8 Foodie Destinations You Haven’t Thought Of

Paris. Rome. Tokyo. Buenos Aires. New Orleans. New York. San Francisco. Some cities are so intrinsically intertwined with their food culture, they’ve become culinary destinations in their own right. Sometimes, however, it can take generations for a legit food and drink scene to develop — whether due to economy, logistics, tourism infrastructure, topography and climate, or all of the above.

Happily, there’s an increasing number of global hot spots that are drawing visitors for their innovative and on-trend restaurants, bars, food-and-drink artisans, and farmers' markets. If you’re the type who lives to eat, consider spending your next vacation in one of the eight following cities.
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Photo: Getty Images.
Oakland, California
Besides a dynamite urban farm scene in West Oakland, there’s Chinatown (less touristy, easier to navigate, and better dining than across the Bay in San Francisco), and revitalized neighborhoods like the Temescal and Downtown, which have acted as incubators for the region’s most talented young chefs.

For hearth- and spit-cooked meats and seafood with a focus on local sourcing, dine at Camino, co-owned by former Chez Panisse chef Russell Moore. The six degrees of Chez Panisse can also be found at Itani Ramen and Boot & Shoe Service. Other delicious options include Hawker Fare for Asian-style street food, Ramen Shop, Commis, and the various eateries and vendors at Swan’s Market.

Thirsty? Alchemy Bottle Shop is invested in supporting small, indie producers of craft spirits and beer; even if you’re a teetotaler, the space and displays are ‘gram-worthy.
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Reykjavik, Iceland
The purity of the environment and water supply have given Iceland superior-tasting lamb, dairy products, crustaceans, fish, and produce, and a recent surge in restaurants offering modern Icelandic cuisine has made for a compelling dining scene. The country’s most famous chef is Gunnar Karl Gislason, whose restaurant, Dill, pays homage to native ingredients. Don’t let the simple menu descriptions (oats, trout roe, sea truffle, lamb, sunchoke, and cranberries) fool you. This is world-class dining.

For less spendy options, Reykjavik’s happening boutique hostel, KEX, is also home to Sæmundur í Sparifötunum gastro pub, featuring regional food and beer; at Bergsson Mathus, homey, brunch-like dishes are served all day. For a more grassroots experience, visit Kalpordtid Flea Market, where vendors sell everything from puffin, reindeer meat, and fermented shark to birch tea, foraged foods, baked goods, skyr (a cultured dairy product similar to yogurt), and native herbs.
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Photo: Courtesy of Destination Canada.
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Halifax, Nova Scotia
This harbor city may be home to a modest 400,000 people, but it boasts more than 450 food establishments. And with its prime waterfront location, Halifax has become a hotbed of the locavore movement.

The seasonal menu at Chives Canadian Bistro currently features lobster and asparagus risotto and Charcuterie de Semaine, a curation the restaurant’s larder changes up weekly. Field Guide, meanwhile, mixes Nova Scotia craft beers with snow crab tarts, local ShanDaph oysters, and pork shoulder topped with chimichurri. And just about every corner features a version of the donair, a sliced meat, pita, and sweet sauce dish that was recently designated the official food of Halifax.
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Minneapolis, Minnesota
It may be the home of the Jucy Lucy burger, but there’s more to Minneapolis than its excellent greasy spoons. As culinary authority, author, and television host Andrew Zimmern told us of his adopted hometown, “What used to be fly-over country is becoming one of the most exciting, important food cities in America. It’s affordable, has a rich agricultural history, a vibrant immigrant population, and lots of culinary talent.”

Case in point, award-winning chef Gavin Kaysen — formerly of Restaurant Daniel in Manhattan — returned to his hometown to open Spoon & Stable, located in a renovated horse barn in the North Loop. “He delivered on his promise to serve the best food in Minneapolis," says Zimmern.

Kaysen isn’t the only acclaimed chef in town: At Bachelor Farmer, James Beard Award-winner Paul Berglund melds Scandinavian flavors with a Midwestern vibe, and the basement speakeasy Marvel Bar is ideal for a pre- or post-dinner libation.
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Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
The South is no slouch when it comes to incredible food, but the area better known as the Research Triangle (for its high-tech industry and academic and medical research facilities) is fast becoming one of the region's major dining destinations. From old-school soul food and barbecue to more recent ethnic eateries inspired by a new wave of immigrants, there’s a culinary renaissance taking place.

Ashley Christensen's Raleigh restaurants and bars celebrate contemporized Southern food made with ingredients from family farms. Death & Taxes specializes in wood-fired fare, while Poole’s Downtown Diner revamps regional classics. At Durham’s Watt’s Grocery, chef-owner Amy Tornquist draws on childhood memories to create a decadent ode to North Carolina cuisine. There’s cupcakes for dessert, and a short but thoughtful, whiskey-heavy bar menu.
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Honolulu, Hawaii
If you think this captivating city is merely synonymous with Waikiki, here’s a bit of intel: there are few American cities with such an ingrained, diverse food culture. Here, you'll find a vibrant food truck scene alongside to-die-for ramen shops, plate lunch joints, sushi bars, izakayas, and iconic eateries like Side Street Inn (the pork chops and fried rice are epic), plus relative newcomers like buzzy Chinatown eatery The Pig and the Lady.

On Kapahulu Avenue you’ll find some of the city’s best spots for local food within a matter of blocks — shave ice at Wailoa, malasadas at Leonard’s Bakery, and ramen at Tenkaippin. En route to the airport, pick up a box of Libby’s manapua to go, or wander Chinatown, home to delicious old-school eateries like Char Hung Sut. And no visit is complete without a pilgrimage to the Saturday farmers' market at Kapiolani Community College and an auction tour at the Honolulu Fish Market. Who has time for the beach?
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Mexico City, Mexico
No surprise that there’s great food here, in one of the world’s most densely populated cities. What’s changed in recent years, however, is a downturn in crime and an uptick in tourism and exciting new restaurants. There’s still no shortage of local fondas (mom and pop eateries) and divey cervezerias serving up antojitos (savory masa-based snacks), but you’ll also find more upscale offerings.

For less casual dining and drinking, Mexico City native/cheese expert Carlos Yescas told us he loves modern cantina Lampuga Roma for seafood. Yescas recommends food-loving visitors explore the areas of Roma, Condesa, Coyoacán, and Polanco, as well as El Centro (downtown). Mercado Roma is home to Yescas' own Lactography (a cheese shop specializing in Mexican varieties) as well as other vendors and eateries. Mercado Coyoacán is not to be missed for a deep dive into indigenous ingredients like chapulines (fried grasshoppers). Refuel at one of the many food stalls.
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Santa Barbara, California
Despite the region’s world-class wine industry, until recently Santa Barbara was lacking a comparable culinary scene. That’s all changed, thanks to an influx over the last few years of progressive chefs and restaurateurs.

Nowhere is that more evident than the Funk Zone arts district on lower State Street. This formerly run-down industrial ‘hood is now full of tasting rooms, galleries, and boutiques — all anchored by an historic former fish market that has been transformed into a dining and drinking complex. Flagship restaurant The Lark serves up some of the city’s best eats (Mediterranean influenced by regional produce and seafood); Les Marchands is a wine bar with excellent food.

The nearby Waterline complex opened in May and is home to Nook, a tasty takeaway housed in a shipping container. Around the corner, Mony’s Mexican Food is cheap (under $10), and criminally good.
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Portland, Maine
This beguiling coastal city has a decidedly small-town feel, in the best way possible. Mainers are justly proud of regional ingredients, like blueberries, maple, and foraged foods, as well as sustainably-caught seafood, like oysters, lobster, and fin fish. Combine an active fishing heritage with a wonderfully diverse populace (Portland repeatedly makes domestic “Best Places to Live” lists), and you get a vibrant dining and drinking scene, minus the wallet-depleting prices. There’s even a year-round farmers' market that’s been going strong since 1768.

James Beard Award-winning chef Sam Hayward helped put Portland on the culinary map with his Fore Street restaurant, which serves up turnspit-roasted meats and seafood, plus a raw bar. The seafood is equally pristine at sushi joint Miyake, and the heritage pork comes from owner Masa Miyake’s farm in Freeport. If it’s drinking you have in mind, Nordic-vibed Portland Hunt & Alpine has a tome of a cocktail menu to choose from.
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