Calling all gourmets of the state: You don’t have to leave the country to enjoy innovative and delicious simple cuisine. In fact, the United States is home to dozens of incredible food cities complete with hidden gems, much-vaunted hotspots, and everything in between. From major metropolises like New York City and San Francisco to unexpected (though equally cool) choices like Greenville, South Carolina, and Tucson, Arizona, here are 10 of the best foodie destinations across America. Get ready to dig and explore.
New York City, New York
New York City represents a melting pot of cultures, meaning you can enjoy any type of cuisine within its 300 square mile radius, whether it’s authentic dim sum at Shanghai Joe’s in Chinatown or delicious bagels and dips plus sandwiches from stacked with meat. from the city’s dozens of Jewish eateries like Katz’s. Don’t limit yourself to Manhattan either: Feast your way through the five boroughs, including stops in Astoria and Jackson Heights (in Queens) for authentic Greek and Himalayan fare, respectively. Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood is home to a number of Polish bakeries like Syrena, while Arthur Avenue (in the Bronx) and Staten Island offer some of the city’s best Italian food. What’s more, the Big Apple boasts over 70 Michelin-starred restaurants, ranging from gourmet eateries like Le Bernardin to more low-key (and still delicious) establishments like Jeju Noodle Bar. Don’t get caught up in all things Michelin, though—some of the best food can be found in the most unexpected places ($1 pizza, anyone?).
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans’ food offerings are as diverse as its cultural influences from Europe, the Caribbean and Africa. With that in mind, it’s only fitting that The Big Easy has big flavor. Delicious items here include po’boys (Sammy’s is a local favorite), jambalaya (the one at Mother’s is *chef’s kiss*), gumbo (dig into the aptly named Gumbo shop), lobster etouffee (check out Creole House), and muffuletta (get yours at Verti Marte, which is open 24/7) — all best paired with live jazz, of course. Be sure to save room for the powdered sugar-covered beignets at Cafe Du Monde (yes, there will be a line, but yes, it’s worth it), and wash it all down with NOLA’s most iconic cocktail, the Sazerac, at the Sazerac Bar at The The Roosevelt Hotel.
Chicagoans are passionate about their deep dish pizzas and their unique ketchup-free hot dogs. The former and latter are best enjoyed at Windy City staples Pequod’s and Jimmy’s Red Hots, respectively. Chicago also boasts over 50 James Beard Award winners and 20 Michelin-starred restaurants, including the world-renowned Alinea, best known for its creative multi-course tasting menus. New additions to the food scene here include the 24,000-square-foot Winery Chicago (part winery, part restaurant, and part bar and event space) and the 17,000-square-foot Kindling, a show kitchen with live fire. by James. Beard Award winner Jonathon Sawyer.
San Francisco, California
Sure, San Francisco may be best known for its innovative tech scene, but its culinary offerings are just as impressive. City by the Bay has been named the most restaurant-dense city in the country. Here, diners can enjoy dozens of Michelin-starred meals at popular restaurants such as Atelier Crenn (where haute French cuisine is served in a gorgeous space), Mister Jiu’s (which features contemporary Chinese-American food) and Lazy Bear (which bills itself as a “modern American diner). Alternatively, for something more casual, head to the Ferry Building Market, which is filled with local food vendors like Acme Bread Company, Dandelion Chocolate, El Porteño Empanadas, Donut Farm and Hog Island Oyster Company. Finally, no trip to San Fran is complete without sampling the sourdough (both Josey Baker Bread and Boudin Bakery are some of the best in town) and Mission burritos (locals and travelers alike love Taqueria Cancun)
As America’s most diverse city, it’s no surprise that Houston made our list of the best US cities for food. The Bayou City offers something for every taste. As such, options abound, from Viet-Cajn fusion at Crawfish & Noodles to Southeast Asian-Latin American cuisine at Hawker Street Food Bar, which can be found in the Post Market. Speaking of the Post, this international food magnum opus features fantastic food from renowned chefs. Some of our favorites include ChópnBlok for its West African food and East Side King, which serves Japanese street food like pork buns and beetroot home fries. We’d also be remiss not to highlight Houston’s growing food truck scene, including the award-winning Coreanos, where diners can enjoy Korean-Mexican fusion like Korean barbeque tacos.
Tucson was the first US city to be designated a UNESCO City of Gastronomy in 2015. Today, the destination continues to amaze culinary connoisseurs with its distinctive local and Mexican offerings that date back thousands of years. The best Tucson restaurants incorporate locally sourced ingredients into their drinks and dishes. With that in mind, prickly daisies are a staple here, as are nopals (edible cacti). Tucson’s vibrant downtown district has over 85 bars and restaurants, including Bata (which offers a mostly vegetarian-focused menu—90 percent of which is sourced within 400 miles of the restaurant) and Boca. Run by James Beard finalist Maria Mazon, Boca is famous for its delicious tacos and salsa flights. An additional 13 new restaurants will call Tucson home in 2023, including the all-new Blue Front, where menu highlights include orange wines, creative cocktails, made-from-scratch pies and deviled eggs.
This Midwestern city has a vastly underrated, albeit eclectic, food scene fueled by nearby farms, local producers and up-and-coming chefs. Additionally, it’s safe to say that Cleveland’s culinary scene pays homage to the over 100 different ethnicities that make up the city. To enjoy Cleveland’s best eats, head straight to West Side Market, an indoor-outdoor market that offers something for everyone. Local vendors include Orale! Contemporary Mexican Cuisine, Pierogi Palace, Frank’s Bratwurst, Teresa’s Bakery and Crepes de Luxe. Then, set aside an afternoon to kick off your food tour of the city, including dim sum at AsiaTown and pierogies at Slavic Village. The Land also has an incredible selection of black-owned and black-led restaurants like Pearl’s Kitchen for upscale comfort food, Yonder for hearty brunch, and Cleveland Cold Brew for coffee and pastries. Don’t miss some of the city’s newest spots like Cordelia (which serves comfort food with a Midwestern twist and nostalgia) and The Judith, a cozy Parisian-inspired café.
Asheville, North Carolina
Nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Asheville is easily among the best foodie cities in the US due to its ever-evolving culinary scene. The city’s over 120 restaurants each offer something special. Don’t miss James Beard Award-winning restaurant Chai Pani, which serves delicious Indian street food like chicken tikka rolls, crispy pakoras and butter chicken in a colorful space. Cúrate, another James Beard Award winner worth a visit, is a trendy restaurant housed in a 1927-era bus depot that serves Spanish-flavored tapas. A trip to North Carolina isn’t complete without some good BBQ. Enter Buxton Hall Barbecue: This James Beard Award-winning establishment—best known for its pulled pork—uses locally sourced pigs that are butchered in-house and smoked for hours.
While Louisville is best known for its bourbon, you won’t want to sleep on its exciting food scene. With more than 2,500 restaurants plus several award-winning chefs, Louisville is sure to please food and beverage enthusiasts. You shouldn’t leave town without hitting the Urban Bourbon Trail, which highlights Louisville’s best bourbon bars and restaurants — over 40 of them, to be exact. While it can be tricky to get to the entire trail, must-sees include Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar, Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen, and Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar. Finally, you can’t leave Louisville without trying the city’s signature dish, the Hot Brown. This delicious open-faced sandwich—which features turkey, bacon, tomatoes and Mornay sauce smothered on Texas toast—dates back to the 1920s when it was first invented at the Brown Hotel.
Greenville, South Carolina
In recent years, Greenville has reinvented itself from a quiet cotton mill town to a vibrant city full of unique culinary offerings that rival larger nearby places like Charlotte and Asheville. Here you’ll find hundreds of locally owned restaurants, including Camp (which offers a quirky menu with unique dishes like Thai-inspired calamari and lamb smothered in curry cream) and Coral. Feast on fresh seafood at the new Great Jones before grabbing an afternoon date at Methodical Coffee. Scoundrel — a fancy French bra headlined by acclaimed chef and Greenville native Joe Cash — is the city’s newest haunt. Other must-sees include farm-to-table favorite Topsoil Kitchen & Market (run by 2020 James Beard Award semifinalist Adam Cooke) and Mexican restaurant Comal 864 (owned and operated by Dayna Lee-Márquez, an Award semifinalist James Beard 2023. ).
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