The Best Pizza in All 50 States

iStock
iStock

Though cities like New York and Chicago are most renowned for their pizza, every state in the U.S. has their own standout favorite. Whether it is a slice for the road, a piping hot pie, or a creative concoction of rare ingredients, there's a reason pizza is universally loved. Check out our list of must-try pizza in all 50 states.

1. ALABAMA // MATER'S PIZZA AND PASTA EMPORIUM

Location:

Gadsden and Albertville, Alabama


COURTESY MATER'S PIZZA AND PASTA EMPORIUM

Since 1978, Gadsden’s Mater’s Pizza has been serving their "world famous" pasta and pizza. Using fresh, homemade dough and a signature blend of cheeses, Mater's is a family favorite in the town's historic district. They expanded the original location to include the Oyster Bar, and have a game room and TVs throughout the restaurant. A second location in Albertville opened in 2013.

2. ALASKA // MOOSE'S TOOTH PUB AND PIZZERIA

Location:

Anchorage, Alaska

If you find your stomach rumbling while you’re driving along Seward Highway in Anchorage, stop in Moose's Tooth for breadsticks, oven-baked sandwiches, salad, and of course, gourmet pizza. Meat lovers will enjoy The Classic, which comes with heaping piles of pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, mozzarella, provolone and marinara sauce. Be sure to also try one of the 40 beers (or two sodas) crafted by their own Broken Tooth Brewing.

3. ARIZONA // PIZZERIA BIANCO

Location:

Phoenix, Arizona

COURTESY PIZZERIA BIANCO

When you think of great pizza, Arizona may not immediately come to mind, but James Beard-awarded chef Chris Bianco changed that when Food & Wine called his first restaurant "arguably the best pizza in America" in 2009. A former New Yorker who headed west to work with farm-to-table champion Alice Waters, Bianco opened his own shop in 1988 and later expanded Pizzeria Bianco in downtown Phoenix. His simple and delicious pies, like the Biancoverde, use fresh, homegrown ingredients like fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, ricotta, and arugula. For $3 more, add some wood roasted mushrooms for a slice of heaven in the desert.

4. ARKANSAS // VINO’S

Location:

Little Rock, Arkansas

There may be no greater combination than a slice of pizza with an ice cold beer. At Vino’s pub and brewery, you can grab hand-tossed slices combined with a long list of toppings from ham and extra cheese to chopped garlic and fresh meatballs, all served on a hot and crispy New York-style thin crust. Enjoy your slice with a medium-bodied Firehouse Pale Ale, or a house-brewed Razor Bock.

5. CALIFORNIA // BARONE'S PIZZERIA

Location:

Woodland Hills, California

For three generations, Barone's has been serving piping hot, rectangular pizzas (tagline: "We don't cut corners") to Southern California. Started by a few siblings in 1945 and using their grandparents' recipes from Sicily and Naples, Barone's combines fresh dough, homemade Italian sauce, and a secret cheese blend into their delicious pizzas—which once brought legends like Frank Sinatra and John Wayne to eat regularly. Start off with some fried zucchini or meatball sliders and then dig in to their specialty House Marguerite pizza (available at their Westlake Hills location). They have a list of ingredients to make your own pie, and also offer pizzas that are gluten-free.

6. COLORADO // DOWNSTAIRS AT ERIC’S

Location:

Breckenridge, Colorado

If you happen to find yourself in the beautiful mountain town of Breckenridge, follow the locals’ advice and grab some grub at a family-friendly sports bar (and arcade) that has been serving Coloradans since 1989. At Downstairs At Eric’s, start off with some sweet chili wings, potato skins, or fried jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese. Take a chance on the Garbage Pizza, the house favorite which has a little bit of everything.

7. CONNECTICUT // FRANK PEPE PIZZERIA NAPOLETANA

Location:

Various locations, Connecticut


If you are craving the variety of crispy, thin crust pizza referred to as New Haven-style thanks to Frank Pepe's original location, make sure to try the tomato pie at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana. Since 1925, Pepe has been using coal-fired ovens to create a "crisp, charred, chewy crust" on pizza pies. The original tomato pie is made using simple ingredients—just tomatoes, grated Pecorino Romano, garlic, oregano, and olive oil—and is still available on the menu. (With or without anchovies.) Try the white clam pie, which over the years has become the most famous, with its flaky crust covered in olive oil, oregano, garlic, grated cheese and fresh littleneck clams.

8. DELAWARE // MARGHERITA'S PIZZA

Location:

Newark, Delaware

On any given night, you’ll find college kids swarming this pizza joint, which is conveniently located on Main Street at the heart of the University of Delaware. It’s not just the location that makes this cheesy oasis so popular: The college staple churns out some of the best pizza in the state. You can find a wide variety of specialty slices behind the counter, but if you want something really special, order a pie of the White Buffy: a white pizza covered in buffalo chicken and slathered in blue cheese dressing.

9. FLORIDA // ANDIAMO! BRICK OVEN PIZZA

Location:

Miami, Florida


Nestled in an enclosed glass building, a Historical Landmark building in Miami has been the home of award-winning brick oven pizza since it opened in 2001. Andiamo! offers many specialty pies using fresh and inventive ingredients. The Sunday pie includes meatballs, tomato sauce, mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, pepperoncini, parmesan, and basil. If you are feeling bold, choose Frankie Five's Special, which is topped with chicken, broccoli rabe, roasted potatoes and garlic, caramelized onions, mozzarella, and red pepper flakes.

10. GEORGIA // ANTICO PIZZA NAPOLETANA

Location:

Atlanta, Georgia

Just steps away from Georgia Tech's campus on Atlanta’s Westside is Antico Pizza, home to some of the best food in Atlanta. The open kitchen and communal seating make for a vibrant atmosphere, but the pizza here is the main attraction. If you enjoy something rich and decadent, try the house specialty—creamy buffalo mozzarella, Cipollini onions, roasted mushrooms, and white truffle oil served well done with a charred crust.

11. HAWAII // KULA LODGE AND RESTAURANT

Location:

Maui, Hawaii

Even those in paradise crave pizza for dinner sometimes. If you’re spending time on Maui visit Kula Lodge and Restaurant. Ask for seating in the Garden Terrace, where the wood-burning oven resides, and take in a sunset dinner with an open view of Maui’s Western side. Try the No Ka Oi, a crispy pizza with Portuguese sausage, Poblano peppers, sweet onion, and—of course—fresh pineapple.

12. IDAHO // ENOTECA

Location:

Ketchum, Idaho

Enoteca Restaurant and Wine Bar in Ketchum has starters like house-cured meats and artisanal cheeses, but the wood-fired pizza is what you come for. They have various specialty pizzas for you to choose from, like the Wine Auction, which features gorgonzola and grapes, or the Strega, with homemade pesto and prosciutto.

13. ILLINOIS // VITO AND NICK’S

Location:

Chicago, Illinois


When you think Chicago pizza, a deep dish pan pizza may be what comes to mind. The best pizza in the Windy City, though, is the cheese pizza at Vito & Nick’s. The cash-only South Side pizza spot was established in 1932, and serves the best thin crust, cut in square slices, and was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

14. INDIANA // MOTHER BEAR'S PIZZA

Location:

Bloomington, Indiana

Mother Bear's has been serving Bloomington’s best pizzas since 1973. At Mother Bear’s choice is the key. Dine in or takeout, choose from 6-, 10-, or 14-inch pies made with a selection of cheeses and sauces, and even select from three types of pie: traditional pan, deep dish, or thin crust. If that is too many decisions to make on an empty stomach, just go for the "Paulie Pine Nuts" Pesto Pie with fresh pesto, tomatoes, mozzarella, and spinach.

15. IOWA // PAGLIAI’S PIZZA

Location:

Iowa City, Iowa


Iowa City has been enjoying the family-run Pagliai’s Pizza since they first opened in 1957. The pizzeria serves beer as well as soft drinks, and a number of toppings are available on their pies. For the works, order the Palace Special (a cheese pizza with sausage, beef, pepperoni, mushroom, and onion), or select your own toppings like black olives, peppers, and Canadian bacon—or the less traditional sauerkraut or broccoli.

16. KANSAS // TOPP'D PIZZA

Location:

Kansas City, Kansas

Topp’d Pizza is a Kansas newcomer that aims to serve pizza fresh and fast. This fast casual pizza joint serves 9-inch personal pizzas in less than five minutes, without skimping on ingredients. All their meats are grilled on location, and everything from dough to sauce to dressings are house-made. Enjoy a personal or large 13-inch pie with your choice of original, garlic and herb, honey wheat or gluten-free crust and choose from a wide variety of toppings (including vegan options), or try one of many signature pies offering unique flavors like peanut sauce or slow-roasted pulled pork. 

17. KENTUCKY // BOOMBOZZ CRAFT PIZZA

Location:

Louisville, Kentucky

BoomBozz now has several locations, but was welcomed with excitement in Louisville in 1998. Since then, they've been named one of the best of Louisville. Of the many gourmet pizzas to choose from, the Tony's Supremo, Fire Roasted Fajita, and Smokehouse Brisket are standouts. Or opt for a classic like their 17-inch New York-style cheese pie.

18. LOUISIANA // CASCIO’S MARKET BISTRO

Location:

Bossier City, Louisiana


COURTESY CASCIO'S MARKET BISTRO

The best pizza in Louisiana might also be the best culinary invention in the state, too. Cascio’s started out as a father-daughter run grocery and produce stand in 1945. Known for homemade sausages, they make thin crust pizzas three ways: Pies come in either 10- or 16-inch with your choice of classic Margherita, or sausage or pepperoni. But try the Pizzaletta, their own creation inspired by the state's famous muffuletta sandwich. They fill the pizza crust with salami, ham, olive salad, sliced provolone, and top it with another pizza crust that is covered in mozzarella cheese!

19. MAINE // OTTO PIZZA

Location:

Portland, Maine

Portland's Otto Pizza has been using high-quality local ingredients and an out-of-the-box approach for their pizzas since 2009. One of their most popular pies, The Masher, is a pizza with mashed potatoes, scallions, and bacon. If you are vegetarian, try their mushroom and roasted cauliflower pizza, or opt for the four cheese concoction that combines ricotta, fontina, asiago, and mozzarella.

20. MARYLAND // MATTHEW’S PIZZA

Location:

Baltimore, Maryland


Matthew’s is proud of their distinction as being "Baltimore’s first pizzeria," and has been a local institution since opening in 1943. They've racked up 76 awards for their amazing pizza pies in the past 30 or so years, and were included in Business Insider’s Best Pizza in Every State. They use traditional and regional ingredients like Maryland crab to enhance their pizzas and appetizers. Give the 4 Seasons Pie a try—it uses hand-grated mozzarella, artichoke hearts, black olives, anchovies, mushrooms, and prosciuttini.

21. MASSACHUSETTS // EMMA’S PIZZA

Location:

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Cambridge’s Emma’s Pizza specializes in cracker-thin-crust pizza and has been doing so since the '60s. They offer two dozen different pizza combinations, or you can choose to create your own using one of their 30 toppings and three sauces. Start with the Kendall, named for their Kendall Square location: it combines roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, rosemary sauce, and mozzarella.

22. MICHIGAN // BUDDY’S PIZZA

Location:

Detroit, Michigan

Buddy’s Pizza introduced their square pizzas to Detroit in 1946, and now have 11 locations in the metro area, serving some of the Motor City’s best pies. They've grown a lot in the last 70 years, and now offer gluten-free and multi-grain crust. For a classic though, order their award-winning Sicilian-style pepperoni pizza, where the meat is layered beneath Wisconsin cheese.

23. MINNESOTA // BLACK SHEEP PIZZA

Location:

Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota


A full dining experience can be had at Black Sheep Pizza—they serve up wine, beer, draft root beer, and fresh squeezed lemonade, salads, and of course, plenty of pizza. Their pies come in 12- and 16-inch sizes, or order the Sicilian, which is essentially a Grandma: a square pizza with mozzarella, sauce, and extra virgin olive oil.

24. MISSISSIPPI // PIZZA SHACK

Location:

Jackson, Mississippi

Pizza Shack has collected dozens of awards since opening in 2005, when three lifelong friends opened the pizza parlor of their dreams. Start off with an antipasta salad or Buffalo wings, and since you're in Mississippi, opt for the Cajun Joe for the main event: spicy marinara and andouille sausage, chicken, peppers, and onions.

25. MISSOURI // PI PIZZERIA

Location:

Various locations, Missouri


Pi Pizzeria

has multiple restaurants across St. Louis (as well as in Cincinnati and D.C.), and it specializes in craft beer, deep dish, and cornmeal crust pizzas. Next time you're in the Lou, start with a Bada Bing salad (which includes walnuts, gorgonzola, and the namesake dried bing cherries), and take a bite out of a slice of Bucktown, which is covered in mozzarella, roasted chicken, artichokes, peppers, green olives, red onion, feta, and sundried tomatoes.

26. MONTANA // EUGENE’S PIZZA

Location:

Glasgow, Montana

The pride of Glasgow, Montana may be Eugene’s Pizza a family business that has been feeding locals for over 40 years. Purchased in 1967, the pizzeria was passed to the owner’s children in 1992. Choose one of their popular suggestions like pepperoni, tomato, and garlic or mushroom and black olives, or select your own. If you’re in the mood for something on the sweeter side try the BBQ Chicken pizza. It’s made with spicy chicken, a blend of mozzarella and cheddar cheese, and then topped with a swirl of homemade BBQ sauce. Yum.

27. NEBRASKA // LA CASA PIZZARIA

Location:

Omaha, Nebraska


La Casa Pizzaria has been proudly advertising their "legendary pizza and pasta" dishes for over 60 years. Enjoy beer and wine tastings in the lounge, order some fried ravioli or eggplant parmesan, but don’t forget to try some thin crust Neapolitan pizza. For a taste of an Omaha classic, get the hamburger pizza. With ground beef, onions, seasoning and mozzarella and Romano cheese, this pie is a must.

28. NEVADA // SOUTH CREEK PIZZA COMPANY

Location:

Reno, Nevada

Start off with fire roasted mortadella, garlic shrimp, and a wedge salad and move on to the aptly named Afterburner pizza at South Creek Pizza Company. This pizza special has Mama’s meatballs, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, red onions, basil, and is topped with sea salt and SarVecchio parmesan cheese. Hot chopped cherry peppers come on the side.

29. NEW HAMPSHIRE // PIGTALE

Location:

Nashua, New Hampshire

Farm to table is the draw at Nashua, New Hampshire’s PigTale. They use ingredients sourced locally whenever possible to create the small plates, salads, pizza, and delicious craft cocktails they serve. Their namesake pizza is a creative crispy pie loaded up with bacon, smoked pork, sausage, pickled onion and fontina cheese. For pescetarians, try the shrimp scampi pie which has Gulf shrimp, garlic, baby heirloom tomatoes, and fresh basil.

30. NEW JERSEY // RAZZA

Location:

Jersey City, New Jersey


Razza

is an upscale pizza joint in the heart of Jersey City, intent on serving you food with the utmost care. The bread—and the butter even—is homemade and all the ingredients they use are hand selected. Try the Project Hazelnut that combines fresh mozzarella, locally grown hazelnuts (care of Rutgers University), ricotta and local honey.

31. NEW MEXICO // BACK ROAD PIZZA

Location:

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Back Road has remained a local favorite in Santa Fe since it opened in 1997. Everything you eat—from the pizza dough, roasted meats, and sauces to dressings—are freshly made in house each day. You can order a basic cheese pizza, one with your favorite topping, or choose from 11 Primo toppings they offer like Kalamata olives or Chevre. They also offer piping hot calzones, classic subs, and appetizers, depending on how hungry you feel.

32. NEW YORK // JOE’S PIZZA

Location:

New York, New York

New York is a pizza town, so choosing the best is hard. New Yorkers are diehard about who makes the best pie and can argue the merits of Totonno’s, Di Fara’s, or Patsy’s with passion. But, if you want a classic New York slice you should have it with a classic New York experience, so grab a cheese or pepperoni from Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich village. Fold it and eat it while walking down the street. You might drip a little grease down your chin, and you’ll definitely burn your tongue, but the combination of perfectly melted cheese and crispy bottom crust is the very best.

33. NORTH CAROLINA // PURE PIZZA

Location:

Charlotte, North Carolina

Pure Pizza’s philosophy is to provide healthier pizza by using fresh high-quality ingredients, to stay committed to the environment, and to provide fair wages to their employees. All in all, a positive atmosphere and mission. Stop in and have a She-Rex which is mozzarella, mushroom, onion, pepper, and topped with greens tossed in lemon vinaigrette.

34. NORTH DAKOTA // BLACKBIRD WOODFIRE

Location:

Fargo, North Dakota

Truck Pizza was a mobile wood-fired oven that served pizza every summer at events and festivals and, finally, opened a brick and mortar restaurant, Blackbird Woodfire, in 2014. They serve tapas, salads, and a bunch of specialty pies like the Sausage Apple that is made with house-made sausage, Granny Smith apple, Béchamel cream sauce, fresh sage, parmesan cheese, and micro greens.

35. OHIO // BAR CENTO

Location:

Cleveland, Ohio


Bar Cento is full-fledged Italian eatery with house made pasta dishes and house specials and sides, but their pizza was rated the best in Ohio by both Zagat and Food Network. The Sunnyside has pancetta (made in house) and provolone, and is topped with a fried egg and black pepper so it works for brunch or dinner.

36. OKLAHOMA // ANDOLINI’S PIZZERIA

Location:

Multiple Locations, Oklahoma

Tulsa’s Andolini’s Pizza was established in 2005, and has since expanded to another two locations across Oklahoma, as well as in the form of a food truck doling out slices around Tulsa. If you feel like keeping it simple, go for the Marzano pesto pie. Pistachio pesto, mozzarella, and San Marzano tomatoes are cooked together to gooey perfection.

37. OREGON // APIZZA SCHOLLS

Location:

Portland, Oregon


At Apizza Scholls picking up pies can take over an hour on busy nights. Luckily, they have an arcade with DigDug, Ms. Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong to play while you wait. Once you are seated there are tons of pizzas to choose from, and all of them are 18 inches of amazing. The Diablo Blanca has tomato pesto, mozzarella, ricotta, herbs, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh jalapeño.

38. PENNSYLVANIA // PIZZERIA BEDDIA

Location:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

At 4:00pm most afternoons, lines start forming in anticipation of Philadelphia’s Pizzeria Beddia’s 5:30 p.m. opening. This place is cash only, has no seating, and rotates pies seasonally, but once 40 pies have gone out—they’re out. You can try the chewy, crispy cheese pie, or go with a special like a recent pie with asparagus, fresh cream, oyster mushroom, and ramps.

39. RHODE ISLAND // FRANK AND JOHN FROM ITALY

Location:

East Greenwich, Rhode Island

Independently owned and operated by the same family for over 40 years, Frank and John’s is where you go for authentic Italian pie in East Greenwich. This is a no frills pizza joint that offers casual dining and top notch Italian food.

40. SOUTH CAROLINA // REBEL PIE

Location:

Florence, South Carolina

Though they have many great items to choose from on their menu, Rebel Pie is all about pizza. They have white pies, pesto pies, build your own pies, and even dessert pies. You can’t go wrong here, no matter what you order, but take a chance on their rotating Rebel Pie of the month for a unique creation!

41. SOUTH DAKOTA // FIERO PIZZA

Location:

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Fiero Pizza has a number of specialty pies for you to choose from if you don’t feel like building your own pizza. I’d go with the Fresh Farmer. It has a spicy tomato sauce base and mozzarella, hot sausage, spinach, egg, parmesan cheese, and roasted pepper chili oil. Sounds like you’ll need to wash it down with a cold drink.

42. TENNESSEE // PIZZA PERFECT

Location:

Nashville, Tennessee

With a name like Pizza Perfect, you better nail a plain cheese pizza. Though they have many creative pies (like the Dante’s Chicken Pie) you may be just as happy with a pitcher and a large thick Sicilian cheese pie, thick and gooey and baked fresh to order.

43. TEXAS // ANTONIO’S FLYING PIZZA

Location:

Houston, Texas


For over 40 years the Rosa family has been making hand-tossed pizzas, pasta dishes, and desserts for Houston’s residents. Whether you’re in the mood for a traditional or deep dish Sicilian pie, you won’t leave hungry after visiting Antonio’s Flying Pizza.

44. UTAH // NICOLITALIA

Location:

Provo, Utah

They call it Boston Italian style pizza here, and it is crazy good. Their specialty pies include the Italian Stallion and Eye of the Tiger, but if you really want to try something special, order the Queen Margotte which is topped with alfredo sauce, fresh tomato, chopped spinach, dry basil, parmesan cheese and Nicolitalia’s secret spice.

45. VERMONT // FOLINO'S

Location:

Shelburne, Vermont

Folino's is BYOB, but luckily they are housed in the same building as Fiddlehead Brewing Company, so you can pop next door and grab a few beers before heading over for a Margherita pie, Folino’s specialty. The Green Mountain setting and delicious New Haven-style pie provides a beautiful evening.

46. VIRGINIA // PUPATELLA

Location:

Arlington, Virginia


Pupatella’s website proudly announces itself "Best Pizza in Virginia." The fried arancini (rice balls) and fresh mozzarella, as well as their pizzas, are authentic Neopolitan cuisine. They offer red (sausage and onion with smoked mozzarella) or white (creamy burrata with cherry tomato, pine nuts and basil) pizzas, and will make you feel like you’re in Naples.

47. WASHINGTON // SERIOUS PIE

Location:

Seattle, Washington

Serious Pie bakes their pizza in a 600-degree, stone-encased, wood-fired oven, so we get why they're so serious about their pizza. They have three locations across Seattle and also boast artisan cheeses from around the world.

48. WEST VIRGINIA // LOLA’S PIZZA

Location:

Charleston, West Virginia

Lola’s offers brunch, lunch, and dinner and a wide array of sandwiches, salads, and, of course, pizzas. Their simple and tasty pies are available for dine-in or carryout and cooked to bubbly perfection in a stone hearth. Some intriguing options include bacon and white cheddar, spinach and feta, and spicy shrimp and sausage.

49. WISCONSIN // PIZZA BRUTTA

Location:

Madison, Wisconsin


Pizza Brutta

uses freshly made Fior di latte, tomato sauce, and dough for their Neopolitan style pizzas. They have over 20 combinations to choose from as well as salads and sandwiches (lunch only). Plus, they partner with organic suppliers, and you won't find fresher Wisconsin cheese anywhere else.

50. WYOMING // ROXIE’S ON GRAND

Location:

Laramie, Wyoming

This American bistro is a warm and inviting restaurant in Laramie. In addition to full dinners and appetizers, they make brick oven-fired pizzas in classic combinations like tomato and mozzarella, spicy meatball, or the decadent Lobster supreme.

This story was updated in November 2016.

Graham Crackers Were Invented to Combat the Evils of Coffee, Alcohol, and Masturbation

tatniz/iStock via Getty Images
tatniz/iStock via Getty Images

Long before they were used to make s’mores or the tasty crust of a Key lime pie, graham crackers served a more puritanical purpose in 19th-century America. The cookies were invented by Sylvester Graham, an American Presbyterian minister whose views on food, sex, alcohol, and nutrition would seem a bit extreme to today's cracker-snackers. Much like the mayor in the movie Chocolat, Graham and his thousands of followers—dubbed Grahamites—believed it was sinful to eat decadent foods. To combat this moral decay, Graham started a diet regimen of his own.

Graham ran health retreats in the 1830s that promoted a bland diet that banned sugar and meat. According to Refinery29, Graham's views ultimately inspired veganism in America as well as the “first anti-sugar crusade.” He condemned alcohol, tobacco, spices, seasoning, butter, and "tortured" refined flour. Caffeine was also a no-no. In fact, Graham believed that coffee and tea were just as bad as tobacco, opium, or alcohol because they created a “demand for stimulation.” However, the worst vice, in Graham's opinion, was overeating. “A drunkard sometimes reaches old age; a glutton never,” he once wrote.

Graham’s austere philosophy was informed by the underlying belief that eating habits affect people’s behaviors, and vice versa. He thought certain foods were "overstimulating" and led to impure thoughts and passions, including masturbation—or “self-pollution,” as he called it—which he believed to be an epidemic that caused both blindness and insanity.

Illustration of Sylvester Graham
Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Graham's views directly influenced Victorian-era corn flake inventor John Harvey Kellogg, who was born a year after Graham died. Like his predecessor, Kellogg also believed that meat and some flavorful foods led to sexual impulses, so he advocated for the consumption of plain foods, like cereals and nuts, instead. (Unsurprisingly, the original recipes for both corn flakes and graham crackers were free of sinful sugar.)

In one lecture, Graham told young men they could stop their minds from wandering to forbidden places if they avoided “undue excitement of the brain and stomach and intestines.” This meant swearing off improper foods and substances like tobacco, caffeine, pepper, ginger, mustard, horseradish, and peppermint. Even milk was banned because it was “too exciting and too oppressive.”

So what could Graham's followers eat? The core component of Graham’s diet was bread made of coarsely ground wheat or rye, unlike the refined white flour loaves that were sold in bakeries at that time. From this same flour emerged Graham's crackers and muffins, both of which were common breakfast foods. John Harvey Kellogg was known to have eaten the crackers and apples for breakfast, and one of his first attempts at making cereal involved soaking twice-baked cracker bits in milk overnight.

Slices of rye bread, a jug of milk, apples and ears of corn on sackcloth, wooden table
SomeMeans/iStock via Getty Images

However, Kellogg was one of the few remaining fans of Graham’s diet, which began to fall out of favor in the 1840s. At Ohio’s Oberlin College, a Grahamite was hired in 1840 to strictly enforce the school’s meal plans. One professor was fired for bringing a pepper shaker to the dining hall, and the hunger-stricken students organized a protest the following year, arguing that the Graham diet was “inadequate to the demands of the human system as at present developed.” Ultimately, the Grahamite and his tyrannical nutrition plan were kicked out.

Much like Kellogg’s corn flakes, someone else stepped in and corrupted Graham’s crackers, molding them into the edible form we now know—and, yes, love—today. In Graham’s case, it was the National Biscuit Company, which eventually became Nabisco; the company started manufacturing graham crackers in the 1880s. But Graham would likely be rolling in his grave if he knew they contained sugar and white flour—and that they're often topped with marshmallows and chocolate for a truly decadent treat.

7 Tasty Facts About Tater Tots

bhofack2, iStock via Getty Images
bhofack2, iStock via Getty Images

Whether you associate them with your school cafeteria, your childhood home, or your local dive bar, tater tots are ubiquitous. Creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside, the bite-sized pellets rival French fries for the title of most delicious potato product. But they’re more than just a tasty side dish—they’re also an upcycling success story, a casserole ingredient, and one of the few foods that’s more popular frozen than fresh. Here are some more facts about tater tots you should know.

1. The first Tater Tots were made from French fry scraps.

Brothers F. Nephi Grigg and Golden Grigg founded the Oregon Frozen Foods Company, later known as Ore-Ida, in Ontario, Oregon, in 1952. One of their first items was frozen French fries, and after seeing all the potato scraps they had leftover, they came up with an idea. By chopping up the potato parts, seasoning them, and molding them into pellets, they were able to create a new product. With help from a thesaurus, they landed on the name tater tot and debuted their creation in 1954.

2. Tater Tots are the main ingredient in Hotdish casserole.

Hotdish casserole with tater tots.
ALLEKO, iStock via Getty Images

Tater tots are typically served as an appetizer or a side dish, but in certain states, they’re part of the main course. Hotdish follows the long Midwestern tradition of tossing whatever’s in the kitchen into a casserole. It’s made by mixing together ground beef and frozen vegetables and topping it with a layer of tater tots before baking the whole dish in the oven. It’s a hearty match for Midwestern winters, plus, it’s a way to sneak more tots into your diet.

3. The name Tater Tot is trademarked.

If the golden nugget of potato-y goodness you’re eating is not Ore-Ida brand, it’s not really a tater tot. The Grigg brothers trademarked the catchy name shortly after developing the product, and Ore-Ida still holds its trademark on tater tots today. This doesn’t stop people using it as a catch-all term for the generic version of the food. Ore-Ida tried to combat this in 2014 by running an ad campaign warning customers not to “be fooled by Imi-taters.”

4. Tater Tots have different names around the world.

The all-American tater tot has spread around the globe, but it’s usually sold under a different name abroad. Tot-lovers in New Zealand and Australia may refer to them as potato gems, potato royals, potato pom-poms, or hash bites. The food is so popular in New Zealand that Pizza Hut launched a pie with a hash bite crust there in 2016. In Canada, they’re called tasti taters or spud puppies, and they’ve been labeled oven crunchies in the UK.

5. Homemade tater tot recipes may not be worth it.

Tater tots on a plate served with ketchup.
MSPhotographic, iStock via Getty Images

Tater tots are the ultimate convenience food—unless you try making them from scratch at home. Recipes online involve peeling and grating pounds of potatoes, frying them once, chilling them overnight, and then shaping them into tots and frying them a second time. Without the streamlined method and equipment of a factory, the process can take 12 hours. Even fine restaurants that feature tater tots on their menus often prefer the taste (and convenience) of the frozen stuff.

6. Idaho praised Napoleon Dynamite for featuring Tater Tots.

Napoleon Dynamite takes place in Idaho, and one of the ways the 2004 film pays tribute to the state is by prominently featuring the tot. The State of Idaho passed a resolution in 2005 commending the makers of the film, specifically thanking them for “promoting Idaho’s most famous export.”

7. The birthplace of the Tater Tot is hosting a Tater Tot festival.

Nearly 70 years after tater tots were invented there, Ontario, Oregon, is honoring its patron potato product by dedicating an entire festival to it in August 2020. The Tater Tot Festival will feature games, food vendors, and a Ferris wheel, plus special events like a tater tot-eating contest and a tater tot-themed play. The fair will end with the crowning of the tater tot festival king and queen.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER