The 20 Best Cities for Foodies in the U.S.
For people who love to explore new cities, digging into the local food scene is usually at the top of their to-do lists when they arrive somewhere new. Some prefer dingy diners and hole-in-the-wall eateries, while others tend toward world-class restaurants and Michelin-star chefs.
Either way, the United States is so large and diverse that you can pretty much get anything you want somewhere in the country (and, sometimes, right in the same city). To give you some inspiration, here are 20 of the best foodie cities in the U.S., including:
- New York City
- New Orleans
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
- San Diego
- Washington, D.C.
Let’s get started!
1. New York City
New York City has it all, from French-inspired bistros and family-owned Jewish delis to century-old pizzerias and open-air food markets. Many people consider the Big Apple to hold the top spot when it comes to the country’s best food cities, so plan on staying here for a while if you want to try a little bit of everything.
New York’s most iconic foods are its bagels, hot dogs, and thin-crust pizza, which you can find all over the five boroughs. Manhattan pizzerias tend to get crowded with out-of-towners who don’t know that many of the best pies are actually found in Brooklyn at Juliana’s, Di Fara, and Spumoni Gardens. Brooklyn also has the best vegan pizzeria in the city at Screamer’s.
While you’ll find fantastic food all over New York City, certain neighborhoods have especially high concentrations of fine food. The Lower East Side is fun, cool, and home to NYC foodie institutions like Katz’s Delicatessen, the go-to spot for Jewish knishes, latkes, and pastrami sandwiches. The LES, as it’s known, is also right next to Chinatown, where you’ll find hundreds of Chinese restaurants, along with Vietnamese, Korean, and Malaysian eateries. One hot new pick is Golden Diner, a nod to the city’s classic diner tradition that serves up all things Asian- and American-inspired, such as Thai tea tres leches cake and Korean fried chicken wings.
Friday fish fries are truly a Winsconsin tradition, and wherever you go in the state, you’re sure to find a fry you fancy. As the largest city in Wisconsin, Milwaukee has the highest concentration of must-try fish fries—and while the name implies that the fish be fried, know that you can often also get it baked.
Lakefront Brewery fries a mean fish and has live music, and outdoor seating along the Milwaukee River (it’s also one of the best places in the city for craft beer!). Serb Hall, on the other hand, feels like you’re dining in an old, lifeless basement with absolutely no ambiance, but this Milwaukee institution has been serving some of the best all-you-can-eat fried haddock, potatoes, and coleslaw for over 70 years.
Note that while fish fries are traditionally served only on Fridays, a handful of places, like Erv’s Mug in the suburb of Oak Creek, also serve a fantastic fry on Wednesdays.
3. New Orleans
If New Orleans is known for one thing, it’s for great food. Well, actually, it’s also known for great music and for being one of the best cities for nightlife, which just sweetens the pot. What makes New Orleans so unique is that you don’t have to choose between toe-tapping music and crave-worthy cuisine, as many places offer both in spades.
NOLA is one of the best foodie cities in the country, with Bourbon Street serving as its most famous destination. There, you’ll find loads of nightclubs, nightlife, and more than enough restaurants and bars to whet your whistle. Regardless of where you stay in the city, you’re going to find amazing food, including the city’s well-known po’ boy sandwiches at Domilise’s Po-boys and Bar and old-fashioned Creole cuisine like gumbo, crawfish, and creamy seafood concoctions at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant or Herbsaint.
For fine dining fare with some New Orleans flair, head to La Petite Grocery on Magazine Street, where you’ll find turtle Bolognese, blue crab beignets, and gulf shrimp and grits.
Miami is a massive metropolitan city with international cuisine that is second to none. That said, what the city is really known for is its Cuban influence, which tastefully extends to its food scene. You’ll find classic Cuban cuisine like ropa vieja and drinks like mojitos (or anything made with rum, really) all over the city, but be sure you spend some time in Little Havana. This iconic neighborhood is the best place to taste your way through its authentic Cuban food, drinks, and sweets (try the Azucar Ice Cream Company). Fresh, affordable seafood can be found at La Camaronera, while Café La Trova offers more upscale cuisine, specializing in contemporary renditions of Cuban classics.
5. Los Angeles
Los Angeles may be known for being fit, beautiful, and health-conscious, but you’ll find more than just green juices and salads here (though rest assured, you’ll also find plenty of those). California-famous burger chain IN-N-OUT Burger is open until 1:30 a.m., so it’s perfect for late-night greasy cravings after a night of hitting the town.
If you’re in downtown Los Angeles, head to the beloved Italian favorite Bestia for Cavatelli alla Norcina or to Bavel for Middle Eastern hummus, baba ganoush, and a shared malawach (a crispy layered bread with dill crème fraîche, soft egg, and strawberry zhoug).
In Koreatown, be sure to visit Jeong Yuk Jeom for dry-aged Korean BBQ. Hollywood, on the other hand, is home to an amazing steak and martini meal at t historic Musso & Frank, while Venice is the perfect spot to indulge in Indonesian at Wallflower.
Exploring foodie cities like Los Angeles on your own can be great fun, but you could also join a restaurant food tour or a street food tour and get even more tips on where to go and what to eat.
6. San Francisco
Old-world San Francisco brings to mind trollies, activism, and fresh sourdough bread. Today, think Mission-style burritos, wood-fired pizzas, and Asian-inspired brisket, which help round out San Francisco’s modern culinary mix. The city is home to the oldest Chinatown in the country, where you’ll find incredible dumplings, eggrolls, dim sum, barbecue rice rolls, and noodle soups.
Don’t miss Sam Wo Restaurant, which is said to be the oldest restaurant in Chinatown. You’ll also find a more elevated Chinese restaurant experience at China Live, where Peking duck and scallion pancakes are made even more delicious with the house-made condiments that accompany them.
Also, know that about 45 minutes south of San Francisco is San Jose, where you’ll find huge numbers of excellent Vietnamese restaurants. Pro tip: Don’t be afraid of strip mall Vietnamese food—it’s usually the best in town!
7. San Diego
Due to the city’s large university and military base, San Diego has a youthful vibe and vibrant nightlife scene that is especially well-suited to 20- and 30-somethings. Their foodie scene, however, is perfect for all ages. Since the city is a hop, skip, and a jump from the Mexican border, you’ll find ceviche and fresh fish tacos all over town in addition to more diverse offerings that cater to any and every palate.
For upscale farm-to-table dining, head to A.R. Valentien. Or if you’re looking for housemade noodles, head to Michelin Plate-recognized Japanese transplant Menya Ultra. In the mood for Filipino fare? Michelin Plate-honored Animae is the place to be (we recommend trying the lumpia and kare kare!).
Tiki bars and menus are also especially popular here, with a few top spots being The Nolen (known for its strong and spicy drinks) and Kindred, a vegan restaurant that hosts a pop-up tiki takeover every Thursday.
Indianapolis may bring to mind race cars and the Indy 500, but the city’s culinary culture is as strong as its dedication to motorsports. It might even be the next great food city!
For breakfast, try an “Indy Style” bagel with chipotle cream cheese, bacon, turkey, and avocado at Ripple Bagel & Deli. For lunch, snag a table on the outdoor patio at Bosphorus Istanbul Café and indulge in Turkish stuffed grape leaves, donor (gyro), and fried eggplant “salsa.” For dinner, head to Half Liter Beer and BBQ Hall, where the brisket is so tender it falls apart, the smoked pork sandwiches are stuffed with collard greens and pimento cheese, and the beer mugs overfloweth all day.
If you’re not sure what you’re in the mood for (or if you want to sample a bit of everything!), head to The Garage Food Hall, where you’ll find British, Mexican, Hawaiian, Venezuelan, Indian, Italian, Greek, and everything in between, along with great vegetarian and vegan options. The Garage also hosts live music and trivia nights throughout the week and there are several movie theaters, bars, and billiards nearby (some with bars and adult-only hours), so it’s a great place to hang out pretty much any night of the week.
The coasts can’t claim all the credit when it comes to killer culinary culture, as the Midwest could be called the Midbest when it comes to food. The Windy City may be known for its Chicago-style hot dogs and deep-dish pizza (a far cry from New York pizza), but the largest city in the Midwest has so much more to offer with its food scene.
Find fine dining along the iconic Magnificent Mile downtown, authentic Mexican food in the Pilsen neighborhood, and fun and lively cafes and bars around Logan Square and Wicker Park. There are even a ton of dog-friendly restaurants in Chicago if you want to bring your best friend along!
In West Town, head to Funkenhausen, a Michelin-starred restaurant that somehow seamlessly combines German and Italian culinary traditions with dishes like spaetzli cacao e pepe, ricotta, pork, and cauliflower dumplings, and pretzel panzella. For vegan fare, check out Chicago Diner (“meat-free since ’83”) for their award-winning milkshakes and Reuben sandwiches piled high with housemade vegan corned beef.
Seattle’s character comes through loud and clear at Pike Place Market, which is not only popular with tourists, but also with locals looking for fresh seafood and produce for dinner (and perhaps a bouquet of flowers to boot).
If you’re looking for fresh seafood but don’t want to prepare it at your apartment, look no further than the many restaurants in and around Pike’s Place or head to The Walrus and the Carpenter, where James Beard Award-winning chef Renee Erickson prepares eight varieties of Washington oysters in addition to raw albacore tuna and beef tartare (for non-seafood lovers). If you’re a wine fan, be sure to peruse their extensive wine list and ask your servers which wine would pair well with your meal.
For contemporary Indian food, head to Meesha, for Japanese, visit Kamonegi, and for creative, modern Korean, head to Joule. If food trucks are your jam, Taqueria La Fondita is one of the best, with three food trucks around town that satisfy the masses with affordable lengua (tongue) tacos, cheesy quesadillas, and tortas (sandwiches) served on locally baked buns.
Denver is where it’s at. From its proximity to the Rocky Mountains (which lends itself to a creative mountain-to-urban culinary scene) to its booming cannabis industry, Denver and its many cool neighborhoods are the place to be these days. The Mile High City may not often get recognition as one of the best foodie cities, but you’ll find outstanding food at places like Hop Alley (think Chongqing-fried chicken, Beijing duck rolls, and salt and pepper soft shell crabs) and The Wolf’s Tailor (kind of Italian, sort of Asian, fully delicious).
In the RiNo neighborhood, Comal Heritage Food Incubator is a training kitchen and business incubator for immigrants and refugees whose lunch counter rotates between vibrant dishes from Mexico, Venezuela, and across Latin America every Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For those on the go, Denver also has an impressive number of tried-and-true food trucks like Pho King Rapidos, which serves Vietnamese food, and Yuan Wonton, which features Chinese cuisine.
Omaha is another destination that typically wouldn’t be included on a list of the best foodie cities, but since it’s a seriously fun town, we’re adding it to the list and telling you where to find the signature food of Nebraska’s largest city. First and foremost, you need to eat at The Committee Chophouse inside the newly renovated Cottonwood Hotel in historic Omaha. You’ll find everything from tea-smoked duck and porterhouse steaks that will have you (very happily) draining your bank account. If you’re lucky, however, they’ll be serving their take on a Reuben sandwich, which is said to have been invented in this very hotel.
Right across the street, you’ll find Crescent Moon, which also made its name by serving mouth-watering, award-winning Reubens. These days, you can get a traditional Reuben sandwich or opt for Reuben-filled eggrolls, which go well with one of the 60+ beers it has on tap every day (yes, you read that correctly).
Wisconsin is the cheese capital of the country—a true dairy destination, if you will. Madison is not only the state’s capital city, but it’s also one of the culinary capitals of the Midwest. In true Wisconsin fashion, the city has fantastic cheese, with the best selection found at Fromagination, an adorable downtown shop that’s across from the capitol building, and the farm-fresh Saturday farmer’s market, which happens to be the biggest in the country.
And while it’s very possible to fill up on cheese, you’ll want to save room for a cuisine that is hard to find in just about every other city in the country: Laotian food. Madison has not just one, but several fantastic Laotian restaurants that should be on every foodie’s watch list.
Lao Laan-Xang has two locations with slightly different menus (in both, the red curry noodles are to die for), while Ahan offers a more fusion-style Laotian cuisine. The latter is located in the front of a restored 100-year-old building that was a Norwegian social club in its former life and is also now home to the Bur Oak music and event space.
The food scene in Minneapolis may not be what you expect. Sure, you’ll find quintessential Midwestern casseroles (also referred to as “hot dish”), but given the city has one of the largest Ethiopian populations in the country, you’ll also find some of the best (and most extensive) Ethiopian food anywhere outside of Addis Ababa. Demera, in sister city St. Paul, is one of the best around and includes many vegetarian options.
As a result of the strong vegan and animal rights scene in Minneapolis, it’s also one of the best foodie destinations for plant-based eaters. The city boasts the first vegan butcher in the country (yes, that’s actually a thing), the Herbivorous Butcher. The shop has a brick-and-mortar storefront that sells directly to customers six days per week, where you can swing through and pick up a curated box of vegan burgers, cheese, fried chicken, and jerky.
Southerners will never stop disagreeing about who makes the best barbecue (BBQ, or Bar-B-Q, depending where you go), but no one in their right mind would ever dispute that Memphis has some of the best. Whether you’re looking for under-the-radar joints selling open-faced barbecue sandwiches or up-and-coming eateries specializing in slow-smoked meals, Memphis has you covered.
Cozy Corner Restaurant is one of the best barbecue spots in town, where the American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame Chef Desiree Robinson is responsible for the mouth-watering plates of stick-to-your-rib ribs and whole barbecued chickens. The enormous servings of meat are served as meat-only plates or accompanied by equally satisfying sides like beans and coleslaw.
Central BBQ, which has four locations in Memphis (and one in Nashville), consistently tops the local polls for best barbecue and is another local favorite. While they’re known for their slow-smoked barbecue ribs, they also offer smoked hot wings, smoked turkey sandwiches, and BBQ nachos with either pork, beef, chicken, turkey, or vegetarian.
In the City of Brotherly Love, you may catch yourself falling in love with the city’s signature dishes, but know that Philadelphia is more than just cheesesteaks and hoagies. That said, they’re both fantastic, so here’s where to get the best in town. Dalessandro’s Steaks perfects the classic cheesesteak, which is made with thick-cut griddle-fried steak stuffed into a long roll and topped with Cheez Whiz (referred to here simply as “whiz”), provolone, and hot peppers. Chubby’s (which was actually founded in cheese-obsessed Milwaukee) and Barry’s Cheesesteaks are two other nearby cheesesteak favorites in case you’re in the mood for a cheesesteak crawl.
17. Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. is home to the largest Ethiopian population outside of Ethiopia so, like Minneapolis, it’s the go-to place for misir wot, shiro wat, and injera at restaurants like Chercher. Chocolate City, as the city is known, is also a mecca for Middle Eastern food, with amazing Tel Aviv street food at Shouk (try the shouk burger and the za’atar cauliflower!) and a more refined experience at Maydan, which serves incredible muhamarra (walnut and roasted red pepper dip), zucchini baba ganoush, and ribeye seasoned with blue fenugreek.
For pizza with a twist, make your way to Martha Dear, where a mostly Greek menu (think eggplant and lamb gyros) is joined by both Greek and Italian-style sourdough pizza.
18. Charleston, South Carolina
Biscuits and barbecue are famous food culture staples in both North and South Carolina—and for good reason. Good ol’ fashioned, made-from-scratch biscuits shine in Charleston, but if you’re looking for something really unique in this southern city, head to Vicious Biscuit in Mount Pleasant. Their flaky biscuits are turned into stacked sandwiches piled high with crispy fried chicken, crab cakes, fried green tomatoes, smoked pulled pork, and just about anything else imaginable.
Page’s Okra Grill, on the other hand, is where comfort food extends beyond biscuits and takes the form of southern fried chicken livers, redneck rolls (smoked BBQ and pimento cheese spring rolls), seafood mac and cheese, and fried oysters with hushpuppies.
At the Los Poblanos historic inn and organic farm, you can walk the lavender fields, spend the night in their guesthouses, visit their wellness spa, pick up green chile jam and lavender body scrub in their farm shop, or dine in their restaurant, which uses ingredients grown right on the farm. Their menu tends toward Italian and Mexican and includes lovely wine pairings.
For a little bit of everything, visit the Sawmill Market, where the city’s first food hall (with its sprawling outdoor patio) has everything from street tacos and sushi to pizza and poke. The market’s Red & Green restaurant is named in honor of the New Mexican tradition of ordering dishes “Christmas style,” or with both red and green salsa. Here, you can have them pour the delicious salsas over nachos, huevos rancheros, burritos, and hot dogs.
If you haven’t yet gotten your fill of food halls, head to the 505 Central downtown, a 10-shop hall serving an eclectic mix of offerings, including Detroit-style pizza, Mexican tacos, Japanese ramen, and hot chicken sandwiches—not to mention great wine, dessert, and coffee shops.
Austin has sunshine, jobs, nightlife, and plenty of outdoor activities, so it’s no wonder everyone is moving to Austin. It’s also one of the biggest foodie cities in the country (and certainly the best dining destination in Texas), so expect to find a bit of everything: Texas-style barbecue, Tex-Mex burritos, and even a plethora of vegetarian and vegan offerings are around every corner. For barbecue, head to the Distant Relatives food truck, Franklin Barbecue, which Texas Monthly referred to as “the best barbecue in the known universe” or La Barbecue, a woman-owned establishment specializing in salty and savory rubs and sides (you won’t even find sugar in their coleslaw!).
For special occasions, head to the fine dining Mexican restaurant El Naranjo or the 12-seat Otoko for very upscale Japanese.
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