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.)
THE RESTAURANT AT KING ESTATE in Lorane, Ore.
Just as you begin to second-guess your map or the local who gave you directions, a grand building comes into view—the King Estate Winery visitors center. Many of the fruits, vegetables, and herbs on the restaurant's menu are organically grown on the 1,033-acre estate. Everything else comes from Oregonian farmers, so whether you're eating the beet-and-spinach salad or the delicious pizza with tomatoes and basil, you can rest assured that it's fresh and local. As is, of course, the wine. Information: 80854 Territorial Rd., 541/685-5189, kingestate.com, entrées from $20. Rosemary Gording, Eugene, Ore.
NEW! PAMELA'S P&G DINER in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Pamela's breakfast menu breeds the kind of loyalty that sounds a little like addiction. If you're hooked, you dedicate weekend mornings to navigating the long lines and wolfing down huge, debilitating helpings of their pancakes and eggs. The restaurant's signature meal is their crepe-style pancakes, thinner and little more porous than what you see elsewhere—try the banana chocolate chip or the strawberry, both popular with the regulars. If you prefer savory to sweet, the omelets with a side of thick home fries are the best bet. Pamela's, with six branches in Pittsburgh, has little in the way of interior design or ambience, but the friendly service and the great prices (the bottomless coffee pot costs $1.75) more than make up for it. It's cash only, so stop at an ATM before you join the line, which moves mercifully fast. Information: 60 21st St., 412/281-6366. Price check: The crepe-style pancakes go for $4.25 a plate. Most omelets cost about $6.50. The bottomless pot of coffee is served in a thermos table-side for $1.75. Thanks for sharing: Reader robin first tipped us off.
NEW! GELATO BLU in Houston, Tex.
Up to 36 flavors are listed on the gelato and sorbetto menu at Houston's Gelato Blu, and the super-friendly staff lets you sample as many as you'd like before ordering. Homemade cones stuffed with Michelangelo gelato, a unique blend of ricotta and fig, win loyalty from more adventurous palates; others swear by the classics, such as pistachio and hazelnut. The store serves lunch fare and coffee drinks too, but most come for the ice cream—or mix their vices by ordering an affogato, a mound of sweet cream gelato with freshly pulled espresso poured over the top. Information: 5710 Memorial Dr. #B, 713/880-5900, gelatoblu.com. Price check: Small dish for $3.50; medium $4.50; large $5. Add 70¢ for a homemade waffle cone. Nine variations of their affogato drink go for $4.50 each. Thanks for sharing: Member foodie was the first to tip us off.
NEW! NIKO NIKO'S GREEK & AMERICAN CAFÉ in Houston, Tex.
Niko Niko's, by most accounts, is a Houston institution. Its brusque, no-nonsense efficiency isn't exactly charming, but it's necessary—after all, the lines get long, and you can't wait for your gyro forever. The baby lamb shank and the lemon chicken soup garner high praise, and although the portions are uniformly huge, you should save room for dessert. The homemade baklava and honey balls are terrific. Large plates and a special children's menu, with all items priced affordably, spell "family value." Information: 2520 Montrose Blvd., 713/528-4976, nikonikos.com. Price Check: A gyros sandwich goes for $8. Larger, mixed plates (assortments) average around $13. Thanks for sharing: Members TBowen, djb123, and foodie were the first to tip us off.
NEW! MAX'S WINE DIVE in Austin and Houston, Tex.
A trendy mini-chain with branches in Houston and Austin, Max's Wine Dive serves food with haute attitude, minus the fussiness. Diners describe plates like the "Texas haute" hot dog with venison chili and the fried egg sandwich with truffle oil as both drippingly messy and unforgettably delicious. Max's tries to keep things local: the chefs get ingredients such as buffalo and alligator meat, and assorted vegetables, from nearby farms. All of the wines from the titanic house list are served by the glass, with a two-glass commitment—you can split the pours with a friend to keep your tippling options open. Information: 207 San Jacinto Ave., Austin, 512/904-0106; 4720 Washington Ave., Houston, 713/880-8737; maxswinedive.com. Price check: Large plates can be expensive, but you can opt for more affordable meals. The popular fried egg sandwich entrée is served with hand-cut potato chips for $13, and a half order of the wild boar pasta is $9. Thanks for sharing: Member jbob was the first to tip us off.