29 Restaurants Around The World That You Must Try Before You Die

Photographed by Alice Gao.
I have a confession: My main food gal Zoe Bain and I are quite competitive. So when we saw the R29 Fashion Team’s truly impressive 29 Big (Fashion) Ideas story, we got jealous. We asked ourselves, “What can Team Food do that would be equally informative, disruptive, and useful?” After a lot of talking and brainstorming (over food and drinks, obviously), we realized that neither of us ever use restaurant guides when we travel (the places suggested often felt too stuffy). Nor do we consider websites like Yelp to be 100% reliable. Instead, we both rely on word-of-mouth recommendations from friends we trust. And indeed, these recommendations usually turn out to be spot-on.

So, I cracked my knuckles and got to work: Over several months, I asked, polled, and badgered tastemakers from around the world to share their favorite places to eat — from Manhattan to Manila. Then, I researched, cross-referenced, and distilled their suggestions down to the 29 absolutely cannot-be-missed culinary experiences ahead. Whether you’re traveling on a shoestring or have decided to eat your way through your savings, here are 29 restaurants (and travel destinations) that are guaranteed to not disappoint.

Let’s dig in.
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Photo: Getty Images.
Fa Hua Dumplings (Shanghai, China)
This nameless enterprise is tucked under an old building in the former French Concession neighborhood of Shanghai (Fa Hua is the name of the street it's located on). This restaurant is so low key, it goes beyond the definition of a "hole in the wall." A satisfying meal of xiaolongbao (the soup dumplings Shanghai is renowned for) along with Chinese buns and duck vermicelli will cost you under $3. The shop doesn't have a website nor phone number, so if you want to go, you'll have to get yourself to Fa Hua Street and just figure it out from there. Who doesn’t love a foodie adventure?
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Photo: Via @sootin.
Banh Cuon Thien Huong (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
When I traveled to Vietnam many years ago, I got stuck in the unfortunate situation of always somehow ending up at a tourist trap restaurant. But next time I go (and there will be a next time because Vietnam is AWESOME) I know I can go to Bahn Cuon Thien Huong in Ho Chi Minh City for the best authentic Vietnamese breakfast in town. This is where local families go to have their morning meal with tea or various kinds of coffee. Its specialty, as the restaurant name suggests, is bahn cuon: Thin rice rolls that act as an envelope for a plethora of delicious fillings.
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Photo: Via @tequilaross.
Black Boy Cafe (Mayreau, St. Vincent & The Grenadines)
Mayreau island seems like the place we all dream of, but don’t believe really exists: It’s 1 1/2 miles of untouched Caribbean beaches and bright turquoise waters, and has a total island population of about 270 people. The island got its first generator and electricity for the first time in 2002! If you can get there (it's only accessible by boat), be sure to have a drink and some grub at Black Boy Cafe. The small beach shack serves up everything from lobster and seafood platters to roasted pig and conch curry (which I’ve heard is to-die-for delicious).

It doesn't have a website or a phone number, but being that the island is so small, I bet you’ll be able to find it. Gosh, can’t you just imagine yourself sitting at Black Boy’s with a huge platter of fresh seafood and a beer, staring out at the Caribbean sea and feeling the soothing tropical breeze on your shoulders, thinking to yourself, I am torn between telling everyone, and telling no one.
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Photo: Via @iwantmyfood.
Kappacasein (London)
I’ll be the first to admit that I am prone to hyperbolic statements. That being said, Kappacasein is seriously the best grilled cheese in the whole entire world. Don’t believe me? Ruth Reichl of Gourmet magazine called it “the platonic ideal of grilled cheese.” Even notoriously finicky and critical Yelp users are huge fans.

Still not convinced? Well, do you know many sammies that have their own Facebook page?! The best part is that this sandwich can be found at a food stall in London’s Borough Market. Next time you’re on the other side of the pond, be sure to make time to grab this dream of melted delight.
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Photo: Via @mamounsfalafel.
Mamoun’s (New York City)
Mamoun’s is a NYC institution. In these no-frill establishments, all walks of life come together to bond over one thing: the most excellent falafel sandwiches. In 1976, The Village Voice wrote, “Kissinger could take a lesson in diplomacy here — he has got Arabs and Jews eating at the same table.” Originally a food stand in the West Village, Mamoun’s is now in six locations in New York City, New Jersey, and Connecticut. You really can’t go wrong with its falafel sandwich with fresh vegetables, drowned in tahini. Know that the hot sauce is excellent and flavorful, but tread lightly.
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Photo: Via @tanakw.
Abu Hassan (Tel Aviv, Israel)
If you’re a hummus fan (and who isn’t?!) then apparently you have not lived until you have enjoyed Abu Hassan’s hummus in Tel Aviv. Three separate people have told me about their meals there, all of whom raved about the large bowls of hummus and freshly baked pita. Turns out that Mr. Ali Karavan started the business as a simple food stand back in the late 1950s. It became so popular that he had to open a restaurant…and then another restaurant directly across the street to cope with demand. If you’re lucky enough to go, be sure to get there early! Once the hummus is gone, the doors close for the day!
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Photo: Via @marietsar.
Sandwich And Friends (Barcelona, Spain)
I have a love affair with Barcelona. It is one of my favorite cities in the world, and I would move there without a moment’s hesitation if I got a great job offer. It has it all: Medieval streets, gothic cathedrals, music, Gaudi, parks, art, and of course, excellent food. Being that there is so much to see, why not grab a sandwich at Sandwich And Friends (I hear the Bikini is boss) and head out to Parco Güell or any one of Barcelona’s many beaches.
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Photo: Via @sdownes.
St-Viateur Bagel (Montreal, Canada)
What do Anthony Bourdain, Celine Dion, Adrian Grenier, and Kelly Ripa all have in common? They love the bagels at St-Viateur in Montreal. These guys make 1,000 bagels in-house every single day (that’s 365,000 bagels a year!), and have been using the same recipe since 1957. These pillows of carb are so coveted, there's even a geo-bagel locator on the store's website. Just thinking about it made my mouth water for my high school favorite: a cinnamon raisin bagel with (way too much) cream cheese.
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Photo: Via @king7joy.
Diodos (Athens, Greece)
I asked a good Grecian friend for his favorite place to eat, and he pointed to Diodos. By the Agora with a beautiful view of the Acropolis, this is the place to go to get traditional Greek tavern dishes. Even though the location is very touristy, he assures me that the prices are fair and the experience authentic. After a long day of exploring ancient ruins, Diodos is the place to kick back over a plate of pikileas (assorted seafood platters) and cups of ouzo.
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Photo: Via @eatyourworld.
Town Hall Deli (South Orange, New Jersey)
I asked a foodie friend of mine for a restaurant recommendation, and she came back with an email in all caps: “THIS IS THE BEST GODDAMN SLOPPY JOE ON PLANET EARTH. I WILL PUT THIS AGAINST ANY SLOPPY JOE OUT THERE, AND IT WILL DOMINATE. F*** YOUR SLOPPY JOE IF IT IS NOT FROM TOWN HALL.” Alrighty then!

I thought she was exaggerating until I saw that the sandwich had made a New York Times review of the most beloved sandwiches from coast to coast. Also, it’s important to note that Town Hall Deli’s Sloppy Joe is not what you might remember from childhood (overcooked hamburger meat with way too much sauce). It's more like a delicious looking, multi (and I mean multi) layered club sandwich.
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Photo: Via @atl_munchies.
Daddy D'z’ BBQ Joynt (Atlanta)
I recently became a vegetarian, but I will probably make an exception for Daddy Dz’s BBQ Joynt next time I am in Atlanta. This place is the quintessential Southern BBQ shack, and proud of it. (Its motto? “We ain’t pretty, but we’re good.”) Some customers have confessed that when they see the look of it, they get a little skeptical — can this place really be that good? In a word, YES. Yelpers have declared themselves to be “at a loss for words” for how to fully communicate the deliciousness of Daddy’s; Food Network “can’t stop thinking” about its BBQ sauce; even the Zagat guide has declared that “you can’t go wrong” with Daddy D’z. Everyone agrees that its Famous Cue Wraps are the business.
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Photo: Via @lillyraw.
Shiso Burger (Berlin, Germany)
Someone described their Shiso Burger experience to me like this: “The moment I took a bite of the Bulgogi Burger, I felt an intense feeling of grief that I couldn't have that taste in my mouth forever — I know that seems dramatic, but exactly how I felt!” And she’s not alone; this guy practically wrote a love letter to Shiso Burgers. The magic lies in their unique flavor layers: The angus (or Wagyu, if you prefer) beef is marinated in Asian sauces and spices, nestled between two freshly baked and warmed sesame buns, and topped with all the traditional fixings.

They also take their condiments to the next level with flavors like honey ginger mustard sauce and lime mayonnaise. Don’t eat beef? No problem. They have delectable fish options, as well as veggie burgers.
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Photo: Via @valeriefong.
Osteria Barberini (Rome)
Surprisingly, when in Rome, it can be hard to eat like the Romans do. Why? Because it’s an incredibly touristy city. And, as Rome is overrun with tourists throughout the year, Romans tend to stay away from the large, open piazzas and get their meals at small, out of the way places that don’t scream “EAT HERE NOW” (cause sometimes people are literally screaming that at you). If you want a really authentic Roman meal experience, Osteria Barberini is the place to go. You’ll need a reservation to get in, but your prior preparation and planning will be rewarded with dishes like fettuccine with black truffle and porcini mushrooms, or ricotta, pear, and chocolate tart.
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Photo: Via @foodgasmguide.
Mama’s Fish House (Maui)
Do you know those meals that are so incredibly delicious that you’ll continue to eat despite feeling oppressively full? I’ve only experienced that twice in my life: The first time I tried cookie dough ice cream and when I went to Mama’s Fish House on the gorgeous isle of Maui in Hawaii. The restaurant overlooks the sea and serves fresh fish caught just that morning (I highly recommend the mahi mahi stuffed with lobster and crab and baked in a macadamia nut crust.)

There is also an inn at Mama’s, so next time you are in Maui you can really Eat (at Mama’s), Sleep (at Mama’s), and Play (on the beach facing Mama’s).
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Photo: Via @margauxsalcedo.
Blackbird (Manila, Philippines)
Blackbird in located in a former air traffic control tower in an abandoned military area in the heart of Manila. After a great cocktail in the outdoor bar, you walk down a deep marble hallway into the main area, to find what many agree is Manila’s most beautiful dining room. Blackbird serves modern adaptations of old French classics, and has a killer wine list. Practically every review raves about its prawn Scotch fried egg with betel leaves and coconut chili sambal.
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Photo: Via @hannahjorth_.
Riche (Stockholm, Sweden)
We’ve all heard endlessly about the food scene in places like Italy, France, and Japan, or Los Angeles and New York. But you know what country has a totally fabulous food scene that flies under the radar? Sweden. Riche has been one of the main players on the Stockholm food and drink scene since 1893. When I was asking people for their favorite places to eat around the world, Riche came up not once or twice, but thrice.

Even the NYTimes agrees that Riche should be on your list of places to go, even if you have just 36 hours in Stockholm. And what to eat when you’re in Sweden? Swedish meatballs, of course! Riche serves them with perfectly whipped mashed potatoes.
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Photo: Via @dchansiri.
Abou El Sid (Cairo)
When Anthony Bourdain traveled to Egypt, he wrote a short poem that captures the culinary experience well: “There’s a party in my tummy, so yummy, so yummy.” Everyone I know who has gone to Cairo agrees that it is insanely crowded and chaotic, but also extremely welcoming and fun. After a day of trekking around the Pyramids and souks in the heat, you’ll probably be exhausted and hungry. Head to Abou El Sid for a lavish, restorative meal. As you walk in, you’ll feel like you’re entering “an Arabian palace.” When you sit down to a meal like traditional molokheya stew with chicken or rabbit, or a veal and pearl onion tajine, you’ll feel like Cleopatra.
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Photo: Via @wayfan.
The Balcony (Byron Bay, Australia)
What sounds better than eating chocolate fondant while lounging on daybeds overlooking the a super chill surfer town on the South Pacific? Not much. The Balcony in Australia’s Byron Bay will give you that experience and more. It’s laid back atmosphere is the perfect place to refuel after a day of outdoor adventures under the hot Australian sun. Desserts not really your thing? No problem, mate! Sit on the shaded balcony with a cool cocktail, some fresh oysters, and tapas and watch the world go by.
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Photo: Via @eatcleanok.
La Huella (José Ignacio, Uruguay)
How the hell has Uruguay bypassed my vacation radar?! I mean, this place looks like an absolute dream. And with some of the “best beaches on the (South American) continent,” you can bet that there will be some excellent seafood restaurants. When I asked around, many cognoscenti pointed to Parador La Huella as their favorite place to eat. La Huella, which looks like a “bohemian pirate ship run aground,” has a daily changing menu because it works exclusively with local organic farmers and fisherman, meaning their harvest or catch of the day is what sets the inspiration for the menu.
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Photo: Via @gastroesporte.
L’Etolie (Rio de Janeiro)
With around 30 seats, L’Etoile is an escape from the vast, chaotic city that is Rio. A friend told me eating here is, “like leaving a rock concert and ducking into dinner with a friend.” The views alone would be reason to go, but since the food is world renowned — Michelin gave it a nod just this year — you know you’re going to have to stay for dinner. The giant prawn with a coconut croquante and tropical salad, served on French vanilla coconut milk sounds pretty damn delicious to me.
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Photo: Via @halleyz.
Husk (Charleston, South Carolina)
You set the bar pretty high for yourself when you declare, as chef Sean Brock did, that you are going to create a restaurant that “proves Southern food is the best food in the world.” In Brock’s case, he managed to do it: Husk has repeatedly been hailed as one of the best restaurants around by everyone from the NYT and Bon Appetit, to Yelpers. Being that Husk is Chef Brock’s love letter to the South, he sources all his ingredients from below the Mason-Dixon line. If you’re craving things like chicken fried skins, succotash, and corn bread with homemade butter, this place is for you. The not-to-be-missed menu item are the fried pig ears.
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Photo: Via @larahworks.
Point No Point (Sooke, British Columbia)
When it comes to Nature, there’s no place like British Columbia. This part of Canada is where the Great Bear Rainforest meets the sea. With this dramatic Nature as a background, Point No Point restaurant rests on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. With just 34 chairs, this place is the definition of intimate and romantic. The restaurant “provides outstanding meal (that) embrace simplicity, but not at luxury prices.” Seem like a stretch to get all the way there? Point No Point also has 25 gorgeous cabins for you to tuck up and forget the world in.
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Photo: Via @oliveinalaska.
The Saltry (Halibut Cove, Alaska)
The Saltry gives new meaning to the phrase, “I know a great out of the way spot.” In order to get there you first have to get yourself to Halibut Cove, which is off the southern coast of Alaska. From there, you can to walk, rowboat, or kayak to the restaurant (an Alaskan friend of mine told me that harbor seals and otters occasionally join you for the trip — squeeee!). Alaska can get very cold and very dark for almost half the year, so The Saltry is only open from April to September. But if you can get there within that period of time, you’re in for a culinary treat with things like the fresh seafood platter, the salmon three ways, or its much revered Classic Callebaut chocolate cheesecake.
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Photo: Via @this_is_ess.
Peponi (Shela, Kenya)
Would you believe me if I told you that there was a place where there are no cars, no streets, no concrete, and buildings built out of coral? It exists. It’s called Shela and it’s on the eastern part of Lamu island, off the coast of Kenya. I went there by myself in my 20s, expecting to visit for just a few days and instead got sucked into Shela’s astounding beauty and calmness, and decided to cancel the rest of my travel plans.

Every morning, I would wake up, climb to the top of a massive dune that overlooked vast expanses of unspoiled beaches and watch the tide roll out. When the water was low enough, I’d swim to the next island over and hike around. Eventually, I’d swim back to Shela and get some much needed lunch at Peponi’s. My happy place will forever be eating Peponi’s perfectly grilled fish with coconut rice, while overlooking the Indian Ocean under a thick canopy of tropical flowers.
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Photo: Via @lafontelinacapri.
La Fontelina (Capri, Italy)
In the 2nd century AD, the Roman poet Statius wrote of Capri, “Peace untroubled reigns here, and life is leisurely and calm, with quiet undisturbed and sleep unbroken.” Thousands of years later, Capri is still the embodiment of total bliss. The only thing that’s missing from Statius’ poem is the perfect bowl of pasta. These days, that can be found at Capri’s La Fontelina.

I’ve heard that the linguine alle vongole is the absolute jam, while others highly recommend ordering whatever the pasta of the day is. I’d happily order both and then fall into a happy, undisturbed and unbroken food coma.
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Photo: Via @valerieinlondon.
La Columbe D’Or (Sant Paul de Vence, France)
Does anyone else find it incredibly bossy that, when you click on the breakfast, lunch, or dinner options on La Columbe D’Or’s website, all you get are perfectly aged photographs of beds, fountains, and architecture? How delightfully French! Despite the lack of info, it’s clear that this place totally enchanting: Tucked in the rolling hills behind Nice, the hotel has just fresh fish, sushi, and grilled meats.

Why the daily change? The chefs insist on 25 rooms, and a restaurant that serves up some of the best food in southern France. Artists and tastemakers have been flocking here for almost a century to get inspiration and recharge their batteries; Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, and Jean Renoir have all filled their bellies and caught up on their z’s here. My sources tell me that the asperges mousseline, the pave de boeuf with gratin dauphinois, and the baked tomato with bread crumbs are where it’s at.
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Photo: Via @ice_supaksorn.
Sukiyabashi Jiro (Tokyo, Japan)
If you haven’t watched the documentary Jiro Dreams Of Sushi, please set a reminder on your phone right now and watch it on Netflix this weekend. Jiro’s dedication to the art of sushi has made his tiny restaurant (which is in the basement of a subway station) an international sensation. Michelin gave the restaurant 3-stars, their highest possible rating. Apart from eating sushi created by the hands of The Master, you’ll also get to eat with The Master himself.

That’s because his restaurant is about the size of a closet. OK, when I say you’ll be eating with him, what I really mean is he will watch you eat...very closely. You’ll see what I mean when you watch the documentary. For your convenience (and probably for the sake of abating his scorn), he has put instructions for how to eat and pick up sushi properly toward the bottom of his website.
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Photo: Via @tarasova.vladlena.
Cafe Pushkin (Moscow, Russia)
Ever since I read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, I have secretly longed to travel back in time to live just one day of aristocratic Russian life (in the summertime, please). Turns out, I don’t need a time machine at all because I can go to Cafe Pushkin. This 5-star restaurant in Moscow is open 24 hours a day and was renovated to look like a “Russian aristocrat’s home around 1825.”

They take the whole aristocrat’s home theme pretty seriously: The waiters “are dressed as household servants (and) the menus resemble an old newspaper.” Three sources recommended Pushkin to me, and assured me that when it comes to living the Russian vacation fantasy of Beluga caviar and blinis, while sipping on an assortment of flavored vodkas, this is where it’s at.
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Photo: Via @angelayu48.
Jules Verne (Paris, France)
Let’s layer dreams upon dreams for a moment, shall we? Imagine yourself in Paris with your beloved SO, atop of the Eiffel Tower, overlooking the glorious city of lights, while eating food from Michelin starred chef, Alain Ducasse. To be sure, Jules Verne is the Parisian pinnacle of romantic meals. Granted, a meal of 5 or 6 courses will set you back $200 or more (per person!), but everyone who I know who has gone there promises that food is perfection, the service is impeccable, and the magical memories last a lifetime.
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