Photo: Erin Kunkel

2 of 12
The thought of a shake from cozy Fremont Diner in Sonoma, California, fills one O editor's eyes with homesick tears.

When visiting Ikeda's California Country Market in Auburn, chef Craig Koketsu (of New York City's Smith & Wollensky and Quality Meats, among others) doubles down on pie—as in, chicken pot and marionberry à la mode. "Both use the same flaky pastry, and the fillings brim to the top crust," he says.... Sonoma's countrified Fremont Diner (above) is where dairy dreams come true: The buttermilk shake's tangy base is enhanced with a deluge of clover-vanilla ice cream, a combination that evokes a delicate crème faintly infused with barely bitter molasses.... Order a sandwich from the counter at Bell Street Farm in Los Alamos, near the Santa Ynez wine region, then enjoy it on the sunny back patio. Two options: crusty olive-bread tartine smeared with goat cheese and rotisserie pork tucked into crispy-edged, soft-centered ciabatta.... Make like chef Masaharu Morimoto and stop by L.A.'s Chinchikurin for okonomiyaki. The Japanese staple is a hot savory pancake stacked with noodles, meat and a sweet sauce. "From the technique to the taste to the Hiroshima dialect spoken by staff, it's authentic in every way," Morimoto says.

The Fort, in Morrison, is so Old West, you'll half expect a gunfight to break out, and the menu's a paean to bygone times, too. The showstopping appetizer: roasted bison-marrow bones, or "prairie butter." Scoop it, smear it onto crostini then douse it all with green jalapeño sauce.... At Pueblo's Mauro Farms & Bakery, you'll find a rugelach-like Slovenian bread called potica, a sweet dough spread with fillings like walnut paste or cream cheese, then rolled into a spiral, like a cinnamon bun's rustic cousin.

The Place Restaurant in Guilford is big on natural charm: Diners perch outside on tree stumps. The food is equally simple, yet extraordinary: meaty lobsters, wine-fragrant mussels and corn charred over an 18-foot fire pit.... The menu at Traveler Restaurant, a warm, woody haven in Union, features tempting diner fare—hot chocolate crowned with whipped cream, bacony grilled cheese, crispy sweet-potato fries—made even more delicious by the postmeal treat: your choice of a free book from the shelves lining almost every wall.