Egg Sandwich in New York City

NYC: Bagel and Lox

"When I first moved to New York City in the late 1990s, I lived on enormous, doughy, hot, bagels, slathered in butter. I could get them for a quarter at a local deli or from a street vendor, or for a dollar more I could get egg and cheese on it, too, and salt and pepper, and sometimes hot sauce. What I ordered was determined usually by whether or not I was hungover. That, along with leftover sandwiches scavenged from conferences rooms post-meetings at my office, was how I afforded my life. The biggest treat, when I had a few extra dollars, was either lox or whitefish salad. If bagels were comfort, these toppings were luxury. Lox was like a mink stole, whitefish a steam bath. They weren’t just sustenance: they represented essential cultural Jewishness, and New York-ness, too." —A Good Bagel Is Hard to Find

Syracuse: Frittata / Fretta 

Don't fret—they're both correct. This Central New York diner classic differs from the classic Italian frittata, which is made by separately cooking ingredients, then pouring beaten eggs over top of them, letting the whole mess firm up, then flipping it over to cook some more or putting it under a broiler. In this particular rendition, ingredients like onions, peppers, sausage, mushrooms, and pepperoni (starting to sound like a pretty good pizza, right?) and potatoes are cooked on a grill, then covered with freshly-scrambled eggs, and chopped and mixed together. A diner might choose a vegetable-only option, opt for a mix of meats (including bacon and ham), or go for broke and order a combo. Not enough food? Many places offer a side of chili for a buck or two extra.

North Carolina

Livermush

"Livermush is working-class and blue collar. It hails from North Carolina hilltops and foothills that once hummed with tractors, textile mills, and furniture factories, manned by the foot soldiers of industry. For the most part, families that ate livermush lived frugally and made do with homemade. But most of them started buying commercially made livermush instead once it became available in country and company stores. The livermush business was born during the Depression, an unlikely time to launch a successful enterprise, unless you sold a product that hungry people could recognize, afford, and enjoy." —Why Livermush Matters to North Carolina

North Dakota

Lefse

There’s a goodly bit of Scandinavian culture and cuisine throughout the Upper Midwest, and at breakfast, that comes in the lovely form of lefse—a thin, potato-based flatbread. Though it’s more frequently found at the holidays, this griddled round is ideal for serving rolled with scrambled eggs, smoked fish, jam, or even just butter and sugar any time of year.

Ohio

Cincinnati: Goetta

"My God. Glier’s Goetta. To a homesick Cincinnatian, those words are as comforting as a bowl of Skyline chili or walking into a bar and unexpectedly catching a Reds game on TV. Goetta—pronounced 'get-uh'—is the city’s signature contribution to the world of breakfast meats, and something that, despite the food media’s obsession with regional cuisines, has remained largely contained to southern Ohio and northern Kentucky. For the uninitiated, goetta is a usually a mixture of pork shoulder and sometimes beef, which is ground together with onions, spices, and, most notably, pinhead oats. It is formed into a loaf, chilled, sliced, and fried in a skillet. It is to Cincinnati breakfast joints what scrapple is to Philadelphia, and grits are to Charleston. But let my highly biased opinion be clear: It’s better. It’s so much better." —Goetta Is the Ultimate Regional Breakfast Meat—There, I Said It

Oregon

Marionberry Jam

If you're eating something slathered in marionberry jam, chances are you're in Oregon, or have a friend there who was generous enough to ship you some. The berry—a cross of Chehalem and Olallie blackberries and named for Marion County—was specifically bred by the University of Oregon in partnership with the US Department of Agriculture in the early 1900s. While it's distinctive and delicious, the fruit doesn't hold up well in shipping, which is why it's rarely seen fresh outside of the state. It does, however, make simply splendid jam, as well as pies, and even liquor.

Pacific Northwest

Dutch Baby

This great big eye-popping pancake is showing up on more restaurant menus and home brunch tables these days (not to mention Instagram feeds), but until somewhat recently, the most rabid fandom was based in the Pacific Northwest. This was especially so in Seattle, where it was introduced in the early 1900s at Manca's Cafe as a play on the German pfannkuchen. The dish, also known as a German pancake or a Dutch puff, is a batter-based cake that rises in a hot pan and falls as it cools, and can be served sweet or savory. Lemon, butter, and sugar are a classic combo for finishing this baby off. —The Dutch Baby Is the Little Black Dress of Breakfast Parties

Pennsylvania

Eastern Pennsylvania: Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast

While dried beef and gravy on bread (a.k.a. military staple "shit on a shingle") might seem to outsiders like an odd choice of morning meal, no one bats an eye at the South's biscuits and gravy. This is a frugal farm (and diner) Pennsylvania Dutch staple that makes the most of humble ingredients and transforms them into a hearty cold-weather breakfast.

Rhode Island

Johnnycakes

"One thing to know about johnnycakes is that nobody actually eats them," says a native Rhode Islander. "But yes they do belong to us. In the traditional recipe, it’s just white cornmeal, water and salt—essentially a tortilla. If a restaurant actually wants to sell any, what they end up doing is making a cornmeal pancake and calling it a johnnycake." And that's why you'll see them on diner menus and in spiral-bound community cookbooks from Woonsocket down to Narragansett.

South Carolina

Lowcountry: Shrimp and Grits

Folks serve grits throughout the South, and the love of shrimp isn't exactly geographically restricted, but South Carolina's Lowcountry makes particular magic of their meeting. Though the dish gained national familiarity through Crook's Corner chef Bill Neal in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in the 1980s (they still make a dang good version), it's only when you travel to the Palmetto State that you really taste the full range of expressions of this dish. There's usually bacon in the mix, with fat rendered into a luscious gravy, often with scallions, mushrooms, lemon, or tomatoes sprinkled and swirled for extra joy—each cook finds their own happiest version.

Tennessee

Bologna Biscuit

Until you've had thick-cut, smoked bologna from a barbecue joint in Tennessee, you haven't really had bologna. This isn't the plasticky lunchbox slice of your youth, but a pillowy disc of meat that's been grilled or fried until it's crisped around the edges, then slid between halves of a biscuit. Depending on where you are in the state, that biscuit may either be fluffy and tall or beaten and crisp, but it's a morning match made in heaven. (Side note: Another Tennessee native invoked the bologna gravy of her youth and it seemed a crime not to mention it.)

Texas

Austin and San Antonio: Breakfast Tacos

"There are two ways of thinking about the breakfast taco. The first is as a meal: a flour tortilla filled with a fluffy nimbus of scrambled eggs, a greasy slab of bacon, a daub of refried black or pinto beans, and grated cheese, eaten primarily, but not exclusively, for breakfast. And then there’s the breakfast taco as cultural emblem, a symbol of family, heritage, and assimilation." —What’s Behind the Texas Breakfast Taco Wars

Kolaches

"Aside from being easy to grab-and-go, fluffy and filling, easily found in some parts of Texas, kolaches have a storied past. The bakery breakfast staple comes courtesy of Eastern European immigrants who brought this once special-occasion pastry along for the ride over a century ago. Let’s unwrap the mysteries of this perfectly self-contained bundle and find out what they are, where they came from and where you can find the best kolaches in the Lone Star State. And because there’s not enough controversy stirred up in the world right now, we’ll even delve into the argument of saying 'klobasnek' vs. 'kolache.'" —A Crash Course in Kolaches

Migas

"Tex-Mex is often misunderstood outside the region, but Ford Fry is an ardent champion. He readily dismisses the commonly-held notion that it's 'just cheap Mexican food,' explaining instead that immigrants to the US adapted their traditional dishes to use readily available ingredients, giving birth to a whole new cuisine. Part of its appeal: innovative use of leftovers. Fry jokes that migas in particular make him look like a kitchen wizard to his family (which he is), because extra tortillas, cheese, chiles, and salsa from a feast the night before transform into a wholly new dish with just a little bit of effort." —Migas Make Breakfast Mega-Happy

Utah

Utah Scones

These are not the fluffy, fruity, or even biscuit-like scones you might know from pinky-up tea parties. Think of them more like Navajo fry bread or sopapillas. The sweet, yeasted, fried dough is often used as the base for savory Navajo tacos (occasionally sold as "Swiss tacos" at regional fairs), but they're also a tremendous morning treat cut into triangles and served with honey and butter.

Wisconsin

Hoppel Poppel

Got some leftover meat and potatoes? You're halfway to hoppel poppel, and your Oma from the old country (or possibly Milwaukee) would approve of your thriftiness. Fry those up with whatever you need to clear out of your fridge, plus a few eggs and chopped onions, until it's browned to your liking, and serve. Hoppel poppel is different every time, depending what you have on hand, and that's a distinct part of its charm.

Racine: Kringle

Not every state boasts an official pastry, but the Kringle holds that designation in Wisconsin, and quite particularly in Racine, a hub of Danish-American culture. Bakers hand-roll sheets of dough, layer them, shape them into ovals, and fill them with fruits, nuts, creams, and other sweet fillings before they’re baked and iced. They’re certainly worth a trip, but local bakeries are more than happy to ship their goods out to nostalgic Wisconsinites all over the map.—Why Kringle Matters to Wisconsin