Cities Fit for Foodies

It’s an exciting time to be a foodie. Haute Cuisine was once the exclusive territory of European powerhouses like Paris, Lyon and Rome, but thanks to the widespread proliferation of foodie culture across the internet, more people than ever are enjoying amazing dining experiences in their own hometowns. Here’s our list of the six best American cities for the weekend traveler with an adventurous palate.

New York City

Steak - New York City
 
New York City has remained the epicenter of culinary excellence in the Americas and deserves to top any list due to the sheer volume of fantastic restaurants rubbing elbows within its midst. While the palatial, immaculate fine-dining establishments like Per Se from Thomas Keller are still a must-visit for travelers with cash to spare, chef Markus Glocker has been making waves in Tribeca with classically refined and accessibly priced tasting menus in the decidedly unpretentious Bâtard. A little way north on the West Side and you’re in the impeccably hip FlatIron District, home to one of Mexico’s finest emigrant chefs, Enrique Olvera, and his newest venture, Cosme, which dances between traditional and modern techniques from Olvera’s home country and boasts the best hand-made tortillas in the city. Further south, on Manhattan’s west side, you’ll find an architecture enthusiast's fantasy in Satina, a playful Italian seafood bistro located under the southern tip of High Line Park, a repurposed train line with some of Manhattan’s best skyline views. No trip to NYC would be complete without a visit to the new culinary playground of Brooklyn and Diner, a forward-thinking, ingredient-focused New American restaurant housed in a handsomely repurposed 1920s subway car. 

New Orleans

 New Orleans cooking and eating
 
No place lives and breathes food quite like New Orleans. With a culinary tradition older than the U.S., the Crescent City has long been synonymous with Creole, Cajun and French cooking, but its restaurant scene goes so much deeper than crawfish. For a taste of tradition, executed with maximum class and style, Commander’s Palace is a local institution housed within a gorgeous old building in the French Quarter. Chef Donald Link is New Orleans’ gift to the culinary world, boasting Cochon, a skillful but dressed down ode to all things pork, and Herbsaint, the world-renowned flagship restaurant that launched his empire. Upscale neighborhood joints like Clancy’s and La Petite Grocery may be the best way to experience New Orleans food, however, as they offer modern twists on treasured classic dishes, and their intimate setting allows you to sit back and observe how much joy New Orleans takes in cooking and eating. 

Austin

Tacos in Austin
 
The counterculture capital of Texas has long been an oasis for outlaws, and that maverick spirit has endured in the city’s restaurant scene. Austin’s southern-friend hippie roots are apparent in their embrace of the farm-to-table movement, with several restaurants putting a premium on locally sourced, seasonally available ingredients. Chef Bryce Gilmore has led the charge at Barley Swine and Odd Duck, championing local farms and elevating their produce with immaculate skill and impressively designed dining rooms. Jesse Griffiths operates under a similar ethos at Dai Due, culling nearly every ingredient used in his artisanal restaurant and butcher shop within a few hundred miles. For a taste of Austin’s more traditional food ways, try visiting El Naranjo for Mexican classics and Franklin Barbecue for that unmistakable Texas Pit flavor. History and innovation collide at Olamaie, where chefs Michael Fojtasek and Grae Nonas spin Southern cookbook gems into haute cuisine in the back of a stately refurbished rambler home. 

Portland

Oysters in Portland
 
The Rose City has become a boomtown for fine dining in the past decade, exuding an effortless cool and seeming to always push the envelope. Its newest contribution? Secret restaurants. Drawing upon the DIY tradition of underground kitchens and pop-up “restaurants” only accessible to foodies with adventurous tastes and good connections, chefs like Will Preisch and Joel Stocks have gone public, offering their restless creativity in a brick and mortar setting with Holdfast Dining. Elsewhere in Portland, the “secret” part becomes even more literal, as the seafood palace of Roe is tucked carefully in the back of popular oyster bar Block & Tackle. The hottest reservation in town is hidden behind an actual trick bookshelf at the back of casual Thai spot Paadee, leading the diner into Langbaan, a miniature dining room where traditional Thai ingredients are handcrafted into eye-popping culinary marvels. If all this sounds a bit cloak-and-dagger, Portland has plenty of non-clandestine destinations to choose from, including James Beard winner Gabriel Rucker’s Le Pigeon, the Argentinean-inspired grill Ox and upscale comfort-Italian at the freshly minted (and beautifully designed) Renata.  

Denver

drinks in denver
 
A tough, rugged city surrounded by the gorgeous Rocky Mountains, Denver was built by strong shoulders and big appetites, and steak was king. That’s still the case at Guard and Grace, a 9,000-square-foot shrine to surf and turf helmed by chef/owner Troy Guard, who must have spent a fortune on the restaurant’s handsome oaken interior. These days, the city is an underrated foodie paradise with a myriad of fine dining options and a charmingly low-key approach to eating and drinking at even the stuffiest of restaurants. Chef Alex Seidel’s unpretentious masterpieces at Fruition and Mercantile Dining & Provisions exemplify that attitude perfectly, as the chef likes to get his hands dirty harvesting produce from his farm outside of Denver when he’s not in the kitchen. Chef Paul C. Reilly shares Seidel’s locavore bent and adds an award-winning wine list at Beast & Bottle, crafting some of the best pairings in the city. Work & Class slings elevated comfort food, but be prepared to wait, as they don’t take reservations. Don’t worry though, the W&C has creative cocktails and drafts from all over Denver’s exemplary craft beer scene. 

Minneapolis

Moroccan fried chicken and Korean barbecue burritos
 
This rugged mill town was labeled “America’s Next Great Food City” by Saveur magazine, and for good reason. The locavore movement has taken hold of the city in a big way, with restaurants like the Bachelor Farmer and Ghandi Mahal building their own on-site farms to work towards a more sustainable dining future. James Beard award holder Chef Alex Roberts shares that seasonally minded outlook at his elegant and understated fine dining flagship Restaurant Alma and casual Creole-style rotisserie Brasa. The Travail Collective which now offers ticket reservations to dine in, is a unique experience which includes the Travail Kitchen & Amusements, Rookery bar, Spotlight series, and Pig Ate My Pizza. Chef Sameh Wadi helped kick off Minneapolis’ recent food truck revolution with his World Street Kitchen truck, using the skills that he honed at his contemporary Mediterranean/middle eastern venture Saffron to bring irreverent comfort fusions like Moroccan fried chicken and Korean barbecue burritos. 
 

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