Another aspect of being a foodie–one that can be safely called a standard–is travel. Foodies will tour the world in pursuit of unique, authentic, and inventive flavors. For that reason, there is no such thing as a definitive list of the best destinations for foodies. Instead, use this guide as a roadmap to begin your own tour of foodie-focused cities in the US.
Hot Spot Destinations for Foodies
These are the places we can’t get enough of. The food scene in these cities is so extensive that all we can say is this: get ready for anything, and be open to trying everything. Unlike some of the under-the-radar foodie destinations that you’ll find later here, the following cities have expanded beyond superb regional cuisine to encompass ethnic and international flavors, vaulting their stature as global must-visit locales.
Los Angeles, California
It is hard to convey the uniqueness and variety of Los Angeles with anything other than extensive personal experience spent wrapped up in the beauty of this staple food scene. As such, LA is a quintessential destination for foodies. You can live for weeks just off of street tacos. Or, you can explore a laundry list of Michelin Star establishments (Twenty-four, as of writing this). There are so many levels to eating in the City of Angels.
The cuisine in LA offers every single flavor you can imagine, and then some more. Sushi is as prominent as pasta, as are Parisian pastries, Oaxacan tortas, or Korean Barbecue. Los Angeles foodie scene constantly shifts, as new restaurants age into storied establishments and even newer concepts grow around them. Eager and hungry chefs with inventive ideas are everywhere.
Los Angeles has been a glowing mainstay of fine foods since before Hollywood’s Golden Age, and the food scene walked in step as celebrity culture took off in America. You will like eating in LA if you enjoy nearly-overwhelming variety, unexpected flavors in unexpected locations, and bold, inventive choices.
New York City, New York
If Los Angeles is considered diversified, then New York City is a simply eclectic destination for foodies. The vast array of people who make up NYC brings cultural authenticity to the food that’s served here. In the Big Apple, street food vendors make a living off of serving every ethnic cuisine under the sun, and those chefs with not-so-mobile spots elevate the dining experience more than anywhere else in the country, even in the casual, laid-back concepts.
New York City has 78 Michelin Star restaurants and more than 26,697 eateries city-wide. The overall immensity of flavors, styles, and nationalities that combine to form the NYC food scene is what defines its significance. And it is significant. New York has been the center of our US dining culture since post-WWII. The city is a breeding ground for the newest trends in food, vegan options, and a stomping ground for those culinary traditions that are historic and well-practiced.
NYC is your eating destination if you like exploring the finer details in everything, quality ingredients wherever you go, and walking while you eat.
New Orleans, Louisiana
The food scene in New Orleans is over 300 years old. Seriously, it’s as if this city was cooking up something unique since it was a fort in the swamp. The dishes of NOLA are unique: chargrilled oysters with bubbling parmesan, crunchy fried seafood po-boys, and rich chicken gumbo all jostle for position as the signature dish. The delicious list only gets deeper from there. Many of New Orlean’s most famous destinations for foodies are old and historic, such as Arnaud’s, Commander’s Palace, and Dookie Chase. These establishments cook the distinct Cajun flavors that are prominent of the region.
In addition to those historic spaces, New Orleans has a growing movement of modern concepts exploring the international flavors that are stewed in the city’s melting pot. New Orleans has flown under six different national flags, and as a port city, often collected residents from all over the globe.
There is a special influence from Vietnamese, Carribean, and Spanish cuisines that are at play these days. That isn’t all: restaurants influenced by Cantonese, Latin, and French cuisines are popping up all over the city. Done through the lens of Creole cooking, you’ll find dishes here that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
You’ll appreciate New Orleans if you like eating a lot, enjoy traditional flavors, and don’t mind stepping out of the box.
Foodie Destinations Flying Below the Radar
Some of these foodie destinations are towns and cities that are finding their first fame as cultural standard-bearers. Some of these foodie cities have been such for a long time, and are just starting to find mainstream prominence. Wherever these spots are in their history as a hub for foodies, they’re all delicious and deserve a visit.
San Antonio, Texas
The history of the city roots the burgeoning food scene of San Antonio. San Antonio was founded in 1718 and the Mexican and Texan (and Tex-Mex!) traditions are still strong. Other culinary traditions didn’t fare as well. In 2001, a one-hundred-year-old brewery closed. A community pillar ended its historic run. Then, the Pearl Brewery was revitalized, complete with apartments, Hotel Emma, delicious restaurants, and a food hall. It was a first for San Antonio. Next, the Culinary Institute of America established a campus at the reborn brewery as well.
With so many chefs, a low cost of living, and a city flush with fresh produce, the ideal conditions for food and beverage growth have been ripe. San Antonio’s standing as a destination for foodies has followed in step.
Scottsdale has long been a city for desert-lovers and golfers, rather than a destination for foodies. This has been shifting in recent years as chefs research and revisit influential Southwestern and Native American flavors. Scottsdale has a lot of local produce in the form of beans, ancient grains, tomatoes, and other night-shade and dry weather crops. The flavors these ingredients make are distinct. Think habanero-glazes on pulled pork tacos, and supremely fresh table-side guacamole. Also, corn everything.
Similar to San Antonio, you’ll find chefs in Scottsdale, where unique local cuisines and strong regional produce meet. The desert has more ingredients than it lets on: over 500 edible plants and cacti subsist on the terrain around Scottsdale. In other words, this is an expanding foodie city. Chefs are starting to try creative approaches to traditional styles, like Italian, pizzas, and further. If you enjoy meat and dairy-centric dishes, Scottsdale is a good scene to visit on your foodie destination tour.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is another city that, like Scottsdale, gets its foodie fame from a distinct regional cuisine. However, Charleston’s flavor is not presented with a Mexican-flair; it’s found on the half-shell. Oysters (and other seafood) are prominent in the city.
So too, are traditional Southern and African ingredients like okra. Older than New Orleans and classically built, people have been traveling through Charleston for almost 400 years. The influences these travelers left behind created the unique Lowcountry foodways that Charleston represents.
When visiting Charleston, look for Gullah Geechee cuisine. It best highlights the flavors of the region that are so influential in the rest of Lowcountry cooking. Dishes like steamed garlic blue crabs, stewed greens, and crab rice lend history and culture to the many restaurants trying to carve their niche into Charleston’s food scene. The food is seasonal, seafood-focused, and soothes your soul. If you’re a foodie, Charleston is a must-visit destination.