Even superstar chef Thomas Keller is a fan of the West Coast chain In-N-Out—and with good reason. The cooked-to-order burgers are made from Harris Ranch beef and served with hand-cut fries. For a messier, more indulgent experience, order your burger "animal style" for extra sauce and chopped grilled onions.
At Lillie's Q in Chicago, chef Charlie McKenna, who has won big on the competitive barbecue circuit, makes five kinds of sauces to go with his meat. These baby back ribs, rubbed with a secret "Carolina dirt" spice rub, are his signature.
The Doughnut Vault started selling big, fresh doughnuts out of a charming Chicago storefront in the spring of 2011, and lines continue from early morning until the handful of flavors sell out. Outside, there's a big communal table for eating old-fashioned, chocolate-glazed and pistachio-covered rings, with $1 cups of coffee.
Chicago quick-service joint Crisp turns out six versions of Korean fried chicken. Seoul Sassy birds are dipped in a garlic-ginger-soy blend, dusted with flour and then double-fried for a mysteriously greaseless finish. The Plain Jane's golden, almost translucent coating is the hallmark of the genre.
The 12-foot-tall fiberglass hot dog couple on the roof of Chicago's Superdawg is an homage to founders Maurie and Flaurie Berman, high school sweethearts who married in 1947. The all-beef hot dogs come on a heap of crinkle-cut fries.
After winning a local bake-off, Allison Kave launched First Prize Pies in Brooklyn with flavors like s'mores. Kave now sells her pies online and at her mother's chocolate stand Roni-Sue's in NYC's Essex Street Market.