Photo by Victoria Shes on Unsplash
When traveling, food is always an important factor for me. Exploring a new food scene is usually the highlight of the trip. It’s no secret New York City, San Francisco, and New Orleans are some of the places topping the list when it comes to the best food cities in the United States.
Today, however, I’m focusing on some of those lesser known – underrated, if you will, food cities in the country. These are a combination of food cities I’ve explored personally, some cities featured in the USA Today, as well as lesser known food cities highlighted in Webstaurant Store, a leading supplier of restaurant equipment.
Portland, Maine, has access to what is considered to be some of the best and freshest seafood in the country. Lobster, anyone? Several Portland chefs are finding new ways to take seafood and incorporate it into their menus and recipes, combining local heritage with other cultures and cuisines.
Restaurant highlight: Fore Street Restaurant, an upscale, rustic spot featuring an open wood-fire grill, and locally sourced food. This place is also one of the oldest restaurants in Maine, serving American fare and seafood.
Jersey City, New Jersey
Food and Wine Magazine recently named Jersey City one of the country’s next great food cities, and after having lived in this city myself, this is no surprise. Jersey City is extremely diverse in the food scene, and in a place like this, with rents going up, you simply have to make food people want to come back for, in order to make it.
Restaurant highlight: Razza, an intimate pizzeria featuring artisan, wood-fired pies, plus a bar with cocktails and Italian craft beer. Also worth highlighting is Prato Bakery, a quaint cafe with handcrafted, sweet and savory Tuscan specialties.
Highlands, North Carolina
Highlands, a smaller town in North Carolina, has been known as a mountain retreat for over a century. The town is well-known for upscale dining but there’s a fair share of casual spots dishing up bar foods with a creative, culinary twist to them. I’ve been to the Highlands once, and the food did not disappoint.
Restaurant highlight: Lakeside Restaurant, a charming cottage on Lake Harris, specializing in seafood and craft cocktails. Also: The Ugly Dog Pub, a classic tavern with a live music lineup and a menu of burgers and pub food, as well as Sunday brunch.
The south is well-known for food cities such as Nashville, Atlanta, and Austin. Birmingham is an up-and-coming city in the food scene, and lately, many Alabamian chefs who studied in major food cities are returning home to cook the foods they grew up with, improving the scene.
Restaurant highlight: Hot and Hot Fish Club, a spot serving farm-to-table regional fare, Gulf fish & wines in a characteristic, historic building.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
The city has several fine dining restaurants, and fast casual spots, and is best known for its New Mexican cuisine. Whether you’re looking for traditional cuisine, Japanese small plates, or the iconic green chile cheeseburger, options are many in Santa Fe.
Restaurant highlight: Cafe Pasqual’s, serving Mexican fare from local, organic ingredients along. Cool setting with a community table in a historic spot.