Eating all the things can be one of a vacation's great delights — but where should you go when you want to reverse engineer your getaway to make food the focus of the whole trip? Helping to answer that question are the destination experts at Travelzoo, who put together this guide of below-the-radar domestic food cities for The Feast readers — and the results may surprise you.
According to the latest MMGY Global Portrait of American Travelers, which surveys tourism habits, about 70 percent of those surveyed were “motivated to vacation in order to experience new cuisines.” While Travelzoo also recommends famous food-loving cities like New York, L.A., San Francisco, Charleston, Chicago, NOLA, Miami, Las Vegas, and pretty much anywhere in the Pacific Northwest, here are more under-the-radar places that Travelzoo is loving right now:
The nation’s first UNESCO City of Gastronomy has beguiled the Travelzoo team thanks to delicious, approachable fare like the bacon-wrapped Sonoran hot dog at El Güero Canelo’s, plus plenty of brunch hotspots, bakeries, and a new bean-to-bar chocolate spot, plus temporary pop-up dinners and other special foodie events.
Travelzoo thinks there's a major culinary renaissance happening in Detroit that the rest of the country is starting to notice. This year, the prestigious James Beard Foundation gave nods to locals such as Thomas Lents from Detroit Foundation Hotel's Apparatus Room, Kate Williams at Corktown's Lady of the House, and pastry pros Lena Sareini at Selden Standard and Lisa Ludwinski at Sister Pie. But the team is also enamored with the city's Middle Eastern food as well as classic Detroit institutions like the hot dog rivals Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island.
After you've checked out the food and Southern Charm happenings in Charleston, why not check out the other end of South Carolina by hitting up the food hotspot of Greenville? Travelzoo noted that there has been a total explosion in the scene there, with about 30 new restaurants opening in the area in the past year alone.
“One of the most food truck-friendly small cities in the country, Greenville sees dozens of these kitchens-on-wheels descend on downtown daily," said Travelzoo’s roving on-air correspondent Gabe Saglie. "And the options are plentiful, from the gourmet burgers at The Chuck Truck to the 40-something variations on a dessert theme by The Pound Cake Man.”
Travelzoo noted that Houston chefs earned a staggering 12 nominations at the James Beard Awards, the Oscars of food. The city's diversity means that restaurants serve everything from Viet-Cajun cuisine to Latin-Middle Eastern. Great food abounds in gas stations as well as in casual and fine restaurants. And with five new food halls are on the way, it's only getting hotter in Texas.
Travelzoo has an office in San Francisco, and the team can't resist exploring all the great food options across the Bay Bridge in Oakland. Their highlights include the four Bib Gourmand awardees just named to the 2019 Michelin Guide, Commis, the only two-starred restaurant in the East Bay where James Syhabout (a favorite of Anthony Bourdain, who published his first book) dazzles with his culinary ingenuity and trying new places during Oakland Restaurant Week, which takes place from January 11-20.
Bon Appetit named Portland the 2018 Restaurant City of the Year, and Travelzoo agrees, citing collective events like the Maine Food for Thought tour as great ways to check out the scene. One must-do if you want to call yourself a foodie: fresh off the dock seafood at Eventide Oyster Co.
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