Photo: Little Outdoor Giants

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North Carolina
Instead of serving the state's signature hand-chopped pork and crunchy coleslaw separately, King's Restaurant in Kinston stuffs them both between two halves of a giant hush puppy. As chef Vivian Howard of nearby restaurant Chef & the Farmer puts it, "It ain't healthy, but it ain't forgettable, either...." If you have the good fortune of being near Flat Rock in autumn, treat yourself to fresh-from-the-fryer apple cider doughnuts at Sky Top Orchard. They get a very mild tang from the cider, but more important, they're dusted with sparkling cinnamon-sugar and chewy in the best way.

North Dakota
Borscht—the stick-to-your-ribs, beet-based soup often adorned with sour cream, and the lifeblood of Catskills humorists—pops up on menus throughout the Dakotas, and the 37-year-old ukrainian cultural institute in Dickinson serves the real deal during its festival every July. For a year-round substitute, head to nearby, perpetually packed Jack's Family Restaurant.

Checkered floors, red vinyl booths, a retro counter, a pouting Elvis on the wall: Tommy's Diner (above) in Columbus ticks every box on the nostalgia checklist. But Americana isn't the only thing they're serving up—while you can order the standard hot cakes or a just-right classic burger, Tommy's Mediterranean flavors are where it's at. The chicken gyro is a bounty of grilled meat and tangy tzatziki barely contained by its pita, and the bright, hearty chicken lemon rice soup is like Grandma's classic cure-all with the volume turned way up.