Photo: Jim Henkens

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When award-winning vegetarian chef Amanda Cohen, of New York City's Dirt Candy, tried the doughnuts from Seattle's General Porpoise (above), it was love at first bite: "I was at an hours-long meeting that almost killed me when I noticed doughnuts on the sideboard. As the time ticked by, I made my way through every single perfect one"—variously filled with seasonal jams, dense custards and so-smooth creams.... The words salmon and candy aren't typically found together—outside the Pacific Northwest, at least. Freshy's Seafood Market, located in an old filling station on mellow Mercer Island, cures its local salmon in brown sugar and brandy and smokes it for a surprisingly satisfying salty-sweet confection.... Chef Jenn Louis of the Portland, Oregon, restaurant Lincoln is a devotee of the Mexican food at Centralia's La Tarascan: "It's the best I've ever had. Their house-made tortillas are so tender and tasty that I always make sure to order a couple of tacos. I often ask what their secret is, but they won't tell."

Washington, D.C.
The snazzily low-lit, dark wood, tiled-ceiling vibe at Dukem may feel slightly fancy, but you can still enjoy its potently flavorful Ethiopian food in the traditional manner: with your hands. Use the spongy injera bread to sop up the garlic-infused nectar coating the awaze tibs (cubed beef stewed in a sauce of tomato, jalapeño, garlic and fiery berbere spice), and, if you're feeling adventurous, try the kitfo (beef tartare—so soft and submitting, it disintegrates on the palate—seasoned with herb butter and mitmita, a blend primarily of African chili, clove and cardamom).

West Virginia
Country Club Bakery's stolid red brick Fairmont HQ may not look like much, but within dwells a savory specialty known as the pepperoni roll, which itself contains hidden delights. Sturdy logs of the spicy beef and pork sausage wend through a slightly sweet bread, concealed until the first yeasty, heat-laced bite. As the roll bakes, it absorbs the orange-hued grease that's one of pepperoni's chief charms. Country Club supplies the snacks to stores and gas stations throughout the state, but only at the bakery can you get them oven-fresh. For a mere $1.50 each.

If you visit America's dairyland without enjoying any cheese, were you really there at all? Stop at Green Bay's Titletown Brewing Company, housed in a former train station, where thumb-thick fried white cheddar curds are accompanied by zippy tomato sauce. Wash them down with a brisk Sno-Cap Root Beer, brewed on the premises.... At Sister Bay's Swedish eatery Al Johnson's, waitresses clad in dirndl-like dresses deliver pickled treats: herring (with sour cream and red onion), cabbage (perfect with the corned beef and Swiss sandwich) and beets (lovely beside a Havarti grilled cheese). End with a lingonberry shake and a fond look at the goats grazing on the sod roof.

Cheyenne's Korean House turns out generous family-style platters of springy and spicy rice cakes; tender bulgogi and short ribs, marinated in a sweet and delicate wine sauce and bibimbap topped with a fried egg wearing a lace collar of glorious crispiness. What could be better?

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