1 NY NYNew York, NY

When it comes to range of cuisines, concentration of culinary talent, and sheer magnitude of world-class restaurants, it’s easy to argue that New York is the one to beat. Gotham’s diversity means the city is rich with ethnic food—Russian vareniki dumplings in Brighton Beach; fragrant Indian curries in Jackson Heights; antojitos and over-stuffed tacos in Sunset Park; not one, but two Chinatowns. But New York is also a fine dining mecca, and many of the country’s most celebrated chefs have passed through the city’s kitchens. There are haute cuisine masters like Eric Ripert, whose seafood-focused bastion of boom-time luxury Le Bernardin (pictured) still feels fresh after nearly 30 years. There are intimate tasting counters, such as Carlo Mirarchi’s Bushwick jewel Blanca and David Chang’s progressive Momofuku Ko. And there are cool downtown restaurants like Estela—a casual showcase for chef Ignacio Mattos’s quirky, global flavors. All this, plus unbeatable pizza, vintage steakhouses, and some of the country’s best cocktail bars puts New York City at the center of the culinary cosmos.

 

2 new-orleans-martin-thomas-photography-alamy-best-food-citiesNew Orleans, LA

The dreamy, sweltering city has long been a culinary crossroads, where the colonial influence of French and Spanish settlers mingles with West African flavors—a motley mix known broadly as Creole cuisine. New Orleans is the birthplace of classic dishes like crawfish étouffée, Oysters Bienville, and gumbo, and the city doesn’t lack for elegant, old-world restaurants in which to enjoy them (Arnaud’sCommander’s Palace, and Galatoire’s are perennial favorites). But there’s also a new wave of chefs who are digging deep to reinterpret the city’s heritage. At the head of this renaissance is chef Donald Link, whose holdings include Herbsaint, and its adjoining Butcher, where you can devour the city’s best muffuletta sandwich. Alon Shaya—a protege of another celebrated Nola chef, John Besh—explores Italian flavors at Domenica and his own Israeli roots at the newly opened Shaya. Meanwhile, in Mid City, chef Isaac Toups celebrates his Cajun ancestry with  fat Gulf shrimp bobbing in spicy stew at Toups’ Meatery.

 

3_SC husk-4Charleston, SC

It’s been nearly five years since chef Sean Brock opened Husk (pictured)—his white-hot love letter to Lowcountry food—but when it comes to dining in the South, Charleston is still the city on everyone’s lips. Brock continues to draw serious acclaim at Husk, and at his nearby restaurant McCrady’s, but he’s not the only game in town these days. Mike Lata, whose beloved Fig has been a Charleston staple since 2003, has since broken into the oyster bar business with The Ordinary where he celebrates the seafood traditions of the Carolina coastline. Newer still is brewpub Edmund’s Oast, where rotating taps of funky beers pair with nose-to-tail charcuterie and pickled shrimp. There are some interesting things happening on the fringes of the Southern food vernacular as well. At Two Boroughs Larder ingredients like tahini, fish sauce, and nduja give the menu a global sensibility. Sandwiches at late-night favorite Butcher & Beemight riff on Vietnamese banh mi or Israeli shawarma. And at Xiao Bao Biscuit you can pair Taiwanese noodles and Japanese okonomiyaki pancakes with Carolina beers

 

San FranSan Francisco, CA

Conscientious cooking has long been the zeitgeist in the Bay Area; the American obsession with local and seasonal ingredients radiates from here. Although one of its earliest practitioners, Judy Rodgers, passed away in 2013, her restaurant Zuni Café soldiers on in that tradition, serving what is still one of the country’s best roasted chickens. Newer to the scene is the ascent of the marathon tasting menu, designed to showcase surprising flavors and progressive techniques—the province of chefs like Daniel Patterson atCoi, Corey Lee at Benu and Josh Skenes at Saison. On the other end of the spectrum are casual spots like chef April Bloomfield’s Tosca Cafe (pictured) and State Bird Provisions, where dim sum–style service means you can flag down dishes like green-garlic steak tartare as they are marched through the dining room. In a city that’s famous for sourdough, it follows that there’s a deep well of excellent bakeries to choose from as well: places like TartineCraftsman & Wolves, and B Patisserie.

 

ChicagoChicago, IL

Its meatpacking past might suggest that Chicago has been a steak town since the 19th century, but the culinary identity of the Midwestern metropolis actually took shape much later—in 1987, with the opening of Charlie Trotter’s. Trotter himself is largely credited for putting Chicago on the fine dining map, and although he passed away in 2013 his modernist influence is still keenly felt. Among his many proteges still working in Chicago are Curtis Duffy of Grace, Michael Carlson of Schwa, and Grant Achatz, whose restaurants AlineaNext and cocktail bar Aviary regularly top world’s-best lists. Paul Kahan represents another culinary root system in the Windy City, helming a family of beloved restaurants that includes the new-American spot Blackbird, beer-and-pork mecca The Publican, and taco joint Big Star. Speaking of tacos, Mexican food pioneer Rick Bayless also calls Chicago home, and his established restaurantsFrontera Grill and Topolobampo are destinations in their own right.

 

7 santa-fe-food-cities-cafe-pasquals-cr-danita-delimont-alamySanta Fe, NM

Southwestern food enjoyed a few moments of prominence in the ’80s and ’90s, but these days, outside its home region, the cuisine mostly lives on at chain restaurants. That’s a shame, because the food can be fascinating and delicious, with a pantry of ingredients like red and green chiles and blue corn, and flavors that meld indigenous American traditions with those of Mexico and Spain. Santa Fe is still a spiritual center for this cuisine, and restaurants like The Shed and Café Pasqual’s (pictured) provide a good foundation for it. Santa Fe Bite is the place to go for one of the city’s iconic green chile cheeseburgers, while Kakawa Chocolate House specializes in pre-Colombian drinking chocolates. There are also a few ambitious chefs in town who are pushing outside the Southwestern idiom, including Martín Rios atRestaurant Martín and Kim Muller who cooks Japanese izakaya snacks at Izanami at Ten Thousand Waves. If you’re venturing into the Chimayó valley, don’t miss Rancho de Chimayó, a 50-year-old restaurant where you can scoop up carne adovada with hunks of fried sopaipilla bread.

 

8 healdsburg-pa-gettyHealdsburg, CA

“This beautiful and fun-loving town is shaping up to be Sonoma County’s darling,” Traveler writer Stacy Adimando predicted in 2013. How true she was. “It’s more than just wineries—though there’s plenty of those. Healdsburg is filled with quiet, charming inns; excellent farm-fresh food; and a small but bustling city center,” where chef Charlie Palmer set up shop with Dry Creek Kitchen in Hotel Healdsburg. There’s also a density of incredible Italian restaurants downtown. “Call ahead to score one of the cozy tables atScopa,” says Adimando. “This unpretentious Italian spot gets the ‘keep it simple’ thing just right with starters like grilled romaine doused in anchovy-garlic dressing—wonderfully salty and lightly warmed. Wood-fired pizzas have thin, blistered crusts that rival the real thing in Italy.

 

FTG-BostonRestaurants-WhiteBarnInn-CreditUSHotelsIncBoston, MA

That Boston is coming into its own as a food city at a time when hyperlocal ingredients and regional flavors are a national obsession makes sense. It’s an old city, with plenty of cultural history ripe for interpretation, and excellent seafood at its disposal. One of Boston’s earliest culinary champions is Barbara Lynch, whose empire includes her flagship No. 9 Park along with newer venues such as cocktail bar Drink and Italian Menton. Chef Tony Maws, known for his work at the excellent Craigie on Main(pictured) in Cambridge, recently expanded with Kirkland Tap & Trotter. Among the new school of chefs looking further afield for inspiration are Tim Maslow at Ribelle, Joanne Chang at Myers + Chang, and Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette, the pair behind Coppa and Toro. But if you just want to celebrate the coastal bounty of New England, then you need to know about Island Creek Oysters. The company began life as a bivalve farm in Duxbury, Massachusetts, and later spawned a few restaurants, among them the namesake Island Creek Oyster Bar.

 

10 carmel-by-the-sea-gettyCarmel-by-the-Sea, CA

Carmel’s famous detour, 17-Mile Drive, is a winding coastal route home to the Lone Cypress tree and Pebble Beach Golf Course, but the village’s downtown—all of one square mile—is packed with more than its share of turnoffs as well. Fine dining is abundant, catering to the golf crowds and San Francisco weekend trippers; our readers enjoy Aubergine at the L’Auberge Carmel, a Relais & Châteaux property, where the daily changing eight-course tasting menu takes advantage of seasonal ingredients and a 2,500-bottle wine cellar. For a more casual lunch, try Dametra, a cozy-colorful Mediterranean cafe best known for its Greek (try the moussaka). The gastropub craze didn’t skip this town either; locals (and visitors who want to feel like locals) head to Brophy’s Tavern, where the kitchen stays open until 11 p.m. (that’s late for Carmel).

 

11 seattle-lark-courtesy-ofSeattle, WA

Seattle’s best restaurants suffer from a bit of an identity crisis—are they restaurants or bars? Places likeSingle Shot on Capitol Hill or Damn the Weather in Pioneer Square walk a fine line with both destination-worthy cocktails and stunning seasonal small plates. Meanwhile, enterprising chefs pack multiple establishments into a single building, like John Sundstrom’s new Lark location (pictured), which also harbors a sandwich shop and crudo bar, or Rachel Yang’s Trove, a quadruple threat of Korean barbecue, noodle bar, cocktails, and parfait counter. Other restaurants like Matt Dillon’s Bar Sajor or Renee Erickson’s The Wale Wins make wood-fired grills a showpiece of both the open kitchen and their vegetable-centric menus.

 

12-aspen-co-alamyAspen, CO

Thanks to Aspen’s reputation as a ski destination, the town’s food scene is an eclectic mix of upscale dining—Matsuhisa, the eponymous restaurant from Iron Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, is a perennial favorite—aprés-ski spots, and more casual eateries. The traditional social nexus for the town has long been the J-Barat the Hotel Jerome (pictured), where John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Hunter S. Thompson swapped stories with the locals. After a stylish renovation, the hotel, which formerly felt dated and mumsy, is again a prime gathering place. Ajax Tavern at the Little Nell Hotel is where you might spot celebs nowadays—but if you’re not up for the trendy atmosphere, try Cloud Nine Aspen Bistro, a Swiss-style cabin with fantastic wine and fondue.

 


13 worth-wait-franklins-bbqAustin, TX

Keep Austin Weird is an oft-uttered mantra in the Central Texas city, where the state’s reputation for country swagger takes a back seat and quirkiness can seem like a civic duty. It’s an idea that extends to Austin’s diverse culinary scene, which gives as much prominence to food trailers and Tex-Mex dives as it does to chef-driven restaurants. Some of Austin’s most beloved food trucks include breakfast taco meccaVeracruz All Natural and chef Paul Qui and Moto Utsunomiya’s empire-on-wheels East Side King. Qui also sees to an eponymous flagship restaurant where he mingles his Filipino heritage with Japanese flavors picked up during his time working with chef Tyson Cole at local Japanese spots Uchi and Uchiko. Austin is also a great home base for travelers making their way along the barbecue trail, but you can get low-and-slow meat in the city proper, too. Franklin Barbecue (pictured) is as renowned for its brisket and pulled pork as it is for its epic queue, which starts forming around 9 a.m.

 

14 Bellagio_Hotel_and_Casino_Las_Vegas_NVLas Vegas, NV

Restraint has never been Las Vegas’s strong suit, and it’s easy to find glimpses of the city’s legendarily wild ways in its dining scene (see The Cosmopolitan’s interactive supper club, Rose. Rabbit. Lie., pictured). But as Sin City continues to rebrand itself in more sophisticated hues, the dining scene is following suit. Look to two of Vegas’s newest hotels: At the SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, James Beard winner José Andrés has brought his playful style to Bazaar Meat; famed sushi chef Katsuya Uechi and design legend Philippe Starck have teamed up for yet another Katsuya by Starck; Los Angeles’s ever-popular Cleo brings Old Hollywood charm (and wood-fired Mediterranean) to Vegas; and there’s anUmami Burger. Over at The Cromwell Hotel, Food Network mainstay Giada De Laurentiis brings a laid-back California vibe to the Strip with her first outing as a restaurateur, in a space that offers front row views of the Bellagio fountains.

 

15 portland-oregonPortland, OR

Portland’s offbeat food scene—with its food carts, pristine pizza, and meat obsession—blossomed while no one was looking. Now everyone is watching, and Portland’s restaurants have grown up. Seats at Duane Sorenson’s elegant Ava Gene’s (pictured) book early, thanks to rustic pastas and downright breathtaking seasonal vegetable dishes, while Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton put a sophisticated spin on Argentina’s grilled meats at Ox. Quirks still abound: One of the buzziest spots in town is Langbaan, a closet-size, tasting menu–only Thai restaurant hidden, speakeasy style, behind an actual moving bookcase. Brunch retains its exalted status here, though it’s part religion, part contact sport; stalwarts likeTasty n Sons fill up just as quickly as newcomers like Scandinavian-focused Broder.

 

16-savannah-ga-alamySavannah, GA

Like Charleston, Savannah’s reputation as a genteel Southern city has only added to its popularity as a tourist destination. And while the city is firmly ensconced in the now, it somehow manages to give nods to its storied history in all that it does, like turning an old railway depot into a contemporary art museum. This old-meets-new flavor is readily apparent in the city’s dining scene, which has upped the ante on traditional Southern fare at mainstay eateries such as Elizabeth on 37th, which has been doing the farm-to-table thing for more than two decades, or The Florence, Hugh Acheson’s new(ish) Italian-themed venture, which is housed in a 19th-century ice factory.

 

benschilibowlWashington, D.C.

The nation’s capital hasn’t always had a sterling reputation for fine dining—in fact, until recently, its most famous restaurants were either frequented by politicos, or celebrated the deliciously lowbrow over haute cuisine. (See: Ben’s Chili Bowl, pictured, a U Street classic serving chili dogs, burgers, and shakes since the 1950s.) But times have changed, and now D.C. is a food city contender in its own right, with trendy, long-wait-guaranteed spots (including Rose’s Luxury and Little Serow), as well as Obama-approvedEquinox, serving local, seasonal fare on Connecticut Avenue, and Blue Duck Tavern in Georgetown. On Saturdays, hit Eastern Market, packed with street-food vendors and fresh farm stands

 

San FranSanta Barbara, CA

Part upper-crust beach retreat, part college town, Santa Barbara has long flown under the national culinary radar. But in recent years, the wine scene has seen a surge of urban wineries and tasting rooms, both of which cater to the thrifty oenophiles who’ve realized the excellent value in Santa Ynez and Santa Barbara county wines. Carr Vineyards & WineryJaffurs Wine Cellars, and Kunin Wines are among the best and most welcoming. Of course, good wine goes hand-in-hand with good food. Bouchon (not of Thomas Keller’s empire) serves up California-inspired French fare, while Public Market, which opened in 2012, brings together a wealth of regional, artisanal purveyors, including Belcampo Meat Co.Flagstone Pantry, and Crazy Good Bread Co. But Santa Barbara’s street cred has been decades in the making, in no small part because of tumble-down taqueria La Super Rica (pictured)—it was Julia Child’s favorite spot for Mexican food. If it’s good enough for Julia, it’s certainly good enough for the rest of us.

 

19-cape-may-alamyCape May, NJ

The beach resort at New Jersey’s southern tip has plenty to offer travelers seeking out high-quality food to go along with their summer beach vacation. It was founded in the late 19th century, and some of its best-known restaurants—The Washington InnMerion Inn, and 410 Bank Street—are located in historic buildings that are even older than the town itself. Unsurprisingly, seafood is a big draw: The Lobster House, which faces Cape May Harbor, is a perennial favorite for its fresh catch and its outdoor cocktail bar, located on a repurposed schooner. And don’t miss The Mad Batter in the Carol Villa Hotel (pictured), known for its eclectic dining room and delicious brunch.

 

20-naples-fl-alamyNaples, FL

Though Miami may grab the bulk of the accolades when it comes to Florida’s hottest food cities, there’s a food revolution happening in the Sunshine State’s southwestern quadrant, with Naples at the helm. Given its tropical climate and Gulf of Mexico perch, you’re going to get at least one seafood option at almost any restaurant you visit. And if that’s why you’re here, the boat-to-belly offerings at Truluck’s—including its famous stone crabs—are some of the area’s freshest. But Naples is a cosmopolitan city, and as such has a vast number of impressive international eats. For French Provencal, there’s Claudio Scaduto’s Côte d’Azur; for Spanish tapas, off the beaten path, try IM TapasInca’s Kitchen serves up authentic Peruvian dishes like lomo saltado (sautéed beef loin) in a comfortable setting. If you can’t choose just one, Mereday’soffers an eclectic mix of flavors from around the world (think mussels with Indian madras curry and coconut milk).

 

 

Source: http://www.cntraveler.com/galleries/2015-04-13/america-best-food-cities-readers-choice-awards-2014/

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