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Many cities trace their namesake back to significant historic events, their natural surroundings, or the local culture. But there are also some small towns whose names were inspired simply by food — and who could blame them? Go off the beaten path and discover the quirky local legends behind these mouthwatering town names across the U.S. — just don’t read this hungry.
This small town on the edge of the Yukon territory of Canada isn’t named after the feathered animal — at least not directly. So, how did this gold rush town founded in 1890 get its name? The town’s original prospectors got through their first harsh winter by feasting on an abundance of ptarmigan, a local grouse (now the state bird of Alaska). At first, they decided to name the town after the bird that aided their survival, but disputes over the tricky spelling quickly nixed that idea. Instead, they decided upon the name Chicken to avoid any confusion. The population of Chicken (like the Gold Rush) dried up — today there are just 23 residents, a café, a saloon, and a gift store.
Two Egg, Florida
Soon after this small town in the Florida Panhandle was named Allison to honor generous contributions from the Allison Company (an engine manufacturer), the Great Depression swept in and the townspeople fell on hard times. No longer able to pay for their groceries with cash, the people of Allison resorted to trading with shopkeepers for the items they needed. Farmers often used eggs as bartering chips, and shopkeepers would turn around and sell those products to people outside the community. As the story goes, two young boys used to come into the general store with two eggs to trade for sugar; they did it so often, in fact, that the store became known as the “two egg store.” The name caught on, and soon even the town name followed suit. Although the moniker may sound comical today, it’s a reflection of the hard times endured in the 1930s.
Think back to when you were a child — could you imagine anything better than a place named Cookietown? A man named Marvin Cornelius had the same idea in 1928 and — so the story goes — named his general store Cookietown, U.S.A., to attract attention. Marvin would hand out free cookies to children, and legend has it that one young boy exclaimed he “never wanted to leave Cookietown” after receiving a home-baked treat. Unfortunately, Cookietown today is somewhat of a ghost town — the general store is no longer there and less than 10 people call the town home. However, the appetizing name lives on.
Hot Coffee, Mississippi
Nothing sounds warmer and more welcoming than hot coffee (except maybe Cookietown), and that’s just the sort of impression a Mississippi innkeeper named Levi Davis was trying to make in the 1870s. Davis always brewed hot coffee for weary travelers who passed through by horse and carriage, while his wife cooked up fresh tea cakes. His marketing strategy was simple, yet effective: a coffee pot sign with the words — you guessed it — “Hot Coffee” written underneath. The town became known to pioneers as a place where you could rest and get a steaming cup of joe, so eventually “Hot Coffee” was simply adopted as the official town name.
Tortilla Flat, Arizona
It sounds like the start of a promising meal, but instead of a feast, Tortilla Flat was inspired by a lack of food. Before the town was founded in the early 1900s, it served as a campsite with fresh water for those traveling from Tonto Basin to Phoenix for supplies. How did the name come to be? According to local legend, a group who camped on the flat near the creek endured heavy rain for several days and were trapped in their campsite by the flooded creek. When they ran out of food, the only provisions the group could scrap together were flour and water to make tortillas, which is what they ate for several days as they waited for the water to recede. Today, the town stands as a remnant of the Old West and is home to six just residents.
Pie Town, New Mexico
As the name implies, this small town in the Southwest knows how to bake a good pie. The town’s history dates to the 1920s when Clyde Norman, a World War I veteran, bought a gas station along Route 60 and began recreating his favorite childhood dessert — dried apple pies. Norman’s pies became popular with the cowboys in the area, and word spread quickly about his impressive baking skills. Norman’s love of pies eventually inspired the town’s official name.
Today, Pie Town celebrates its name with an annual pie festival where locals compete in a friendly bake-off. If you decide to visit Pie Town, make sure you come home hungry: There are only a few cafés in town, but you’ll find they offer enough pie varieties to keep your sweet tooth satisfied for days.