Bluebird Bistro, Kansas City, Missouri
I did not eat there but my crew did and loved the "clean" flavors and organic ingredients (crew recommendation).
Big Truck Tacos, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Owned by 2 mad genius ladies -- and I do mean mad -- who make some of the best tacos I've ever eaten. Bison Peccadillo, beer-can chicken, fried avocado and even tongue! There are trucks, but the brick and mortar place is there too.
Aviones in Barranquitasm, Puerto Rico
Never tried but recommended by several peeps -- antique planes with dining rooms inside them on a mountain. Nuff freakin' said.
Sprouts Grocery, Phoenix, Arizona
Their version of Wild Oats or Whole Foods. Great stuff in prepared or made to order sections. Nice staff.
Takashi, Salt Lake City, Utah
Amazing sushi, amazing skills behind the sushi bar. In fact, sit at the sushi bar and watch in awe. Screw the trendies and their table seating. Toro Tartare with caviar and truffle oil -- EPIC WIN.
Caliente, Richmond, Virginia
Yes we did our challenge there, but aside from the ass-melting wings, their brunch is SOLID. Go, get tipsy and eat eggs.
Cafe in the Cleveland Playhouse, Cleveland, Ohio
Three great theatres in a beautiful building -- but their food is top flight. Get the Greek- inspired burger with a Great Lakes beer and thank me later.
Hapa Sushi, Boulder, Colorado
Only other place I had time to eat at in Boulder -- so they're my default 4th pick. Ignore the silly menu descriptions of the rolls and in my opinion the overly rich cream- cheese- laden stuff. The Ruby Red Roll is a solid choice as is the sunamono. Don't go when they turn the back area into a club.
Corner Wine Shop, San Diego, California
One of the first chefs who taught me anything was Lincoln Williams. He now works at the 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro (897 South Coast Hwy in Encinitas). Eat there now! Great wine and if Linc is in the kitchen, you will be happy. Guaranteed.
Elvira's, Tucson, Arizona
This place, formerly in Nogales, Mexico, just came across the border to the beautiful town of Tubac (just outside Tucson), where they will astound you with varieties of mole and chilies. My friend Sacha, a Tucson native, calls this the best Mexican in the state.
Boulevard Bread, Capi's and Trio's and Loca Luna, Little Rock, Arkansas
Sadly our Little Rock shoot was very brief, as such I didn't get to try many other restaurants - however I got these recommendations from Jennings Osborne's incredibly lovely and cool daughter, and Little Rock resident Breezy - Her words: "Boulevard Bread, Capi's, Trio's and Loca Luna are my faves!!"
The White Spot Cafe, Anchorage, Alaska
My Anchorage makeup artist Amber recommended The White Spot Cafe. In particular, "their double stacked, fried Halibut sandwich which is to die for." It's also one of the oldest restaurants in the whole state.
Sidecar, Brooklyn, New York
Opened by the brothers DeCoursy (of Blue Ribbon Bakery and O'Connors), this place has phenomenal food served until 4 a.m., signature drinks and what some people call the best fried chicken in NYC. I love the Brandade and the Banh Di (their version of the Vietnamese sandwich).
Alchemy, Brooklyn, New York
Seven words: white chocolate and sweet pea creme brulee. Plus 11 bucks gets you a great burger with fries, a small salad AND a beer!
Franny's, Brooklyn, New York
My friend John is the chef here. He's taken his haute roots from Per Se and created amazing pizzas, pastas and house-cured meats. The eggs and spicy pickles and the prosciutto are not to be missed. Ask your server anything -- these guys are among the best in the city.
Char No. 4, Brooklyn, New York
The best bourbon selection ANYWHERE plus great pork nuggets, cheese curds, pulled pork sandwiches and BLTs. All meats are house-cured, and they have great sides like warm baby beets with bleu cheese and pecans.
Press 195, Brooklyn, New York
A phenomenal sandwich place that recently remodeled and came back with a vengeance with Belgian frites, homemade lemonade, a full bar and salads, plus their famous maple- syrup pesto.
G&M Crabcakes, Baltimore, Maryland
I found out about this one from one of my most reliable sources: LOCALS, bellboys, busboys and parking attendants. It's located in Linthicum, just outside Baltimore, but they even ship their crabcakes nationwide. The crabcakes are like quiche with crab in it.
Faidley's Crabcakes, Baltimore, Maryland
I have to admit, I know about this place from watching HBO's "The Wire". Both the good and the bad -- both McNulty and Omar -- ate these cakes. And for me, that's all I needed to know. Best advice: go early. They get crowded, and their hours are unusual.
Old Ebbitt Grill, Washington, DC
Great for late night bites, half-priced oysters and a dining room that screams history.
The Eastern Market, Washington, DC
This historic market offers amazing softshell crab sandwiches and crafts for about a zillion square miles. It's recovering from a fire a couple of years back but is still awesome.
TenPenh, Washington, DC
This upscale, Southeast-Asian-inspired restaurant is sexy, expensive and totally worth it. The address is 10 Pennsylvania Ave -- hence the name.
Basque Festival, Boise, Idaho
We found this by accident, and I fantasize about this street food at least once a week.
High Cotton, Charleston, South Carolina
The flagship of the Maverick restaurant group. Ordinarily, any corporately owned place makes me cringe, but High Cotton gets it right -- from decor to grits. Awesome.
Taco Boy, Charleston, South Carolina
Taco Boy's newest location in downtown Charleston (the other is on Folly Beach) still packs enormous flavor. Great drinks and a huge patio with both food and drink service -- plus free fake tattoos!
Giovanni's Shrimp Truck, Kahuku, Oahu, Hawaii
There are a ton of places on the North Shore, but Kahuku has the sweet corn and fresh shrimp that are the stuff of legend. While Opal has a huge following, Giovanni's is the oldest truck, and the garlic shrimp and spicy shrimp are not to be missed.
Shiao Lan Kung, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Specializing in stir-fries, steamed meats, poultry and seafood, Shiao Lan serves up amazing eats in the heart of Chinatown.
Lolita, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
A fun BYOB place with a distinct South American feel to its dishes. Seating is tight so try to avoid the 2-tops in the back. Instead, get a table by the wall to the left as you enter.
Tu Lan, San Francisco, California
Basic, no frills, awesome Vietnamese that has been sampled by everyone from me to Julia Child. Delicious.
Dain's Place, Durham, North Carolina
Dain's was featured in our "Doughman Challenge" episode. Dain is the perfect bar owner: interested but not too in-your-face with a great menu of food that is just a slight cut above typical bar fare. Great beers, great tater tots and great service.
Zankou Chicken, Los Angeles, California
So Amazing. Middle Eastern fare: the chicken shawarma platter is just perfect. Get extra garlic sauce and extra meat. Perfectly made pita, hummus and tahini. Flavorful, moist roasted chicken straight from the rotisserie.
Mayflower, San Jose, California
Hidden at the back of the Milpitas Mall, delicious dim sum served from carts and times finished up right at your table. Gets crowded, so come early -- and hungry. Get the banana-leaf-wrapped chicken and any of the har gow and fried dumplings.
Ted Drewes Custard, St. Louis, Missouri
For almost 80 years, Ted Drewes Custard has been warming the hearts and freezing the brains of St. Louis natives. The specialty of the house is the "concrete" -- a combination of dozens of toppings that are blended with the custard until it is so thick it will not fall out of a cup that is turned upside down. Get a pumpkin pie concrete and watch the world fall into place. Delicious, historic, and perfect for a summer day in the Gateway City.
The Angus Barn, Raleigh, North Carolina
Come hungry and come often. My cousin, Keith, who went to UNC, took me there with his family. Just amazing ribs, steaks, phenomenal appetizers and desserts, plus the dining room is cozy despite its vast size. Great olives and cheeses in waiting area where you wait in plush, wing-back chairs.
Isle's Bun and Coffee Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Cinnamon rolls the size of a shot put, and icing so perfectly decadent that some have said it was secreted by a divine being. Delish!