From huge metropolises bubbling with diversity to tinier, quainter towns marinated with a delicious sense of tradition, foodie culture is up and about all across the United States. Whatever your palette or budget, there’s an area out there full of delectable one-of-a-kind dishes to satisfy that rumbling belly of yours for sure.
All too many cities all across the nation are boiling with massive arrays of restaurant districts and eating boutiques. From diverse food trucks sprinkled all over the West Coast, to deep-rooted food traditions in the Deep South, or farm-fresh produce and freshly-caught seafood from the mighty Atlantic Ocean, America the Beautiful offers a variety of hard-to-resist food options that will satisfy the appetite of even the most adventurous eater. Whether you’re seeking sweet, spicy, salty, sour, bitter, or something in the middle, there’s a U.S. city out there for you to dig deep into. Here are ten cities that should be on the destination bucket list for foodies.
10 Best U.S. Cities for Foodies
1. Boston, Massachusetts
Sure, Boston may be associated with history, especially when it comes to dining, where ‘old school’ and often times bland dishes such as baked beans, brown bread, or clam chowder dominated dinner tables for centuries. Still, “Beantown,” as it is commonly known as, boasts some of the best bartenders in the country, not to mention cheap brewery tours, tons of local farm vendors offering fresh veggies, cheeses, and ciders, as well as food festivals and fairs galore. There’s the Copley Square Farmers Market, which is a favorite amongst locals and visitors alike, and more luxurious options such as Alden & Harlow in Harvard Square, which does the gastropub trend proud with a 'secret' burger that continues to usher in packed crowds.
There are also loads of spaces in Downtown Crossing that put classic New England spins on American brasserie all day long. Plus, most of city chefs have spent years studying under B-town’s most notable cooks, and recently, have begun to open up their own joints, providing even more upscale eats with laid back vibes for travelers. Chow down on everything from green curry mussels to fish and chips. You won’t be sorry.
2. Seattle, Washington
Seattle is known for its coffee, beer, top-notch pastries, friendly neighborhood cafes, and, of course, Pike Place, every foodie’s dream, but the Emerald City also happens to be overflowing with a bunch of seafood hubs, farmers markets, wine shops, and all too many top chefs. With roughly 251 restaurants per 100,000 residents, including Cafe Campagne, a local favorite, or Brimmer & Heeltap, which was voted best new restaurant in a 2014 Seattle magazine poll, the city shines with both local ingredients and innovation when it comes to its food, especially with James Beard Award nominee Renee Erickson’s “soul-cleansing” oysters at The Walrus and the Carpenter, or the family-style Italian Sunday dinners at Ethan Stowell’s Tavolàta, which is another one of Seattle's James Beard Award nominees.
3. San Francisco, California
With over forty Michelin-starred restaurants in and around the city, including four that earned the coveted three-star rating in 2015, foodies can find more than fine dining on every street corner in this Northern California city. Let’s just say that SF is a food haven, boasting the most restaurants per capita of any city, as well as a highly diverse and accessible dining scene. There are gourmet spots including Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, Italian cooking at its best at Flour + Water, not to mention a boatload of options at Off the Grid for food-truck connoisseurs -- with its weekly circling of food wagons that venture through different parts of town. The city is also well known for its delicious Mexican food, such as local favorites like La Taqueria and La Torta Gorda, or Asian-inspired hotspots such as Yummy Yummy or Namu Gaji.
It really is the incredible quality of the ingredients that makes Bay Area restaurants shine, especially when it comes to the pastry scene, as the city offers some of the nation’s best breads and baking as well. Endless lines can be found at Tartine, B Patissereie, or 20th Century Café. There’s also Craftsman and Wolves, home of the famous "The Devil Inside," a muffin with a soft boiled egg at its center. Hungry, yet?
4. New Orleans, Louisiana
If you’re looking for a city with rich food traditions, NOLA’s the place to go. Known for its Cajun and Creole cooking, the city itself is literally obsessed with food—and brimming with the finest cuisines you can imagine. From gumbo to crawfish boils, to red beans, dirty rice, heavenly beignets, Po’boys, oysters, and, of course, jambalaya, the Crescent City is constantly redefining its local flavors.
Try out comfort foods at Eat and Parkway Bakery and Tavern, or some classic Creole cuisine at Meson 923 or Dooky Chase’s Restaurant. Searching for good gumbo? Try Mr B’s or The Old Coffeepot Restaurant in the French Quarter. Cuisine-wise, the entire city is a melting pot of delicious choices: French, West African, and numerous other cooking styles all featuring a strong emphasis on perfecting seafood. The possibilities for pure pleasure and endless indulgence are endless.
5. Charleston, South Carolina
This Southern city is a perfect vacation for any foodie, as you won’t find a more perfect blend of down-home, Southern-inspired, locally-sourced eats anywhere else. The city may small, in comparison to urban jungles like L.A. or The Big Apple, but it boasts restaurant creativity and diversity that rivals much larger cities, with options such as The Ordinary, where local oysters are shucked inside a former bank vault, or Xiao Bao Biscuit and the trendsetting Husk. Nab a “Nasty Biscuit” at Hominy Grill or a pastrami sandwich at Butcher & Bee and enjoy the view of historic waterfronts oozing with Civil War charm while you chow down on some of the best bites ever.
6. Oakland, California & Napa Valley, California
In addition to its neighbor across the bay, Northern California also has several other cities loaded with some of the nation’s best restaurants. Oakland, for example, offers jewels such as Camino, a rustic eatery with a kitchen centered around a massive wood-fired oven, and Hopscotch, a riff on a diner that serves American food with Japanese influences. In Napa Valley, there’s an entire region of spectacular vineyards and wineries to check out. Why not pair some of the best wines in the world with delicious eats at spots such as Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, which basically kicked off the food revolution. There’s also The Goose and Gander, which has a pub-like interior with fresh creative fare, or The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, which is home to Christopher Kostow’s expertly prepared contemporary California cuisine. Even go for something more classic, such as the light as air English muffins at Model Bakery. Heaven awaits!
7. New York City, New York
It’s the largest city in the U.S. and has got an astronomical variety of restaurants, about 50,000 to be exact! In 2015 alone, the Big Apple was home to over seventy Michelin starred restaurants, including six eateries with the coveted three-star rating. Unsurprisingly, it frequently falls at number one on both readers’ and critics’ best foodie lists, boasting a mecca of culinary experts as well as upstart chefs prepping some of the best of the best dishes around.
From tiny mom-and-pop kitchens to swanky upscale dining like Daniel or Le Bernardin, a four-star restaurant with top notch seafood, foodies have plenty to enjoy. Make sure to check out Smorgasburg, a weekly gathering of over a hundred food trucks and vendors, where chefs try out their latest food concepts.
8. Portland, Oregon
With more restaurants per capita than NYC, as well as a thriving food truck scene, P-Town has rightfully earned a reputation for farm-to-table dining and well-crafted microbrews-- it’s a hub for craft beer, boasting over local fifty breweries! Plus, Portlanders are well known for being super health-conscious, allowing the city to offer delightful options such as Urban Farmer or Voodoo Doughnuts, made famous for their bacon-topped maple bars, funky bubblegum donuts, or sinfully indulgent “voodoo dolls,” a raised yeast doughnut filled with raspberry jelly topped with chocolate frosting and a pretzel stake. What’s more is that along with a sampling of over two hundred food trucks, Rip City is home to numerous stellar wineries, world-class chefs, and funky small-town menus—all at fabulous small-town prices!
9. Portland, Maine
A sophisticated city with plenty of sophisticated cuisine, this Maine coastal town is a foodie favorite. Local cuisine is king in the Forest City, with innovative spots such as Vinland Restaurant, which serves only local ingredients, as well as some of the best just-caught seafood at Harbor Fish Market, or fresh breads and buns. You’ll also easily come across classics such as tasty New England clam chowder and fresh lobster rolls, not to mention an overload of farmers markets and CSAs with locally raised livestock and homegrown produce. It’s even home to one of the best restaurants in the northeast, Fore Street, which helped kick off the city’s food revolution almost two decades ago with its daily changing menu of locally sourced items prepared in a wood-burning oven.
10. Providence, Rhode Island
It’s home of the renowned Johnson & Wales culinary arts program and a surprising foodie paradise. And though this coastal city is best known for its clear-broth clam chowder, it’s also full of diversity in terms of cuisines. East Side Pockets offers Middle Eastern faves, while Apsara Restaurant provides affordable Asian eats. Los Andes boasts top notch Bolivian and Peruvian food, and if you’re craving Italian, Federal Hill is the perfect neighborhood to go. Plus, it’s got more donut shops per capita than any city in the U.S., and some of the best hand made fresh lobster ravioli you’ll ever find. Go ahead, let loose, and get your grub on.
This article was written by Pamela Chan.