Calling all stateside gourmands: You need not leave the country to feast on innovative and plain-old delicious cuisine. In fact, the United States is home to dozens of incredible food cities complete with hidden gems, highly lauded hotspots, and everything in between. From large metropolises like New York City and San Francisco to unexpected (albeit just as delightful) picks like Greenville, South Carolina and Tucson, Arizona, here are 10 of the best foodie destinations across America. Get ready to dig in and explore.
New York City, New York
New York City represents a melting pot of cultures, which means you can enjoy any type of cuisine within its 300-square-mile radius, be it authentic dim sum at Joe’s Shanghai in Chinatown or mouthwatering bagels and smear plus meat-piled sandwiches at one of the city’s dozens of Jewish delis like Katz’s. Don’t confine yourself to Manhattan, either: Feast your way through the five boroughs, including stops in Astoria and Jackson Heights (in Queens) for authentic Greek and Himalayan fare, respectively. Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood is home to a slew of Polish bakeries like Syrena, while Arthur Avenue (in The Bronx) and Staten Island offer some of the city’s best Italian food. Additionally, the Big Apple boasts over 70 Michelin-starred restaurants, ranging from fine-dining establishments like Le Bernardin to more low-key (and still delicious) haunts like Jeju Noodle Bar. Don’t get caught up on all things Michelin, though — some of the best eats can be found in the most unexpected places ($1 pizza, anyone?).
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans’ food offerings are just as diverse as its cultural influences from Europe, the Caribbean, and Africa. With this in mind, it’s fitting that The Big Easy is, well, big on flavor. Savory staples here include po’boys (Sammy’s is a local fave), jambalaya (the one at Mother’s is *chef’s kiss*), gumbo (dig in at the aptly named Gumbo Shop), crawfish etouffee (check out Creole House), and muffulettas (grab yours at the Verti Marte, which is open 24/7) — all best paired with live jazz, of course. Be sure to save room for powdered sugar-covered beignets at Cafe Du Monde (yes, there will be a line, but yes, it’s worth it) and wash everything down with NOLA’s most iconic cocktail, the Sazerac, at The Sazerac Bar at The Roosevelt Hotel.
Chicagoans are passionate about their deep-dish pizzas and their, ahem, unique ketchup-free hot dogs. The former and the latter are best enjoyed at Windy City staples Pequod’s and Jimmy’s Red Hots, respectively. Chicago also boasts over 50 James Beard Award winners and 20-plus Michelin-star-awarded restaurants, including the world-famous Alinea, best known for its creative multicourse tasting menus. New additions to the food scene here include the 24,000-square-foot Chicago Winery (one part winery, one part restaurant, and one part bar and events space) and the 17,000-square-foot Kindling, a live fire show kitchen helmed by James Beard Award winner Jonathon Sawyer.
San Francisco, California
Sure, San Francisco may be best known for its innovative tech scene, but its culinary offerings are just as impressive. The City by the Bay has been named the most restaurant-dense city in the country. Here, diners can indulge in dozens of Michelin-starred meals at acclaimed eateries like Atelier Crenn (where haute French cuisine is served in a swanky space), Mister Jiu’s (which features contemporary Chinese-American fare), and Lazy Bear (which bills itself as a “modern American dinner party). Alternatively, for something more casual, make your way to the Ferry Building Marketplace, which is teeming with locally loved food vendors like Acme Bread Company, Dandelion Chocolate, El Porteño Empanadas, Donut Farm, and Hog Island Oyster Company. Lastly, no trip to San Fran is complete without sampling some sourdough (both Josey Baker Bread and Boudin Bakery make some of the best in town) and namesake Mission burritos (locals and travelers alike love Taqueria Cancún)
As America’s most diverse city, it’s no surprise that Houston made our list of the best U.S. cities for foodies. The Bayou City offers something for every palate. As such, options abound, from Viet-Cajun fusion at Crawfish & Noodles to Southeast Asian-Latin American cuisine at Hawker Street Food Bar, which can be found at Post Market. Speaking of Post, this bustling international food haul features fantastic eats from acclaimed chefs. A few of our favorites include ChópnBlok for its West African fare and East Side King, which serves up Japanese street food like pork buns and beet home fries. We’d also be remiss not to highlight Houston’s burgeoning food truck scene, including the award-winning Coreanos, where diners can feast on Korean-Mexican fusion like Korean barbeque tacos.
Tucson was the first U.S. city to be deemed a UNESCO City of Gastronomy in 2015. Today, the destination continues to wow culinary connoisseurs with its distinct Native American and Mexican offerings dating back thousands of years. The best Tucson restaurants incorporate locally sourced ingredients into their drinks and dishes. With this in mind, prickly pear margaritas are a staple here, as are nopales (edible cacti). Tucson’s vibrant downtown district has 85-plus bars and restaurants, including Bata (which offers a largely veggie-focused menu — 90 percent of which is sourced within 400 miles of the restaurant) and Boca. Helmed by James Beard finalist Maria Mazon, Boca is famous for its flavorful tacos and salsa flights. An additional 13 new eateries will call Tucson home in 2023, including the brand-new Blue Front, where menu highlights include orange wines, creative cocktails, made-from-scratch pies, and deviled eggs.
This Midwestern city has a severely underrated albeit eclectic food scene fueled by nearby farms, local producers, and trailblazing chefs. Moreover, it’s safe to say Cleveland’s culinary scene pays homage to the 100-plus diverse ethnicities that make up the city. For a taste of Cleveland’s best eats, head straight to West Side Market, an indoor-outdoor market that offers something for everyone. Local vendors include Orale! Contemporary Mexican Cuisine, Pierogi Palace, Frank’s Bratwurst, Theresa’s Bakery, and Crepes de Luxe. Then, carve out an afternoon to embark on your very own food tour of the city, including dim sum in AsiaTown and pierogies in Slavic Village. The Land also has an incredible selection of Black-owned and Black-led restaurants like Pearl’s Kitchen for top-notch comfort food, Yonder for delectable brunch, and Cleveland Cold Brew for coffee and pastries. Don’t miss some of the city’s newest spots like Cordelia (which serves comfort food with a Midwestern, nostalgia-inducing twist) and The Judith, a cozy Parisian-inspired cafe.
Asheville, North Carolina
Situated in North Carolina’s beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is easily amongst the best food cities in the U.S. due to its constantly evolving culinary scene. The city’s 120-plus restaurants each offer something special. Don’t miss the James Beard Award-winning restaurant Chai Pani, which serves mouthwatering Indian street food like chicken tikka rolls, crispy pakoras, and butter chicken in a colorful space. Cúrate, another James Beard Award winner worth visiting, is a trendy eatery housed in a 1927-era bus depot serving flavorful Spanish tapas. A trip to North Carolina isn’t complete without some good ol’ BBQ. Enter Buxton Hall Barbecue: This James Beard Award-winning establishment — best known for its pulled pork — utilizes locally sourced pigs that are butchered in-house and smoked for hours.
While Louisville is best known for its bourbon, you won’t want to sleep on its exciting food scene. Boasting more than 2,500 restaurants plus several award-winning chefs, Louisville is sure to delight food and drink enthusiasts alike. You need not skip town without embarking on the Urban Bourbon Trail, which highlights Louisvlle’s best bourbon bars and restaurants — over 40 of them, to be exact. While it may be tricky to hit the whole trail, must-visits include Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar, Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen, and Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar. Finally, you can’t leave Louisville without trying the city’s signature dish, the Hot Brown. This delicious open-face sandwich — which features turkey, bacon, tomatoes, and Mornay sauce smothered on Texas toast – dates back to the 1920s when it was first invented at the Brown Hotel.
Greenville, South Carolina
In recent years, Greenville has reinvented itself from a quiet cotton mill town to a vibrant city chock-full of unique culinary offerings rivaling larger nearby locales like Charlotte and Asheville. Here, you’ll find hundreds of locally owned restaurants, including Camp (which offers an eccentric menu featuring unique dishes like Thai-inspired calamari and lamb smothered in curry cream) and Coral. Feast on fresh seafood at the new-ish Great Jones before snagging an afternoon pick-me-up at Methodical Coffee. Scoundrel — a fantastic French brassiere headlined by acclaimed chef and Greenville native Joe Cash — is the city’s newest haunt. Other must-visit spots include farm-to-table fan-favorite Topsoil Kitchen & Market (helmed by 2020 James Beard Award semifinalist Adam Cooke) and Mexican eatery Comal 864 (owned and operated by Dayna Lee-Márquez, a 2023 James Beard Award semifinalist).