When you’re a foodie, travel often revolves around some very important questions: “What’s the food scene like?” or “Can I turn this trip into a food tour?” and most importantly, “How soon can I get there?“
Since there is so much incredible food in this country, it can be tough to know which foodie destination is best. Lucky for you, we have outlined which cities make for the best food focused vacations. Our list is sure to have your mouth watering as you get ready to book your flight. Make sure to book a vacation rental close to the restaurants you’re most excited to try!
The old-town charm of Charleston is bolstered by its robust restaurant scene, with delectable options that often reflect its seaside location. Head over to The Ordinary for delicious seafood that’s ironically far from ordinary. Drop by on a Friday to try their baked stuffed lobster special, or get your hands on crispy oyster sliders on any day of the week.
For a place that pulls out all the stops, and serves a traditional lowcountry menu with a contemporary spin, Circa 1886 is the way to go. Texan Executive Chef Marc Collins sources the finest ingredients from local farms and food producers to offer what is possibly the finest menu Charleston has ever seen. The menu changes frequently, and is always top tier, so you can come back to this restaurant again and again and never get bored.
If you’re looking for some classic South Carolina BBQ, Poogan’s Smokehouse is our top choice. They smoke up a traditional menu of Ribs, Pulled Pork, Chicken, and of course, Brisket, and serve all the standard sides you’ve come to expect from a decent BBQ joint. Before you go, make sure to try their famous Key Lime Pie, which alone, is almost worth the trip to SC.
With a well-established culinary tradition of southern fare and flavor-packed takes on old favorites, Nashville is another great option for foodies to explore. One must-try is Hattie B’s which has three locations spread throughout Nashville. The chicken joint is commonly known for their Nashville hot chicken sandwich, and their selection of heat levels ranging from “southern” which has zero spice, to their sixth level of spiciness called, “shut the cluck up!” If your mouth is on fire, some of their creamy Banana Pudding, a southern favorite, should cool things down a bit.
Other stops to add on your Nashville food tour include Pinewood Social, a trendy space that serves coffee, eats and cocktails all day long. Their weekend brunch menu is no slouch, and has many southern standard dishes that are on most people’s checklists when visiting Tennessee. Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint is our favorite Nashville spot for, you guessed it, mouthwatering meats. And of course, there’s the deep-rooted tradition of country music that flows through the city to act as a backdrop to your meal-focused trip.
Cheesesteaks are not the end-all, be-all for this massive, diverse and foodie-friendly city, and it’s not surprising that Philadelphia found its way to the number two spot on this list. For the OG cheesesteaks, check out Pat’s or Geno’s, which are right across the street from one another. Or for what’s known as “the best Mexican food on the East Coast,” you can also visit South Philly Barbacoa and put that title to the test.
While Philly is famous for its rich and delicious carnivorous eats, it’s also a vegan food haven, offering options that can satisfy even the most stubborn herbivore. Our favorite vegan eateries to visit include V Street and Bar Bombon. The latter has a Double Chorizo Burger that will have any meat eater considering the switch to a meat-free life. Don’t hesitate to try the Buffalo Cauliflower Tacos either, they serve them on traditional handmade corn tortillas that will make you feel like you’re actually eating from a street vendor in Mexico.
While not in the city proper, we have to make a special mention of The Kibitz Room. Just 20 minutes outside of Philly, this traditional Jewish deli is absolutely incredible. They cure their meats in-house, and only use the highest quality ingredients. Every meal is made with love and care, and is guaranteed to fill your belly and leave you satisfied. To top it off, they have a self-serve pickle bar, where you can select all your favorite pickles and fermented foods to accompany your meal. It is without a doubt worth the trip over to Cherry Hill.
The Windy City is one of the highest rated eating cities in the country. While Chicago may be best-known for pizza and hot dogs, there’s much more to the foodie scene than those classic options. By more, we mean a wider palette that spans the globe, and draws inspiration from a myriad of cultures. The even better news is that they aren’t hard to come by. Try Cemitas Puebla for savory Mexican sandwiches, or Passerotto for fresh takes on Korean-American fusion. Spice-lovers will want to visit Sze Chuan Cuisine in Chicago’s Chinatown for its shameless approach to heat-laced dishes.
Chicago is also a comfort food paradise. It may be cliche, but a Chicago food tour wouldn’t be complete without the ultimate comfort food: pizza. It may not be the most original option, but deep dish pizza is one of Chicago’s biggest staples for a good reason. Pequod’s Pizza, for example, is an inexpensive and popular option in the Lincoln Park area, but due to high demand, brace yourself for the possibility of long wait times. If they’re a little too busy and your rumbling stomach just can’t wait, try Giordano’s, which has three locations all easily accessible from downtown. If you pick up your pie from their Michigan Ave. location, you can walk over to Grant Park to enjoy your meal by the banks of Lake Michigan.
For those who really, really love pizza, it may be a good idea to check out the Original Chicago Pizza Tour, which meets near Millennium Park and includes a few options for vegetarians.
You can’t talk about high quality food without mentioning Los Angeles. With the high class lifestyle that Hollywood and movie stars bring to the city, you’re obviously going to have all of life’s luxuries right behind. One of our go-to spots for fine French fare is Kendall’s Brasserie. Their menu is incredible, with the 1.5 house-cured bone-in ribeye, being their shining star, in our opinion.
For a top of the line meal with American roots, Otium is the place to go. They strive to bring a relaxed atmosphere to fine dining, and they do an incredible job of it. The open-kitchen that serves both a dining room and outdoor patio creates a setting where friends can feel comfortable, while eating some of the highest quality food in the world. With influences from all over the world, done with a creative spin, Chef Timothy Hollingsworth is constantly creating true culinary masterpieces.
New York City
It’s almost unfair to include New York in this list, as it is almost universally considered the best food faring city in the United States. The city is known for being a melting pot of cultures, which of course brings with it the most incredible food scene North America has to offer. You can basically pick any ethnicity and find their finest quality food offerings somewhere in the Big Apple.
While not a food genre that New York is generally known for, we have to recommend Aquavit which offers a high end Scandinavian menu. With not one, but two Michelin Stars, this is truly one of the best restaurants in New York. Their seasonally changing menu offers traditional Nordic fare with a hint of that NYC creative touch. Make your reservations here as early as you possibly can, as they’re often booked out for weeks.
On the far other end of the spectrum, New York is also famous for its dollar slices of pizza. While New Yorkers and Chicagoans might argue over whose style of pizza is better, no one is going to argue the price. Dozens of pizza shops with names like $1 Pizza, or 99 Cent Fresh Pizza, it’s really impossible for us to tell you which slice is the best. You’ll just have to try as many as you can and pick your personal favorite.
Go Eat Your Heart Out
We aren’t going to sit here and tell you which of these cities you should plan your next vacation to. What we’re saying is that they’re all incredible! There is nothing more American than eating delicious food.
We hope this list helps you select the perfect food city for your next trip, and the one after that, and after that! Don’t wait until you’re hungry, start planning your vacation today!