Wondering which places vie for the top spot in the list of America’s best foodie cities? Which city makes best use of its local produce, and which city offers several options when it comes to ethnic food? Read more to find out …
Owing to its immigrant culture, which began back in the 15th century when Europeans colonized parts of the East Coast, the US has seen innumerable migrants throng its shores in search of a better life in company of new-found resources. This has resulted in the United States becoming a varied platter, when it comes to food.
After independence, as USA hit upon gold, oil, and other resources on its land, its food too evolved. The East Coast, from New England to Virginia, boasts of colonial culinary traditions, while the West Coast and Southern states that were owned by Spain and Mexico once, have developed their own fusion cuisines that have gained popularity worldwide.
USA’s policy to keep its doors open to each and every person who wants to work and earn a decent living has resulted in the country’s food culture forming a fabric that combines the new and the old, and blends flavors from various parts of the world. Only in the United States can you find something as common as a pizza to something as exotic as beshbarmak, straight from Kazakhstan.
While there’s plenty of burgers and hot dogs to savor in the country, it’s not the sole criteria that decides what makes up a city that foodies adore. Here’s a list of the top 10 cities in the US for foodies.
Top 10 Foodie Cities
Why New York
Everyone wants a bite of the Big Apple, and the Big Apple has a bite to offer for everyone. Considered the financial, cultural, and culinary capital of the world, New York is like a versatile platter in itself. The home of Deli Sandwiches and BBQ Chicken Pizza, New York’s kitty is full of cuisines from around the world – from sushi bars to curry houses and from 24-hour delis to juice trucks – New York has it all. New York’s food scene has no method to its madness – an unflinching eating fest at its best!
The classic favorites are still old boys like Pastrami Sandwiches and Kung Pao Chicken, but as it has grown in reputation as the world’s largest and best cosmopolitan city, New York has seen a number of cultures melt in its pot. That Italian food defines New York (especially Manhattan) is no news, but over the last two decades ethnic neighborhoods, offering delicious and authentic food from the territories of China, the Caribbean islands, India, Pakistan, Greece, Poland etc., have gained immense prominence. And New Yorkers are not just looking at these eateries as one-time adventure visit spots; instead they are gaining importance as a regular part of their daily lives.
Head to Lombardi’s for the oldest pizza recipe in town, or grab a Papaya King hot dog off the 86th – you are spoiled for choice. The Midtown and the Theater district is abundant with food trucks and carts. To service your morning cravings, there’s Murray’s Bagels – plump and fluffy – to dig into, though you will have to put up with a line that starts from the counter and stretches right to the sidewalk outside its main door. When at Murray’s, a must-try is the ‘Everything Bagel’ with olive cream cheese or scallion cream cheese. The Grand Central Oyster Bar is a must-visit spot if you are a seafood lover. The favorite there over the years has been Fried Oysters with Tartar Sauce. Apart from these, do not forget to pay a visit to the Big Apple’s other traditional hotspots like Katz’s Delicatessen, Carnegie Deli, Zabar’s, Gramercy Tavern, etc. Katz’s Delicatessen is said to dish up New York’s best Reuben Sandwich. When at Zabar’s, you are in for a treat with some of the Tri-state area’s finest cheese and caviar. And yes, New York does house a variety of items in its grocery stores that most other cities may not have even heard of! Visit any Food Emporium or Fairway Market grocery stores and stock up. Take our word, it’s worth it.
Grab a Bite at: Katz’s Delicatessen, Carnegie Deli, Murray’s Bagels, Lombardi’s.
To balance the hustle-bustle of street bingeing and traditional delis – with an elegance and sophistication possible only to New York – some of the world’s best chefs have set up swanky restaurants across the metropolis. Motor-mouth Gordon Ramsay hosts three restaurants of his own in New York – all set in The London Hotel on West 54th street; Chef Bobby Flay owns the Mesa Grill in the Flatiron District and Bar Americain on West 52nd; and of course, ‘Chef of the Century’ Joël Robuchon’s L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon located in the Four Seasons Hotel on East 57th dishes up an expensive but exotic $160 tasting menu. Other highly cited dishes at Robuchon’s restaurant include Frog’s-leg Croquettes and Kumamoto Oysters.
Grab a Bite at: L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Mesa Grill.
Focusing your periscope a little wider through other boroughs of New York throws up a surprising mix of ethnic food delights! Sunset Park in Brooklyn hosts a lineup of some genuinely good Mexican restaurants. The Astoria Park neighborhood is home to many Greek restaurants, which dish up delicious tzatzakis and moussakas. Flushing is home to innumerable East Asian restaurants, and in Jackson Heights, you are never too far away from an enticing meal of Chicken Tikka Masala and Naan Bread. In Greenpoint, Brooklyn, do not forget to visit the East European restaurants for some authentic Polish and Austrian food. Manhattan begs you to visit Curry Hill, centered on Lexington Avenue and 28th Street, for your fill of spicy curries and kebabs.
Grab a Bite at: Land Thai Kitchen, Tadka, Ali Baba, Tamarind, Taste of Persia.
➜ Black Label Burger (Minetta Tavern)
➜ Grand Central Oyster Platter (Grand Central Oyster Bar)
➜ Harira Soup (Boulud Sud)
➜ Reuben Sandwich (Katz’s Delicatessen)
➜ Fried Chicken and Waffles (Sylvia’s)
Why New Orleans
Having recovered remarkably quickly from the Katrina disaster, New Orleans is back on its feet as the food capital of the South. The perfect mix of Southern food and French food, peppered with the abundant availability of seafood and classy jazz cafes, make for a food scene that is hard to skip. Cajun and Creole are terms that are often used interchangeably, but New Orleans sees a unique mix of Creole’s European influence and Cajun’s southern coast influence, and casts itself into a character that is hard to match by any other city in the US.
Like any self-respecting southern city, New Orleans boasts of some of the finest beans, grits, and okra preparations. Gumbo and Jambalaya are other traditionally popular dishes available at practically every street corner. The French influence is evident not just from the city’s architecture, but its food too. The city is packed with nouveau French restaurants, or restaurants offering fusion spin-offs of classic French dishes. New Orleans has a thriving party scene (easily one of the best in the country) around Bourbon Street. A number of pubs in the area are worth a visit; the more spectacular ones being Pat O’Brien’s and Johnny White’s.
New Orleans has a strikingly rich cocktail savoir-faire. America’s first cocktail, the ‘Sazerac’ was invented in New Orleans. Napoleon House, Carousel Bar, and The Sazerac Bar at Roosevelt on Baronne Street are known to mix a staggering (quite literally!) Sazerac cocktail. Many places in New Orleans pull off a more-than-decent muffuletta – a Sicilian sesame bread sandwich with layers of salami, ham, swiss cheese, provolone, and olive salad. Highly recommended places to grab a scrumptious muffuletta include Napoleon House and the Central Grocery. Commander’s Palace is also a popular destination for foodies – for the turtle soup – while the Nutty Waffles at Camellia Grill is always popular with patrons – foodie or no foodie! Do not forget to pay Cochon a visit; it is easily New Orleans’ most famous eating spot, where you’ll get to sample phenomenally exotic stuff like fried alligator and pork tongue for a moderate $10!
Grab a Bite at: Cochon, Carousel Bar, Napoleon House.
The fine dining parade of New Orleans is led by Antoine’s which has been dishing up extraordinary food to its patrons since 1840! The Commander’s Palace has a 7-course tasting menu called the ‘Chef’s Playground’, which has received unanimous appreciation from food critics across America. Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse runs three of his restaurants in New Orleans – Emeril’s New Orleans, NOLA Restaurant, and Emeril’s Delmonico. Another celebrity chef, Paul Prudhomme, runs his 200-seater K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen on Chartres Street, serving up classic Louisiana cuisine to food connoisseurs from across the world.
Grab a Bite at: The Commander, Emeril’s Delmonico.
New Orleans is known for its own style of cooking, but its ethnic food scene makes sure it does not go unnoticed. Village de L’Est has a huge Vietnamese population, and houses many Vietnamese (resultantly quite a few ‘general’ East Asian/Oriental) eateries. Dong Phuong and Nha Trang are popular joints around the neighborhood. New Orleans also has its own Chinatown, so a takeaway or a home delivery of fried rice and chowder is always possible. Greek, Middle Eastern, Indian, South and Central American, and Thai food too find scattered representation across New Orleans and its suburbs.
Grab a Bite at: Dong Phuong, Village de L’Est.
➜ Muffuletta (Central Grocery)
➜ Bananas Foster (Brennan’s)
➜ Osso Buco (Irene)
➜ Duck 5 Ways (Stella!)
➜ Seafood Gumbo (Royal House Oyster Bar)
Why San Francisco
San Francisco is almost the New York of the West Coast. Period. It falls short of being New York due to its lack of a New York-like character. Yes, San Francisco has its own character, but unlike New York, it relies a lot on its history rather than its modernity. Nevertheless, San Francisco is an equally good heaven for foodies. One of the few cities in America with a humongous multiethnic population, San Francisco has ethnic neighborhoods ranging from Middle Eastern to South Asian, and Oriental to Latin American.
San Francisco’s native palate is largely influenced by Mexican and Spanish cuisine, but that aside, its cosmopolitan character is reflected from the fact that the fortune cookie (presumed to be a Chinese invention) and the cioppino (presumed to be an Italian recipe) originated in this city. The city’s culinary scene is defined by its Mexican roots, its ethnic influences, its proximity to Napa Valley’s finest wineries, and the fertile Bay Area.
Burritos and Fish Tacos can be found at every quarter mile. Except for a few gray areas, most of them dish up a decent one. The Ferry Building Marketplace is a wonderful spot to grab fresh produce, sample fine artisan cheese, and visit some hole-in-the-wall places that dish out amazingly delicious foods. The Bay Area is famous for its aware and liberal hippie culture; reason enough to find a number of organic grocery stores and restaurants using organic produce. At more than 100 years old, John’s Grill is easily one of San Francisco’s oldest and most popular dining institutions. Set in the North Beach area, Original Joe’s too is a favorite in San Francisco. You would have never seen a bigger chicken breast served on a plate than the one Joe’s serves when you order a Chicken Parmesan.
Grab a Bite at: Original Joe’s, John’s Grill.
A number of upscale restaurants dot the city’s food scene – the prominent ones amongst them being The Slanted Door, Perry’s, Gary Danko, and Masa’s. A break from the regular pattern, San Francisco boasts of a highly appreciated upscale Indian fine dining restaurant called Amber India. With multiple locations in and around San Francisco, Amber dishes up a slightly expensive, but pleasant dining experience consisting of breakaway Indian preparations like Butternut Squash Shorba, Chili Rubbed Bass, Quinoa Kofta and Parda Biryani. Celebrity Chef Khai Duong owns Ana Mandara, considered one of Bay Area’s finest dining spots. Another celebrity chef, Thomas Keller owns The French Laundry in Yountville. A classic coming together of French and the broader Californian cuisine, The French Laundry has often been voted as the best restaurant in the world.
Grab a Bite at: The Slanted Door, Amber, Perry’s, The French Laundry.
If they take themselves more seriously, San Francisco’s Chinatown restaurants can all make a claim (and successfully at that) to the country’s most delectable dim sums. The Burma Superstar restaurant on Clement Street is one of the few Burmese restaurants lining American streets. A must-try at this place is Samusa Soup and Burmese Yellow Bean Curry. The delightfully cheerful Belden Place in the Financial District is teeming with French and Italian restaurants. To the northwest, Richmond District houses a significant Russian population and is home to plenty of Russian restaurants. Financial District, specially the area around Union Square Park, also houses a number of Indian restaurants to provide foodies with their curry fill.
Grab a Bite at: The Burma Superstar, Assab Eritrean Restaurant, Dosa.
➜ Double Dip Soda (St. Francis Soda Fountain)
➜ Irish Coffee (Buena Vista Cafe)
➜ Sourdough Bread (Boudin Bakery)
➜ Coffee Rubbed Pork Shoulder (Range)
➜ Carnitas Taco (La Taqueria)
Obsessed with meat and in love with their coffee, Portlanders are a bunch of eccentric eaters. It may come as a surprise to many as to how Portland scores ahead of its other Northwestern contemporary, Seattle. Well, the reasons are simple – a population of true-blue and eager foodies, a thriving community of indie chefs, its proximity to the coastline, umpteen farmers’ markets, and a leisurely lifestyle. The vineyards have only added to the spirit of the city wanting to be America’s finest culinary destination.
The industrial block look of the 60’s has given way to a prolific city that is bustling with eating spots for foodies – from fancy 4-star restaurants and everyday lunch spots, to food trucks stationed in its parks. The city has a diversified food culture, and diversified here does not just mean availability of many global cuisines. Nope. Diversified is defined differently for Portland. Portland is ready to experiment, and the diversity on its food platter springs from this attitude. So much so that the city has an all-vegan strip-club! Now, how many cities can boast of that? If there’s one city apart from New York and San Francisco that can rightfully boast of a ‘cutting-edge’ food culture, it is Portland.
No city (and not just in the US) can boast of a more organized, versatile, and prosperous food truck / food cart culture than Portland. Of the many food trucks and carts, a must-try is Nong’s Khao Man Gai. The owner posts Twitter updates about her location and remaining stock for the day; make sure you follow them to not end up disappointing yourself. Once at Nong’s food truck, you’ll realize that all that’s there on the menu really is a chicken and rice meal. This single item on the menu, sold for $7, is literally worth a hundred bucks! Other Portland favorites include The Big Egg (try their Monte Cristo Sandwich), The Brunch Box (their Tuscan Chicken Sandwich is one step closer to heaven) and Potato Champion (the PB&J Fries are in a league of their own).
Grab a Bite at: The Big Egg, Potato Champion.
Portland’s most popular chef, Christopher Israel’s Grüner Restaurant, dishes out a lovely blend of West European and Central European flavors. A bit on the expensive side, Grüner is a fine dining delight. Again, when Brandied Cranberry and Prune Pâté, Guinea Hen Confit, and Citrus Crème Roulade is served to you by the city’s finest chef, you won’t mind a little financial set back, would you? Portland City Grill and Mother’s Bistro and Bar are the crowd’s other favorites. Gravy is another place frequented by Portland foodies. This is an upscale breakfast joint. An omelet for $10 may seem like a very expensive shot, but the portion and quality of food here justifies every single penny you pay. Other recommendations include Andina, Bluehour, Melting Pot, and Beast.
Grab a Bite at: Grüner, Andina, Bluehour.
Portland is so preoccupied with itself that it leaves no scope for anything else. Consequently, the ethnic dining scene of Portland, although healthy enough, seems a little bleak as compared to New York or San Francisco, or even multiethnicity backbenchers like Omaha or Knoxville, for that matter. The city does have a mandatory Chinatown, but the Chinese influence in and around the area has waned as compared to the ’80s and ’90s. A few Chinese joints exist though, who toss up a decent Chinese fare. A smattering of Egyptian, Ethiopian, Indian, Greek, and Polish restaurants can be found across town, but the options are few and far in between.
Grab a Bite at: Bo Kwon’s Koi Fusion, Noho’s.
➜ Kimchi Buns (Tanuki)
➜ Cherry Almond Chip Ice Cream (Cool Moon Ice Cream)
➜ Reggie Deluxe (Pine State Biscuits)
➜ Bacon Wrapped Dates (Toro Bravo)
➜ Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings (Pok Pok)
Farm-to-table is only a part of the explanation why Providence is in this list. Rhode Islanders take this to another level when they extend the concept of farm-to-table to boat-to-table. Its straight-out-of-the-water seafood produce makes up for the rest of that explanation. Other reasons why Providence makes it is its plentiful fresh produce, great farmer’s markets to deliver them to customers, finest sea food produce in the country, bakeries from an era gone by, and to top it all – ice cream trucks!
Providence has wineries and breweries galore. The restaurants emphasize fresh whole local produce to achieve a portmanteau of flavors, and the city’s culture of community-supported agriculture farms helps the process more. As a result, Providence is one of the few cities in America today with a positive local-restaurants-to-chain-restaurants ratio.
The first thing you think of when someone says Providence is Grilled Pizza! Johanne Killeen and George Germon made America’s first grilled pizza in their Providence restaurant Al Forno. A visit to this place is a must. Along with their famous Grilled Pizza, also give their Wood Grilled Lamb Chops a try. Another place the locals swear by is Gesualdi’s, where for as little as $7-10, you can savor a huge hunk of Grilled Salmon, or a generous serving of some delicious Fish and Chips. And for dessert, how about visiting a food truck … an ice-cream food truck … a vegan ice-cream food truck! This truck, painted in quirky purple, serves amazing vegan chocolate soft serve, and can even be tracked on Facebook and Twitter. Just look for the ‘Like No Udder’ pages. It has other things like vegan sandwiches on the menu, but whether you opt for them or not is your choice. What you SHOULD opt for is a serving of their famous vegan ice-cream. And if you still have some space left, the legendary Triple Murder Burger at the Haven Brothers Diner off Spruce Street will knock you out. Sample this – the usual lettuce, tomato, onions, mushrooms, peppers, pickle, relish, ketchup, and mayo topped with 6 strips of bacon and a fried egg! Advance booking a 3-month gym membership before dropping by would be beneficial.
Grab a Bite at: Haven Brothers Diner, Gesualdi’s, Al Forno.
The list is topped by Chez Pascal. Begin with their local beer on the tap and try their $35 French Bistro style tasting menu. Loyalists claim Chez Pascal dishes out the most versatile and delicious spread of cheese across New England. Other fine dining gems scattered across Providence include The Mooring, Gracie’s, Eleven Forty Nine Restaurant, White Horse Tavern, and Capriccio. The good news here is that even the finest of fine dining restaurants in Providence wouldn’t put you back by as much as a moderate midtown restaurant in Manhattan would!
Grab a Bite at: Chez Pascal, Mooring, White Horse Tavern.
Do not miss going to Ichigo Ichie at any cost. Why? It’s Hibachi, folks. That is reason enough. The Hibachi experience is a fun and entertaining one, and the food is equally delicious. Even if you are planning an â la carte dinner, you are still in for an awesome experience. Try their Monster Roll and the Cream Cheese Wonton Purses! Other ethnic foods worth a sample in Providence include Andreas (Greek), KenWok and Shanghai (Chinese), Pot-au-feu (French) and Abyssinia (Ethiopian). About 7 miles away from Providence, Pawtucket hosts a lovely fusion South Asian restaurant called Rasoi. Opt for their Tamarind Margarita or drop by on a Sunday for a voracious spread of unlimited buffet options!
Grab a Bite at: Ichigo Ichie, Rasoi, Pot-au-feu.
➜ Triple Murder Burger (Haven Brothers Diner)
➜ Wood Grilled Chicken Pizza (Bob & Timmy’s Grilled Pizza)
➜ Crepes filled with Chocolate Mousse (Parkside Rotisserie & Bar)
➜ Herb-Grilled Baffoni Farm Chicken (Nick’s on Broadway)
➜ Kobe Beef and Lobster Slider (Parkside Rotisserie and Bar)
Home of the deep-dish pizza, Chicago is a pot that is steaming with upscale dining options, ethnic food spots, and traditional Windy City creations. Chicagoans proudly frown upon New York’s pizzas and hot dogs, for they have their own pizza and hot dog creations that has put Chicago firmly on the foodies navigator.
Also called the Chicago Pie, a deep-dish pizza is about 3 inches thick, sometimes stuffed with cheese and meats, and baked in a deep pan. This gives the pizza a pie-like look, a pizza-like taste, and creates an experience in your mouth that is unmatchable. Chicagoans can pat themselves on the back for this one! Something else they can pat themselves on the back for is the Chicago style hot dog. The Chicago hot dog is miles apart from your regular hot dog – an all beef frankfurter between toasted sesame buns and topped with onions, tomatoes, peppers, relish, pickle and mustard.
PS: While in Chicago, do not ask for ketchup on your hot dog; people around you will give you the most disgusting look you’ll ever get in your life!
Your first query in Chicago would (if not, should) obviously be ‘Where do I grab the best deep-dish pizza and Chicago style hot dogs?’ To begin with, you can try Uno Chicago Grill, where the deep-dish pizza originated. Other places baking a yummy deep-dish pizza include Lou Malnati’s, Rosati’s, Buona Beef, The Original Gino’s, and Giordano’s. As for the best Chicago style hot dog, they are available in restaurants and food carts on every block, and most of them assemble a good one. Here’s a thumb rule – if the line is long, the dog is good. Another culinary delight Chicago specializes in is Italian Beef. Chicago’s answer to Philly Cheesesteak, thin pre-seasoned beef strips with their drippings are loaded onto a long Italian roll and are topped off with sweet Italian peppers. Admit it, few things in the world can beat that! Chicago is also famous for its Mac ‘n’ Cheese and chocolate desserts, the best and most delicious ones of which can be found in downtown Chicago. Owing to its Robert Taylor Homes history, Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood sees many soul food restaurants and cafes around, many of which are worth a visit to sample chicken and waffles and collard greens.
Grab a Bite at: Uno Chicago Grill, Rosati’s, The Original Gino’s.
Chicago is a cosmopolitan city, which establishes an obvious fact – there’s a wealth of fine dining restaurants across the city that combine eloquent dining mannerisms and elegant decors with haute food preparations. Chef Tony Mantuano’s Spiaggia has consistently been voted as one of Chicago’s best fine dining spots. The kind of restaurant where for a steep (although worthy) price you get to sample sophisticated Italian preparations like Wood Roasted Pacific Black Cod, or Potato Gnocchi with Ricotta Sauce and Black Truffles. Spiaggia has very limited green options though, so vegetarians make your choice. Other fine dining restaurants worth paying a visit are Tallgrass, Acadia, Alinea, and MK. For an experience that reaches beyond the elegant, pay Everest, located on Chicago Stock Exchange building’s 40th floor, a visit. To accompany a stunning view and a luxe ambiance, the dining room’s specialty is Chef Joho’s much-acclaimed personally designed seven-course menu.
Grab a Bite at: Spiaggia, Acadia, Everest.
Like any cosmopolitan city across America, Chicago houses people from across the world. The area surrounding West Argyle Street houses a large Vietnamese population. Drop by for a light-on-the-pocket Beef Pho or Cold Spring Rolls. One of the country’s few Czech enclaves, Pilsen, exists in Illinois. Although this Lower West Side community is slowly moving away from its Czech roots, many cafes still exist that are a good bingeing spot if you are a East European fare fan. There’s a Greektown, a Germantown, and the usual Chinatown, and while most of these neighborhoods do house abundant ethnic restaurants, Greek or Chinese restaurants can be found in copious amounts across Chicago and even its distant suburbs. Chicago’s ethnic food scene’s most notable feature is Devon Avenue’s Little India – a street that houses more than 100 South Asian restaurants, and about 300 different business owned by Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Jews. So much so that portions of the neighborhood have been named after Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and Golda Meir.
Grab a Bite at: Sabri Nihari, Lao Sze Chuan.
➜ Duck Fat Fries (The Bristol)
➜ Pumpkin Muffin (Lovely Bake Shop)
➜ Dry Chili Chicken (Mapo)
➜ Italian Beef Sandwich (Johnnie’s Beef)
➜ The Royal Omelet (Archview)
Why Kansas City
No other city will saturate your senses or deliver dizzying extremes of ‘barbeque-ness’ like Kansas City. The city is home to more than 100-odd BBQ joints; it is not for nothing that it’s called the BBQ capital of the nation. For an idea of how seriously this city takes its BBQ reputation, sample this – THE CITY HAS AN ENTIRE ORGANIZATION DEDICATED TO JUST BBQ! The Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctions more than 300 BBQ competitions across USA.
If you think BBQ is the be-all and end-all of why Kansas City is in this list – then you are right. Name any other city that boasts of a BBQ tradition comparable to Kansas City and this list may be reconsidered. However, if you want to jump across the BBQ walls and try something else, the city does have a booming nightlife that has flourished since the late ’90s. Be it karaoke, stand-up comedy, live jazz, rock band concerts, or dance clubs, Kansas holds onto its own when it comes to a lively night culture.
If you are visiting Kansas City for the BBQ, I have one word for you – Gates! Visit the Gates Bar B.Q. restaurant anywhere across town, they have six locations. A pop icon around the city, Gates has been around since 1946 and patrons still swear by its unchanged taste. Many believe their Hickory Wood Slow Smoked Brisket and Sweet Potato Fries are a doorway to heaven. Other pitmasters across the town include Arthur Bryant’s, Oklahoma Joe’s, Perry Foster’s and Woodyard. Each of them have their own BBQ sauce recipe and they have maintained it to the ‘T’ for years. Probably that is what has turned ‘customers’ into ‘loyalists’ who keep coming back for more.
Grab a Bite at: Gates, Arthur Bryant’s, Woodyard.
What’s the point in going to a horse stable and looking for mules? You go to Kansas City, you dig into the BBQ pits there. However, Kansas City has a decent upscale dining scene as well. Many of Kansas City’s fine dining restaurants wrap their ‘fine dining-ness’ around the city’s BBQ laurels. Restaurants like Plaza III – The Steakhouse and McCormick and Schmick’s Steaks offer an elegant dining experience combined with Kansas style BBQ food options. For a break from BBQ, make reservations at Grand Street Cafe. Offering contemporary American cuisine with excellent service, Grand Street Cafe’s Chicken Ciabatta and Seared Scallops are hot-sellers. The Cheese Fondue at Melting Pot is also on the favorites list of many locals.
Grab a Bite at: Plaza III Steakhouse, Schmick’s Steaks, Grand Street Cafe.
Poco’s on the Boulevard serves the city’s best Latin American food. For a Vietnamese taste, give Saigon 39 and Blue Koi a try. On Wyoming Street, off Westport Road, Aladdin Cafe offers a boutique of inexpensive and delicious Middle Eastern food. Korma Sutra is another ethnic joint frequented by the locals. Kansas City has a few Mexican and Chinese restaurants scattered across the city, and most of them are more or less equal in variety and quality of the food they have on offer.
Grab a Bite at: Poco’s, Aladdin Cafe, Korma Sutra.
➜ Burnt Ends of Beef Brisket (Oklahoma’s Joe)
➜ Chocolate Frozen Custard (Foo’s Fabulous Frozen Custard)
➜ Hickory-roasted Lamb Ribs (Jack Stack BBQ)
➜ Stuffed Poussin with Thyme Gravy (Bluestem)
➜ Philly Cheesesteak Pizza (Grinders West)
Miami’s cuisine is a fusion of Mexican, Cuban, American, and Caribbean cultures. Miami’s foodie scene has developed into what has been popularly described as ‘Floribbean’. Florida’s most stylish and hip city has everything you want on offer – plus a little more. That, along with the lovely beaches dotted with beautiful sun-tanned bodies, makes for a world of good! Until the ’70s and through almost the entire ’80s, Miami was an all-style no-substance destination. Miami’s culinary character sprung from its repute as a popular tourist destination. It was a must-visit spot for the elite, but the bricks that make up a true blue foodie favorite city were always missing.
The change occurred around the turn of the decade from ’80s to ’90s. An already vast array of upscale restaurants further burgeoned, but Miami hit upon a revolution of ethnic foods. Apart from its deep-rooted Caribbean culture, Miami experienced a burst of Chinese and Korean restaurants. To complete the foodie experience, Miami assures you of the best and freshest seafood! The only complaint – Miami does not have a full-scale fish market, like Seattle’s Pike Place.
Miami has been, in recent times, hit by a sensation called the ‘arepa’. To the unknown, an arepa is a Venezuelan corn cake either grilled, baked, fried, or steamed. La Latina and Budare Bistro lead the pack when it comes to arepas. Miamians swear by JugoFresh’s juices. When at JugoFresh, do not forget to give their ‘Supa Dupa Vert’ a try – apple, cucumber, kale, spinach, sunflower sprouts, blue-green algae, and parsley. What a shot of good health! Miami’s traditional beverages, though, are Cuban Coffee and Sangria. Bongos Cuban Cafe is known to make a good Cuban coffee. Like most beach cities in the world, people in Miami know how to cook good seafood. When in Miami, barring a few criminal exceptions, you can land up anywhere – from upscale restaurants to small beach shacks – and you’ll be treated to delicious seafood preparations originating from the Floribbean cuisine.
Grab a Bite at: Budare Bistro, La Latina, Bongo’s Cuban Cafe.
The rising star of America’s chef community, Giorgio Rapicavoli, runs Eating House, Miami’s finest contemporary fine dining restaurant in Coral Gables. The Pasta Carbonara, drizzled with white truffle oil, is legendary! Another spot that should be on your must-visit list is Barton G. Start with a liquid nitrogen frozen vodka martini and proceed to feed yourself on a sumptuous Samurai Tuna. Barton G is fancy, creative, and theatrical in its food presentation, and hence, its steep prices seem totally justified. Other places worth a visit include Cacao, Blue Door, Prime One Twelve, Acqua and Nobu.
Grab a Bite at: Nobu, Barton. G, Eating House.
Miami is flush with Latin American and Caribbean eateries – both upscale and inexpensive ones. Salsa Fiesta, Paquito’s, and Lime Fresh Mexican Grill serve delicious Mexican food. Ortanique on the Mile in Coral Gables dishes up a seriously delectable Spicy Calamari Salad. Order the East Indies Seafood Curry and you would be smacking your lips. This curry, that can be shared between 2 people, has salmon, scallops, mussels, and clams in it. To finish it off, order a rum-soaked banana fritter, drizzled with caramel sauce and topped with ice-cream.
Grab a Bite at: Ortanique on the Mile.
➜ Melon Green Tea (Go-Go Fresh Food Cafe)
➜ Huevos Rancheros (News Cafe)
➜ Stone Crab Claws (Joe’s Stone Crab)
➜ Grouper Cheeks (Tudor House)
➜ The $125 Mother Burger (Burger & Beer Joint)
Centered around Boston’s New England culinary traditions, is a vibrant and buzzing food scene. Boston’s food scene is an inspiration to other cities. It’s incredible how the city’s food taste has absorbed numerous new cultures, while not letting its classic New England charm wither one little bit. Boston’s reputation as a cosmopolitan city is derived largely from its huge academic base. More than 100 colleges fill the metropolis and students from all around the world call Boston their home. This has given rise to an acceptance for ethnic food.
Boston’s rise from a foundry to a multicultural, multilingual food mecca of New England has been tremendous. Cocktail bars, fine dining restaurants, Greek taverns…Boston has it all, yet lacks a formidable food culture. Boston can be acclaimed, though, for preserving its European (especially British and Irish) roots. Nowhere else in America (except maybe a couple of towns in Vermont and New Hampshire) can you walk into a random cafe, not knowing what it serves, order an apple pie and a decaf and not get a NO for an answer!
Union Oyster House, opened in 1826 on Union Street, is America’s oldest continuously running restaurant. The Basque-style Mussels, steamed with garlic and white wine, are iconic of Boston’s food culture. Another specialty, Clam Chowder, also has an almost obsessively crazy fan-club. While there, devour a piece of history – the toothpick was first introduced to Americans by the Union Oyster House. Boston’s other iconic eateries include Hamersley’s Bistro (luscious Roast Chicken), Regina Pizzeria (their white pizza is lush with sausages!) and Modern Pastry (America’s best cannoli). Downtown Boston sees a lot of food carts and trucks for office lunchers; Karo’s BBQ is a hot favorite amongst them. A chicken kabob meal for about 7 bucks is as affordable as a piquant lunch can get!
Grab a Bite at: Union Oyster House, Karo’s BBQ, Hamersley’s Bistro.
Boston houses some of the country’s most legendary dining rooms. Hanover Street and Salem Street house plenty of them. The city also houses some really good modern fine dining restaurants. Boston Bruins legend Ray Bourque owns Tresca, a contemporary Italian restaurant that serves divine Sogno del Cioccolato. No. 9 Park is another highly recommended place. While there, dig through some delicious Prune Stuffed Gnocchi and Roasted Golden Tilefish with Calabrian Chili. For a top of the world dining experience, literally, the place to be is Top of the Hub on Boylston street. Located on the Prudential Building’s 52nd floor, Top of the Hub is a charming medley of enticing atmosphere, old school dining, creative food, and a stunning setting.
Grab a Bite at: Tresca, No. 9 Park, Top of the Hub.
Boston houses a sizable Dominican population. For those who are tired of the Kung Pao Chicken and Pork Vindaloo found in almost every ethnic restaurant in America, drop by the Merengue restaurant on Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester for a bite of Vinaigrette Oyster Salad, Calamari Rice, and other Dominican classics. Courtesy MIT, Harvard, and many other institutions, there are Chinese, Korean, Indian, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, and even Mauritian restaurants all across town, and they serve decent food too. But one of Boston’s biggest shortcoming will always be a fragmented culinary culture that leaves space for ethnic foods, but gives them no space to grow. Bostonians, you have yourselves to blame.
Grab a Bite at: Merengue, Lucy Ethiopian Cafe.
➜ Roast Beef Sandwich and Lobster Roll (Kelly’s Roast Beef)
➜ Steak Tips (NewBridge Cafe)
➜ Boston Cream Pie (Omni Parker House)
➜ New England Clam Chowder (Union Oyster House)
➜ The Mark Zuckerberg Burger (Mr. Bartley’s)
Its upcoming technology belt and NASA history apart, Houston is the mecca of Tex-Mex cuisine! Houston is perhaps under-rated as a food city, as foodies visiting Houston cannot seem to find their way through the vast chain of BBQ and Mexican restaurants that bristle the city and its suburbs. While its northern cousin Dallas has been the center of foodie attention all through the ’80s and ’90s, food critic John Mariani has bravely termed it ‘a slacker’ as compared to the far superior Houston food scene.
To begin with, Houston is not said to be a good looking city. That pretty much takes away the impact of creativity on the food senses of a foodie. But dig in and Houston presents an astonishing amalgamation of Tex-Mex, multiethnic, and old-time southern and classic American food. With about 8,000 restaurants, more than half of them serving ethnic delicacies, Houston is as multiethnic as it can get.
Houston’s trademark, of course, is its Tex-Mex food. For a good dose, hog the Original Ninfa’s on Navigation for their fabulous tortillas and fajitas. For a more American experience, visit any Saltgrass Steak House outlet. The mushroom-and-caramelized-onions-smothered Sirloin at Saltgrass is fabled! To satiate your taco cravings, food carts and small Tex-Mex outlets can be found across the city and almost all of them roll extraordinary tacos. High on the taco suggestion list is the Chorizo, Egg, and Cheese Taco at Tacos a Go-Go. For your fill of the city’s Texan-style BBQ, Gatlin’s BBQ is highly recommended. The ribs at Gatlin are BBQ bingeing at its messiest best.
Grab a Bite at: Saltgrass Steak House, Gatlin’s.
Houston’s upscale dining scene stays a little suppressed under the over-bearing weight of Tex-Mex and southern dining. The Kobe Beef Burger and the Truffle Pommes Frites at Mockingbird Bistro are the perfect gastronomic-accompaniments to its posh decor and superior service. Masraff’s too has a great reputation amongst Houstonites. This classy restaurant that specializes in seafood offers an incredible Garlic Seared Calamari. Other must-try restaurants include Philippe, Trinity, and Ripps Grille.
Grab a Bite at: Mockingbird Bistro, Philippe, Triniti, Masraff’s.
NASA has made sure that they are a lot of East Asian, South Asian, and Middle Eastern immigrants in the Houston area. Houston’s ethnic neighborhood scene is a little different from other cities in the US. Houston has witnessed the boom of diverse ethnicities in the same neighborhoods instead of forming deep entrenched ethnic enclaves. Of course, Houston has its own Chinatown and Little India, but migrant settlement is not particularly limited to those areas. This has given rise to a wonderful ‘curry plus noodles plus kabobs food belts’ in some suburbs. Sushi Miyagi in Houston’s Chinatown is a hole-in-the-wall spot for a cheap sushi craving. Plenty of Chinese restaurants across town toss up decent Chinese food for dine-in and takeaway. Houston’s Frenchtown has a number of restaurants that serve Louisiana style Creole-Cajun cuisine. Although hard to find, Native American delicacies like Frybread or Succotash can be sampled in Texas, since Texas is home to the Cherokee Society of America.
Grab a Bite at: Sushi Miyagi.
➜ Garlic Seared Calamari (Masraff’s)
➜ Breakfast Taco (Tacos a Go-Go)
➜ Miso Ramen (Goro & Gun)
➜ Korean Braised Goat and Dumplings (Underbelly)
➜ Kobe Beef Burger (Mockingbird Bistro)
Change is the law of life. Foodies’ favorite cities to hog in America were different a decade ago and will probably be different a decade from now. A decade ago, Detroit would have been on any food tourist’s must-visit list, but as the metropolis’ economy has stumbled, its food scene too has stagnated.
Similarly, once favored cities like Los Angeles and Washington DC have fallen behind over the years due to their lack of adaptability. While LA and DC still have hope to conquer newcomers like Miami and Providence, trying to topple table toppers like New York and San Francisco will forever be a game of catch up. A consistent and illustrious champion like New York comes once in a while, which for decades, can keep topping foodie favorite charts with amazing regularity!
On the other hand, as formerly ‘we-dont-give-a-damn’ cities like San Diego, Albuquerque, Atlanta, and Seattle change their attitude towards building a more multifarious food culture fabric, expect the competition to heat up. A more competitive food culture bout between the country’s finest cities is always lip-smacking good news!
Succeeding waves of immigrants have brought to the US their ingredients and ideas about cooking. The American cuisine is no more just about the good ol’ Mac ‘n’ Cheese or the Sunday roast. American taste buds have evolved to the extent that they are now spoiled for choice. There are two ways of looking at this, either America has a lot of options, or America now has a problem of plenty. Fortunately, Americans have chosen the first option, which keeps the door open for food and flavors to develop and metamorphose into existing customs.