Sure, it'd be nice to score a table at the city's hottest restaurant when in town for a long weekend, but some of the most memorable meals can be had for a lot less cash and a much more adventurous ambience. For that, we look to the many deeply entrenched ethnic neighborhoods across the country for that authentically garlicky Polish sausage or that plate of gnocchi alla Romana good enough to pass muster in Rome.
From New York to Los Angeles (and everywhere in between), everyone has their favorite hole-in-the-wall spot for those must-have Greek gyros or memorable Korean barbecue. Yet, there are many ethnic neighborhoods that have fallen under the radar — ‘til now. We’ve paired up six of our favorite ‘hoods for good ethnic food (and where to go, of course) and paired them up with their lesser-known sibling.
Is there a neighborhood we’ve missed, or a restaurant we must try? Share your recommendations and comments with us below!
Been There, Done That: Little Italy, Chicago
From Ashland Avenue on the west and Morgan Street on the east, Harrison Street on the north and Roosevelt Road to the south, lies Chicago’s Little Italy. Running through the heart of this Italian community is Taylor Street, the place to go to for any Italian foodstuff you could need.
Under-the-Radar: South Philly
In the heart of historic Philadelphia, the Italian Market is an area filled with Italian markets, cafes, bakeries, and more. While the area along 9th Street between Christian Street and Washington Avenue is still the market’s center, the term 'Italian Market' is now used to describe the surrounding neighborhood, as well. Whether you’re in the mood for a sit-down Italian meal, some cheese and antipasto to go, or an authentic cheesesteak, the Italian Market has it all.
Been There, Done That: Little Poland, Chicago
Craving authentic kielbasa? Head to Chicago, thought to be home to the largest Polish and Polish-American population in the U.S. While there are numerous authentic Polish restaurants and markets scattered throughout the city, don’t miss the area along Pulaski near Archer and 50th, fondly known as Little Poland to many. It’s also worthwhile to check out North Milwaukee near Belmont and Logan Square and stop in at one of the many Polish delis and restaurants.
Kurowski’s Sausage Shop, 2976 North Milwaukee Avenue. (773) 645-1692
Under-the-Radar: Little Poland, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Since the early 1900’s, Polish immigrants have gravitated to the area along Manhattan Avenue in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. While there are now other Little Polands in the Tristate area, this part of Greenpoint remains a favorite destination for those in and around the city looking for sausages, babkas, sauerkraut, and more.
Kiszka Meat Market, 915 Manhattan Avenue. (718) 389-6149
Been There, Done That: Little Ethiopia, Los Angeles
Since the 1990’s, the Ethiopian population along South Fairfax between Olympic and Pico Boulevards has been steadily growing. Officially recognized as Little Ethiopia in 2002, the neighborhood is filled with markets, cafes, and shops where you can eat with your hands using injera, a spongy bread, instead of a utensil, or enjoy the rich coffees that are so important to Ethiopian culture (coffee was thought to be discovered there).
Off-the-Radar: U Street/Shaw, Washington, D.C.
Our nation’s capital is home to the largest Ethiopian population outside of the country itself. It’s no wonder that there is a rich concentration of shops and cafes, each with its own set of followers, within the 1900 block of 9th Street near U Street.
Queen Makeda, 1917 9th St NW. (202) 232-5665
Been There, Done That: Greektown, Detroit
Named for the large Greek population that moved into the area in the 1900s, Greektown is one of Detroit’s more lively neighborhoods. The once-residential area is now predominantly commercial, with an array of authentic Greek restaurants and shops (even a casino) lining the street.
Off-the-Radar: Baltimore, Md.
While this once-industrial area along Baltimore’s waterfront, south of Lombard, has been home to a Greek community since the 1930s, it is now known as a more up-and-coming area. Whether you’re looking for authentic gyros, fresh fish, or other Greek specialties, there are a large number of Greek restaurants, coffee houses, and bakeries, many concentrated along Eastern Avenue.
Been There, Done That: Koreatown, New York City
In the heart of New York City, along 32nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, lies K-Town, as Koreatown is affectionately called. With both sides of the street lined with Asian markets and Korean restaurants of all kinds, it’s hard not to be beckoned in by the mouth-watering aromas of barbecue, or the bustling shoppers frequenting Hanareum (the Asian market).
Off-the-Radar: Annandale, Va.
This suburb of Washington, D.C., is home to the nation’s third largest Korean population (just don’t call it Koreatown — it’s a divisive topic). In addition to a myriad of good Korean restaurants, the surrounding area has not one but two excellent Asian markets: Grand Mart and Super H Mart.
(Photos courtesy of Flickr/Shelly Panzarella (top) and Flickr/NYCUrbanscape)