Food and travel are intrinsically linked to each other. And fortunately, in recent times it seems that every city and town in America has at least one restaurant that’s cranking out some phenomenal dishes. However, not all cities are made the same, some seem to have a culinary power that can’t be matched anywhere else in the country (or even the world). The 10 cities on this list are exciting and delicious destinations known for their outstanding food. If you consider yourself a foodie, make sure to add these destinations to your must-visit list.
Atlanta is a city steeped in history, both good and bad. From the Civil War to Jim Crow, Atlanta has been at the heart of oppression and disenfranchisement. But the city has also received a new wave of residents looking to turn the Big Peach into a southern metropolis of progressive hospitality. A booming film industry, an emerging tourism sector, and a truly divine culinary scene have helped make Atlanta one of the most desirable cities in America.
Atlanta’s culinary roots lie in southern comfort cooking and soul food. The Busy Bee is a testament to this. Founded by Black owners in 1947 (when the city was still segregated), The Busy Bee still serves up delicious comfort food and has seen famous faces like Martin Luther King Jr. and Barak Obama, and they’ve even been featured on the Travel Channel. But the city’s new, younger populous has brought a more intercontinental flare to southern food. Bon Ton is an eatery that’s getting everyone’s attention right now. The chefs are creating a Viet-cajun menu complete with tempura fried softshell crab served alongside jasmine rice, blackened catfish Banh-Mi sandwiches, and more. In Atlanta, you can dine on both tradition and transition.
New York City
New York City is obviously a must-visit for any foodie because the city, quite simply, has it all. From New York-style pizza, like John’s of Bleeker Street; to scrumptious vegan places, like the queer-owned Red Bamboo near NYU; to upscale dining helmed by world-famous chefs, like Ko by Momofuku; and many, many more.
If you love food, you’ll only have one problem when visiting New York City: You’ll never be able to eat everything you want in just one visit! From dim sum in Chinatown to Zabar’s on the Upper West Side, stunning and iconic meals are literally around every corner. If planning a trip, it would be wise to research a few restaurants before visiting. And after your meal, don’t forget to head over to the famous Serendipity 3 for dessert, which will reopen after renovations during the summer of 2021.
There are two types of restaurants in Chicago, those that are world-famous and those that are famous with the locals. Everyone knows about Chicago hot dogs, and Superdawg Drive-In is one of the city’s best. The restaurant was even featured on the Food Network. For Chicago-style pizza, Gino’s East is one of the city’s most famous. In fact, they’re so popular that they even do nationwide shipping.
Then, there are the places that are popular with the locals. Ann Sather, located in the city’s trendy Lincoln Park neighborhood, is a top brunch spot for Chicago residents. Sather has three locations throughout the northside of town, and they’re known for their gooey, soft cinnamon rolls, baked fresh right at the restaurant. The establishment also pays homage to its European roots by serving up Swedish pancakes with lingonberries and Swedish potato sausage.
New Orleans is the crossroads of the culinary world. The city is known for its southern creole classics like jambalaya, gumbo, po boys, shrimp and grits, fried gator, and more. A few excellent options for classic NOLA cuisine are Gallier’s, Guy’s Po Boys, and Cafe Amelie. And let’s not forget the famous Cafe Du Monde, known for their delicious beignets and robust coffee and chicory blend.
New Orleans is also being filled with new restaurants serving food from all over the world. LUVI is creating some wonderful Chinese and Japanese dishes, Addis Nola is bringing award-winning Ethiopian food to the Crescent City, and Herbsaint is keeping Lousiana’s French heritage alive with stunning modern French cuisine. New Orleans is a gorgeous southern city filled with world-class dining.
Where to begin with LA? Everyone knows it has phenomenal Asian and Mexican food, thanks to the large populations of both groups within the city. Guerrilla Tacos near downtown is one of the city’s top spots for tacos, and is home to both traditional fare, as well as modern interpretations, like mushroom tacos. And don’t forget to try their tres leches for dessert. For Asian food, Marugame Monzo is considered one of the best places for Japanese food in the city, serving up scrumptious udon that’s prepared from housemade noodles!
But LA’s food scene goes far beyond just Asian and Mexican food. Places like The Griddle are serving up phenomenal breakfasts, with celebrities lining up regularly to have their photos taken with the plate-sized pancakes. And did you know that Los Angeles is the donut capital of America? The City of Angeles has the most donut shops anywhere in the country, and the famous Randy’s Donuts, with its giant house-sized donut logo, even served as the inspiration for “Lard Lad’s Donuts” in The Simpsons.
Seattle’s location makes it a phenomenal food city. Sitting on the Puget Sound, directly off the coast of the Pacific Ocean, the entire region is brimming with some of the freshest seafood on the planet. Add the endlessly misty weather and fertile soil, and you have a prime location for growing outstanding produce. Put them together and you wind up with Seattle’s booming farm-to-table dining scene, or more precisely, sea-to-table dining. Duke’s Seafood is a popular local chain, and Elliot’s Oyster House and The Walrus and the Carpenter are both highly regarded local favorites.
For a very special night, take a ferry over to Bainbridge Island and dine at Hitchcock. The restaurant is known for their artisan burgers, for hosting rotating pop-up restaurants, and for its decedent bakeshop that serves up delights such as miso peanut butter cookies, homemade sourdough bread, blueberry pie, and more, all using fresh and local ingredients from the Pacific Northwest.
Baltimore may be known as Charm City, but its true delights are its wide-ranging culinary traditions. Resting just off the Atlantic Ocean, Baltimore is known for its wonderful seafood, but the region also has a history of unique dishes. Scrapple is a traditional dish in the Mid-Atlantic states and is essentially a pork loaf seasoned with spices. It was once mocked as something only cooked by moms at home, but as younger generations embrace local culinary traditions, the dish has seen newfound fame. The Blue Moon Cafe serves up the classic to rave reviews. Another of their house specialties is the Maryland crab cake benedict, combing the region’s top-tier crab with a breakfast classic.
Duff Goldman, famous for Food Network’s Ace of Cakes, is also based in Baltimore. His cake studio, Charm City Cakes serves up some delicious confections, and, for anyone wanting to learn from the master, they even offer classes. For another sweet treat, try WAFFIE, which has been named one of the 100 Best Places to Eat in the USA by Yelp. They do made-to-order waffles topped with everything from strawberry shortcake to s’mores.
Thirty years ago, Las Vegas was known for smoke-filled casinos, prostitution, and tacky all-you-can-eat buffets. It’s incredible how far the City of Sin has come since then. Nowadays, each resort clamors to attract top chefs to open restaurants within their hotels. Even some of the buffets, like the Bacchanal Buffet at Ceasars Palace, are now award-winning.
Las Vegas is also renowned for some truly innovative and unique dining options. The Unknown Bar at The Palms was decorated by famed artist Damien Hirst, and at the center of the lounge sits an actual tiger shark, perfectly preserved in formaldehyde. And don’t miss BLACKOUT, a restaurant that seeks to heighten your sense of taste and smell by taking away the sense of sight. That’s right, at BLACKOUT, you dine completely in the dark. Or, for the best view in all of Vegas, head to the top of the 800 ft. Stratosphere hotel to dine at Top of the World. And no, this isn’t just a tourist trap. Top of the World regularly receives prestigious awards for both its food and wine.
Portland has a reputation for being weird and wonderful, and the city’s food scene reflects that perfectly. The best example of this is Voodoo Doughnut. Here, they top doughnuts with everything from butterfingers, to Oreos, bubblegum, and even bacon. It’s no wonder why the joint is regularly featured on TV and in magazines.
Even Portland’s upscale eateries embrace the weird and wonderful. Canard is a highly-regarded establishment that’s been wowing diners with high-quality meals that all come with a twist: pancakes topped with duck eggs and tabasco sauce, fried chicken wings served with truffle honey mustard, and for dessert, ice cream served with pine nut better. For a truly memorable dining experience, Portland is the place to go.
Austin, Texas has long been known for its live music scene and excellent barbeque. Franklin Barbeque and Terry Black’s BBQ are two phenomenal choices for those looking to dive into Austin’s culinary history.
With Austin’s growing population and the arrival of a large creative scene, Austin’s dining landscape has drastically changed. Now, there are tons of outstanding options in all types of cuisines. Barley Swine is taking the farm-to-table concept to a whole new level by only using hyper-local ingredients to create a menu that changes daily, depending on what the farmers bring in. And don’t miss local mainstay, Odd Duck, serving up weekend brunches consisting of delights like cast iron dutch babies, scallop and goat cheese grits, and more. For dinner, the eatery prepares dishes like fried quail and homemade cornbread. Austin is truly a city for anyone who loves to feast.