This is a guest post written by Leslie Kasperowicz
The U.S. is a big and varied country with regions so different from one another it’s hard to believe they’re part of the same nation. The good news for foodies is that means a lot of places to visit with incredible and unique dining opportunities.
From the best seafood to finger-licking barbecue and great street eats to mouth-watering pastries, there’s a lot to enjoy in America’s cities. And while every city has something to offer you won’t taste anywhere else, these top destinations should be on your bucket list.
1. New Orleans, LA
The Big Easy is one place you don’t want to visit while on a diet. Just a few of the can’t-miss signature dishes in NOLA are a bowl of gumbo, a po’ boy, and of course the fresh seafood.
A must-try is the fresh beignets at Café Du Monde. Be prepared for morning lineups, and fair warning – that powdered sugar gets everywhere.
New Orleans oldest restaurant and the birthplace of Oysters Rockefeller, Antoine’s, is a must for special occasion dining. And hit another historic spot, Napoleon House, for their signature muffuletta sandwich.
2. Portland, OR
Portland has become a must-visit destination, and it’s not just for the stunning views of Mt. Hood. The city has become a foodie paradise featuring a wide array of farm-to-table choices and diverse influences.
Portland’s street food scene is one of the most vibrant in the nation with entire city blocks filled with food trucks. To taste from an array of ethnic foods, check out the biggest food cart pod found downtown at SW 10th and Alder.
Another can’t-miss of Portland is the popular Pok Pok Thai noodle dishes by chef Andy Ricker. Pok Pok is a restaurant that grew from a food truck to operate several locations (the food truck option is still there).
Don’t think you can’t sit down to eat, though. Portland is also home to restaurants with award-winning chefs.
3. Las Vegas, NV
Sure, Vegas comes with a lot of flash and hype, but it’s the place famous chefs head to open their restaurants. The sheer selection of great places to eat in Vegas makes it a must-visit destination.
Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay alone has a total of five different restaurants to choose from in Vegas. Try dinner from the famous TV show at Hell’s Kitchen, or hit Ramsay’s steak house at Paris casino. There’s also a Ramsay burger joint, a pub, and a place for traditional British fish & chips – all are a bit more casual.
Vegas is one of the few cities where you can find award-winning food ranging from casual to fine dining within walking distance (ok, a long walk) of each other.
4. Los Angeles, CA
LA is an enormous city that offers a wide range of cuisine including some very high-end dining options.
But you don’t have to spend a bundle to eat well here. The large Hispanic population means great tacos to be had, and often in small, inexpensive family restaurants. And don’t be afraid of the taco truck – Mariscos Jalisco is well worth a visit for fried shrimp tacos that have won nationwide acclaim.
You’ll also find top-notch sushi in Los Angeles along with plenty of other authentic ethnic cuisines from around the world.
It’s hard to choose just a few can’t-miss dining spots to highlight, but Animal on Fairfax consistently makes best-of lists. This meat-centric spot does pork belly sandwiches up right.
5. San Francisco, CA
San Francisco is a foodie paradise and is the birthplace of many food trends, including being credited with the farm-to-table revolution. The city is home to a world-class food hall you won’t want to miss – The Ferry Building Marketplace.
Hog Island Oyster offers fresh oysters daily, while Far West Fungi is the place for a mushroom selection like you’ve never seen.
Farm-to-table aficionados will want to visit the storied Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Fresh seasonal choices mark the menus of many top restaurants here and at Chez Panisse the must try is the Baked Goat Cheese With Garden Lettuces.
San Francisco is definitely the place to save your pennies for; few cities have such a range of incredible fine dining options. On a tighter budget, you can still hit top spots like Al’s Place, but plan ahead since it’s tough to get a reservation. This is a place that even takes french fries to a new level, with a unique pickling process that leaves them extraordinarily crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
6. Houston, TX
While Austin has been on the lips of many foodies for years, Houston tends to fly under the radar. Put it on yours – this city may surprise you.
It’s Texas, so Houston has the best barbecue around, of course. Check out Killen’s, where you can order tender brisket and ribs by the pound.
The big surprise in Houston though isn’t the barbecue; it’s the top-notch Vietnamese and Chinese food. You’ll want to enjoy one of the city’s favorite fusions – the Viet-Cajun
Boil, a traditional crawfish boil with a Vietnamese kick (think lemongrass and garlic). Try the popular Cajun Kitchen to experience it.
7. Washington. D.C.
A visit to the nation’s capital provides a lot more than a history lesson. D.C. is a great city for food, too.
Indian food is the must-try here. Casual and authentic, Indigo makes just about every list of the best Indian restaurants in D.C., but there are a lot of great choices.
D.C. is also home to top-notch tapas, and famous chef José Andrés is credited with creating that scene. The two-star Michelin chef is also on top of the avant-garde dining experience, evidenced at his minibar/barmini restaurant. order the perfectly sauced ahi tuna poke bowl to go with one of the bar’s chemistry-inspired cocktails.
8. Miami, FL
Miami is more than just sunny beaches and a sizzling night-life; it’s a great place to eat, too. In recent years the city has been a rising star for food lovers.
The star of the show here is Cuban cuisine, and you’ll want to check out a walking tour of Little Havana with tastings at five restaurants. Ready to sit down for an entire meal? It’s hard to choose – but Versailles is a top pick. Order the churrasco, which comes with one of the best chimichurri sauces in town.
Fresh seafood in Miami is abundant and delicious. Garcia’s Seafood Grille and Fish Market is a can’t-miss landmark where fresh fish is caught by the restaurant’s boats and brought right into the kitchen. The Conch Steak is a house specialty. Joe’s Stone Crab is another perennial favorite among locals and visitors alike. The crab is the star, but the sweet and tart fresh key lime pie is a close second.
9. St. Louis, MO
St. Louis has a lot to offer the food traveler, not the least of which is being a more affordable destination than some of the other places on our list.
It’s more diverse than you think for a city in the middle of the country. Try some of the best Bosnian food in the nation (St. Louis has a good sized Bosnian population) at popular food truck Balkan Treat Box. The experience starts with soft, chewy, house-made pide (a Bosnian flatbread) which can be filled with your choice of meats – try the beef and cheese.
St. Louis is also home to top-notch pho, a traditional Vietnamese soup whose star is a rich, savory broth; check out Nudo House STL, whose pho made the cover of Food&Wine magazine.
Brunch lover? Half and Half is the place to be, and be sure to order the S’mores French Toast for a decadent treat.
10. Philadelphia, PA
Philly is known for the cheese-steak, but the city’s vibrant food scene goes well beyond the classic sandwich.
In fact, the City of Brotherly Love is a great place to visit for vegan foodies. V Street is a must-visit for an entirely vegan approach to street food favorites. Don’t miss the savory mushroom shwarma, and save room for dessert. The saffron pannacotta with churros and chocolate ganache is a can’t miss.
But don’t worry if you’re looking to enjoy the meatier fare. Philly also brings the south up north with some great barbecue joints. Head down to South Philly Smokhaus for ribs and brisket to rival many southern cities.
No foodie visiting Philadelphia will want to miss the venerable Reading Terminal Market. It’s one of America’s oldest food halls and one of the best. Start with a world-famous roast pork sandwich at DeNic’s, and then feed your sweet tooth with the warm cinnamon-and-sugar heaven that is an apple dumpling at Dutch Eating Place.
From the tried-and-true to the up-and-coming, all of these cities offer a great food experience while also being fun travel destinations.
And with so much variety to choose from, any one of these destinations is sure to please even the most discerning foodie traveler. Get ready to hit the road.