NEVER ENDING STORY
America's Favorite Restaurants
We've asked you a few times to tell us about your favorite restaurants, and nearly 600 of you of have responded. It's always tough to narrow down the list, but here's our updated, always-changing take on where to eat like a local, from sea to shining sea. (Keep telling us about your favorites, and we'll keep improving our list.)
WAZEE SUPPER CLUB in Denver, Colo.
A comfort-food haven for Denver downtowners, Wazee has broadened its menu in the past few years, but the main draw has always been the Colorado-style pizza—heavy on the toppings, not so much on the cheese. The pizza is good, but really, it's the nicely funky atmosphere that brings people in: exposed brick, high ceilings, checkerboard floors, a bar, and a dumbwaiter that delivers pizzas to the upper level. Information: 1600 15th St., 303/623-9518, wazeesupperclub.com, pizza from $7. Lynn Buschhoff, Denver, Colo.
CAROLE PECK'S GOOD NEWS CAFE in Woodbury, Conn.
Carole builds her big, creative menu on local produce and meats. Her pecan-crusted oyster appetizer with dried cherries, jicama, tomatillo salsa, and chili aioli is alone worth the trip, but once you're there, you'd be crazy not to try one of the entrées, like the wok-seared shrimp with vegetables and garlic aioli, or the free-range rotisserie chicken with mashed potatoes and stir-fried seasonal veggies. Information: 694 Main St. S., 203/266-4663, good-news-cafe.com, entrées from $18, closed Tues. Henry Bissonnette, Woodbury, Conn.
E&E STAKEOUT GRILL in Belleair Bluffs, Fla.
You can't help but admire the river-rock walls and cherry-wood and copper accents. Once your food has arrived, however, the decor fades and all you can think about is how delicious the rack of lamb is, how fresh the seafood is, and how creative the cooking is. The specials change daily, but if potato-crusted hog snapper with creamy leek-and-garlic sauce is available, order it. Information: 100 N. Indian Rocks Rd., 727/585-6399, 3bestchefs.com, entrées from $14, closed for lunch Sat. and Sun. Phil Meyer, Belleair Bluffs, Fla.
PUERTO SAGUA in South Beach, Fla.
No South Florida restaurant is more authentically Cuban than Puerto Sagua—just ask the Cubans gathered at the long counter for small plates and café cubanos (also known as Cuban rocket fuel). In the main dining room, there's even an elaborate diorama of a 1950s Havana street scene. The dishes are classic Cuban: arroz con pollo (chicken and rice), ropa vieja (shredded beef), and more. This is Cuban food for Cubans, not tourists—though tourists always love it! Information: 700 Collins Ave., 305/673-1115, entrées from $8. Richard Rosichan, Miami Beach, Fla.
TASTY CHINA in Marietta, Ga.
Owner Yang Da He hires highly regarded Szechuan cooks and gives them the freedom to cook authentic cuisine with few restrictions and no dumbing down. The result is bold, spicy dishes with a balance of flavors that stand up to the heat. (The menu label "hot and numbing" on some dishes should be taken quite literally.) Skip the two pages of Chinese-American standards on the menu and go straight to the Szechuan specialties. Information: 585 Franklin Rd. SE, 770/419-9849, entrées from $8. Morgan Eubanks, Marietta, Ga.
NEW! KEOKI'S PARADISE in Koloa, Hawaii
Near the southern coast of Kauai, within walking distance of Poipu Beach, Keoki's Paradise restaurant is a campy, fun alternative to eating at the big resorts. Tiki torches, a thatched roof, and the usual assortment of "tropical" cocktails (there are two versions of the mai tai) are a little silly, but it all feels appropriately festive when you're dining in shorts and sandals. Dishes served in the restaurant proper are overpriced, so ask for a seat near the man-made pond in the café and stick with the fresh fish, which the restaurant has mastered. The hula pie dessert is a tasty, gargantuan chunk of macadamia-nut ice cream with hot fudge, big enough for the kids to split. Information: 2360 Kiahuna Plantation Dr., 808/742-7534, keokisparadise.com. Price check: A large fish taco platter in the café goes for $10; the fresh fish entrée is $16. Tropical cocktails like the lava flow (the menu says it erupts with strawberry) cost $7.25. Thanks for sharing: Reader AncSteve was the first to tip us off.
IRAZÚ in Chicago, Ill.
You could easily mistake Irazú for a little spot in Costa Rica where you'd stop for a bite. A mural on one wall shows a cottage under palms and tree frogs. Everyone should try the vegetarian burrito with mushrooms at least once—though the steak sandwich is also spectacular. Order a mango-water shake to wash everything down. You'll leave full, satisfied, and out maybe $15 for dinner. Information: 1865 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773/252-5687, irazuchicago.com, entrées from $9, cash only, closed Sun. Amy Johnson, Chicago, Ill.