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.)
WECK'S in Albuquerque, N.M.
The local chain's name doesn't invoke traditional Southwestern fare, and the decor is decidedly plain. It's the Papas that make Weck's a favorite. To get the true experience, order the Original Papas, a huge mound of hash browns topped with diced ham, bacon, sausage, two eggs, and red or green chilies, served with a tortilla. Information: 3913 Louisiana Blvd. NE, 505/881-0019, wecksinc.com, Original Papas $8. Amy O'Donnell, Albuquerque, N.M.
BOBCAT BITE in Santa Fe, N.M.
Bobcat Bite is a tiny diner in the middle of nowhere, and it serves only a few things, but none of that matters when you sink your teeth into the green-chili cheeseburger. Made from beef that's ground fresh every morning, the burger is so thick and juicy it can be hard to handle. The story behind the name is that bobcats used to come down from the mountains, and the owners of the restaurant would feed them scraps of food. They would warn diners to be careful because "bobcat bite." Information: 420 Old Las Vegas Hwy., 505/983-5319, bobcatbite.com, green-chili cheeseburger $7.50, cash only, closed Sun.–Tues. Valerie Lefler, Tooele, Utah
MARYBILL DINER in Merrick, N.Y.
MaryBill looks like an old railroad diner car: sliding doors, tile floors, booths that seat two or four, and a counter overlooking the grill where Mary and Nick do the cooking. If you order an omelet (and you should), keep in mind that they're huge—bring an appetite or someone to share with. For lunch, get the turkey salad—it's made from a fresh turkey every day. Information: 14 Merrick Ave., 516/378-9715, from $4.40, cash only, closed Sun. Susan Dillon, Merrick, N.Y.
NICK TAHOU HOTS in Rochester, N.Y.
People come to this greasy spoon in an old brick train station for the famous Garbage Plate. The base is any combination of home fries, macaroni salad, baked beans, and French fries. For the topping, you can choose from several meat options, including burgers, chicken, sausage, ham, and fish. Follow the locals' lead and order the white hots–like hot dogs but made mostly of pork instead of beef (an upstate New York specialty). The plate is dressed with mustard, chopped onions, and the restaurant's signature sauce. Information: 320 W. Main St., 585/436-0184, garbageplate.com, Garbage Plate from $5, closed Sun. John Domm, Ontario, N.Y.
CASA NUEVA RESTAURANT, CANTINA, & BODEGA in Athens, Ohio
Casa, as locals call it, is a slow-food-promoting, worker-owned co-op in the heart of a college town, but it's not your average hippie hangout. For one thing, there's meat—but if you don't want the King Family Farm bacon or spicy sausage, there are plenty of meatless options, too: for brunch, fluffy, lemony cottage cheese pancakes; for dinner, huge burritos made from fresh tortillas and filled with jasmine rice and veggies. The chips and salsa—particularly the black bean version—should be ordered regardless of which meal you eat. Information: 4-6 W. State St., 740/594-8691, casanueva.com, entrées from $6. Maria Surovy, Cleveland, Ohio
NAZARETH RESTAURANT & DELI in Columbus, Ohio
Despite being in a strip mall, Nazareth is full of character, thanks to the owner, Hany Baransi, who walks around with a baseball bat asking guests how the food is. But there's nothing threatening about Hany. Anyone who's eaten at Nazareth has heard him use his catchphrase, "I love you, man." Customers often give him "I love you" souvenirs—license plates, magnets—which he displays behind the counter. The walls are painted with a scene from Israel, his home. The menu is a combination of Mediterranean and American cuisines, with gyros, French fries, chicken with rice, and more. Information: Columbus Square Shopping Center, 5663 Emporium Sq., 614/899-1177, nazarethdeli.com, gyros from $5, closed Sun. Molly Ray, Columbus, Ohio
TWO FROGS GRILL in Ardmore, Okla.
Two Frogs is in Oklahoma, but it screams New Orleans. It's dark, with a funky party room and bar in the back and bands playing from time to time. Share a Fried Blossom onion to start, and then move on to the fried catfish fillets and red beans. Save room for the apple dumpling with vanilla-custard sauce—one order is enough for two. Information: 2646 W. Broadway, 580/226-3764, twofrogsgrill.com, entrées from $7. Claire Murphy, Ardmore, Okla.