Kansas: The Z-Man
Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que (address and info)
Yes, burnt ends are the Kansas City signature, and Joe's has some of the best around (on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, at least). And they also make a perfect brisket, which is just fine on its own. But the Z-Man somehow makes it even better, stacking onion rings, smoked provolone, and the signature meat on a kaiser roll. We keep going back to it when we think of KC BBQ. We don't know how to quit you, Z-Man.
Kentucky: Hot Brown
The Brown Hotel (address and info)
Sometimes, the original isn’t the best. Just look at Terminator 2. Or Gallagher II, for that matter. But when it comes to the Hot Brown -- Kentucky's legendary open-face turkey, bacon, and Mornay sauce masterpiece -- the original at the Brown Hotel remains the best. With respect to the Colonel and Billy Ray Cyrus, it’s the tastiest icon Kentucky has birthed.
Dooky Chase's Restaurant (address and info)
Even more than boudin sausage and po-boys, gumbo represents Louisiana’s entire attitude toward food: it’s a rich, deeply flavored stew that utilizes whatever’s bountiful in the season, shows off the state’s unique heritage, and is meant to draw in the family and neighbors for a shared meal. Dooky Chase's serves our favorite Creole gumbo, laden with andouille, veal, shrimp, and oysters, and thickened with a dash of filé. But if you can make it to NOLA on the week before Easter, you may be able to grab a bowl of its gumbo z’herbes, a rarely seen green gumbo made for Holy Thursday, and preserved in the culinary tradition of the region by Leah Chase, the restaurant’s matriarch.