Image: Super Pan Latino Sandwich Shop
Garnish Photography  /  Courtesy of Green Olive Media
In Atlanta, Hector Santiago runs Super Pan Latino Sandwich Shop, where he turns out such combinations as smoked pork belly with tamarind sauce on a steamed coconut bun, and Mexican tuna with shaved-iceberg salad on focaccia.
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updated 7/11/2011 9:08:32 AM ET 2011-07-11T13:08:32

When Chef Nick Curtin first arrived in New York, he stumbled upon a West Village restaurant disguised as a town house. He had discovered tapas heaven — otherwise known as Alta restaurant — and has returned many times for the sangria and bacon-wrapped dates.

Slideshow: Chefs' favorite U.S. restaurants

Everyone wants to know where to eat, but there’s no need to wander any further. Curtin is one of the 51 talented chefs who’ve clued us in — revealing favorite local haunts in each state and D.C. Their picks reflect the remarkable ethnic and cultural range of American cooking today. Looking for the best kimchi-fried-egg hot dog in Ohio? It’s here. How about beef-cheek bourguignonne in Oregon? We’ve got you covered.

Many of the chefs’ recommendations share a humble, hearty, no-fuss appeal. After all, the last thing a chef wants — after spending eight hours a day arranging microgreens on sea bass — is more haute cuisine. In Washington, for instance, chef Matt Dillon (of Sitka & Spruce) can’t get enough of the Japanese street snack takoyaki at Maneki, Seattle’s longest-running restaurant. “They’re like little donut holes filled with diced baby octopus, plus a bottom layer of barbecue sauce and a top layer of bonito flakes,” he says.

Personal service can also make the difference. Texas chef Bryan Caswell of Reef, in Houston, loves the atmosphere at the Indian-Pakistani restaurant Himalaya, where the chef, Kaiser Lashkari, provides personal suggestions to patrons, then takes their orders and cooks. “[Lashkari] makes a goat biryani that truly blows my mind.”

These chefs need not only mind-blowing food, but a restaurant that keeps up —literally — and food trucks are often just the convenient thing. In Boulder, Colo., chef Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson (Frasca Food & Wine) refuels at Comida, a hot-pink vending truck that whips up Mexican street food such as braised beef short ribs and sweet potato mash.

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