Food can be a major factor in choosing a travel destination. We may want to see the ancient ruins, beautiful beaches, or incredible monuments, but many of us are after a more interactive way of absorbing the local culture. We travel to experience the regional specialties, the home-cooked flavor, the spices and the tastes that cannot be adequately recreated anywhere else.
Any destination you’ll ever visit has a cuisine influenced by its region’s history. It could be the trials and tribulations of the people of the land, but also the inspiration of visitors, or those who have come from elsewhere to settle. One of the most incredible experiences in being somewhere new is learning something you never expected about being there. You never know what culinary treasures you will uncover when you venture off the “eaten path”, be it exploring the food markets of Jerusalem or spending a restaurant-going weekend in Memphis.
Alas, even when it comes to the foodie cities of the world, it often comes down to a popularity contest, and you’ll see the same destinations over and over in “best food destinations” roundups. We already know we’ll find incredible food in Nashville and New Orleans, in Capetown and Hong Kong. But if you are looking for a few destinations with amazing food scenes that don’t show up on all the lists, you may want to check out our roundup to learn about these gems.
When we think of Portugal, we think of Lisbon, but Évora definitely deserves our attention. An easy trip from Lisbon, Évora is a medieval town turned popular university town and a UNESCO world heritage site due to its beautifully preserved Gothic, Roman, and Baroque architecture. It’s located in the south-central Alentejo region,widely known for its original dishes (the bold use of cilantro and other herbs is typical) and as the source of much of the country’s ham and other pork products. In Évora, tourists will find many quaint, small restaurants serving plenty of petiscos, or appetizers, as well as heartier fare for food lovers who have worked up an appetite exploring the narrow lanes of this medieval gem. Alentejo wine is some of the best wine in the country, too — and many classic Portuguese desserts were invented in convents of Évora in the sixteenth century, like a local favorite, the almond-infused pão de rala, produced by the nuns of Santa Helena do Calvário.
We all know Istanbul as a culinary and cultural hub of course, but where do Istanbul locals go for a culinary weekend retreat? Gaziantep, also known as Antep, is a city in southeastern Turkey that may not be the most enthralling for conventional tourist activities, but that gets at the heart of Turkish cuisine. Turkey is renowned for its kebabs and its baklava, and you’ll find the very best of both in Gaziantep. Gaziantep is the center of pistachio production in Turkey, and is said to be the birthplace of baklava, in fact. Try the country's best interpretation at Elmacı Pazarı Güllüoğlu Other Turkish treats, including the meat- or cheese-filled bread called katmer and the honey-drenched shredded wheat confection called kadayıf, orginated here too.Another of Antep’s specialties is beyran, a dish of spicy lamb broth with rice, tender lamb, and a big spoonful of chopped garlic — served for breakfast. The best place to go for this specialty is Metanet Lokantası, also known for its kebabs.
Aly Walansky is a special contributor to The Daily Meal. Additional reporting by Alexandra E. Petri.