Food & Drink

The 101 Dishes That Changed America

Most restaurant dishes are bound to be forgotten. Delicious, sure, but still consumed in a fleeting moment of hunger and then lost in the parade of unremarkable meals to follow. Sometimes a meal is memorable enough that you crave it long after the plates are cleared. But it's the rare dish that truly changes the way Americans eat for generations to come.

How did we find the 101 dishes that broke the restaurant mold and forever changed the flavor of America? We looked for dishes that have been endlessly adopted or outright copycatted on other menus, kicked off a lasting trend, or became staples that still define the way we eat today in 2018.

That meant a simple sandwich creation that became a nationwide staple so beloved anyone can tell you the ingredients. It meant a landmark dish from a paradigm-shifting chef. It meant a reimagining of a classic that cast a once-famous dish in an entirely new light, or an overseas sensation that made its mark from thousands of miles away. While the backstories and particulars may vary, these 101 restaurant dishes all left an enduring imprint on America, and life quite simply wouldn’t taste the same without them.

1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s  | 1990s2000s2010s

nathan hot dog
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

1. Hot Dog

Year: 1916
Restaurant: Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs
Coney Island, New York
How it happened: The story as to how Nathan's Famous officially came to fruition has many versions, but the founder's official tale (as reported by The Daily Sentinel in 1974)  goes as such: German immigrant Nathan Handwerker was working as a low-level employee at Feltman's German Gardens on Coney Island, when two of the restaurant's singing waiters complained about the price of Feltman's 10-cent hot dogs, and challenged the young bread slicer to create a cheaper, better coney. And that's what he did. Handwerker undercut his old employer's prices by a full 5 cents, and used his young bride (and business partner) Ida's secret spicing recipe to create a better tasting dog. The uptick in quality and downtick in pricing made all the difference. Feltman's has become a historic blip on the wiener-radar, while Nathan's has become a national institution, with more than 14,000 locations all over world -- and one incredibly famous annual hot dog eating contest right where it all started in Coney Island, 102 years ago.
Why it's important: Nathan and Ida Handwerker certainly didn't invent the hot dog. Nor did they even lay the framework for the coney dog as we know it today. They took something that was already popular, made it better and cheaper than the competition, and created a scalable business model in the process. "I think our role in how popular hot dogs are today is substantial. We have been satisfying hot dog lovers for generations, and we are the No. 1 selling premium hot dog for a reason,"  said Phil McCann, Senior Director of Marketing for Nathan’s Famous. Nathan's set the mold for every American restaurant that would follow in its dirty-water wake: You don't necessarily have to be "the first" to succeed. But it certainly helps to be the best… and it definitely helps to be the cheapest. -- WF
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

2. Coney Island Hot Dog

Year: 1917
Restaurant: American Coney Island
Detroit, Michigan
How it happened: Technically, the coney dog -- which has absolutely nothing to do with New York, thank you very much -- first appeared in Jackson, Michigan. But it was in Detroit circa 1917 that American Coney Island first started dropping its wet, immaculately spiced chili on dogs, paving the way for legions of Greek immigrants to follow suit, among them the rival coney Lafayette right next door, founded by a Keros family member and the topic of an oft-misunderstood and exaggerated "feud" of Detroit food lore. But it was American that started it all, transforming that dripping, mustard- and onion-covered masterpiece on a bun into the unofficial food of lower Michigan.
Why it’s important: “Detroit is industrial, automotive; this is a working-class town, a working-class state. It was affordable back then and now, is quick and comforting and filling: That's how it became such an important part of the city and state, and why you can't find coneys (anywhere else)” said Grace Keros, third-generation owner (along with brother Chris Sotiropoulos) of Michigan's oldest family-run restaurants. Because of American, the coney became a paragon of the Greek-diner experience, one that still thrives throughout the Midwest even as the institutions close across the rest of the countries. Such is the power of the perfect hot dog. -- AK 
Photo: Jeff Waraniak / Thrillist

french dip

3. The French Dip

Year: 1917
Restaurant: Philippe the Original
Los Angeles, California
How it happened: The details of the origin of the French dip are hazy, and get hazier depending on who’s telling it, with both Philippe’s and Cole’s claiming to have invented it in a nearly century-long rivalry. If Philippe is to be believed, the dish itself came about by accident: “It originated in 1917,” fourth-generation owner Mark Massengill told TV show Cheap Eats. “Philippe Mathieu was carving a roast beef sandwich for a fireman and the bread accidentally dropped into the roasting pan... ” Other variations say it was a cop named French, and it was gravy from roast pork. No matter. Philippe’s makes 2,000 of them a day, but the dish’s influence swept through the sandwich world, helping it embrace sogginess, whether it’s via dipping a hoagie in a side of au jus or dunking the whole damn thing in a bucket of gravy, dry cleaning be damned.
Why it’s important: The French dip -- arguably LA’s most iconic food despite most people thinking it has more in common with Paris than Hollywood -- has become one of America’s favorite sandwiches, emulated in nearly every diner in the US. It's so pervasive that even Arby’s has a version. Regardless of who truly created the first one, Philippe’s made it an icon. -- AK 
Photo: Dustin Downing/Thrillist

the reuben
Cole saladino/thrillist

4. The Reuben

Year: c. 1920
Restaurant: The Blackstone Hotel
Omaha, Nebraska
How it happened: The Reuben’s origins have endured more shade than almost any other dish. When writer Elizabeth Weil penned a back-page New York Times piece titled “My Grandfather Invented the Reuben Sandwich. Right?” she received enough to warrant a thinkpiece in Saveur four years later. As Weil whimsically (and sometimes doubtingly) tells it, and many believe, the sandwich was invented when her hotelier great-grandfather was playing poker after hours in the Blackstone Hotel. A customer named Reuben Kulakofsky asked for a sandwich with corned beef and sauerkraut. “In the kitchen, my grandfather, who spent the previous year perfecting his sauces and ice-carving skills, drained the sauerkraut and mixed it with Thousand Island dressing," Weil wrote. "The sandwich was a hit.” That’s a huge understatement.
Why it's important: Many poke holes in this family story. Others lay claim to it. But in addition to representing a wonderful modern tall tale that sprang to life and still riles debate, the Reuben is, in and of itself, a wonderfully Midwestern affair. It's a non-kosher mashup of Jewish deli mainstays that has become a go-to at the delis that inspired it, plus every other diner, sandwich shop, and brewery in the country. Plus, if you do believe Weil’s story, you can still get a taste of the original, though not at the Blackstone itself: Across the street, beer bar Crescent Moon still uses the old Blackstone recipe from an old typewritten transcript. And they still insist, as tradition demands, that it’s the original. -- AK
Photo: Cole Saladino; Styling: Ali Nardi

white castle slider

5. The Original Slider

Year: 1921
Restaurant: White Castle
Wichita, Kansas
How it happened: It's hard to fathom now, but America's biggest burger-related problem at the dawn of the roaring '20s was an aversion to beef, rather than an addiction to it. "At the time, self-respecting moms would not feed their children hamburgers," said White Castle vice president Jamie Richardson. "Upton Sinclair had written The Jungle, and it wasn't a flattering picture of the meatpacking industry or beef in general." Founder Billy Ingram used $700 to open his first White Castle in Wichita, Kansas with a plan to win over customers not only with tiny, tasty, square-shaped burgers that cost a nickel, but also with gleaming white storefronts and crisp, clean uniforms that he hoped would inspire public confidence. They did, and decades before anyone had heard the name McDonald's, America had its first burger chain success story.
Why it's important: Beyond marking the beginnings of America's love affair with the fast-food burger, White Castle provided a model for every fast-food chain that would eventually populate the country's highway exits, suburban strip malls, and, well, just about everywhere else. Furthermore, "sliders," a name coined for how easily the tiny burgers slide down one's gullet, have become an increasingly popular appetizer staple in recent years. -- ML
Photo: Courtesy of White Castle

6. Caesar Salad

Year: c. 1924
Restaurant: Caesar's
Tijuana, Mexico
How it happened: In the 1920s, the Mexican border city of Tijuana was a refuge for well-heeled Californians escaping the Prohibition doldrums. The Hollywood set flocked to Caesar’s, a restaurant run by the Italian-American restaurateur, Caesar Cardini, who, in addition to his booze, was known for his namesake salad. Word has it that Cardini improvised the tableside preparation of romaine with egg yolk, anchovy paste, mustard, minced garlic, anchovy, olive oil, lemon juice, and Parmesan cheese to feed diners during a holiday meal when supplies were running low. The salad became famous, but over the years, Caesar’s itself declined. About a month after the restaurant finally shut down in 2010, chef and Tijuana champion Javier Plascencia took over the space, and restored Caesar’s to its original dignity, tableside prep included. “We have a waiter who has been doing this for many years,” said Plascencia. “You can see it in his face: He is very proud, and you can taste it in the salad.”
Why it’s important: The unbeatable mix of cheese, garlic, anchovies, egg, mustard, crunchy romaine, and croutons have made this the most famous salad in the world. Plus, Caesar is enduring and adaptable -- from bottled Caesar dressing to grilled chicken Caesar to the kale Caesar of the aughts, its popularity is indisputable. No matter where you travel in US, you are bound to find a Caesar salad on the menu. -- Gabriella Gershenson

7. Cobb Salad

Year: 1926
Restaurant: The Brown Derby
Los Angeles, California
How it happened: The oft-debated story goes: In 1926 Bob Cobb, owner of the famed Brown Derby restaurant, felt peckish after closing time, so he threw together leftovers he came across in the kitchen -- iceberg lettuce, frisée, romaine, watercress, tomato, chicken, avocado, bacon, hard-boiled egg, and blue cheese -- and tossed them with French dressing. He enjoyed it so much that he put it on the menu. It subsequently became a favorite of local celebrities, and a salad sensation was born. The dish was “one of the most sought-after salads since the discovery of lettuce,” Gail Monaghan wrote in The Wall Street Journal. “This main-course salad was a culinary breakthrough that continues to hit the spot almost a century after its invention.”
Why it’s important: Not since the Caesar has a salad been so famous. The Cobb introduced the concept of a main-course salad (very California), a hearty, protein-laden assemblage in a giant bowl. Its Hollywood-esque origin story has been so legendarily disputed that it is even winked at on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Though the original Brown Derby closed in 1985, the Cobb salad remains a staple of menus across the country, including at a recreation of the Brown Derby at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida. -- K. Squires

8. Lobster Roll

Year: c. 1929
Restaurant: Perry's
Milford, Connecticut
How it happened: Though Maine is typically regarded as the nation’s lobster roll capital, the quintessential summer dish was most likely birthed about 250 miles south in the small coastal town of Milford, Connecticut. Between 1927 and 1977, a restaurant there named Perry’s served simple New England seafood fare. According to the Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, author John Mariani wrote that this no-frills restaurant may have invented the lobster roll. “Owner Harry Perry concocted it for a regular customer named Ted Hales sometime in the 1920s,” Mariani wrote. “Furthermore, Perry's was said to have a sign from 1927 to 1977 reading, ‘Home of the Famous Lobster Roll.’” Other customers began to clamor for the  warm, butter-drenched lobster sandwich, and Perry’s began serving them regularly on a special proprietary roll created by now-shuttered local bakery French’s.
Why it’s important: If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Perry’s can rest easily on its laurels: The lobster roll proliferated all over New England, even spawning regional varieties. The Connecticut version invented by Perry’s is simple: warm lobster meat drizzled with melted butter and piled into a toasted bun. In Maine, rolls or buns are filled with what is essentially lobster salad, cold meat folded with mayo and some aromatics such as celery or tarragon. While the Maine style typically prevails, only Connecticut can lay claim to the original version. -- LR

macarons
Cole Saladino/thrillist

9. Macarons

Year: 1930
Restaurant: Ladurée
Paris, France
How it happened: In 1862, Louis Ernest Ladurée opened a petite bakery on Rue Royale in Paris. Less than a decade later, it blossomed into a cherub-adorned pastry shop, and soon a salon de thé, where ladies banned from the city’s café culture could cavort freely. That same revolutionary spirit was on display in 1930, when Ladurée’s cousin Pierre Desfontaines transformed the traditional macaron cookie -- a simple recipe of almond, sugar, and egg white purportedly brought to France from Italy by Catherine de' Medici -- by piping the top with ganache and sealing it with another macaron. This ethereal sweet, equal parts crunchy and creamy, became the star of Ladurée. When the family of Elisabeth Holder Raberin, co-president of Ladurée US, took over the company in 1993, amping up the macaron was a priority. Instead of just classics like vanilla and chocolate, there was now salted caramel, pastel-hued rose, and seasonal specialties. “It's the supermodel of food,” said Holder Raberin.
Why it’s important: Under the leadership of the Holder family, Ladurée has expanded to some 150 locations around the globe. Its New York debut in 2011 provided a daintier, more cosmopolitan alternative to the city’s previous baked obsession, the cupcake. Significant moments in both Gossip Girl and Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, not to mention appearances in magazines like Vogue, further helped cement the macaron's role in pop culture, and as the world’s most glamorous cookie. -- AA
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

cheesesteak

10. The Cheesesteak

Year: 1930
Restaurant: Pat's King of Steaks
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
How it happened: Like fellow Philadelphia great Rocky Balboa, the cheesesteak’s rise came as something of a surprise. Founders Pat and Harry Olivieri were operating a hot dog stand, and decided to switch things up, throwing chopped steak, cheese, and grilled onions on a bun. According to legend, a cabbie saw what they were eating and ordered it. Then he told... well, pretty much everyone. The Oliveris switched their focus to grilling up thin-sliced rib-eye, and half of Philadelphia followed suit, giving birth to intense intra-city rivalries and a sandwich style that has long been a national mainstay, even if die-hards insist that no quality version exists outside of Philly.
Why it's important: The cheesesteak transitioned from regional specialty to one of America's favorite sandwiches over the decades, and for good reason. "You can go anywhere in Europe or the US and find a Philly cheesesteak. Say 'yeah, give me a Philly’ and they know what that is," said owner Frank Olivieri, Jr., Pat's great-nephew, who says he, like so many Philadelphians, started eating cheesesteaks in the womb. “It’s just an amazing sandwich. To me, it falls in the same category of the perfect pastrami on rye, the perfect corned beef sandwich, or the perfect slice of New York pizza.” -- AK
Photo: Courtesy of Pat's King of Steaks

Primanti Bros french fries in sandwiches

11. The Pitts-burger

Year: 1933
Restaurant: Primanti Bros.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
How it happened: Primanti's was originally a standard sandwich shack in Pittsburgh's Strip District -- a hub for dock workers and other blue-collar city dwellers. According to Primanti's spokesperson Ryan Wilkinson, one fateful day, a nearby produce worker showed up with a sack of potatoes (naturally) wanting to test whether or not they were frozen. "They let him chop them up and stick them on the grill," he said. "Someone saw the freshly grilled potato slices and decided they wanted them on their sandwich." Thus, the fully loaded Pitts-burger sandwich (complete with coleslaw and a thick slice of beef on fluffy white bread) was born. It might even be Pittsburgh's most enduring and celebrated cultural icon -- after Mr. Rogers, of course.
Why it's important: "Even though we didn't mean to at the time, we really reinvented what a sandwich could be," Wilkinson said. "It wasn't just about mustard and bologna on a roll anymore. This is a meal." Though the simple addition of fries to a standard sandwich might seem like a basic move in today's "loaded sandwich" arms race, the notion of stepping outside standard sandwich ingredients was relatively unheard of at the time. So the next time you're pumped to encounter mozzarella sticks, onion rings, or some other "I didn't know they could do that!" ingredient on your sandwich, take a second to pay homage to that sack of frozen potatoes that ended up changing American food forever on a chilly western Pennsylvania day.  -- WF
Photo: Courtesy of Primanti Bros

Toll house chocolate chip cookie

12. Toll House Cookies

Year: 1936
Restaurant: Toll House Inn
Whitman, Massachusetts
How it happened: The mainstream narrative speculates that the chocolate chip cookie was a chance discovery, positing that Ruth Graves Wakefield accidentally knocked over some chocolate into a stand mixer containing dough for her Butterscotch Drop Do cookies. There are other ways the legend goes, but any story that makes the chocolate chip cookie out as an accident is wrong. A prodigious chef and an even better baker, Wakefield was known to keep a tight ship, and she incessantly perfected her recipes; never would a mistake have made its way to her customers' plates. "We had been serving a thin butterscotch nut cookie with ice cream. Everybody seemed to love it, but I was trying to give them something different," Wakefield told the Boston Herald-American in 1974 recalling the cookie's invention. Her chance on "something different" was a massive hit, and she sold her Toll House cookie recipe to Nestle for $1, a sum she never received.
Why it's important: The Toll House Inn has since been destroyed by a fire and replaced with a Wendy's, but Wakefield's chocolate chip cookies have been so deeply imbued into the American dessert canon that it's easy to forget that they needed inventing at all. It was one of the first times that a recipe was commodified (hardly anything more American than capitalism!). Pulling apart cold logs of store-bought Toll House cookie dough is often the first-ever interaction with baking, or cooking in general. Quite simply, chocolate chip cookies themselves rival apple pies for chief American dessert. -- LB

Lawry's prime rib in Los Angeles

13. Prime Rib

Year: 1938
Restaurant: Lawry's
Los Angeles, California
How it happened: Lawrence Frank and Walter Van de Kamp shaped their Beverly Hills restaurant in the image something between a Midwestern Sunday night family dinner and Simpson's in the Strand, one of London's oldest traditional restaurants, known for rolling silver carts of roast meat through the dining room to serve tableside. The brothers-in-law -- with a budding LA restaurant empire having already opened the Van de Kamp Bakery and Tam O'Shanter Inn -- saw an opening to provide quality prime rib meals in a fine dining setting. To assure a constant flow of customers, they designed a flashier experience, where slabs of buttery tender prime rib were carved tableside on carts of Frank's design: an art deco shape cut in stainless steel, 4 feet long, and more than 500 (!) pounds, fully loaded with meat and sides. "My great-grandfather [Lawrence Frank] used to call prime rib the greatest meal in America, and I still think it is," said Ryan Wilson, executive chef at Lawry's. Frank wasn't wrong: Lawry's was an instant hit.
Why it's important: Prime rib was literally the only entree on Lawry's menu until 1993. Otherwise, the restaurant has hardly changed over the past 80 years, remaining one of the most classic LA restaurants on Restaurant Row, giving diners a moment to revel in the theatrical doting consistency of old-school tableside service, and outliving its failed imitators. "We still carve the prime rib tableside -- a tradition for us, but something that we’re now seeing crop up around the country in new and exciting ways," Wilson said. -- LB

fried chicken
Cole Saladino/thrillist

14. Fried Chicken

Year: 1940
Restaurant: Kentucky Fried Chicken
North Corbin, Kentucky
How it happened: These days, we think of Harland Sanders as a lovable, shape-shifting Kentucky colonel with the body of Billy Zane and the voice of Reba McEntire. But back in the day, Sanders was a magnificent huckster, traveling the land with a dream: to give every city a solid bucket of fried chicken that would taste the same anywhere, thanks to the secret recipe and a unique pressure-frying system that ensured that extra-crispy bird, punched up by the signature 11 herbs and spices. The first franchise was established in 1952. Today, KFC operates more than 4.200 stores worldwide.
Why it’s important: "Part of how he grew the company was by developing solid franchise partnerships across the US, some of which are still in place today," said Kevin Hochman, US President of KFC. "Ensuring they make our hand-prepared world-famous Kentucky Fried Chicken consistently in our kitchens across the US is no easy feat." But the feat proved worth the effort, with Sanders becoming the poster-colonel for the American fast-food franchise model, and his iconic, faithfully recreated chicken recipe becoming a staple at picnics, family reunions, and impossibly busy weeknights worldwide. -- AK
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Chicago deep dish pizza

15. Deep-Dish Pizza

Restaurant: Pizzeria Uno
Year: 1943
Chicago, Illinois
How it happened: Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo had but a humble vision when they decided to go into the restaurant business: create something that would satiate the voracious hunger of Midwesterners. They created a monster. “The vision was to create a meal, not just a pizza with a little bit of toppings and some cheese,” said Skip Weldon, chief marketing officer for Uno Restaurants. Pizzeria Uno’s creation is still enough to give eaters pause: buttery, thick crust; sauce up top, hiding enough cheese and toppings to feed an entire section at Wrigley. Hundreds of Chicago restaurants now serve a variation on Sewell and Riccardo’s creation, which is now as associated with the city as hot dogs and the blues.
Why it's important: We’ll leave the debate about whether it’s really pizza to angry New Yorkers: Deep-dish pizza is a cultural phenomenon, and its originator is the global ambassador, having begun franchising in 1970s and spreading the love of gut-busting Chicago pizza across the globe (and into the mail system, as they recently started shipping pies). Even Chicago’s other institutions-turned-chains can be traced back to Uno’s. “(It) spawned a lot of different restaurants trying their hands at deep-dish pizza,” said Weldon. “In fact, Lou Malnati’s father Rudy Malnati worked at Pizzeria Uno. Giordano's, Gino’s East, all of those restaurants had connections back to the original Pizzeria Uno. It’s kind of the deep-dish family tree.” -- AK
Photo: Courtesy of Uno Pizzeria & Grill

nachos with cheese and jalapenos

16. Nachos

Year: 1943
Restaurant: El Moderno
Piedras Negras, Mexico
How it happened: During World War II, the small Texas border town of Eagle Pass was home to a US Air Force training base, and servicemen’s wives would often cross the border to the Mexican town of Piedras Negras looking for good food (and a shot or two of tequila). According to Robb Walsh in The Tex-Mex Cookbook, it was here that nachos were born. Lore has it that when four women entered El Moderno restaurant for a round of drinks, and they asked for a snack, but their waiter, Ignacio Anaya, couldn’t find the cook. So “Nacho” -- a common nickname for those named Ignacio -- went into the kitchen, sliced tortillas into quarters, piled on cheese and sliced jalapeños, and stuck the plate under the broiler. “The women loved the cheesy crisps and wanted to know what they were called so they could order them again,” Walsh wrote. “‘Just call them Nacho’s Especial,’” Anaya told them. Eventually shortened to “nachos,” the dish became El Moderno’s most popular appetizer.
Why it’s important: Legions of happy-hour revelers across the country can attest to the importance of the nacho: It’s the ideal dish for soaking up one too many drinks. Practically any bar with a kitchen serves the mess of tortilla chips, with toppings that range from convenience store foods (Cheez Whiz, Velveeta) to the upscale (Brie, duck confit). -- LR
Photo: Cole Saladino; Styling: Ali Nardi

Prince's fried chicken

17. Hot Chicken

Year: 1945
Restaurant: Prince's
Nashville, Tennessee
How it happened: Turns out, revenge is a dish best served hot. In the 1930s, a woman in Nashville found out that her lover, Thorton Prince, had been spending his time with multiple women around town. Fed up with his cheating ways, she decided to get revenge by sabotaging his favorite dish: fried chicken. She dumped a ton of cayenne pepper and spices onto a batch of freshly fried chicken that she’d made for him one Sunday morning and waited for him to take a bite and double over in pain. To her surprise, not only did he eat the entire batch of chicken, he loved it and asked for seconds. Thorton even saved some of the spicy chicken and brought it to his brothers who loved it, too. In 1945, Thorton and his brothers opened the first location of Prince’s Hot Chicken in Nashville, Tennessee with a recipe that they’ve perfected and worked on for years.
Why it's important: Hot chicken stayed a local Nashville specialty until 2007, when the city of Nashville hosted its first Music City Hot Chicken Festival, introducing non-Nashvillians to the dish. Since that festival, the gospel of hot chicken has spread across the country and has even been adopted by fast-food chains. KFC introduced their Nashville Hot Chicken meal in 2015, complete with bread and butter pickles. In the era where food television can propel local, regional dishes to a national audience, hot chicken was the perfect subject for chef-y shows like Food Paradise and Mind of a Chef. Andre Prince Jeffries, Prince Thorton's great-niece who runs the restaurant today, said she’s not phased by the competitors. “My customers, they try all these different places that are popping up,” she said. “They come right back here.” -- Korsha Wilson
Photo: Courtesy of Prince's

carpaccio
Cole saladino/thrillist

18. Carpaccio

Year: 1950
Restaurant: Harry's Bar
Venice, Italy
How it happened: Many a visitor to Venice have made the obligatory pilgrimage to Harry's Bar to sip a Bellini and soak in the same ambiance that so enchanted Ernest Hemingway, Charlie Chaplin, and (insert your favorite historical figure because they probably drank here). Another former patron you should celebrate: contessa Amalia Nani Mocenigo, who one day came at lunch and tearfully informed owner Giuseppe Cipriani that she could no longer eat cooked meat. According to Cipriani's son Arrigo's account in the book Harry's Bar, his father came back within 15 minutes with a plate of tissue-thin raw filet mignon drizzled with mayonnaise-mustard sauce, inspired by the vibrant red-and-white paintings of the eponymous artist.
Why it's important: While the components and presentations have come to vary widely over the years, carpaccio has come to represent an entire category of thinly sliced, artfully plated edible arrangements, from tuna to duck to all sorts of plant-based preparations. It's become so ubiquitous that many diners are unaware of its highly specific and fairly recent origins, as the younger Cipriani wryly noted: "If my father had been a bit more egotistical, or as we would say today 'PR oriented,' the famous dish could just as fairly have been called Cipriani." -- ML
Photo: Cole Saladino; Styling: Perry Santanachote

Chimichanga

19. Chimichanga

Year: c. 1950
Restaurant: El Charro
Tucson, Arizona
How it happened: This deep-fried burrito with Southwestern roots is just one of many famous dishes that fall into the “oops, I invented a classic” category. According to Ray Flores, fourth-generation owner of El Charro, the chimichanga came to be in the early 1950s, while his great-great-aunt Tía Monica Flin, founder of the Tucson restaurant, was looking after her nieces at a slumber party. As she prepared a mountain of beef burritos for the girls, one slipped off the stack and into a pot of bubbling oil. “Flin was angry but refrained from muttering the Mexican expletive 'chingada' in front of the kids,” journalist Margaret Regan wrote in Edible Baja Arizona. “Instead she blurted out a variant: chimichanga.”
Why it’s important: After Flin’s test audience went gaga over the chimichanga, she added it to El Charro’s menu, where it has remained ever since. Established in 1922, El Charro is the country’s oldest Mexican restaurant continually operated by the same family, and one of the most influential. The chimichanga spread far and wide, to chains like Chili’s and TGI Fridays, helping solidify Tex-Mex as one of America’s beloved cuisines. -- LR

Matt's Bar

20. The Jucy Lucy

Year: c. 1950
Restaurant: Matt’s Bar
Minneapolis, Minnesota
How it happened:  A gloriously simple bar burger stuffed with molten cheese, the humble Jucy Lucy has been providing accidental burns to the mouth for decades: "You boys know you need to wait a minute or two,” a Matt's Bar waitress told our burger critic on one visit. “Or you’ll get burned.” Two Cedar Avenue bars in Minneapolis claim to have invented the thing -- 5-8 Club and Matt’s -- though it can now be found at pretty much any Minnesota bar that operates a grill. Given the bars’ close proximities to one another, it’s entirely plausible that the same weirdo customer who originally ordered two patties with cheese in the middle just walked up and down Cedar Avenue ordering the same thing, and both Matt's and 5-8 put it on the menu. But Matt’s has stuck to its story much more consistently, and made the burger an icon thanks both to its delicious execution and its steadfast misspelling of “juicy.”
Why it’s important: Long before Doritos Locos Tacos and mac & cheese-stuffed Cheetos, stunt food was a much simpler endeavor. The Jucy Lucy is a precursor to that, but it’s also an important milestone in the evolution of hamburgers themselves, leading the charge for industrious chefs (and more than a few infomercial entrepreneurs) to begin stuffing their burgers. -- AK
Photo: Ashley Sullivan/Thrillist

banana's foster in NOLA

21. Bananas Foster

Year: 1951
Restaurant: Brennan's
New Orleans, Louisiana
How it happened: Throughout the 20th century, New Orleans was the country’s largest importer of bananas. In 1951, the original location of the storied NOLA restaurant Brennan’s honored local businessman and Brennan family friend Richard Foster with a dinner. At the time, John Brennan, father of current owner Ralph, ran a small produce company and faced a surplus of the fruit; so for the dinner, Ralph’s aunt, Ella, and Brennan’s chef, Paul Blangé, came up with a sweet way to use up the overstock. “My aunt Ella’s mom used to bruleé bananas for the kids at home, so that’s where the idea came from,” Ralph Brennan recalled. Blangé elevated Ella’s idea, serving a dish of bananas, butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon flambéed with banana liqueur, and served over vanilla ice cream. “It was somewhat spontaneous, and the rest is history: It’s become legendary.”
Why it’s important: Today, New Orleans is recognized as a world-class dining destination, but that wasn’t always the case. Acceptance of, and acclaim for, its rustic Cajun and Creole cuisines built slowly over the decades. Brennan’s bananas Foster helped establish New Orleans as a serious food town. The dessert has also become a popular flavor in its own right -- see Bananas Foster Baskin-Robbins ice cream, Bananas Foster Keurig cups, and the Cheesecake Factory’s Bananas Foster cheesecake. -- Lauren Rothman
Photo: C. Ross / Thrillist

 

Ted Drewe's Concrete

22. Concrete

Year: 1959
Restaurant: Ted Drewes
St. Louis, Missouri
How it happened: Ted Drewes is not like all other summertime ice cream shops in the Midwest. For one, it sells custard. For two, only Ted Drewes can correctly assert that they invented the concrete. Thirty years after Ted Sr. opened the first frozen custard stand in 1929, the 1950s version of a teenage troll would roll up to Ted Jr. working in the summer asking for his shake to be mixed as thick as possible. Ted Jr. eventually got sick of this request, and as the story goes, he tossed in the toppings with the custard, but omitted milk. The result was a shake so dense, Ted Jr. served it to the teen upside down. "There, is that thick enough?" "That’s just like concrete," replied the neighborhood teen. Ever since, a Ted Drewes concrete has ranked in the echelons of foods synonymous with St. Louis, along with toasted ravioli, gooey butter cake, and, unfortunately, Provel on pizza.
Why it's important: Do you enjoy an occasional DQ Blizzard, McDonald's McFlurry, Shake Shack concrete, Culver's frozen custard, or any other stiff, topping-studded cold treats you eat with a spoon? Then you owe a debt of gratitude to Ted Drewes. "It is as American as a Bobby Thompson home run, an Ed Macauley hook shot or a Ted Drewes 'concrete' on a hot summer night," reads a Post-Dispatch analogy that definitely held up better 50 years ago than it does now. -- LB

clam pie
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

23. White Clam Pie

Year: c. 1960
Restaurant: Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
New Haven, Connecticut
How it happened: In New Haven, it ain’t pizza, it’s “apizza,” and you can credit the signature style of tomato pie (and purposeful misspelling) to Frank Pepe himself. The Italian immigrant opened his coal-oven pizza restaurant in 1925, giving his thin pies a signature char on the outside and a pleasant chewiness on the inside that New Haven’s now known for. Although the history of the now-iconic clam-topped white pie that was added to the menu in the 1960s is hazy, we do know this much: Pepe started putting chopped littleneck clams on the crust, pairing them with little more than garlic, grated cheese, oregano, and a slick of olive oil, and a hit was born. “The littleneck clams mingles nicely with the garlic and herbs, but it wouldn’t work out with the mozzarella so many pizza places utilize. Instead, the pecorino romano lets the clams take the starring role, and you have one of the -- if not the -- best pizzas in America...” gushed Men’s Journal.
Why it’s important: New Haven, and its singularly New England clam pie, has officially been on the pizza map for nearly a century. Not only that, but the pie has taken on new life at modern spots like the now-shuttered Franny’s in Brooklyn, Manhattan’s Pasquale Jones, and Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco. Most importantly, it helped solidify seafood's place as a viable topping option. --Karen Palmer
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

fried calamari

24. Fried Calamari

Year: 1960
Restaurant: Randazzo's Clam Bar
Brooklyn, New York
How it happened: In the 1900s, the Randazzo family owned a seafood shop in Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay, which at the time was a fishing center. There, in 1960, Helen Randazzo added a small restaurant and bar, serving simple preparations of fresh fish smothered in her now-famous “Sauce” of long-cooked tomatoes with olive oil and oregano. Among the makeshift bar’s most popular dishes was lightly breaded and crisply fried calamari. Served with heaps of a spiced-up Sauce, customers deemed it the perfect accompaniment to a cold beer. “A bar gives you pretzels, potato chips, and peanuts, right? We gave calamari with hot Sauce,” said Paul Randazzo, a fifth-generation owner and Helen’s oldest surviving grandson. “The Sauce makes them drink more, you follow me? My grandmother was a genius!”
Why it’s important: When Randazzo’s started serving calamari -- or as anyone working at the restaurant will pronounce the dish, “gahlma” -- squid was used to bait fishing hooks, not to feed people. In the ‘60s, the catch fetched about 2 cents a pound, which is why the clam bar was able to serve it as a complimentary snack. Inspired by Helen Randazzo’s ingenuity, other fishermen’s bars in the area began to serve the dish. These days, it’s found on the menus of all kinds of restaurants, who still reap a healthy profit from a seafood whose current price hovers at around $6 per pound. -- LR
Photo: Randazzo's Clam Bar

peking duck

25. Peking Duck

Year: 1961
Restaurant: The Mandarin
San Francisco, California
How it happened: Until Cecilia Chiang opened The Mandarin in 1961, non-Chinese Americans didn’t know much about Chinese food outside of the Cantonese-ish stuff that had been tailored to their palates. (Think: chop suey.) But Chiang, an emigré who was raised in a 52-room mansion in Beijing, decided to invoke the flavors of northern China, and it forever changed Western perceptions of what Chinese food was and could be. “I didn’t know what Americans like or don’t like,” Chiang told PBS in 2015. “I just remembered what I had before in my life and put everything on the menu.” It’s thanks to her that pot stickers, hot and sour soup, and Peking duck entered the American-Chinese food vernacular. The duck, with its shatteringly crispy skin and bevy of accoutrements, soon became a best seller at the restaurant, which doubled as a social club for well-heeled San Franciscans and celebrities.
Why it's important: In the United States, where Chinese menus often serve a grab bag of dishes from disparate provinces (along with speciously un-Chinese appetizers like crab rangoon), Peking duck stands out because it is, by and large, faithful to the birds you might find within the great duck houses of Beijing. It was Chiang’s incredibly fortuitous stumble into cooking, and having little idea what her customers already liked, that led her to fall back on tradition -- and that’s exactly why we can now enjoy Peking duck as it should be served in untold restaurants around the US. -- MZ

filet o fish McDonald's

26. Filet-O-Fish

Year: 1962
Restaurant: McDonald's
Cincinnati, Ohio
How it happened: McDonald's franchise owner Lou Groen realized his Cincinnati-area restaurant was suffering a plummeting, potentially devastating drop in sales during the 40-day period of Lent, as much of the Catholic-heavy population of southwest Ohio would abstain from meat on Fridays -- or even altogether -- per Vatican tradition during the season of repentance. "On Fridays we only took in about $75 a day," Groen, who passed away in May of 2011, told The Cincinnati Enquirer in 2007. "All our customers were going to Frisch's [the local fried fish joint]. So I invented my fish sandwich, developed a special batter, made the tartar sauce and took it to headquarters." McDonald's head honcho Ray Kroc begrudgingly allowed the fish sandwich to grace Groen's menu alongside his own new vegetarian creation, the Hula Burger (a clearly misguided pineapple and cheese sandwich). He told Groen whichever dish sold more over Lent would earn a permanent spot on the national menu. And, well, have you ever heard of a Hula Burger?
Why it's important: Not only did the success of Groen's Filet-O-Fish single-handedly create the concept of nationally available fast seafood, it ushered in a new era of experimentation and menu expansion for the Golden Arches, and by extension, all of fast food. "My fish sandwich was the first addition ever to McDonald's original menu," Groen said. "It saved my franchise." The floodgates were now open. It made chain restaurateurs realize the value of menu diversity, and reading customer needs -- and it laid the template for the next half-century of fast-food innovation. -- WF
Photo: Courtesy of McDonald's

hibachi shrimp
Cole Saladino/thrillist

27. Hibachi Shrimp

Year: 1964
Restaurant: Benihana
New York, New York
How it happened: It's difficult to talk about Benihana and its influence in terms of one specific dish, since the entire experience of dining there is every bit as much about showmanship as it is about the food. When iconoclastic Olympic-wrestler-turned-ice-cream-truck-operator-turned-restaurateur Rocky Aoki opened the first Benihana in 1964, the huge steel teppanyaki grills served as stages where chefs would perform intricate theatrics with familiar ingredients that wouldn't challenge American palates still relatively unfamiliar with Japanese food: steak, chicken, and yes, shrimp, whose tails are removed, so that they can be artfully tossed with a spatula into the chef's hat and front pocket. Luckily the rest of the shrimp that's left behind happens to pair wonderfully with the onion volcano-fueled fried rice hearts.
Why it's important: After a glowing New York Times review turned it into an overnight sensation, Benihana was on its way to firmly embedding itself in the cultural lexicon, getting name-checked by rappers and showing up everywhere from The 40-Year-Old Virgin to Tyrese's house. The cultural heft is a bit surprising given Benihana's relatively modest footprint (66 locations) by chain restaurant standards. It could have something to do with the dozens of imitators that have popped up around the country that have channeled its format, shrimp tricks and all. "People say to me we've been to your Benihana in St. Louis, and we don't have a Benihana in St. Louis," said Jeannie Means, vice president of marketing. "And they're adamant about it because it's so similar." However, we all know there's only one true temple to hibachi shrimp. -- ML
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Buffalo wings from Anchor Bar

28. Buffalo Wings

Year: 1964
Restaurant: Anchor Bar
Buffalo, New York
How it happened: On a cold, snowy night in 1964, Dominic Bellissimo was tending bar at his mom and pop’s red-sauce Italian joint. A group of his friends came in looking for a snack, and Bellissimo asked his mother Teressa to whip something up. Surveying the mostly empty walk-in, she spied a bunch of chicken wings she had been planning to use in a soup and was moved to throw them in the deep fryer. After tossing them with an improvised sauce of Frank’s Red Hot smoothed with butter, she served them to the hungry men alongside a plate of celery sticks and blue cheese dressing to tame the heat. “They dove right in,” said the Buffalo restaurant’s vice president Mark Dempsey. “The big, juicy wings were an instant hit, and the rest is history, so to speak.”
Why it’s important: Once the cheapest cut of chicken you could buy and relegated to stocks and soups, chicken wings steadily rose in popularity -- and price -- after Buffalo wings became the star of Anchor Bar’s menu, and were widely replicated in bars and restaurants throughout the country. Today, you can find the deep-fried wings served with everything from extra hot “Suicidal” sauces to glazes made from honey and soy. Plus, the concept of “Buffalo”-flavored everything has really taken off from pizza to sandwiches. -- LR

poutine

29. Poutine

Year: 1964
Restaurant: Le Roy Jucep
Drummondville, Quebec
How it happened: Some say poutine -- the Quebecois dish of French fries, cheese curds, and gravy -- originated in Warwick, Quebec, at Le Lutin Qui Rit in 1957, when a customer asked owner Fernand Lachance to mix fries and cheese curds in the same paper bag. "The identity of the inventor is the subject of some dispute, although a restaurant proprietor named Fernand Lachance is what detectives would call ‘a person of interest’ -- and for many years the humor about it within Canada could have been seen as a way of making a mildly deprecating jape about its home province," wrote Calvin Trillin in The New Yorker. Others claim that honor goes to Le Roy Jucep in Drummondville in 1964, when owner Jean-Paul Roy noticed guests ordering sides of cheese curds to accompany the diner’s fries and gravy. “Cheese, potatoes, and sauce” was too cumbersome for waitstaff to write, according to Le Roy Jucep, so it was shortened to “pudding,” resembling “putin.” Whichever tale is true, Le Roy Jucep had the foresight to trademark the dish in 1998. Today, it serves more than 20 tricked-out versions.
Why it’s important: Although it was born in Quebec, the comfort food has become one of Canada’s most recognizable culinary exports. Not only can it be found in dives and fancy restaurants alike across the provinces, the dish inspires cooks in the US, too.  Americans can’t resist this booze-soaking mess of fries, gravy, and cheese, and chefs can’t resist toying with it, creating hoity-toity versions topped with the likes of foie gras and duck confit. -- AA

keylime pie

30. Key Lime Pie

Year: 1968
Restaurant: Joe's Stone Crab
Miami, Florida
How it happened: "It was born out of necessity," said Steve Sawitz, fourth-generation owner of Joe's Stone Crab, of his mother's famous Key lime pie. A reporter from Chicago had written about the delightful slice of Key lime pie he ate at Joe's in 1968, even then an iconic Miami restaurant known for, what else, its stone crab. The only problem was that Joe's didn't have a Key lime pie on its menu. Instead of balking at the mix-up, Jo Ann Sawitz, Steve's mother, embraced this as "not just an opportunity, but an obligation," as he put it. Already an adept baker, Jo Ann configured the recipe that's still being used today: butter and graham cracker for the crust, sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, and freshly squeezed key lime juice for the filling, though the limes -- not always real Key limes as the indigenous crop was wiped out from the Great Miami Hurricane that pummeled the Keys in 1926 -- are no longer cut and squeezed by hand.
Why it's important: Only four states have an official state pie, each a pillar of traditional crusted American desserts: apple (Vermont), pumpkin (Illinois), pecan (Texas), and Key lime (Florida). And the ones they make at Joe's continue to be in such demand that there's a dedicated room where a dedicated baker churns out the tart custard pies. "It's become the most popular thing on the menu. By far," Sawitz said. Granted, Joe's didn't invent this classic American dessert, but they quite possibly perfected it, and certainly popularized it. -- LB

In-N-Out animal style fries

31. Animal Style Fries

Year: c. 1969
Restaurant: In-N-Out Burger
Baldwin Park, California
How it happened: The origins of In-N-Out Burger's legendary "Animal Style" fries is a SoCal secret shrouded in more mystery than the next Star Wars script. And even the woman who literally wrote the book on In-N-Out can't be fully sure how exactly it came to fruition. But legend posits that the clean-cut chefs who ran the flagship In-N-Out location in Baldwin Park, California in the '60s had an intense disdain for the rowdy surfers who would frequent the location, often referring to them as "Animals." When they needed shorthand for the customized special sauce these scruffy teens liked to put on their fries and burgers (basically, Thousand Island dressing with cheese, and grilled onions), they naturally just called it "Animal Style." Regardless of the origins, it remains the flagship item on In-n-Out's secret (but not-so-secret, anymore) menu.
Why it's important: "Secret menus" have long been fodder for blogs, fan groups, and food journalism deep-dives (this website being no exception) -- and all the clandestine ordering started here. In-N-Out has only added to its cult-like status as one of the most beloved fast-food restaurants in the world by not only accommodating guests who want to play mad scientist with their menus, but fully embracing the movement. If you've ever felt the thrill of ordering a McGangBang, or even reading about it, you have In-N-Out and their ubiquitous "Animals" to thank. -- WF

california roll
Cole saladino/thrillist

32. California Roll

Year: c. 1970
Restaurant: Tokyo Kaikan
Los Angeles, California
How it happened: The California roll needs no introduction, yet its history is far from clear. The invention of this ubiquitous roll has been claimed by many over the years. First is Tokyo Kaikan, one of LA’s first sushi restaurants, where a chef named Ichiro Mashita allegedly opted to replace the expensive and difficult-to-source fatty toro with creamy avocado, plentiful as they are in California. International Marine Products Inc, which owned the now-shuttered Tokyo Kaikan, still claims to be “the birthplace of the now famous California roll.” Another contender, however, is Hidekazu Tojo, a Japanese sushi chef who emigrated to Canada in the 1970s, and who claims that he invented the roll, originally called “Tojo-maki,” because Westerners were put off the flavors of raw fish and seaweed, which he replaced with cooked crab and avocado. “A lot of people from out of town came to my restaurant -- lots from Los Angeles -- and they loved it. That's how it got called the California roll,” he told the Globe and Mail in 2012.
Why it's important: Regardless of who invented it or how closely it resembles traditional Japanese maki, the California roll has long served as the gateway drug to a broader appreciation of sushi for many Westerners -- and sushi restaurants have boomed as a result. Not only that, but the highly palatable roll might well be responsible for the rise of grocery store sushi, which comprised a $705 million market in the US in 2015, perForbes. That’s one hell of a lot of avocados. -- MZ
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

general tso's chicken

33. General Tso's Chicken

Year: c. 1970
Restaurant: Uncle Tai's Hunan Yuan and Hunan
New York, New York
How it happened: Sugar-shellacked and a shade of otherworldly red, General Tso’s chicken has remained a staple of American Chinese menus for decades. The original version, however, barely resembles its Western cousin. It was devised by Peng Chang-kuei, who served as the official banquet chef for the Chinese government after World War II, before emigrating to Taiwan where he created the sour, salty, and spicy dish he would name after a 19th-century Hunanese military hero. In the early 1970s, David Keh, who owned Uncle Tai’s Hunan Yuan, and chef TT Wang, who owned Shun Lee Dynasty and Shun Lee Palace, and who cooked at Hunan Restaurant, independently traveled to Taiwan and decided to put Peng’s chicken dish on the menus of their competing restaurants back in New York City -- but with a jolt of sugar added. “They both felt, as many Chinese chefs who are feeding Caucasian people around the world do, the need to emphasize the sweet side of the food for non-Chinese people,” said restaurateur Ed Schoenfeld, who worked at Uncle Tai’s in the 1970s. Ultimately, however, Schoenfeld says that it was TT Wang’s blueprint for the dish that became popular the world over.
Why it's important: By some estimates, General Tso’s chicken is the most popular Chinese dish in America, even if Peng, who died in 2016, would hardly recognize it. “Chef Peng was baffled by the broccoli in all the photos of General Tso’s chicken from America,” said Jennifer 8 Lee, who co-produced the 2014 documentary The Search for General Tso. As Lee wrote in The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, the dish is as American as apple pie: “You can now eat the general’s chicken in all-you-can-eat $4.95 supper buffets along interstate highways, at urban takeouts with bulletproof windows, and in white-tablecloth establishments that have received starred reviews in The New York Times.” -- Matthew Zuras

chicken tikka masala

34. Chicken Tikka Masala

Year: 1971
Restaurant: Shish Mahal
Glasgow, Scotland
How it happened: On a cold and rainy night in Glasgow, Ali Ahmed Aslam was working in the kitchen of his restaurant and was dealing with a stomach ulcer that made it hard to eat anything but Campbell’s tomato soup. A customer in the dining room sent back an order of chicken tikka, a marinated grilled chicken dish, complaining that it was too dry. “Aslam took it back inside and he mixed into the curry something called Campbell’s condensed tomato soup, and from that, the chicken tikka masala was invented,” says Andleeb Ahmed, director of Shish Mahal. The customer loved it, and it quickly spread throughout the UK and became one of the regions most popular dishes.
Why it's important: Chicken tikka masala is the result of tradition and on the spot ingenuity, using what was available to adapt a traditional dish. Some say that the dish actually originated in the Punjab region of India a long time before the Shish Mahal story, but the controversy of the origins of the dish pales in comparison to the love that the United Kingdom has for the dish. In 2001, while giving a speech about the benefits of multiculturalism, Robin Cook, foreign secretary representing Great Britain, declared chicken tikka masala as the national dish of England and “a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences.”  Since its inception in the 1970s, it’s become one of the most ubiquitous dishes on Indian restaurant menus around the world. -- KW

crispy orange beef

35. Crispy Orange Beef

Year: 1971
Restaurant: Uncle Tai's Hunan Yuan
New York, New York
How it happened: Like General Tso’s chicken, crispy orange beef is a chopped-and-screwed import. “We introduced crispy orange beef to America and it was a riff on a cold appetizer,” said Ed Schoenfeld, who worked for restaurateur David Keh at Uncle Tai’s in the 1970s and claims that the original dish hailed from the Sichuan banquet food tradition. He said that Chef Tai took “cold orange beef, which is made with aged, dry tangerine peel, ginger, and scorched chilies and scallions” and coupled it with a new technique for frying tenderized beef until it was shatteringly crispy and melt-in-the-mouth, transforming a typically cold dish into a hot one. “His version of that is pretty much what’s become popular except, as with General Tso’s chicken, more often than not it’s degraded,” Schoenfeld added.
Why it's important: A staple of American Chinese menus everywhere, crispy orange beef represents not merely a corruption of classical Chinese cooking, but an inventive spirit and a desire to fuse tradition with new technique -- at least in the dish’s original form. Schoenfeld might be right about the degradation of crispy orange beef; Mimi Sheraton’s 1981 review of Uncle Tai’s competitor Shun Lee West dismissed that restaurant’s iteration as “leathery and afloat in orange grease.” Many dime-a-dozen Chinese restaurants fare no better, but there are still plenty of temples to the golden age of Chinese cooking in America (Schoenfeld’s RedFarm, for example) keeping the crispy beef flame alight. -- MZ

egg McMuffin from McDonald's

36. Egg McMuffin

Year: 1972
Restaurant: McDonald's
Santa Barbara, California
How it happened: It might seem borderline ludicrous now, as the Egg McMuffin is as synonymous with American mornings as the Today show, but the inventor of the fast-food breakfast icon was initially scared to show his boss his new idea. Herb Peterson, the operator of a McDonald's in Santa Barbara, refused to tell McDonald's founder Ray Kroc any details about his breakfast sandwich, and insisted he show it to him, firsthand. "He didn’t want me to reject it out of hand, which I might have done, because it was a crazy idea," Kroc stated in his autobiography. "I boggled a bit at the presentation. But then I tasted it, and I was sold." Peterson based the idea around a handheld, stripped-down version of eggs Benedict -- complete with cheese, Canadian bacon, and a griddle-fried egg -- and it helped solve a problem Kroc and company had grappled with for years: getting people in the door for food before noon.
Why it's important: If you've ever hit up a fast-food restaurant before 11:30am -- you have the Egg McMuffin to thank. Not only did it popularize the fast and easy on-the-go breakfast, it introduced the entire country to the concept of a breakfast sandwich. "McDonald's came out with the McMuffin in the early '70s, and it became a known and available commodity all over the country," said food historian and sandwich expert Joel Jensen. "Now, everyone in the country could drive a couple miles and get a breakfast sandwich. It was introduced into the cultural consciousness." The Egg McMuffin turned Micky D's into a breakfast joint, invented the concept of fast-food breakfast, and let millions of customers all over the world grab a few extra minutes of sleep -- as breakfast was now just a drive-thru stop away. -- WF
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Cole Saladino / Thrillist

37. Loaded Potato Skins

Year: 1974
Restaurant: TGI Fridays
Dallas, Texas
How it happened: Other restaurants (most notably R.J. Grunts of the Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You empire) have competing claims surrounding the creation of the potato skin, but the version that ultimately conquered America's hearts and your grocer's freezer traces its lineage to Fridays, back in its heyday as a swinging '70s singles bar. A chef in the midst of a batch of mashed potatoes decided to toss some skins in the fryer, and after some Cheddar cheese and bacon joined the party, a bar food sensation was born. "It was mind-bogglingly successful," said Walt Henrion, one of the partners who convinced founder Alan Stillman to extend his NYC bar to franchises around the country, starting in Dallas. "We started selling them at $1.65 for a little basket of six halves. In one month we went from $1.65 to $4.25 because we couldn't produce for the demand."
Why it's important: According to Henrion, it took longer than it should have for other competing chains to notice how many potato skins Fridays was slinging, but a few years later, copycat versions were appearing everywhere, and before long it was an appetizer staple on par with Buffalo wings and nachos. Beyond that, today's menus feature all manner of "loaded" potato items for which everyone understands without so much as a glance at the description that "loaded" will entail melted cheese and crispy bits of bacon. That said, no permutation of potato perfectly harnesses a concentrated payload of toppings quite the way a well-hollowed potato skin does. -- ML
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

breakfast burrito

38. Breakfast Burrito

Year: 1975
Restaurant: Tia Sophia's
Santa Fe, New Mexico
How it happened: Though this Southwestern café, opened in 1975 by Jim and Ann Maryol, can’t lay claim to inventing the breakfast burrito, it’s Jim who gave the tortilla-wrapped meal its name. “New Mexicans have forever been putting eggs, ham, potatoes, sausage, and cheese inside a tortilla, and eating it for breakfast,” said his son Nick, who took over the business in 2004. “My father is merely the first person to call it a ‘breakfast burrito.’” The overstuffed flour tortilla, Tia Sophia’s most popular dish, also comes with a crowning of New Mexican most prized ingredient: chilies. Simply prepared using either red poblano peppers or unripe green ones, plus salt and garlic, the exemplary toppers have been known to inspire indecision in diners. In the 1970s, Nick recalled, waitress Martha Rutino grew tired of all the “hemming and hawing” and told customers to “just get the Christmas”: a burrito striped with both red and green varieties.
Why it’s important: You can now find some version of a breakfast burrito all over the country, from small local burrito shops to fast-food joints (ahem, Taco Bell). Call it Tex-Mex or call it Southwestern, it’s the regional flavor, incorporating local ingenuity and New Mexican ingredients, that set Tia Sophia’s apart. “I knew we had reached cultural critical mass when I saw Walter White on Breaking Bad preparing his wife chicken enchiladas, Christmas-style,” said Nick. -- LR

chicken and waffles from Roscoes

39. Chicken and Waffles

Year: 1975
Restaurant: Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles
Los Angeles, California
How it happened: Toward the tail end of the Harlem Renaissance in 1938, restaurateur Joseph T. Wells opened Wells Supper Club on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, and quickly attracted the jazz musicians (and hangers-on) finishing up gigs at nearby clubs. Arriving too late for dinner but too early for breakfast, the guests were offered a hybrid of both: a fluffy waffle piled with crisp pieces of fried chicken. The mash-up dish became a trend in Harlem, where Roscoe’s founder Herb Hudson was living at the time. But when he decamped to Los Angeles in 1975, there were no chicken and waffles to be found. “I decided to make my own,” Hudson recalled. The idea took off, quickly inspired copycat renditions around town. In addition to the inherent appeal of the dish, Angelenos were attracted by its Harlem origins. “There really weren't any minority or black-owned businesses in Hollywood at the time, so people were responsive and excited for something new,” Hudson said.
Why it’s important: While chicken and waffles consecrates the holy union of sweet and savory, and is basically a precursor the phenomenon that would become brunch, its cultural relevance stretches even further than that. By bringing this African-American innovation to Los Angeles and making it a sensation, Hudson scored a triumph for the black restaurant community. Now everyone is clamoring to eat chicken and waffles. -- LR
Photo: Dustin Downing/Thrillist

pasta primavera

40. Pasta Primavera

Year: 1977
Restaurant: Le Cirque
New York, New York
How it happened: While it sounds like it was created in a nonna’s kitchen in the hills of rural Tuscany, pasta primavera was actually born during a trip to Nova Scotia with a group that included New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne, and Le Cirque owner Sirio Maccioni and his wife Egi, who were in charge of cooking a Sunday lunch. “My father said, ‘Let's just do our family tradition,’ which is pizza and pasta on Sunday,’” Sirio’s son Marco Maccioni recalled. “My mom woke up to make the pizza. My father, slept a little bit more. My mom used tomatoes for her pizza sauce. And when my father woke up, he found there were no more tomatoes. He was planning on serving handmade spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and olive oil. He said, ‘How am I going to make spaghetti with fresh tomatoes if you used all the tomatoes?' My mom said, ‘You should have woken up.’” Sirio used what he could find: frozen broccoli, peas and asparagus, fresh zucchini and mushrooms… and two measly tomatoes. He tossed them in a pan with cream, basil, garlic, and pine nuts, shaved on some Parmesan, and served it over the spaghetti. “Craig Claiborne asked, ‘What is this fabulous pasta?’ My father answered, 'It's primavera,’ because it was springtime,” Marco said.
Why it’s important: Back in New York, Craig Claiborne asked the Maccionis to cook the same pasta at his home in Amagansett. They did, and Claiborne published the recipe in The New York Times in October 1977. Immediately, the dish became Le Cirque’s signature, though it has never actually appeared on the menu. The tableside service of the pasta caused so much buzz that diners didn’t have to see it on the menu to order it. It became perhaps the longest-running “off-the-menu” item in restaurant history, not to mention the go-to vegetarian entree option at hotel restaurants around the country. -- Kathleen Squires
Photo: Cole Saladino; Styling: Perry Santanachote

gargoulliou
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

41. Gargouillou

Year: 1980
Restaurant: Lou Mazuc
Laguiole, France
How it happened: Reared in the rambling French countryside, Michel Bras was always drawn to nature. Before opening his eponymous restaurant in 1992, the self-taught chef helmed Lou Mazuc, his parents’ hotel-restaurant. It was during this time, inspired by a walk through pastures in bloom, that he dreamed up his refined rendition of an old Auvergne stew with potatoes called gargouillou: a stunning assemblage of some ever-changing 60 vegetables, herbs, and flowers like fern, amaranth, nasturtium, and Alpine fennel along with a grounding base of cured ham. This composition of myriad shapes and textures is arguably the world’s most remarkable salad. "For me, his gargouillou is an incredible display of technique and a clear example of a chef's true understanding of vegetable cookery,” wrote New York chef Wylie Dufresne in an essay for Saveur about cooking for Bras, his idol.
Why it’s important: Bras championed the vegetable with sincerity and elegance well before other chefs, leading them to consider the merits of their own backyards. The delicate, vibrant gargouillou has since spawned a number of Stateside versions from chefs like David Kinch (Into the Garden at Manresa in Los Gatos, California) and Daniel Patterson (Abstraction of Garden in Early Winter at San Francisco's Coi). “Michel Bras is one of the most imitated chefs in the world, and with good reason," Dufresne added. -- AA
Photo: Cole Saladino; Styling: Ali Nardi

pommes puree

42. Pommes Puree

Year: c. 1980
Restaurant: L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Paris, France
How it happened: Mashed potatoes have always been a comfort food, a rustic and filling side dish made from creaming the humble spud with some cream and perhaps a knob of butter. That was until star French chef Joel Robuchon got his hands on them. The chef said that he is obsessed with elevating the most basic dishes into something magical, and he wanted to do it with mashed potatoes in particular, because people just really love potatoes. His version is just four ingredients, but it is far from simple to make. There is a full pound of butter for every two pounds of potatoes that is beaten in one tablespoon at a time, and then passed through a sieve multiple times. The result is ethereally creamy potatoes that has become one the biggest stars of fine dining.
Why it's important: Robuchon showed the world that it is possible to transform any dish, even the most humble one made of mashed potatoes, into an incredibly luxurious experience. His pommes puree are so popular that he has them on the menu at every one of his 14 restaurants in over 10 countries across the globe. It is one of the first dishes that many hopeful chefs learn how to make and it helped confirm the notion that there is no such thing as too much butter. -- K. Shah
Photo: Cole Saladino / Thrillist

chocolate cake

43. Chocolate Lava Cake

Year: 1981
Restaurant: Bras
Laguiole, France
How it happened: The '80s: a time for big hair, synth music, and chocolate cake with runny centers and messy origin stories. In 1981, Michel Bras debuted his chocolate coulant, which involves submerging a sphere of ganache in a ramekin of chocolate cake batter, at his namesake restaurant in Laguiole, France, following a trip he took with his children. "I wanted to translate the emotion evoked by coming home to find a mug of hot chocolate after a day of skiing," he explained. Six years later, a young Jean-Georges Vongerichten created his version on accident, when he served 500 underbaked chocolate soufflés, made from his mother's recipe, at the now-shuttered Lafayette inside New York City's Drake Hotel. "I couldn't believe I had just served raw cake!" he recounted. Vongerichten received a standing ovation from the guests, and the chocolate Valrhona cake was added to the permanent menu the next day.
Why it's important: Regardless of who invented it, the chocolate lava cake quickly became the pinnacle of fine dining, with chefs across the country clamoring to add a version to their dessert menus. From there it was a quick expansion to Disney World in 1997, and just one year later, the lava cake became one of the country's most recognizable treats, making appearances everywhere from chain restaurants to the freezer aisle of Walmart. It has become so ubiquitous that food writer Mark Bittman eventually ordained it the "the Big Mac of desserts." -- KS
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

goat cheese salad

44. Goat Cheese Salad

Year: 1981
Restaurant: Chez Panisse
Berkeley, California
How it happened: In American cheese circles, one of the most important meet-cutes of the 20th century just might be between Alice Waters, proprietor of the beyond-influential Chez Panisse in Berkeley, and Laura Chenel, a cheesemaker in Sonoma County. Legend has it that Waters was so impressed by Chenel’s goat cheese during an early 1980s tasting that she placed a standing order for the restaurant -- thus creating one of her most iconic dishes, a  humble combination of breadcrumb & thyme-coated goat cheese baked and served with greens and garlic toast. "Goat cheese was not really available in those days, or at least not goat cheese made in America,” said Waters. “Laura Chenel was one of the first ones who made it commercially available, and I loved it." Waters noted in 1999’s Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook that the dish is one of two they’ve had on the Cafe’s menu since day one. As for its origins, “I can't remember exactly where the recipe for the salad came from, but my mind was in the South of France,” said Waters.
Why it’s important: In a 1983 article in the New York Times about the growing popularity of goat cheese that included a recipe for the salad, then-food editor Craig Claiborne noted, “Alice Waters, the owner-chef of Chez Panisse in California, was one of the first to experiment with baked goat cheese in this country. As a result, she has become justly well known for her baked goat cheese with garden salad...” Aside from Waters’ countless other contributions to the food world, one could also say she’s responsible for the ubiquity of goat cheese salads on menus around the country. -- KP

blackened redfish New Orleans

45. Blackened Redfish

Year: 1982
Restaurant: K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen
New Orleans, Louisiana
How it happened: Though K-Paul founder and chef Paul Prudhomme passed away in 2015, his restaurant, and spin on Cajun cuisine live on. Current executive chef Paul Miller said that Prudhomme’s famous blackened redfish was concocted when Prudhomme was still chef at Commander’s Palace, in the late '70s and early '80s: “I was working with him at Commander’s, and we were experimenting with using a huge, cast-iron pot. We loved how the pot was giving everything a grilled and charcoal-pit taste. But it was chef Prudhomme’s seasoning blend that took it to a new level. That seasoning, with a hit of clarified butter in a very hot skillet, brings out the moisture of the fish, and gives it a dark, sweet color. The mixture of juices from the fish and the seasoning -- paprika, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, thyme, oregano -- and the butter and the cast-iron skillet is just… magic.”
Why it’s important: Prudhomme’s method started a whole Cajun cooking trend across America. The Times-Picayune even said that the recipe “nearly wiped the redfish off the Gulf fisheries map,” because of its popularity. The trend hit critical mass on a national scale, and now “blackened” is simply another cooking method, like “roasted” or “fried.” -- K.Squires
Photo: C. Ross / Thrillist 

salmon pizza
Cole Saladino/thrillist

46. Salmon Pizza

Year: 1982
Restaurant: Spago
Los Angeles, California
How it happened: In 1982, a 33-year-old chef named Wolfgang Puck opened a restaurant on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood called Spago, serving what would soon be known as "spa cuisine" -- meaning French technique applied to California ingredients with the occasional nod to Asian cuisine. He was working in the kitchen one night when legendary actress Joan Collins ordered smoked salmon with buttery brioche bread. Puck panicked. He didn’t have any brioche left to make the actress’ order. Improvising, he topped a freshly baked pizza crust with creme fraiche, dill, smoked salmon, and a spoonful of caviar on each slice. The actress loved it. Word spread about the dish, and soon, celebrities filled the dining room to try Puck’s salmon pizza. Spago’s location may have changed from West Hollywood to Beverly Hills, but the smoked salmon pizza has been on the Spago menu since it opened.
Why it's important: If you like toppings on your pizza besides the standard pepperoni and vegetables, you have Puck to thank. The salmon pizza, which is the official dish of the Oscars, helped usher in a new era of stunt pizzas, where people started to become more adventurous with their pies. In particular, the salmon pizza served as the base for a new style of distinctly California pizza, which favored fresh ingredients over heavy cheese, sauce, and greasy toppings. -- KW
Photo: Cole Saladino; Styling: Ali Nardi

bread pudding souffle

47. Bread Pudding Soufflé

Year: 1983
Restaurant: Commander's Palace
New Orleans, Louisiana
How it happened: It was the 100th anniversary of Commander’s Palace in 1983 that prompted the addition of the now-legendary bread pudding soufflé to the menu, said co-proprietor, Ti Martin. “We did an event called the American Cuisine Symposium. We invited people from all over the country -- Larry Forgione, Florence Fabricant, Jonathan Waxman, and everybody who was pushing the American food scene forward,” said Martin. “The discussion was centered around the question, ‘Is there an American cuisine?’ because we all still had this inferiority complex to Europe. At the time, Paul Prudhomme was the chef at Commander’s, and they were really pushing to lighten things.” The famously portly chef had the idea of “lightening” a rich soufflé involved using leftover French bread. Martin added that while Americans were familiar with traditional French Grand Mariner soufflé, “They might have been a little intimidated by it. But if you say ‘bread pudding soufflé,’ America can relate to that.” The result: a sweet, eggy dessert, dotted with raisins, generously garnished with whiskey cream sauce, characteristically New Orleans in its decadence.
Why it’s important: The mash-up dessert exemplifies the high-low essence of American cuisine. As the Southern Food and Beverage Museum declared, the dessert allowed bread pudding “to rise above its humble origins.” Today, it can be found on menus across the country of restaurants both high- and low-end. -- K. Squires

chicken with potatoes

48. Roast Chicken With Potatoes

Year: 1984
Restaurant: Jams
New York, New York
How it happened: When 33-year-old chef Jonathan Waxman opened the rollicking, we-came-to-party restaurant Jams on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in 1984, he simply cooked like he always had at places like Berkeley’s legendary Chez Panisse and Michael’s in Santa Monica: using the best, seasonal ingredients prepared with minimal fussiness. New York City couldn’t get enough of his so-called “California cuisine.” His iconic chicken followed that mantra: an excellent product (a fatty, expensive bird sourced from upstate farmer Paul Kaiser) not overly messed with (nearly fully deboned and grilled skin-side down over charcoal to crisp the skin, then flipped quickly) and made delicious with a few accoutrements (a brown butter and tarragon sauce and French fries that, due to a minor obsession on Waxman’s part, took three days to prepare). “I wasn’t so much making this an intellectual pursuit -- just trying to make foods I’d had better,” he said.
Why it’s important: Waxman didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel -- but nevertheless, the self-proclaimed “misfit” who’d cooked in France, then came of age on the West Coast, helped to spread the gospel of California cuisine to the East Coast and to make chicken well, cool, again. He also jokes that he'll "probably have a chicken head on my gravestone when I die.” Considering that he’s since created another iconic bird at his West Village mainstay Barbuto, we’d have to agree. -- KP

tableside guac

49. Tableside Guacamole

Year: 1984
Restaurant: Rosa Mexicano
New York, New York
How it happened: Chips and guac are basically a must-do first step when sitting down at a Mexican restaurant, but there's something extra special about the increasing number of establishments that take the effort to prepare it tableside. You can thank Josefina Howard for that, the founder of Rosa Mexicano, a New York-based chain that now boasts locations across the country. “Tableside guacamole was something that was being done at home by Josefina Howard,” said Chris Sellati, Rosa Mexicano's regional executive chef. “The point of Latin hospitality is to invite people in as if they had stepped into our home, or, in this case, our kitchen.” Having a trained guacamole expert roll up to your table and gently fold hunks of avocado with bits of onion and sprigs of cilantro right in front of you makes it an occasion. “It’s dinner and a show,” said Sellai.
Why it’s important: Guacamole had graced the menus of America’s Mexican restaurants long before Rosa Mexicano made tableside guac a mainstay, but the increasingly popular ritual has given Mexican restaurants another avenue to elevate the dining experience and give customers a peek behind the curtain. The hunger-inducing satisfaction that comes with observing a pile of ripe avocado mashed into creamy guacamole undoubtedly played a role in creating the current avocado-obsessed world in which we find ourselves. -- Amy Schulman
Photo: Courtesy of Rosa Mexicano

spam
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

50. Spam Musubi

Year: 1985
Restaurant: Joni-Hana
Kauai, Hawaii
How it happened: While its appeal continues to baffle some mainlanders, Spam has remained popular among Hawaiians ever since World War II, when the US military presence on the islands demanded a continuous supply of cheap protein to feed hungry soldiers. Four decades of “spiced ham” later, Barbara Funamura of Kauai’s Joni-Hana restaurant introduced the now-ubiquitous Spam musubi, a one-hand snack of rice, nori, and a slice of the grilled luncheon meat. Like its close cousin onigiri, the original Spam musubi was triangular in shape, until a Joni-Hana restaurant worker suggested using a rectangular mold to form the rice bricks. “It sold really well from Joni-Hana at the Kukui Grove Center,” Dan Funamura, Barbara’s husband, told a reporter in 2016. “There were the training people from Honolulu who were working with Foot Locker and the Sears store. They all came in and were laughing about it, but within a year, it was all over the state.”
Why it's important: Barbara Funamura passed away in 2016, but her creation has taken on a life of its own. From its humble origins within a Kauai shopping mall, Spam musubi has become so commonplace in Hawaii that even 7-Eleven carries it, seasoned with teriyaki or furikake, or topped with a slab of scrambled egg. Unsurprisingly, it’s a staple at the annual Spam Jam festival in Waikiki; and lest you think that Spam is immune from chef-ification, Hawaiian restaurateur Alan Wong even makes a version with a house-made Spam he calls “Spong.” -- MZ
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

california pizza kitchen

51. BBQ Chicken Pizza

Year: 1985
Restaurant: California Pizza Kitchen
Los Angeles, California
How it happened: Attorneys Rick Rosenfeld and Larry Flax didn't invent California pizza, but when they conceptualized California Pizza Kitchen, they did have the good sense to tap Ed LaDou -- who had manned the pizza operation at Spago under chef Wolfgang Puck -- to develop the menu. One of the pies he developed -- topped with barbecue chicken, thinly sliced red onion and cilantro -- stood out from the jump. "Nobody was putting chicken on pizza in the '80s; it just didn't exist," said Brian Sullivan, CPK's senior vice president of culinary innovation.
Why it's important: As CPK rapidly expanded throughout the '80s and '90s (they now have more than 200 locations), it expanded the American pizza topping palate and created a world where chicken, in particular, is a common option at pizza slinging joints of all stripes, from mega-chains to sports bars, to places that have continued the boundary-pushing mindset LaDou instilled more than 30 years ago. It's no surprise the pizza has been copied many times over: the combination just works. -- ML
Photo: Courtesy of California Pizza Kitchen

orange chicken

52. Orange Chicken

Year: 1987
Restaurant: Panda Express
Honolulu, Hawaii
How it happened: The first Panda Express started taking orders at the Glendale Galleria in 1983, but their most famous dish first became part of the picture several years later and an ocean away, when executive chef Andy Kao started playing around with a sweet-and-sour, orange peel-heavy bone-in fried chicken meant to please the Hawaiian palate. The local response was overwhelming (though they were advised to ditch the bones). "They realized it wasn't going to be just a regional dish for Hawaii," director of culinary innovation Jimmy Wang said. "They had to take it back to California and see how it would develop." The chain now moves 80 million pounds of the sweet, saucy fried bird every year.
Why it's important: Orange chicken is in no way an "authentic" representation of Chinese cuisine, but it has absolutely become an integral part of the American-Chinese food canon, and, along with its spiritual predecessor General Tso's chicken, represents the delectable alchemy that can happen when cuisines pivot to incorporate America's boundless appetite for all things fried and sweet. As Wang notes, countless mom-and-pop restaurants have put their own stamp on the dish, and it remains an accessible, comforting menu staple for many American-Chinese food fans. -- ML
Photo: Panda Express

carne asada

53. Carne Asada

Year: 1987
Restaurant: Frontera Grill
Chicago, Illinois
How it happened: While researching their 1987 cookbook Authentic Mexican, chef Rick Bayless and his wife, Deann, spent five years living between Los Angeles and Mexico, scrupulously studying the preparations of regional dishes such as menudo and mole negro. Bayless was particularly charmed by the southwestern state of Oaxaca, where the aroma of charred meats sizzled in the air. “There are stands on the side of the road where they’re seemingly always grilling beef,” Bayless recalled. “Just follow the smoke to find them.” Typically served with sweet plantains, crema, and cheese, Bayless adapted the rustic barbecue dish for the opening menu at Chicago’s Frontera Grill, serving a prime cut of rib-eye marinated in a red chile adobo made with guajillos, anchos, and chipotles. It was a favorite from the start.
Why it’s important: When Frontera Grill opened in 1987, it was a revelation to most diners: The Mexican flavors that Bayless and his team recreated had rarely been seen this side of the Rio Grande by non-Mexicans. Lovers of “Mexican” food such as hard-shell tacos were given a crash course in the tastes of toasted chiles, fragrant spices, and complex salsas -- and they loved it, furthering an ever-growing infatuation between American diners and the culinary repertoire of Mexico. -- LR

roast chicken

54. Chicken for Two

Year: 1987
Restaurant: Zuni Café
San Francisco, California
How it happened: Despite a crystal-clear menu disclaimer that it will take “approximately 60 minutes” to prepare, glance around San Francisco’s beloved Market Street institution Zuni Café and you’ll notice that nearly every single table is topped with an order of the late Judy Rodgers’ Chicken for Two. According to a 2013 Eater interview, Rodgers came up with the now-famous bird when a wood-burning oven was installed at Zuni and she “wanted to ensure the restaurant didn’t turn into a pizzeria.” Instead of roasting squab, she settled on a whole chicken inspired by spatchcocked ones she’d had in France, telling Eater, “The simplest things are often the best.” Cured in sea salt and pepper and roasted at a high temperature in that wood-burning oven, the birds are served over a toasted ciabatta salad inflected with garlic, scallions, vinegar-plumped currants, and pine nuts and a smattering of baby red mustard greens. The chicken drippings soak into everything down below, making every bite’s chicken-ness unmistakeable -- and worth the hour-long wait.
Why it’s important: Say what you will about Jacques Pépin’s poulet rôti or Julia Child’s lemon-stuffed Favorite Roast Chicken, in the restaurant world, Rodgers’ is the one against all others are judged. It also helped usher in the popularity of ordering a piece of meat that is meant to serve two. -- KP

degustation
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

55. Vegetable Degustation Menu

Year: 1988
Restaurant: Charlie Trotter
Chicago, Illinois
How it happened: Chicago in 1988 was very much entrenched in a carnivorous, steakhouse-centric food scene. A year prior, Charlie Trotter opened his namesake restaurant in a Lincoln Park townhouse and ambitiously discarded the à la carte menu in favor of two tasting menus, one of them solely devoted to vegetables. “He was a bit of a purist in a way, always trying to extract as much flavor out of vegetables as possible,” remembered Karen Urie Shields, executive pastry chef of Smyth and The Loyalist in Chicago, who worked for Trotter. “I think a vegetable menu forced him as a chef to be more creative. There was more to prove and Charlie did it perfectly.” Urie Shields said most diners surprised themselves by preferring the vegetable menu, reveling in dishes like ricotta cheesecake with hedgehog mushrooms and kuri squash sorbet -- a remarkable triumph in a city defined by juicy chops.
Why it’s important: Trotter shuttered his restaurant in 2012 and tragically passed away a year later. He paved the way for chefs like Thomas Keller, whose French Laundry showcases a Taste of Vegetables menu, and Amanda Cohen, who continually proves that the vegetable is not a mere side dish at Dirt Candy in New York. “I think most people perceive vegetable tasting menus as the new Scandinavia movement,” said John B. Shields, executive chef at the Smyth and The Loyalist and another Trotter vet. “But if one really looks through Charlie’s history and cookbooks, you’ll see many things that are popular in Nordic cuisine, like vegetables in desserts and a natural, unforced aesthetic. I’m still not sure he’s gotten his due credit.”  -- AA
Photo: Cole Saladino; Styling: Ali Nardi

rosa pie

56. Rosa Pizza

Year: 1988
Restaurant: Pizzeria Bianco
Phoenix, Arizona
How it happened: Chef Chris Bianco says his red sauce-free Rosa pizza -- a thin, chewy crust topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano, red onion, rosemary, and pistachio -- has several inspirations. “From a flavor profile, it was the center of a bialy, with onion in the middle,” said the Bronx native. “It is also inspired by a trip I made in the mid ‘80s to Liguria, Italy. There was this little focaccia bakery where I had a really simple focaccia, with just Parmigiano-Reggiano and sesame seeds. And I loved it, and it was delicious, and when I got back to the States, that very simplistic combination of the nuttiness of the seeds and the headiness of the Reggiano stayed with me.” When he moved to Arizona and opened the pizzeria, he started to fool around with the sesame seeds and Reggiano, but it didn’t quite have the same effect. “I thought about what was available to me in the Southwest,” said Bianco. “Pistachios are plentiful in the southern part of the state. Pairing them with fresh rosemary from the garden and red onion and the Parmigiano-Reggiano -- done.”
Why it’s important: Bianco has since won a James Beard Award for his pizza prowess, and today, the Rosa is Pizzeria Bianco’s best seller, along with the conventional margherita pie. Like the clam pie before it, the Rosa pushes forward the narrative that pizza doesn’t need red sauce to be great. -- K. Squires

bloomin' onion from Outback Steakhouse

57. Bloomin' Onion

Year: 1988
Restaurant: Outback Steakhouse
Tampa, Florida
How it happened: In the late '80s, American restaurateurs Tim Gannon, Robert Basham, and Chris Sullivan wanted to open a Western-themed steakhouse chain, but they needed a twist -- so, they went Down Under. It might seem random now, but at the time "Australian Fever," (thanks in part to Crocodile Dundee) was sweeping the nation, and Outback became a cultural hit. The Bloomin' Onion, a calorie-laden, battered and deep-fried full onion splayed out like a flower, was always at the forefront of its menu -- even if wasn't really from the Outback. “... the idea was to apply New Orleans seasonings to the onion, so that not only did you have something pretty, but you also had something with an exciting flavor profile," Gannon told F&B Magazine in the November/December 1993 issue. Despite the cultural smokescreen, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America called the Bloomin' "one of the most recognizable menu items at any American restaurant," and it would be hard for anyone to counter that claim.
Why it's important: Outback didn't invent the dish, as it had been casual bar fare for years before the chain opened -- but it did help perfect it, even creating a patented device that will split onions into even, 27 petal portions for deep frying. Imitation is obviously indicative of success, and the Bloomin' Onion has been consistently copied by rival chains (most notably, Chili's "Awesome Blossom"). The Bloomin' is a hedonistic, highly visual deep-fried app that help set the standard for what people expected from new chains: they want a showstopper. If Instagram existed in the 1980s, you can bet your last boomerang that #Bloomin would be blowing up your newsfeed. And frankly, it still might be. -- WF

tuna tartare

58. Tuna Tartare

Year: 1988
Restaurant: Gotham Bar & Grill
New York, New York
How it happened: In the annals of food history, tuna tartare’s exact origins are disputed. Some credit Parisian restaurant Le Duc with devising it in the 1970s, while The Atlantic attributes it to Japanese-born chef Shigefumi Tachibe, who reportedly invented it in 1984 at Chaya Brasserie in Beverly Hills. It wasn’t until late '80s, however, that chef Alfred Portale of Gotham Bar & Grill debuted his take on tuna tartare, and that set the standard for every tuna tartare to follow. His version, made with sushi-grade tuna, shiso, scallions, and a ginger vinaigrette, all molded and piled high with croutons and herb salad, epitomized the “tall food” trend of the 1980s. At that time, Portale said, tuna loin was treated like a steak: “It was served au poivre, with red wine sauce, or as a seared carpaccio dish. So it occurred to me: what about a tartare?”
Why it's important: As New York magazine’s Adam Platt wrote in 2006, “If Jean-Georges is the multitalented Willie Mays, and Batali is Babe Ruth, then Alfred Portale is the Lou Gehrig of the city’s dining world.” It wouldn’t be outrageous to say that tuna tartare may be the secret to the chef’s home run streak, considering that it has remained on the Gotham menu for three decades, surviving every hard right turn of restaurant trends in the process. Tall food might be over, but the tartare remains standing nonetheless. -- MZ
Photo: Courtesy of Gotham Bar & Grill

halal guys
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

59. Chicken Over Rice

Year: 1990
Restaurant: Halal Guys Food Cart
New York, New York
How it happened: In 1990, three immigrants from Egypt -- Muhammed Abouelenein, Ahmed Elsaka, and Abdelbaset Elsayed -- opened a food cart selling hot dogs in Midtown Manhattan. After noticing that customers continuously asked for halal food, they decided to add a chicken, gyro meat, and rice option to their cart with red and white sauces that could be added for extra flavor. Cab drivers from all over Manhattan began traveling to Midtown just to have The Halal Guys' chicken over rice served with plenty of white sauce (a mayonnaise-based sauce similar to tzatziki) and spicy red sauce made with peppers. Every dish cost less than $10, making it an affordable choice for New Yorkers looking for a quick meal. Today, tourists and New Yorkers alike line up for entire city blocks to have the grilled chicken and spiced rice topped with The Halal Guys' famous white and red sauce.
Why it's important: Although there’s nothing revolutionary about the combination of marinated and grilled chicken over rice, the Halal Guys managed to whip up a cheap and convenient version that made tourists and locals line up at the carts at all hours of the day, and chicken over rice quickly became a way of life in NYC. Since their inception, The Halal Guys have also begun franchising quick-serve locations around the country, making them one of the most successful food carts in history. -- KW
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

lettuce wraps P.F. Chang's

60. Lettuce Wraps

Year: 1993
Restaurant: P.F. Chang's
Scottsdale, Arizona
How it happened: When Cali-based restaurateur Paul Fleming moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, he couldn't find any Chinese food he liked, much to his chagrin. When he told his close friend, professional food consultant, and Asian-food royalty Philip Chiang (his mother Cecilia, often described as the Julia Child of Chinese food, ran the Mandarin Restaurant in San Francisco) about his problem, they did the logical thing and opened up their own Chinese restaurant in a Scottsdale strip mall. Using Chiang's culinary chops, his mother's recipes, and Fleming's American business savvy, the restaurant was almost an immediate success, bringing a higher-end, Westernized Chinese-food experience to a mainstream audience. Their signature lettuce wrap appetizer, a traditional recipe perfected by Cecilia complete with spicy, tangy chicken, is still the highlight of the menu, and indicative of their overall mission to expose a wider swath of America to the intricacies of traditional Asian cooking in a comfortable setting. That (super-secret!) lettuce wrap recipe made them famous, and continues to lure people past those iconic, Forbidden City horse statues, and through the mood-lit doors.
Why it's important: "P.F. Chang’s lettuce wraps have been an approachable entry point for people to discover fresh, simple, scratch-made, and inspired Asian cooking, which is now one of the fastest-growing food segments worldwide," said P.F. Chang's chief marketing officer, Dwayne Chambers, who also notes that other restaurant concepts now offer versions of the dish. Beyond just bringing an idiosyncratic Eastern appetizer to American tables, it proved that lettuce, in lieu of bread, is not just a healthier option, but can be decidedly delicious in its own right. -- WF
Photo: Courtesy of P.F. Chang's

chipotle burrito

61. The Customizable Burrito

Year: 1993
Restaurant: Chipotle
Denver, Colorado
How it happened: In '93, classically trained chef Steve Ells wanted to open a fine dining restaurant in Denver, Colorado, but lacked the funds. So he opened Chipotle -- a quick-serve, bare-bones burrito joint -- as a means to make some capital to work toward his eventual goal. Instead, he struck guacamole-laced gold and set the fast-casual mold with a Tex-Mex chain focused on simple, high-quality ingredients that can be infinitely customizable (over 60,000 possible variations, according to communications director for Chipotle, Chris Arnold) and readily available in minutes. "Think about iPods. There are millions of them in the world, but no two are the same. People fill them up with what they want to listen to, and in a way, it becomes their own, something unique," said Arnold. "That's the spirit we've been able to capture at Chipotle, and obviously people like it."
Why it's important: "Ells always wanted to focus on just a few things, and make sure we do them well," Arnold said. "With our focus on quality ingredients, attention to detail, and of course, the ability to completely customize your own meal, we really redefined the landscape of what fast-casual food could be." And he's not wrong. Chains based around the Chipotle template are so abundant, the phrase "the Chipotle of BLANK" has become shorthand for restaurant startups looking to jump into the space and follow the burrito behemoth's business model. -- WF
Photo: William Brinson/Chipotle

avocado toast
Cole saladino/thrillist

62. Avocado Toast

Year: 1993
Restaurant: Bills
Sydney, Australia
How it happened: The simple dish that has taken over Instagram and is supposedly the reason why millennials can’t afford a house is often credited to chef Bill Granger of Bills in Sydney, Australia. Granger added an avocado toast to his menu of easy and casual breakfast dishes at his restaurant and even added a smashed avocado toast with cilantro and lime to his 1999 cookbook, Sydney Food. His menu is recognized as the first appearance of the dish in the world and his cookbook the first appearance of it in print. It was just in time for the health food craze that would shape restaurants.
Why it's important: Can you a remember a world before avocado toast? The simple, green dish is now a staple breakfast and brunch item on many continents around the world. The dish can be found in the average coffee shop to influential breakfast spots like Sqirl in LA. A mentee of Granger and the founder of Sqirl, chef Jessica Koslow added her own version of the avocado toast to her menu topped with changing seasonal ingredients. And in case you needed more proof that avocado toast is everywhere, look no further than this cookbook dedicated solely to the dish. -- KW
Photo: Cole Saladino; Styling: Perry Santanachote

bone marrow

63. Bone Marrow

Year: 1994
Restaurant: St. John
London, England
How it happened: Chef Fergus Henderson is known as one of the founding fathers of the nose-to-tail movement (that is, using up every last bit of the animal). And you can’t get much more “whole animal” than eating the inside of the bones. Since St. John’s opening in 1994, Henderson has been roasting veal bones, procured from London’s Smithfield Market, until the marrow softens and becomes spreadable. A simple salad of parsley, capers & shallots, a couple of slices of toasted bread, and a small pile of salt come out with the bones -- the idea being that you slather a little marrow onto the bread, sprinkle with salt, pile on some salad, and let the acidity cut through all that oozy goodness. “He identified a great underused ingredient and a perfect way to serve it… Every chef gets stuck with a signature dish that they cannot ever take off the menu, and he's going to have to serve it and talk about it for the rest of his life...” Anthony Bourdain wrote in The Guardian in 2014. In fact, Henderson told Eater that same year, “I’m married to this dish.”
Why it’s important: Countless chefs, among them Chris Cosentino and April Bloomfield, have followed Henderson’s lead and gone whole hog on the nose-to-tail movement. It’s not unusual to see organ meats and so-called off-cuts competing for menu space with more standard steaks and chops -- with bone marrow being one of the most prized and sought after. -- KP
Photo: Elliot Sheppard

nobu miso cod

64. Miso Black Cod

Year: 1994
Restaurant: Nobu
New York, New York
How it happened: It’s kind of funny that one of the most famous sushi chefs on the planet, chef Nobu Matsuhisa, is most well-known for a cooked fish dish. Matsuhisa was already a successful chef in Los Angeles when he was approached by actor Robert De Niro and restaurateur Drew Nieporent to open a restaurant in New York City. “Around 1989, Bob sent me a ticket to go to New York,” Matsuhisa remembered. “He explained to me that he wanted to make a restaurant there. But it was too early to open another restaurant.” Four years later, he accepted and opened Nobu in Tribeca and introduced the world to his take on a classic Japanese fish preparation where fish is marinated in a mixture made with mirin, sake, and a white miso paste. The dish was an instant hit.
Why it's important: Matsuhisa may have been already been a great sushi chef, but Nobu -- with its club atmosphere and celebrity sightings paired with dishes like the miso black cod -- helped propel him to becoming a household name. The miso black cod dish was imitated by many restaurants in New York and around the world, further proof of Matsuhisa’s influence as a chef. “Here it is, a plump wedge of miso-glazed black cod, the culinary equivalent of a Cole Porter standard, covered and interpreted by so many artists that you may not recall where and when you experienced it first,” Frank Bruni wrote in 2005 in a review of Nobu sister restaurant, Nobu 57. The dish helped further what Japanese cooking could look like in America, with more and more chefs learning to embrace ingredients like miso. -- KW
Photo: Courtesy of Nobu

crab salad

65. Crab Salad With Apple Gelée

Year: 1994
Restaurant: Café Boulud
New York, New York
How it happened: Some seasonal ingredients just make sense together -- tomato and basil, peas and carrots, strawberries and rhubarb. When creating the “Saison” section of the menu at Café Boulud, chef Daniel Boulud united a less likely trio -- celery, apple, and crab -- that’s just as expressive of a moment. “It started as a combination of three ingredients merging at peak time,” he explained. “I was using two types of celery and two types of apple, and I wanted to do something with peekytoe crab.” At the time, peekytoe was referred to as “mud” or “sand” crab and was underutilized by restaurants. Boulud’s supplier drove some to New York from Maine so he could have a taste. “Since that day, it has become our crab of choice because of its delicate and sweet flavor,” he said. The salad -- sweet crab with diced green apple, cubes of fresh lime, apple gelée, celery, and celery root -- is a cold-weather refresher that unites three unexpected tastes that taste great together.
Why it’s important: As Gael Greene pointed out in her 2005 review of Café Boulud in New York Magazine: “The menu, while allowing room for inventiveness, has maintained its quartet of themes over the years: tradition, season, market, and a detour to foreign kitchens.” The salad exemplifies how Boulud has continued to push the seasonal conversation forward in a fine dining setting, and for a broader restaurant-going audience, popularized ingredients, like peekytoe crab, in the process. -- K. Squires
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Peekytoe Crab with tangerine, fennel & Jicama

oysters and pearls

66. Oysters and Pearls

Year: 1994
Restaurant: The French Laundry
Yountville, California
How it happened: When a then-relatively unknown chef named Thomas Keller took over a Napa Valley farmhouse in 1994 and morphed it into a tasting menu-only restaurant, he did so with a wink and a smile, serving playfully named tiny courses like Coffee and Doughnuts (cinnamon-sugar donuts served with cappuccino custard topped with foamed milk) and a stunning opener of Oysters and Pearls, pearl tapioca sabayon with Island Creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar. When asked by Saveur what he’d like to eat as his last dish on Earth, acclaimed Alinea chef (and Keller disciple) Grant Achatz said of Oysters and Pearls, “I was 23 when I first ate it and it literally shaped my entire career—it was exciting, revelatory. As you get older those moments become rarer. It’s harder to get excited.”
Why it’s important: Most modern American fine dining can be classified as BTFC and ATFC -- that is, “Before the French Laundry” or “After The French Laundry.” With dishes like Oysters and Pearls, Keller made it possible for chefs like Achatz and others, whose own tasting menu restaurants have taken off, to not take themselves too seriously, while still chasing perfection. -- KP
Photo: Deborah Jones/The French Laundry

soup dumplings

67. Soup Dumplings

Year: 1995
Restaurant: Joe's Shanghai
New York, New York
How it happened: Long before Joe’s Shanghai drew lines for its famous soup dumplings, xiao long bao (translation: small basket bun) were pervasive throughout Asia. The most common theory surrounding their origin credits a chef outside of Shanghai, who in 1875 wanted to make a different kind of dumpling, one plump with hot soup and pork. It steadily garnered fame, gaining popularity in Taipei with the opening of Din Tai Fung, now arguably the planet's premier soup dumpling destination. Taking inspiration from Din Tai Fung, restaurateur Barbara Matsumura and chef Joe Si opened Joe’s Shanghai in Flushing, Queens, filling thin dumpling wrappers with crab and pork soup and pleating them into bite-sized rosebuds. While Joe’s put soup dumplings on the map in the States, relatively few restaurants end up including them on menus given their popularity. “The physical requirement to do this is much higher than other kinds of dumplings,” says Jasper Shen, chef/owner of XLB in Portland, Oregon. "A chef must pinch, fold, and turn small bits of dough, all at the same time."
Why it’s important: Despite the labor-intensive process, Joe’s propelled soup dumplings to fame, and copycat versions became inescapable, sprouting up in both traditional and nontraditional adaptations. Now there are dyed versions, versions wiggling with matzo ball soup, and even mammoth ones the size of a softball, which can only be attacked with a straw and a fork. Regardless of which route you go, you can thank Joe's for importing these bursting bundles of liquid magic Stateside. -- AS

cupcakes
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

68. Cupcakes

Year: 1996
Restaurant: Magnolia Bakery
New York, New York
How it happened: Whether you blame it on Sex and the City or their undeniable cuteness factor, Magnolia cupcakes were the "it" dessert at the turn of the century: the perfect individual portion of sweet cake crowned with an even sweeter, pastel swirl of frosting. Back in 1996, partners Allysa Torey and Jennifer Appel had extra batter after baking a cake and rather than waste it, poured the remaining cake into muffin tin molds, and voila: cupcakes. Come 2000, after a 30-second clip of Carrie Bradshaw noshing on a cupcake aired on Sex and the City, “the store had lines all the time,” explains Sara Gramling, vice president of public relations at Magnolia Bakery. “People wanted to have that economical Sex and the City experience. Not everyone can buy Manolo Blahniks, but everyone can afford a cupcake.”  
Why it’s important: As Magnolia’s cupcakes skyrocketed into fame, other cupcake stores popped up, capitalizing on the trend: the now-defunct Crumbs launched in 2003, boasting supersized cupcakes in a host of eccentric flavors, and Baked By Melissa did the opposite, baking colorful, bite-sized cupcakes, while countless other participants in the "cupcake boom" found varying degrees of success and staying power. Regardless, the pint-sized cake paved the way for the glut of dessert trends we see now: Cronuts® and Cruffins, wildly inventive donuts, and candy-studded milkshakes. -- AS
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

69. Shaking Beef

Year: 1996
Restaurant: The Slanted Door
San Francisco, California
How it happened: Before it was the sleek, well-oiled Ferry Building machine it is now, and before the Mission was overrun with hipsters and tech millionaires, The Slanted Door was a postage stamp of a restaurant opened in an old kitchen cabinet store. There, chef Charles Phan, who was born in Vietnam, was taking the home-style dishes of his homeland and marrying them with Northern California ingredients. His Shaking Beef, so named for the shaking of the pan when preparing it, was and is the perfect example: Instead of the flank steak used in Vietnam, Phan chose Niman Ranch filet. “Using a better quality and cut of meat definitely helped make this dish a big hit for us,” Phan told First We Feast in 2014. To make it, cubes of filet are seared along with garlic and onions in a soy and fish sauce vinaigrette, then served with a lime-spiked salt-and-pepper dipping sauce. Despite a flashier venue, the dish is still on the menu to this day.
Why it’s important: Phan was a forerunner in taking the Alice Waters school of thought (the best ingredients, locally sourced) and applying it to his home country’s cuisine. Since then, the approach is found in cuisines ranging from Indian to Thai, but back in 1996, it was as revolutionary as waiting for a table in the Mission. -- KP

70. Bucatini all'Amatriciana

Year: 1998
Restaurant: Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca
New York, New York
How it happened: When Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca opened in 1998, it immediately made waves, thanks to chef Mario Batali’s already estimable (and now deeply compromised) reputation at his first New York restaurant, Po. This venture, with then-new partner Joe Bastianich, was packed with grander intentions -- and even more rebellious style. But the menu was grounded by regional Italian dishes, including one little-known standout on the menu since Day 1: bucatini all’Amatriciana. “We always wanted to represent the classics, but with some innovation,” said Bastianich. Babbo’s Amatriciana used house-cured guanciale (aka pork jowl), a simple tomato sauce, and plenty of chili flakes and grated pecorino just like the classic does. But the unconventional touches made it shine: the one-two punch of garlic and red onion (a uniquely Batali twist). It’s a bigger, bolder, uniquely American approach to Italian flavor that was Babbo in a nutshell -- one that probably wouldn’t go over well in the mother country. “In Italy, if you tried to do that, they would kill you,” Bastianich said.
Why it’s important: The liberties that Batali took with the dish, highlighting its savory, porky, spicy appeal, gave rise to a new breed of chefs that were both deeply inspired by regional Italian cooking and free to embellish and refine old standards according to modern tastes. And in light of 2016’s tragic earthquake, which devastated much of the town of Amatrice, the dish is even more essential now than ever. -- Adina Steiman

Cole Saladino / Thrillist

71. DB Burger

Year: 2001
Restaurant: DB Bistro Moderne
New York, New York
How it happened: The inspiration for chef Daniel Boulud's luxe burger is actually agrarian revolt. “The impetus came from a journalist asking me to comment on the rioting of French farmers directed at McDonald’s locations in France,” said Boulud. “I told them that the French were simply jealous that they did not invent the hamburger themselves.” So, Boulud decided to invent a burger that combined the best of French and American cuisines. The result? The DB Burger: a sirloin patty stuffed with tender short ribs braised in red wine, plus foie gras, a mirepoix of root vegetables, and preserved black truffle. Add to that oven roasted tomato confit, fresh tomato, red onions, and frisee on a homemade toasted Parmesan and poppy seed bun smeared with horseradish. Oh, and during truffle season, guests can add layers of truffle to make it a “Royale.”
Why it’s important: There was really no such thing as a gourmet burger before Boulud’s masterpiece on a bun. With plenty of diners willing to spend $35 (and between $70 and $110 for the “Royale” version in truffle season), it ushered in the era of the haute burger, paving the way for the $33 Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern and the $38 45-day dry-aged burger at Beatrice Inn. Robert Sietsema of Eater calls it a “New York dining rite of passage,” and Mimi Sheraton named the DB Burger as one of the 1,000 Foods To Eat Before You Die. -- K. Squires
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

braised short ribs

72. Braised Short Ribs

Year: 2001
Restaurant: Craft
New York, New York
How it happened: Fresh from his star turn at Gramercy Tavern, Tom Colicchio opened Craft, a restaurant devoted to his favorite techniques. Braising was among them -- an entire section of the menu was dedicated to it at the time -- and his hulking, tender short ribs caused Food & Wine to christen him “a master with meat.” Braised for 24 hours in red wine and vegetables, the dish was a juicy revelation for an inexpensive cut with a reputation for being tough. It was a new kind of comfort food.
Why it’s important: During a time when people were pinching their pennies, Colicchio offered inexpensive meat served in a luxurious way in a high-end restaurant. The dish caused other restaurateurs, and also home cooks, to think about using off cuts, while reviving the art of braising. It became so popular that in his 2003 book, Craft of Cooking, Colicchio said he was going through 500 pounds of short ribs a week. Thanks to him, too, the once-cheap cut is not so cheap anymore. -- K. Squires
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

morning bun

73. Morning Bun

Year: 2002
Restaurant: Tartine Bakery
San Francisco, California
How it happened: Countless love letters have been written about Tartine’s morning buns, a flaky croissant dough rolled and topped with a crunchy layer or sugar, cinnamon, and orange zest. Sounds straightforward enough, so what’s all the fuss? “The bun doesn't seem like the obvious showstopper when walking past the to-go case, especially amongst the flashier items like the seasonal Bûche de Noëls. But it is singularly one item that reflects much of the hard work behind Tartine; it is the flaky, crunchy croissant that Tartine is built on, but evolved,” wrote Dianne de Guzman and Alix Martichoux on SFGate in 2017. Indeed, since 2002, there’s been a line around what was then a nondescript block of San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood for the pastry.
Why it’s important: Tartine chefs/owners Liz Prueitt and Chad Robertson’s influence hasn’t only fanned out across San Francisco (where there’s now massive bakery operation, Tartine Manufactory), Los Angeles (where a Tartine project is set to open this year), and Seoul, South Korea, where they just opened an outpost. The couple has also inspired a generation of bakers who put the same level of care into a croissant or a loaf of bread as chefs do into a perfectly cooked steak. Credit Robertson as one of the champions of the new-wave artisanal bread movement in the United States, and Prueitt for making flour and sugar exciting enough to wait in line for (well before the Cronut® was a glimmer in anyone’s eye). -- KP
Photo: Eric Wolfinger

roasted eggplant
Cole saladino/thrillist

74. Roasted Eggplant Salad

Year: 2002
Restaurant: Ottolenghi
London, England
How it happened: When chef Yotam Ottolenghi opened his namesake delicatessen in London, he went out of his way to highlight vegetables -- combining ingredients from his Israeli roots combined with local British produce. One of the early standouts on the menu was roasted eggplant salad, roasted hard to create a char on the skin and flesh, and then topped with a yogurt sauce and a flourish of pomegranate seeds. The dish was a pared-down reflection of his upbringing in Jerusalem, and summers spent in Italy, where vegetables, not meat, was the star of the dish.
Why it's important: We take vegetable-forward menus and dishes for granted now, but Ottolenghi’s bold, unadorned, whole-roasted eggplant was revelatory when it debuted in 2002. Londoners flocked to the deli to try vegetable-forward dishes that combined textures, colors and Middle Eastern flavors in ways the city had not seen before. Ottolenghi became so synonymous with this new way of thinking about vegetables that he was recruited by The Guardian in 2006 to write a column called "The New Vegetarian" where he shared recipes from his restaurants. He has since expanded his Ottolenghi empire to include several cookbooks, a full-service restaurant, and five delis across London. On the 10-year anniversary of his column in The Guardian, he wrote about his undying love for eggplant, saying, “I’m now getting excited just thinking about where my aubergine adventures will take me next.” -- KW
Photo: Cole Saladino; Styling: Perry Santanachote

maple bacon donut

75. Bacon Maple Bar

Year: 2003
Restaurant: Voodoo Doughnut
Portland, Oregon
How it happened: Before it became one of the biggest tourist attractions in Oregon (!), Voodoo Doughnut was a humble late-night doughnut shop specializing in quirky, eye-popping weirdness in a pre-Insta era: a cake doughnut covered in Cap’n Crunch here, one filled with NyQuil there. But when co-founders Tres Shannon and Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson decided to put a meat-and-pancakes spin on the maple bar, things exploded. “We didn’t invent maple and we didn’t invent bacon. We just invented putting bacon on a maple bar,” said Shannon. Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine that such a combination was strange, but curious eaters had no idea what hit them. Even more difficult to imagine? A doughnut landscape where the majority of shops didn't carry a bacon maple bar.
Why it’s important: Voodoo’s creations now draw endless lines 24/7, and paved the way to the now ubiquitous doughnut craze. They also debuted before the peak of the bacon obsession of the early aughts. But the bacon maple bar itself led to a boom of bacon maple everything. “I kind of want to apologize for it now,” Shannon said. “Now there’s bacon maple potato chips and this and that. It’s sort of scary how everything is bacon maple." -- AK
Photo: Courtesy of Voodoo Doughnut

76. Eggs Benedict

Year: 2003
Restaurant: wd~50
New York, New York
How it happened: In another time, Wylie Dufresne’s take on eggs Benedict might have earned him a one-way ticket out of New York. He reduced the breakfast dish to its barest elements -- a schmear of poached yolk, a deep-fried, muffin-crumb-crusted hollandaise bound with hydrocolloids once unheard of in a restaurant kitchen, a glassine strip of Canadian bacon -- and it did nothing but blow minds. The seed that sprouted his Benny was deep-fried mayonnaise, a component of another wd~50 dish. Once he and his team figured out how to fry it without scrambling the eggs, they moved on to other emulsified sauces. Hollandaise was a no-brainer, and what’s hollandaise without a poached egg to drown in it? “We didn’t want to mess with the way eggs Benedict tasted because there’s nothing wrong with it -- in fact, it’s great. We wanted someone to go, ‘That doesn’t look like eggs Benedict!’” said Dufresne. “The idea was if you close your eyes, and you take a piece of the hollandaise, and a piece of the egg yolk, and a little bit of the ham and the chive in your mouth -- whatever any individual’s eggs Benedict memory is, they should be able to tap into it.”
Why it's important: Putting the eggs Benedict at center stage, Frank Bruni’s review of wd~50 in 2008 practically licked Dufresne’s plates clean: “He pushes hard against the envelope of possibility and the bounds of conformity to produce food that’s not only playful but also joyful and even exhilarating.” For Bruni, and for many diners weary of culinary tricks, this dish represented the possibilities of a delectable avant-garde cuisine -- one grounded in flavors already known and cherished, but also determined to make us experience those flavors in a revolutionary way. -- MZ
Illustration: Murphy Lippincott 

lacto ferments from NOMA Copenhagen

77. Lacto Ferments

Year: 2003
Restaurant: Noma
Copenhagen, Denmark
How it happened: Beyond the foraging that he’s famous for, chef René Redzepi of Noma has fully embraced lacto-fermentation, an older-than-the-hills curing process that starts with salt and water, and is followed by healthy bacteria’s conversion of sugars into lactic acid, a natural preservative. For example, plums, sealed in a plastic bag with salt get the lacto-fermented treatment in this Noma fermentation video. In a 2011 Eater interview, Redzepi, encouraged by the success of lacto-fermented gooseberries that he incorporated into the Noma menu, describes the technique as “a whole new cornerstone that we can use in our cuisine. It's a way of adding flavor, brightness, and complexity to your purées, sauces, and fish. It's just incredibly delicious.” Case in point, lacto-fermented foods get the spotlight in Redzepi’s forthcoming cookbook Foundations of Flavor: The Noma Guide to Fermentation.
Why it’s important: Lacto-fermentation isn’t just for the pickle that comes with your deli sandwich. Agenda-setting chefs are getting in on the action. David Chang has his own fermentation lab, while Jessica Koslow of Sqirl makes lacto-fermented hot sauce for her famous grain bowls. This method of pickling is now found on menus across the country. What’s more, Redzepi's passion for this ancient method of preservation is a clear response to the hyper-futuristic molecular gastronomy movement that came before him, effectively moving the culinary conversation in an organic direction. -- AA
Illustration: Murphy Lippincott 

78. Pork Belly Bun

Year: 2004
Restaurant: Momofuku Noodle Bar
New York, New York
How it happened: David Chang is arguably one of the most famous chefs alive today, but back in 2004, he was a first-time restaurateur trying to make his mark on New York City with a playful approach to Asian cooking. One of the early standouts from his menu at Noodle Bar in the East Village was a style of pork bun called gua bao, or steamed bao that has long been a staple in Taiwanese food markets. In order to make it his own, Chang had to do some research and testing. He found a steamed bun producer in Brooklyn to produce the soft, chewy, textured buns that are crucial to the dish. He then tested and perfected a recipe for the pork belly, a recipe that requires the pork to be cured in salt and sugar for 24 hours and then roasted at a slow temperature for a few hours. The pork belly bun is still one of Noodle Bar's most popular dishes to date.
Why it's important: The pork belly bun itself is not new, but the way that Chang used it to create his own brand of food heralded a different era of fine dining techniques applied to simple dishes. "I've always said we wouldn't be where we are today if not for the pork bun," said Chang. The pork bun also encapsulated Chang’s unique brand of culinary brashness and commitment to sourcing. The pork is a heritage breed, and it went through months of testing to make sure that it was absolutely right. Pork belly was also not so commonly found on restaurant menus, but chefs started paying attention to the fatty cut again thanks to Chang. -- KW
Photo: Cole Saladino / Thrillist

79. Ramen

Year: 2004
Restaurant: Momofuku Noodle Bar
New York, New York
How it happened: David Chang didn’t invent ramen, but one could argue that he reinvented how Americans look at it. When he opened Momofuku Noodle Bar in 2004, he was inspired by “the great ramenyas of Tokyo” and was determined to serve delicious food in a give-no-fucks setting. After some initial hiccups -- Chang writes in the Momofuku cookbook that the first few weeks were “going out of business slow” -- the shop started to take off, thanks to its signature ramen that tipped its hat to Japanese tradition, but with a heavy sprinkle of chef-ification. Momofuku’s ramen starts with a pork broth that’s been simmered for the better part of seven hours, which is then layered with fresh noodles, fat slices of pork belly, shreds of roasted pork shoulder, a slow-poached egg, market vegetables, and a few other fixings that may or may not have ever appeared in a classic noodle shop. “Everyone says ramen is rigid; that it has to be one exact thing,” Chang writes. “It isn’t, and it doesn’t.”
Why it's important: Just look at what the Momofuku has become in less than 15 years: from humble-ish noodle shop to international chain and multimedia juggernaut. But even only five years after Noodle Bar opened, Frank Bruni -- in a review of the exceptional Japanese ramen chain Ippudo -- noted the restaurant’s influence on the national noodle scene. Ramen is now everywhere in the United States. Before Momofuku, "ramen" meant the cheap instant noodles beloved by college students everywhere. Now, it's come to represent big bowls of slurpable noodles in flavor-packed broths. -- MZ

Cole Saladino / Thrillist

80. Gnudi

Year: 2004
Restaurant: The Spotted Pig
New York, New York
How it happened: Almost as soon as The Spotted Pig opened in the West Village, it became the place to hobnob with celebrities, wait way too long for a table, and, yep, eat gnudi. These pillowy puffs of sheep’s milk ricotta, encased in a thin layer of semolina flour and doused in brown butter and sage, were “on the menu at The Pig from the very first day,” recalled chef April Bloomfield. In an episode of Mind of a Chef, she calls them “naked ravioli.” Soon, everyone was talking about gnudi (years before everyone started talking about co-owner Ken Friedman’s sexual harassment scandal). While Bloomfield popularized the dish Stateside, she first learned to make it more than a decade earlier at The River Cafe in London, where it’s a mainstay. But like many young chefs who leave the nest, Bloomfield improved on her mentors’ recipe, serving the gnudi not just with brown butter and sage sauce, but with a creamy butter sauce, too. “One day I swear I'm going to take gnudi off the menu at The Pig,”  Bloomfield remarked in her cookbook, A Girl and Her Pig. “We'll probably end up closing down, because it's one of the most popular items.”
Why it’s important: It took a non-Italian restaurant -- the country’s first gastropub, no less -- to introduce Americans to the beauty of this simple Italian dumpling. Once gnudi became the restaurant’s signature dish, their little cousins gnocchi seemed downright passé in comparison… and pub grub the country over got a major wakeup call. -- A. Steiman
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

hot n ready

81. The Hot-N-Ready

Year: 2004
Restaurant: Little Caesars
Detroit, Michigan
How it happened: Detroit-based Little Caesars has contributed more to pizza culture than it really gets credit for, from the old-school “Pizza Pizza” days to franchising and totally winning every Midwestern birthday party where Crazy Bread is on offer. But in 2004 -- after years of feeding hungry college kids via “customer appreciation days” and the famous Monday Madness specials that featured $5 pizzas -- Caesars took the pizza chain to grab & go territory, with cheese and pepperoni pies ready on demand for a crisp Lincoln. Little changed about the restaurant’s recipes; it simply streamlined the process, making it possible for families to have pizza night on demand, and on the cheap.
Why it’s important: "I think (founder Mike) Ilitch was as much of an innovator in the pizza industry as Ray Kroc was for fast food," said CEO David Scrivano. "He was truly a visionary. His ideas, including Hot-N-Ready, were way ahead of their time." True to that innovator status, the Hot-N-Ready didn’t just change the chain pizza game; it threw down the gauntlet, forcing competitors like Domino’s and Pizza Hut to implement value menu deals across the board and step up the efficiency as Caesars itself developed a Detroit-style deep dish option to go along with the classic pies. In a pizza war, it seems, there are no losers. -- AK
Photo: Courtesy of Little Caesars

Alinea's Hot potato cold potato

82. Hot Potato, Cold Potato

Year: 2005
Restaurant: Alinea
Chicago, Illinois
How it happened: The early aughts were a wild time for progressive gastronomy, before “molecular” became a bad word among chefs and a plate dotted with foam didn’t seem passé. In Europe, there was The Fat Duck and elBulli. In the US, there was Alinea, where dishes were made with volcano vaporizers and presented with smoldering rosemary sprigs. Epitomizing chef Grant Achatz’s participatory ethos was Hot Potato: potato soup presented in a paraffin bowl, above which was perched a Périgord truffle-topped, impaled sphere of butter-poached Yukon Gold potato; a cube of frozen butter; a sliver of chive; and a chunk of Parmesan. To eat the dish, diners had to remove the pin holding aloft the other elements, which would then fall into the hot soup, creating a melange of temperatures with each bite. Achatz says that he was initially inspired by the hot-and-iced tea at The Fat Duck: “Having something simultaneously hot and cold in your mouth is a somewhat rare experience, but also really cool and compelling.”
Why it's important: By approaching the dining experience as more than just a meal, Achatz’s creations at Alinea have pushed the limits of what gastronomy can look and feel like, often by forcing diners to play with their food. The restaurant’s custom serving pieces designed by Martin Kastner of Crucial Detail -- including the wax bowls cast by a chef’s hand before each service -- also represented a new canvas for culinary whimsies, a somewhat radical idea 13 years ago, when plopping potato spheres into your soup might have earned you a leery side-eye at stuffier establishments. -- MZ

edible stones

83. Edible Stones

Year: 2005
Restaurant: Mugaritz
Errenteria, Spain
How it happened: At Mugaritz, the Basque country restaurant opened by Andoni Luis Aduriz in 1998, the chef intrigued diners with imaginative, sometimes controversial dishes, from a watermelon carpaccio that mimics meat to “moldy apples.” One of his most memorable creations, the Edible Stones, was inspired by a trip to Peru, where he encountered tunta, “a pre-Hispanic technique used by the people of the Andes to conserve potatoes for times of need,” he explained. “The potatoes were submerged in flowing water for a day and left to dry in the sun for another. When food was scarce, they could be rehydrated and eaten. These potatoes really looked like the stones you can see in the rivers.” Back in his Spanish farmhouse kitchen, several scientific experiments later, Aduriz ingeniously re-created these speckled rocks in potato form, painting them with a mix of gray-colored kaolin white clay and lactose.
Why it’s important: An alum of elBulli, Aduriz has long been devoted to adventurous, unrestrained cooking. His food is as playful as it is inventive, and the molecular Edible Stones in particular challenged social rules, begging guests to ask, “What do I do with this? Can I really eat it?” The first trompe l’oeil item ever served at Mugaritz, the Edible Stones are meant to be eaten with your hands -- an unseemly ritual that has since led to 85% of the menu being served without cutlery, and sparked a debate over what is acceptable behavior in a fine dining setting. -- AA
Photo: Jose Luis López de Zubiria

84. Ike's Fish Sauce Wings

Year: 2005
Restaurant: Pok Pok
Portland, Oregon
How it happened: When Andy Ricker went backpacking through Southeast Asia in the ‘80s, he didn’t expect that his emergent love of street food would help put Portland on the map as a food destination, or that he’d go on to win a James Beard Award for popularizing the oft-overlooked and frequently misunderstood fare. But that’s exactly what happened when Pok Pok opened up its doors, a Thai restaurant that eschewed mainstays like drunken noodles and pad Thai. But one dish, which Ricker learned while traveling in Vietnam, really blew minds. “They are umami bombs,” Ricker said of Ike’s fish sauce wings, his crispy, tender, impossibly addictive dish that’s a mainstay of all Ricker’s now-expanded restaurant empire (there’s even a Pok Pok Wing outpost in Portland). While we can debate all day about the broader implications of a white guy becoming a Thai food trailblazer, Ricker’s immersion in Thai and Viet culture have made him an unlikely (and widely embraced) ambassador.
Why it’s important: “Hopefully, the existence of Pok Pok for the last 12 years has contributed to the conversation about the diversity of food in Thailand in a positive way,” Ricker humbly posited. Given that Thai street food has emerged as a must-eat staple -- from Los Angeles’  Night+Market to New York’s Fish Cheeks and everywhere in between -- of the American dining experience, it sounds like Ricker’s goal has been achieved. Pok Pok’s helped America latch onto something at once familiar and completely new to them, fueling a desire to explore Thailand’s food culture with increasing vigor. -- AK
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

spherical olives el bulli

85. Spherical Olives

Year: 2005
Restaurant: elBulli
Roses, Spain
How it happened: Blame Unilever for molecular gastronomy’s best-known party trick. Developed in the 1950s, the process of spherification involves blending sodium alginate into a given liquid, which is then dropped into a solution of calcium chloride, forming a skin-thin membrane around the droplets. While it was originally intended as a drug-delivery system, it didn’t enter the culinary lexicon until chef-pioneer Ferran Adrià introduced it to the elBulli kitchen, most famously in the form of trompe-l'œil olives: little globes of sieved olive juice presented plainly on a spoon. It’s a throwback to a classic tapas course, but infused with the element of surprise. Simple as it seems, it was a long time in development. “The first preparation we were able to materialize with spherification was spherical pea ravioli. We chose this name because the sensation in the mouth was precisely that of a liquid ravioli,” Ferran and his brother Albert wrote on their website. It took two years of R&D before the famed olives appeared on elBulli’s menu -- and considering the splash they made, it was time well spent.
Why it's important: The olive course “made me laugh out loud,” wrote British food critic A.A. Gill in his review. The olive helped propel molecular gastronomy to a respected and coveted place in the haute cooking world, with chefs tripping over themselves to learn the tricks. While the technique may have fallen out of style in recent years, elBulli’s olives will forever remain the Platonic ideal of spherified food. -- MZ

kale salad
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

86. Kale Salad

Year: 2007
Restaurant: Franny's
Brooklyn, New York
How it happened: Call it a pile of greens that ignited a revolution. Back in the mid-aughts, the only people who were crazy about bitter, hearty kale were health-food nuts, until it debuted on the menu at a popular neighborhood pizza spot on Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue. While playing with a number of raw vegetable salads, then-chef Joshua McFadden cut a bunch of kale into thin ribbons and dressed it simply with olive oil, lemon, garlic, chili flakes, pecorino Romano, and a blitz of dried bread crumbs. “Very few were accustomed to eating kale raw. At first read, it seemed kind of crazy, but once people realized that healthy tastes good, it simply spread,” Franny’s co-owner Francine Stephens said. That’s putting it mildly: After a 2007 write-up by The New York Times’ Melissa Clark, the salad became a sensation.
Why it’s important: Kale juice. Kale chips. Kale cupcakes. #KaleYeah. The humble green is now ubiquitous on our plates and on our Pinterest feeds. According to a recent article in TASTE, Whole Foods sells 9 million bunches of the green a year -- and that’s just one grocery chain. You’ll find kale salads on the menu at your favorite fine dining restaurant, your go-to fast-casual salad chains and yes, as of 2016, even McDonald’s. -- KP
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

cereal milk

87. Cereal Milk

Year: 2007
Restaurant: Momofuku Noodle Bar
New York, New York
How it happened: "I thought it was going to be a really good idea or a really bad idea," said pastry chef Christina Tosi of her dessert invention. While working as the pastry chef for the burgeoning Momofuku restaurant empire, Tosi needed to make a simple dessert for the Ko tasting menu. She was inspired by the cereal aisle as she walked through a bodega, remembering that she only liked the milk when it was sweetened with cereal. Tosi created a cereal milk panna cotta by toasting corn flakes and steeping it in milk with some brown sugar and salt to "round out the flavors." The result was a dessert that was not too sweet and a reminder of the best parts of breakfast. Tosi went on to transform the cereal milk base into a mega-popular soft serve flavor that she now sells at every Milk Bar location.
Why it's important: While Tosi has a background working in high-end kitchens, her tastes have always been more populist. While other pastry chefs were off on in search for the finest of dark chocolates and more exclusive of vanilla beans, Tosi spent her time drawing inspiration for her favorite snacks that could all basically be found in the junk food aisle of a grocery store. The result is a dessert empire unlike anything else built on a foundation of cereal milk ice cream, Crack Pies, and naked birthday cakes. Her style and flavors are often copied with even chains like Burger King attempting to mimic her creations. -- K. Shah

brisket

88. Brisket

Year: 2009
Restaurant:Franklin Barbecue
Austin, Texas
How it happened: When Aaron Franklin opened his humble BBQ joint, he wasn’t trying to change the landscape: He just wanted to smoke some meat. “I suppose it’s in our genetics to sit around a fire and ‘ooga booga’ and cook a piece of meat in a cave somewhere,” he told Thrillist outside his now-iconic BBQ destination. Ooga booga he did, smoking what quickly became the most lusted-after piece of meat in the Lone Star State, drawing hours-long lines of hungry BBQ fanatics and creating Austin’s most famous food destination. Now reopen after a 2017 fire, the lines persist, and waiting has become an essential part of many die-hard food lovers' bucket lists. It helps that there’s one of the best pieces of meat in the known universe at the end.  
Why it’s important: If Texas BBQ is a religion, Aaron Franklin might as well be the young pope. Pitmasters have been manning their briskets for generations in Texas, but Franklin started cutting his meat just as internet food culture was heating up, and word traveled fast. So while he didn’t put Texas BBQ on the map, Franklin serves as a beacon, one that has drawn people from all over the world, and one that has inspired a BBQ boom that has spanned well beyond Texas. “Now there’s BBQ everywhere. It’s just salt, pepper, meat, and fire. No big deal,” Franklin said. “The internet’s been a huge part of that -- people blogging about food and that kind of excitement is pretty infectious.” -- AK
Photo: Franklin Barbecue

burrito

89. Kogi Taco/Burrito

Year: 2009
Restaurant: Kogi
Los Angeles, California
How it happened: Roy Choi is now the author of a cookbook, the owner of multiple restaurants across Los Angeles, and has served as an advisor on a feature Hollywood film, but none of that would have happened with Kogi. Choi -- who trained at the Culinary Institute of America and worked in prestigious kitchens around the country -- returned back to Los Angeles to cook. He wanted to open his own restaurant that fused all the pieces of him together, especially his upbringing in an immigrant Korean family and his love for Los Angeles, the city he grew up in. So he created Kogi, a food truck where he combined Korean barbecue and tacos. "I really wanted to make it feel like Los Angeles, so I felt like it had to be just like a street taco in LA" he said.
Why it's important: Choi is largely considered to be one of the founders of the food truck movement, helping to create a mobile dining culture. The Kogi team was one of the first to use social media to help grow their following, tweeting out the locations of the trucks so that fans knew where they would be setting up for the day. This way, Choi also got to feed the whole city of LA, going to communities where the food he was cooking might not be available. Choi is also responsible showing the world how well Korean and Mexican food can blend together, carving a path for other entrepreneurs to spread the culinary mashup to other cities. -- K.Shah

crab toast
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

90. Crab Toast

Year: 2010
Restaurant: ABC Kitchen
New York, New York
How it happened: Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s renowned crab toast wasn’t invented in one of his restaurants. It started at his country home in Westchester County, New York. “It is basically crab, lemon aioli, and grilled bread,” Vongerichten said. “I made it for some guests at my house, and they loved it.” It went over so well that he decided to put it on the menu at ABC Kitchen when it opened: “It has become a very popular dish, so that we can never take it off the menu.” The allure lies in its hominess, he said, and the fact that “you can use a thing or two from the pantry. And toast is a comfort food.” Of course, his version goes beyond the ordinary -- he uses peekytoe crab from Maine, and makes his aioli and bread at the restaurant.
Why it’s important: Vongerichten helped to stoke a toast craze that still has not waned, inspiring cookbooks, entire menu sections and even restaurants devoted to the concept. Food & Wine magazine anointed this dish as a destination menu item with “cult status.” The greatest thing since sliced bread, perhaps? -- K. Squires
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

91. Carolina Gold Rice Pudding

Year: 2010
Restaurant: Husk
Charleston, South Carolina
How it happened: During the Colonial Period, coastal South Carolina, and its enormous slave population, was the country’s largest producer of rice. One of the most prized varietals was Carolina Gold, a long grain rice coveted for its versatility, clean flavor, and lush texture. Over time, however, growers switched to other types of rice, nearly forgetting Carolina Gold -- until the 1990s, when passionate seed-saver Glenn Roberts revived the staple under his company Anson Mills. Roberts quickly attracted the attention of Charleston chef Sean Brock. A Virginia country boy by origin, Brock grew up immersed in agricultural tradition. Working closely with Roberts, Brock incorporated Carolina Gold into a number of dishes when he launched his restaurant, Husk, in 2010, including rice pudding. “One of the things I love about Carolina Gold Rice is its aromatic nature,” Brock wrote in his cookbook, Heritage, which features a recipe for the pudding with candied kumquats. “It’s floral and sweet and a natural fit for rice pudding.”
Why it’s important: More than a restaurant, Husk is a repository of Southern tradition: Brock collects and studies 19th-century Southern cookbooks and incorporates historical ingredients and techniques into his decidedly modern cooking. In doing so, he helps ensure that these storied dishes remain part of the cultural conversation. Stephanie Burt of The Southern Fork podcast, who calls Husk’s rice pudding iconic, said of its star ingredient: “This is the rice that Charleston was built on. So you’re really tasting history on the plate.” -- LR
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

92. The Double Down

Year: 2010
Restaurant: KFC
Louisville, Kentucky
How it happened: The Double Down arrived in our lives not with a whimper, but a bang that reverberated through the internet... and in many cases, our own stomachs. Reports and rumors of the stunt-tastic cheese and bacon sandwich that swapped fried chicken patties for bread had been seeping through food blogs and national outlets for years during its testing phase, but in the spring of 2010, the Double Down was officially unleashed, and people went bonkers. John Linn of the Palm Beach New Timessaid people were both "incensed" and "enticed" by the sandwich's egregiousness. One think piece-happy conservative blogger even tried to chalk its existence up to the Recession. At any rate, KFC certainly snubbed their finger-lickin' noses at any and all semblance of health consciousness, and pulled out every stop in their breaded arsenal to facilitate a food moment that would create an unprecedented amount of buzz.
Why it's important: The amount of sheer public outcry and light-hearted outrage alone is one of the most memorable (and influential) moments of fast food history this century. It helped create a subset of food stunting that KFC may not have perfected, but certainly lubricated with their gut-busting Frankenfood. David Cho, writing for The Awl, might have said it best: "America, we did it! We, like the Double Down, are pretty much exactly what people think we are." The Double Down is an unapologetic masterstroke in junk food hedonism... and more importantly, a media-stirring publicity behemoth between two slices of fried chicken. And honestly, it did taste pretty good, too. Just admit it. -- WF

93. Meat Fruit

Year: 2011
Restaurant: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
London, England
How it happened: Chicken liver and foie gras mousse is a recipe that dates back centuries, so when chef Ashley Palmer-Watts and Heston Blumenthal thought about adding it to the menu, they knew they had to find a way to make it modern. “We always start looking backwards at history and take inspiration from that,” Palmer-Watts said. “It sparks an idea and it ties into something that we think might work.” What Blumenthal and his team came up with is a three-day process of making chicken liver mousse, encasing it in mandarin jelly, and serving it on a wooden board with a slice of perfectly grilled bread. “So here comes a glossy bright-orange mandarin on a wooden board, complete with dimpled skin. But it turns out to be a ball of the softest chicken liver parfait you have ever eaten, with a subtle zing of citrus to its gel peel,” wrote Jay Rayner, the food critic for The Guardian in 2011.
Why it's important: The meat fruit dish shows old school dishes can be updated using new techniques and diners can still be surprised by the dishes that they thought they knew. At a time where molecular gastronomy had been eschewed in favor of wood-fired stoves, open kitchens, and tables sans white tablecloths, the meat fruit dish showed that there’s still a place for highly technical dishes. “This one item – it is barely a dish – is destined to become a culinary icon,” Jay Rayner said in his review of the restaurant. The impact of this dish can be seen on menus all over the world, including Eleven Madison Park’s foie gras and cabbage dish meant to look like a head of purple cabbage sliced into quarters. -- KW

ricotta toast
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

94. Ricotta Toast

Year: 2012
Restaurant: Sqirl
Los Angeles, California
How it happened: Chef Jessica Koslow never expected to build a successful career out of slabs of toasts, and she definitely didn’t expect people to line up for them. When Koslow opened Sqirl in 2011, she initially planned on using the space to make artisanal jams and hold the occasional class, she said. But paying the rent with jars of rhubarb and kumquat jam was tough, so she added a small cafe to the space with in-your-face and highly Instagrammable breakfast options. The most popular? A thick-cut slice of brioche, topped with a cloud of house-made ricotta and pools of Koslow’s addictive jams. It was a dish inspired by her childhood eating blintzes as a local Jewish deli, and it’s now a dish she will never be able to take off the menu.
Why it's important: Koslow is the not the first person to put fancy toast on a restaurant menu, but she is the person who helped the trend to land. Because it is so simple, the toast puts an emphasis on ingredients -- and Koslow refuses to use anything but the best. While the rest of Sqirl’s menu is also incredibly popular, the toast remains a fan favorite, and the cafe will sell anywhere between 60-120 pieces a day. So the next time you see a photogenic piece of toast on the menu at your local coffee shop, say a little thank you to Koslow before you put it up on Instagram. -- K. Shah
Photo: Cole Saladino; Styling: Perry Santanachote

mapo tofu

95. Mapo Tofu

Year: 2012
Restaurant: Mission Chinese
San Francisco, California
How it happened: Danny Bowien was thinking about giving up cooking entirely until he had his first bite of real Sichuan mapo tofu. So, fittingly, it was the first dish he wanted to crack when Mission Chinese was opening in San Francisco. Without the aid of a mentor or YouTube video tutorials on how to make it, Bowien parlayed techniques he learned from his background in an Italian kitchen -- the base was a Bolognese -- into a 33-ingredient behemoth of a recipe that he would tweak incessantly. "After a while, it was too much to deal with, so we started taking away steps," Bowien said, "mostly because we were getting really busy so there wasn't as much time to nerd out on it." Today, it's been pared down and streamlined into 12 ingredients.
Why it's important: Along with a multitude of contributing factors, including other singular MCF dishes like kung pao pastrami and thrice-cooked bacon, Bowien’s mapo tofu became a polarizing talking point that rocketed the restaurant from a cool place to eat to a three-locations-and-a-TV-show institution. On Bowien's season of Mind of a Chef, he cooks a version of his mapo tofu with lamb for a small consortium of renowned Chinese chefs who resoundingly approve of his non-traditional take. It’s unforgettable experiencing the first searing, deep red spoonful packed with Sichuan peppercorns that tingle and numb your lips and tongue, and to this day, it remains a signature dish for Mission Chinese. "I would love to be remembered as breaking away from fine dining and for making food that isn't the most comfortable or safe, like our Sichuan mapo tofu," Bowien said. "Food is sometimes uncomfortable to eat, and that's how I feel about cooking and what it should do." -- LB
Photo: Mission Chinese 

lemon tart

96. Oops! I Dropped the Lemon Tart

Year: 2012
Restaurant: Osteria Francescana
Modena, Italy
How it happened: Only two lemon tarts -- thoughtfully constructed odes to Southern Italy made with regional ingredients like bergamot, candied capers, and hot pepper -- remained for the evening at Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana. One of them slipped from the hands of the then-pastry, and now sous, chef Takahiko Kondo, and as both the plate and dessert crashed, “there was a moment of panic because there wasn’t another to prepare,” recalled Lara Gilmore, Bottura’s wife and business partner. But when Bottura saw the destruction, he declared it beautiful. Everyone in the kitchen stopped as he framed it with his hands and compared it to a painting. “When things don’t go the way you planned there is an opportunity to see from a different perspective,” Gilmore added. Since the night of that fortuitous accident all lemon tarts now arrive at the tables deliberately smashed, illuminating unexpectedly exquisite imperfection.
Why it’s important: As the brilliantly staged food photos cluttering Instagram feeds attest, looks matter as much as taste. Chefs are continually driven to experiment and impress, and obsessing over presentation is part of the high-pressure process. The Oops! I Dropped the Lemon Tart invites chefs and diners to discover splendor in flaws and remind that soulful cooking should always outshine artifices. Chefs and restaurants started celebrating flawed dishes. -- Alia Akkam
Photo: Osteria Francescana

doritos tacos

97. Doritos Locos Taco

Year: 2012
Restaurant: Taco Bell
Irvine, California
How it happened: In 2009, as the chain approached its 50th anniversary, CEO Greg Creed issued a modest challenge to his team: reinvent the crunchy taco just in time for the half-century celebration in 2012. From day one, a singular idea from their initial brainstorming session -- seemingly hatched from the mind of a stoned teenager with too much time and a well-stocked pantry -- stood out. And while the concept of using a giant Dorito as a taco shell was immediately appealing, logistically it was an R&D nightmare. It took over 40 iterations before they augmented the chip's DNA enough to land the right level of crunch, strength, and tactile cheese dust. But, as we all know, they nailed it. The DLT was not only a successful experiment, selling millions of units within the first week of release, it helped increase Taco Bell's overall sales numbers by 13% in just one year.
Why it's important: Don't call it a "stunt food." If anything, call it the stunt food. The Doritos Locos Taco helped redefine how the company innovates its menu, and raised the cheese dust-covered bar for every other fast food brand looking to make a splash with an eye-popping menu aberration or cross-brand collaboration. "Taco Bell's Doritos Locos Tacos was an innovation that shattered the menu norm and paved the way for food and brand collaborations," said Matt Prince, ‎Sr. Manager, Public Relations & Brand Experience for Taco Bell. "At the time of launch in 2012, 15,000 jobs were created to keep up with the demand. And to this day Taco Bell has sold over 2 billion Doritos Locos Tacos." It was a well deserved birthday present for Taco Bell, and we all reaped the benefits. -- WF
Photo: Courtesy of Taco Bell

cronut
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

98. Cronut®

Year: 2013
Restaurant: Dominique Ansel Bakery
New York, New York
How it happened: French pastry chef Dominique Ansel ran a small and quaint bakery in New York City in 2013, and he was looking for a new pastry to add to the menu for Mother’s Day. A staffer suggested he make a donut. There was just one problem: “I’m French... so I didn't have any recipes for donuts,” recalled Ansel. But being French, he did have a croissant recipe, so after tinkering for a couple of months, he created the Cronut®, a flaky hybrid between the two beloved treats. The process to make a Cronut®, which is now a trademarked name, takes three full days, and Ansel changes the flavor available each month, never repeating flavors. So far, he has come up with 114 unique flavors.
Why it’s important: When was the last time you saw someone line up for a pastry? When is the last time you saw someone line-up at 4am for a pastry? When was the last time you saw people line up every day for the past five years straight for a pastry? Well, all of this has happened for the Cronut®. Ansel inadvertently invented the hybrid pastry to launch all future hybrid pastries. Since the launch of the Cronut®, there have been a number of knockoffs around the world (even Dunkin’ Donuts has a croissant donut on the menu). But the dessert has also unleashed the era of the stunt croissant that doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. While Ansel continues to turn out an impressive range of playful desserts across bakeries in NYC, London, and Tokyo, the Cronut® has helped him become a household name. -- K. Shah
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

petit trois omelet

99. Omelette

Year: 2014
Restaurant: Petit Trois
Los Angeles, California
How it happened: Chef Ludo Lefebvre certainly didn’t invent the omelette. But by the way that Los Angeles diners reacted when he introduced his version at his casual bistro, Petit Trois, you’d think that he had. “My recipe is very much inspired by the way we cook omelettes in France,”  Lefebvre says. “It’s a very old technique that all French chefs are taught. From there, I added the Boursin cheese, which was my own personal touch.” But then there’s the signature silken texture, and the buttery sheen that causes his omelette to stand apart from the rest. For a country used to overloaded, diner-style fold-overs, Lefebvre’s elegant offering shifted the paradigm. “I find that in America, the eggs are often overcooked,” he says. “The omelette needs to be like a custard, cooked slowly over a low heat. That makes all the difference.”
Why it’s important: Because of Petit Trois, the omelette is experiencing a renaissance, and along with it, a renewed appreciation for French cooking. Bon Appetit magazine named the dish one of its “BA Best,” and Jonathan Gold in the Los Angeles Times hailed it as an example of “the kind of unpretentious cooking you may remember from your first trip to France, when you may have thought you were tasting a real green salad for the first time.” -- K. Squires
Photo: Courtesy of Petit Trois

blue hill

100. wastED Juice Pulp Burger

Year: 2015
Restaurant: Blue Hill
New York, New York
How it happened: When chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill in Manhattan and Blue Hill Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York announced that he and a collective of farmers, fishermen, chefs and producers were coming together for four weeks of pop-up restaurants, it seemed like nothing out of the ordinary for the avant-garde chef. But when he announced that the menu was going to be made entirely of food scraps, the world had to pay attention. For the pop-up, Barber and his team contacted a cold juice processor and realized that the company was throwing away the pulp after making juices. “The facility we contacted discards one ton of vegetable pulp every day," Barber said, "so we took that and used it to reconstruct a veggie burger, served on a bun made with mash from stale rye bread.” The patty is is made from beet and carrot pulp leftover and has a seared outer layer similar to a burger made from meat. The dish was a hit.  “We struck gold with the cold-pressed juice industry,” Barber said.
Why it's important: Chef Barber’s pop-up showed that even though the fine dining world extolled the virtues of sourcing locally and sustainability, it still had a long way to go when it came to food waste. The process was a learning experience for Barber about the many different aspects of the food chain and the potential for restaurant kitchens to address food waste. “When we first envisioned the pop-up, we knew we wanted to extend beyond the scope of our own kitchens,” he said. Barber and his team had to get creative and bring other parts of the food world into the conversation. “The wastED project meant reaching out to a number of farmers, food processors, and producers and trying to figure out how their byproducts could become new dishes,” he said. The juice pulp burger, in particular, showed the potential for food waste to be re-imagined and utilized in home and restaurant kitchens. -- KW
Photo: Daniel Krieger

rainbow bagel
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

101. Rainbow Bagel

Year: 2015
Restaurant: The Bagel Store
Brooklyn, New York
How it happened: "I wanted to make the world's most beautiful bagel," said Scot Rossillo, owner of The Bagel Store and inventor of the now-infamous Rainbow Bagel. "A lot of people thought I was crazy and told me it would never work." He certainly proved his detractors wrong: More than 20 years after Rossillo began selling his colorful but plain-flavored bagel paired with Funfetti cream cheese, INSIDER published a video detailing the labor-intensive process of his creation. To say it blew up would be an understatement -- the social video has racked up more than 72 million views on Facebook. Lines wrapped around the corners of The Bagel Store's two Williamsburg locations after the video went live, and the demand became so intense that it forced Rossillo to close one of the shops indefinitely to renovate (it's since reopened, but it's no longer an "official" purveyor of the Rainbow Bagel).
Why it's important: Rossillo's legitimate bagel-making skills notwithstanding, the Rainbow Bagel is stunt food glitterati. Its virality climbed to unprecedented levels, instantaneously becoming the model of stunt dish that's perfect Instagram fodder, from freakshakes to unicorn food. Name another breakfast food that was blogged about on practically every website, given morning show and late-night segments, spawned countless imitators, and trademarked. We'll wait. -- LB
Photo: Cole Saladino/Thrillist

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Editors: Matt Lynch & Khushbu Shah
Contributing Editor: Gabriella Gershenson
Writers: Alia Akkam, Leanne Butkovic, Wil Fulton, Gabriella Gershenson, Andy Kryza, Karen Palmer, Lauren Rothmans, Amy Schulman, Khushbu Shah, Kathleen Squires, Adina Steiman, Korsha Wilson, Matthew Zuras
Editorial Assistant: Amy Schulman
Copy Editing: Will Robinson
Motion Designers: Megan Chong & Fredy Delgado
Graphic Designers: Evan Lockhart & Maggie Rossetti
Photographer: Cole Saladino
Photo Direction: Drew Swantak
Food Styling: Ali Nardi, Perry Santanachote
Special Thanks to Kate Heddings
Additional Image Credits: Shutterstock & Getty Images