There are some people who go on vacation to “ooh” and “ahh” over architecture and museums, and some who love to ride atop double decker busses with binoculars in one hand and a camera in the other, hoping to snap a picture of a makeup-less celebrity bringing in the morning paper.
Then there are the culinary connoisseurs, who plan trips with the express intention of hitting as many James Beard Award-nominated spots as possible, who’ve Googled “Best Diners on the East Coast,” and have big red Xs on their roadmaps marking the spot of a can’t-miss crab cake.
Some cities have more of a reputation for great food than others, and some are world famous for a certain dish. If you’ve ever come back from Chicago without having tried a deep dish slice only to be met with downright indignation from a co-worker who couldn’t understand how you could have wasted a trip eating things besides Chicago’s famous pie, then you understand that in famous food towns, there are some things visitors simply have to try.
But what is a “food town”? For the purposes of this list, it’s a city with a strong food history, usually involving at least one famous local dish. But while a specialty is important, these towns also offer variety. For example, San Francisco is a mecca for food, a place where you’ll find the best burrito of your life located directly across the street from dim sum you’ll daydream about for weeks after your trip. A great food town has to welcome a variety of culinary perspectives. And finally, we couldn’t ignore critical acclaim. There are some cities where it seems that nearly every chef in town has been nominated for at least one James Beard award, places that travel experts like Condé Nast and Travel + Leisure consistently name as top spots for dining. The old standbys are here as well as a few cities that might surprise even the most well-traveled foodies.
So join us as we take you from coast to coast of this great nation, stopping in ten remarkable food towns on the way. Maybe you’ll be inspired to take your own culinary vacation.
If Portland (the other Portland) doesn’t immediately make you think of food, you might need to rethink your assumptions. Recently included on Condé Nast Traveler’s list of Best American Cities for Foodies, Portland has come a long way from the lobster roll (though you can still find those, too). The city is currently offering up some of the country’s best and most innovative seafood.
Okay, so most folks don’t go to Hawaii for the grub, but according to Travel + Leisure’s list of best food cities in America, great food is an unexpected bonus on these volcanic islands. Don’t miss the raw poke, a local delicacy, or any of the amazing, fresh-from-the-ocean sushi that the city has to offer.
Originally published June 11, 2014