In New Jersey, its all about the Taylor Ham.
Philadelphians have their scrapple and original cheese steaks. In Detroit, look out for the Faygo pop and Coney Island dogs. Or maybe a hot dog from Tony Packo's in Toledo. Don't even think about using ketchup or mustard on french fries in Utah — it's all about the Fry Sauce.
These are all the quirky calling cards of regional pride — food that can't be found anywhere else in the country. That might in fact be the secret of their success in an era of chain restaurants tucked into strip malls.
But, what happens when you move from the area and are in desperate need of a fix? Americans transplanted from their hometowns are scouring the World Wide Web to find the comfort food they crave — and it's created a cottage industry for entrepreneurs willing to deliver across state lines.
"If you leave New Jersey, you're leaving Taylor Ham behind," said Donna Beers, who along with partner Pattie Weaver runs an online business that ships the spicy breakfast meat that resembles a cross between Spam and salami.
They created Pork Roll Xpress seven years ago when their kids moved out of state, and complained they couldn't find the spicy pork-and-seasonings delicacy at their local market. Though the exact ingredients are a trade secret by maker Taylor Provisions Co., it's a staple of New Jersey diners and sold on stands along the Jersey shore.
With about 75 to 100 orders a day, the two-woman business brings in about $200,000 in revenue a year. The company also expanded to offer things like a pre-made New Jersey-style pizza, and Tastykake, a brand of snack food sold in a few states on the East Coast.
"What the common denominator is here is what your mother taught you to like, and that helps quirky regional foods," said Harry Balzer, a vice president at marketing research firm NPD Group. "The Internet has allowed for instant distribution to any home, so its not unbelievable that specialty items would find success."
Pork roll's cousin in neighboring Pennsylvania is scrapple. Unlike Taylor Ham, fans of this breakfast meat know the ingredients — and still buy it. It is a mixture of flour, cornmeal, and pork scraps — such as the head, heart or liver — that's cut into slices and pan fried.
Richard DellaBarba, who runs the Taste of Philadelphia Web site, offers scrapple fans a way to buy it online. But, the real hot seller is his pre-made Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches that he overnights in droves.
Though Philly ex-pats could duplicate the process of making a cheese steak, one thing would be missing: the bread. "There's something in the water here that makes it stand apart, you can't duplicate this," he said.
In 2005, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell sent over a batch of DellaBarba's cheese steaks after losing a Super Bowl bet to Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Others on DellaBarba's list of customers are professional baseball player Kurt Schilling, Dick Clark, and singers Jennifer Lopez and Ozzie Osborne.
Debbie Elias, a resident of Culver City, Calif., is also a customer. She moved to California 26 years ago from Philadelphia, and almost gave up on getting a real cheese steak.
"After a while, you've experienced all the different food that's out there in your new city," she said. "But, you'll always have a spot for that comfort food you grew up with. To me, that's worth the added expense for delivery."
Hot dogs have turned out to be another big Internet business as many cities around the country have a certain flair in preparing them — especially New York and Chicago.
In Detroit, hot dog lovers have been going to American Coney Island since 1917. The restaurant located at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Lafayette has been serving up their own particular brand of dog topped with Belgian mustard, chili and sweet onions.
"There's been a big exodus from Michigan because of layoffs at the big car companies," said Dan Keros, general manager of the family owned business, whose menu also includes hoagies. "Detroiters are moving, spread out all over the country. This is just something they miss."
Their "Coney Kits" include the hot dogs, buns, a sweet onion, and its original chili sauce — along with instructions on how to make it. Like others that ship food, the kit is packed in an insulated box and iced gel packs.
Fans of Tony Packo's Cafe in Toledo also use the restaurant's online store to order. The restaurant is famous for its Hungarian-style hot dogs that feature toppings of chili, pickles and relish.
The restaurant gained notoriety on the television show "M*A*S*H," where Jamie Farr's character Cpl. Max Klinger brought up Tony Packo's hot dogs and pickles on a number of episodes.
And its not just food — condiments and drinks are also regional favorites. In Utah and parts of Idaho, people smother their fries with fry sauce — made up of one part ketchup, two parts mayonnaise, and spices.
The biggest seller of the regional condiment online is Salt Lake City-based Some Dude's Fry Sauce. Owned by Mike Thompson, the company sells about 204,000 16-ounce bottles a year through supermarket and online sales.
All over the country there are also regional soft drinks that aren't sold anywhere else. Michigan is one of the few places you can buy Faygo brand pop, with flavors that include diet chocolate cream pie and red pop.
In Texas, there's a lemon and orange-flavored cream soda called Big Red. In the New England area there is Moxie Soda. And, quenching the thirst for regional sodas are a number of online Web sites.
"I get a lot of people wanting brands like Grape Nehi, Bubble Up, Crush and Faygo," said Josh Davies, whose Hip Hop Soda Pop Shop store on Amazon.com sells all those brands. "Everybody starves for youth, and anything to bring back memories of your younger years is the way to go."