Kansas City or San Francisco: Whose regional food sweeps the series?

Baseball fans will be spending the better part of this week figuring out which wild card team, the Kansas City Royals or the San Francisco Giants, has the greater odds of winning. While we’re partaking in such scrutiny, we’d also like to explore which hometown has the leading edge when it comes to another important topic: food. Both places can boast a number of native dishes that stand the test of time. Who’s got the tastier regional fare? We’ll put both up to bat and let you be the ump.

SAN FRANCISCO: CIOPPINO

Cioppino, a red seafood stew, has humble beginnings. It’s believed to have originated in San Francisco in the late 1800s, when Genovese fishermen tossed leftovers from the day’s catch into a bowl with wine and tomatoes to sustain themselves while still out at sea.
Photo: Kelly Sue DeConnick / Flickr

KANSAS CITY: BURNT ENDS

Burnt ends—the charred tips of beef brisket—are a defining element of Kansas City barbecue. These tips, which are usually composed of charred, jerky-like bits, or crusty, caramelized pieces of cubed meat, are usually served atop white bread with a generous serving of barbecue sauce.
Photo: stu_spivack / Flickr

SAN FRANCISCO: SOURDOUGH BREAD

The French arrived in San Francisco during the Gold Rush and brought sourdough bread—lévain—with them. Thanks to wild yeast starters, local bakeries learned to produce loaves with a pronounced sour flavor, some of which continue to remain in production today. As a result, San Francisco sourdough is among the most famous, often serving as an accompaniment to that other San Francisco favorite, cioppino.
Photo: Sarah and Jason / Flickr

KANSAS CITY: BBQ SPARERIBS

Smokehouses in Kansas City are known for serving everything, from pulled pork to beef brisket, but it’s the ribs that are prepared in a unique manner. Pitmasters trim pork spareribs of the rib tips and skirt meat to create uniformly rectangular pieces, then smoke them very slow and low over hickory wood before dousing them in a tomato- and molasses-based barbecue sauce.
Photo: Mike Willis / Flickr

SAN FRANCISCO: HANGTOWN FRY

What do oysters, eggs, and bacon have in common? During the Gold Rush, all three were expensive and hard to come by in California. Rumor has it that a panhandler who struck it rich in Placerville (a.k.a. “Hangtown”) was responsible for combining all three to create a rich-tasting scramble with a legacy.
Photo: Food Republic

KANSAS CITY: PAN-FRIED CHICKEN

OK, so Kansas City didn’t invent fried chicken, but it might’ve perfected it. As early as the 1980s, humorist Calvin Trillin extolled the virtues of Kansas City’s skillet-fried chicken. Today, many a local will profess that the pan-fried chicken at Stroud’s—declared by road food historians Jane and Michael Stern as “the best fried chicken in America”—is the one to eat.
Photo: mswine / Flickr

SAN FRANCISCO: CRAB LOUIE

It’s believed that crab Louie was first served in San Francisco in the early 1900s, most likely a way to highlight the local Dungeness catch. It’s still a shellfish lover’s delight today, thanks to its simple combination of crabmeat, hard-boiled eggs, iceberg lettuce, and ketchup- and mayonnaise-based Louie dressing.
Photo: Brett / Flickr

KANSAS CITY: CHEESY CORN

Along with pit beans, cheesy corn—a loose casserole flavored with smoked ham that’s more cheese than corn—is a favorite vegetable side for Kansas Citians.
Photo: Daniel H. / Yelp

SAN FRANCISCO: IRISH COFFEE

Although Irish coffee (hot coffee, Irish whiskey, and sugar, topped with whipped cream) wasn’t invented in San Francisco, it was popularized there, thanks to San Francisco Chronicle travel writer Stanton Delaplane. He discovered it at Shannon Airport in Ireland, and upon returning to the States, passed the recipe on to San Francisco’s Buena Vista Café. It remains a bestseller there today.
Photo: Chris Rochelle / CHOW.com

KANSAS CITY: PIT BEANS

In addition to its barbecue, Kansas City’s loved for its distinctive style of baked beans. Pit beans, as they’re often called, were traditionally cooked at the bottom of barbecue pits, which allowed the beans to infuse with smoke and soak up drippings from the ribs and briskets cooking above. They’re often studded with burnt ends.
Photo: Marshall Astor / Flickr

Susannah Chen is a San Francisco–based freelance writer. When she’s not cooking or writing, she’s on the hunt to find the world’s best chilaquiles. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
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