The real secret is sublety.

This is the best recipe for a hoagie ever, at least in my opinion. It is inspired by Red’s Hoagies & Groceries, a 73-year-old neighborhood corner store in South Philadelphia, which I visited several times reporting my essay on the history of the Big Sandwich. Red’s, which is at the corner of South Ninth and Mifflin Streets, is not famous or anything. In fact it was a recommendation from the crossing guard at a nearby elementary school.

I will admit that on my first visit I had low expectations, given Red’s half-bare shelves and unhurried…

And why Big Sandwich bread is better in New Jersey than New York

First, I guess should explain my terms. By Big Sandwich, I don’t mean a club or corned beef or triple-decker BLT. I mean, obviously-at-least-to-me, the Italian American-ish Big Sandwich with all toppings piled into a whole loaf of bread. …

It’s from The Seaboard Cafe in Raleigh — and comes with a great story

Blessed by the holy quintuple: white vinegar, sugar, garlic, onion, and black peppercorn. Photo: Linda Wharton

This is only partially a story about a really good pickled carrot recipe, a recipe that has been kept a secret for the past 29 years by the Seaboard Cafe in Raleigh, North Carolina, a restaurant that happily just reopened after six weeks in purgatory.

The Seaboard Cafe, which opened the same year I graduated from high school a mile down the road, is an accidental Raleigh icon. It’s a sandwich shop hidden inside the old brick railroad station that used to provide a straight shot by train to New York City, where I moved 20 years ago. …

They’re essential workers who deserve more respect

“I’m not worried,” Yesenia Alvarado told me, putting a hand on her hip like the boss that she is. “First of all, I’m a mom — of three boys — I know chaos. If I don’t panic, everything is good.” Photos: John Taggart

Just a few minutes before 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Yesenia Alvarado arrived for her shift as manager of the Morton Williams Supermarket at the corner of Third Avenue and 63rd Street in Manhattan.

She was cornered nearly immediately by staffers and customers, all of them with questions: “Do you have hand sanitizer?”

“Is there toilet paper on the shelves right now?” Have you looked, is it there, now?

“Can I get a price check on pasta?”

And then, there were all the questions from me, a reporter standing there waiting to talk to her for a New York Times business…

And the secret ingredient for a spot-on DIY version

Actress Pamela Searle poses as she gets an Orange Julius in Los Angeles circa 1959. Photo: Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

A recent column in The Wall Street Journal — “Build a Smoother Smoothie. You’ve Earned It” — offers a rum cocktail version of the sherbet-ey Orange Julius, citing a Los Angeles orange juice salesman named Julius Freed as the inventor of the original drink. Having spent several years mulling over the history of this American fast-food icon for my newish book, “American Food: A Not-So-Serious History,” I wanted to take a moment to correct the historical record, and also offer my own hot take on the virgin version of the recipe, which has just three ingredients, one of which is…

As it turns out, they may be a derivative of mambo wings

All illustrations by Kimberly Ellen Hall

This is an excerpt from “American Food: A Not-So-Serious History,” by Rachel Wharton and illustrated by Kimberly Ellen Hall, released this month and on sale now.

“Tourists Eat Wings. Buffalonians Eat Subs.” So proclaimed a recent headline in a national food magazine.

Which can’t possibly be true, unless literally everyone I saw on a recent trip to the western New York city was a tourist, including tables of high school students, old Irish American ladies at an old Irish American pub, people getting takeout at 2 a.m., …

And why you should

Illustration by Kimberly Ellen Hall

In most of the United States, meaning anywhere west of I-95 and south of Delaware, fried clams are rarely a religious experience. That’s because they’re not fried clams — not really. They’re fried clam strips: chewy little ribbons of the pink “foot” of the Atlantic surf clam.

A real fried clam — whose rich history and iconic status I recount in my new book about American food — is a belly clam. A belly clam, aka the soft-shell clam or Mya arenaria, is New England thing, a favored food of Mass-holes and Mainers.

They are worth traveling to the Northeastern…

Plus, see Bernie eat a corn dog

All photos by John Taggart

Every four years during the run-up to the presidential election, the world gets a peek at the 10-day Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, the biggest yearly event in the region. We’re usually treated to a run-down of all the fried foods found on a stick, photos of candidates looking silly scarfing corn dogs or riding the Big Slide, plus a few glamour shots of farm animals.

Having spent four days at this year’s fair with photographer John Taggart, whose work you’ll see below, I can tell you those stories don’t even begin to get to the heart of this…

It’s called the native tomato pie, and it’s delicious

The native tomato pie at Ernie’s Pizzeria, a world-class neighborhood parlor on the northwestern edge of the city of New Haven. All photos: John Taggart

In this social media-ed age, it’s hard to believe that one of the greatest regional specialties in the United States could live on for decades in relative obscurity. But such is the case with Connecticut’s native tomato pizza, made for just two months of the year in and around New Haven County.

Unless you grew up nearby, you’ve probably never heard of this pizza, even though the pizza in this region is unquestionably famous. That is a travesty, because when you do find a pizzeria that makes a native tomato pie — meaning a pizza topped with summer tomatoes from…

Why it matters

Judy Davidson for Getty Images

Welcome to Hometown Appetites, a recurring look at the way this country eats, neighborhood by neighborhood.

The most underappreciated farmers market in America is in my hometown, the North Carolina state capital of Raleigh.

Open every day, all year round, the beating heart of the place is the 30,000-square-foot covered shed for farmers that grow produce and plants, nearly all from North Carolina. The 75-acre complex also has three restaurants: a biscuit and hot dog stand; a meat-and-three where most of the threes are procured on-site; and a Calabash-style seafood restaurant where the catch comes from the coast, just two…

Rachel Wharton

I’m a James Beard Award-winning journalist and author of the book American Food (A Not-So-Serious History) NC >> NYC >>find more of my work at

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