America’s Best Food Cities to Taste Now
Unforgettable meals are often the most memorable moments of travel—so why not plan your next trip around the best places to eat? Coffee shops, food trucks and fine-dining restaurants alike are beckoning you from across the country. While the celeb chefs of Las Vegas and the incomparably diverse cuisines of New York are more than worthy of a visit, consider smaller cities that have earned high-profile foodie reputations with some of the best restaurants in America. One of these culinary hotspots could be your next weekend getaway.
Charleston, South Carolina
If you’ve never tasted dishes like she-crab soup, oyster pie, and shrimp and grits, chances are you’ve never been to the Lowcountry. The heart of this region is Charleston, South Carolina’s oldest city. Long beloved for its culture and Southern charm, it’s now also recognized for its flight-worthy food. At the buzzed-about restaurant Husk, order cornmeal-dusted Carolina catfish with a side of pea, peach and peanut succotash. Also worth a visit is the jazz-inspired Prohibition, where expertly handcrafted cocktails of “hooch” are served in a Roaring ’20s ambience.
While it’s best known for its craft beer and artisanal coffee, Portland’s grub is on par with its beverages. Pair local IPAs with creative charcuterie or challah grilled cheese. Sip siphon-brewed coffee with a bacon-maple donut from Voodoo Doughnut. Like its residents, Portland’s cuisine is adventurous and original. Everything seems to be small batch and locally sourced, whether it’s from a food cart or a fancy bistro. (And wherever you dine, be sure to order local Pacific Northwest salmon.)
Spicy Cajun gumbo. Stuffed muffaletta sandwiches. Po’boys overflowing with fried seafood. This is the Big Easy, where the food is rich and the portions are hearty. But save room for dessert—local specialties like beignets (French donuts) and pralines (creamy pecan candies) are worth every calorie. New Orleans has an excellent roaming food truck scene. Track down the beloved Taceaux Loceaux for favorites like the gourmet andouille sausage tacos and avocado fries. Venture outside the French Quarter to the Garden District, where you can hit up Commander’s Palace for jazz brunch. Menu offerings include BBQ shrimp over whipped brie grits and—wait for it—turtle soup.
Come for the beach. Stay for the food. Plate lunch is the quintessential Hawaiian meal. Savory meats alongside heaping scoops of white rice are the go-to midday choice for locals and tourists alike. Favorite plate lunches include salted butterfish, pork cutlets and panko-fried chicken. (Visit the no-frills Rainbow Drive-In for the best-rated plate lunch in Honolulu.) Another popular dish is poke—cubed raw ahi tuna—often paired with ingredients from seaweed to pickled onions. Traditional kahlua pig is cooked in an underground oven and infused with a salty, smoky flavor. For dessert, pair these heavy dishes with a light shaved ice in a fruity Hawaiian flavor like pineapple, coconut or papaya.
The Atlantic Ocean may attract most of Cape Cod’s visitors—but it’s the delicacies swimming within the ocean that attract destination diners. Oysters for raw bars. Clams for chowder. And lobsters for everything, from omelets to soups to rolls. The “lazy man’s lobster” comes out of its shell, but there’s nothing quite like donning a plastic bib, seizing the crackers and earning each individual bite. Check out Commercial Street for upscale dining options, or the Red Shack for lobster rolls served five different ways (one with pineapple, curry and mint). For dessert, hit up the Provincetown Portuguese Bakery.