Ranking the Tastiest Foodie Cities in America
If there is one universal truth, it's that we all love going out to eat or ordering takeout. Beyond the love of not having to cook, enjoying a meal out gives us a chance to try new foods, new spices, new dishes and new creations.
As much as we love to eat, those who prepare our favorite dishes love to make them. These chefs are true visionaries, their work akin to artistic masterpieces. Artists want to be recognized; they want to put out their best work. And so, diners reap the benefits.
Where are the best restaurants, the best chefs, the best creativity on a plate? Foodies from across the nation, as well as regular Joes like us, weigh in on review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, while food journalists share their opinions at outlets like U.S. News and 24/7 Tempo.
We've combined them all to create the ultimate list of the best foodie destinations in America as well as some of the tastiest eats across the nation for you and the family to enjoy.
15. San Diego, California
Healthy and fresh eating contribute to the lifestyle of Southern California, and in this large coastal city, restaurants serve beautiful plates of food featuring sustainable and local produce seemingly picked specifically for your meal.
It's little wonder that U.S. News and 24/7 Tempo consider this coastal city one of the best food spots in the U.S.
San Diego's Top Eats
One of the perks of dining in San Diego is taking advantage of the beautiful weather and Pacific Ocean views. Another? Being able to enjoy its proximity to Mexico and menus rich in flavors from south of the border.
A favorite of Yelp and TripAdvisor reviewers is Baja Betty's, where street-food-delicious dishes and a seemingly never-ending array of margaritas are served in a lively and entertaining setting.
14. San Antonio, Texas
Ask anyone who lives in or has visited San Antonio where you should go to eat, and they will undoubtedly suggest heading to the River Walk. A perfect example of a city's revitalization, this riverfront area is flanked by restaurants with outdoor seating and prime views. You can even eat dinner on a boat that traverses the river.
Across the city, the cuisine reflects Tex-Mex style at its best. (In fact, Tex-Mex was first popularized in San Antonio.) Don't leave town without ordering the city's beloved breakfast tacos, ideally packed with spicy chorizo.
Fun fact: Texas is the only state that has more than two of its cities on our list, so a foodie tour in the state needn't end here.
San Antonio's Top Eats
One of the best spots to dine on River Walk, according to TripAdvisor, is Boudro's. The everyday-casual Tex-Mex bistro has been providing tableside guacamole and prickly pear margaritas since 1986.
You can enjoy the menu from inside the stone restaurant, on a patio along the river, or on a barge while floating down the water.
13. Seattle, Washington
The Pacific Northwest is on fire when it comes to food flavors. The culinary scene in Washington and Oregon has been attracting much attention, with Seattle landing on the best-food-cities lists of both 24/7 Tempo and U.S. News.
This city has long been one of the country's finest sports for freshly caught seafood. For more than a century, Pike Place and food stalls along the city's Elliott Bay have provided samples of the daily catch.
Seattle's Top Eats
You may think of Pike Place in Seattle, where fishmongers toss freshly caught fish, as the top attraction of the city, but where can you find some of that fresh fish on the menu?
Well, the place to be is the Crab Pot Seafood Restaurant. This is like joining a family fish fry: You'll walk into a waterfront restaurant (it sits on a pier) and find paper-covered tables, bibs and mallets for breaking open a truly satisfying crab feast.
12. Austin, Texas
The second of three Texas cities appearing on the list continues to showcase the state's culinary prowess. The Boho-style Austin, filled with artists and musicians, loves to keep things "weird," but in a good way.
The unique restaurants here tempt diners with unusual and traditional combinations. Yes, there's Tex-Mex and barbecue in abundance, but you'll also find great vegan offerings, cuisines from around the world and fresh, innovative fusion-style fare.
Austin's Top Eats
Texas is known for its barbecue and there are two places landing in TripAdvisor's top 10 for Austin: Terry Black's Barbecue and Franklin Barbecue.
When Aaron Franklin began serving brisket out of his trailer in 2009, it sparked a frenzy, as folks descended upon the city to get their hands on his secret recipe. Considered one of the best barbecue joints in the world, Franklin draws in celebrities, appears in films and once welcomed Barack Obama. The lines are no joke, but the food is worth the wait.
Terry Black's, meanwhile, is a family-run local favorite where the meats are pit-smoked to perfection. Mmmm.
11. Houston, Texas
The highest-ranking city in Texas is Houston, often considered the most cosmopolitan of the state's destinations. One reason the city brings its A game to its restaurants harkens back to a tragedy: Hurricane Katrina.
When residents of New Orleans were forced to leave due to the destruction of their neighborhoods, many wound up in Houston. Today, you'll find more Cajun, Creole and soul food influences entwined with the traditional Texas steakhouse menus.
Houston's Top Eats
Scan TripAdvisor or Yelp and you'll find you cannot truly take the Texan out of Houston's dining scene.
A number of the best restaurants are steakhouses serving good ol' Texan longhorns. Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, Taste of Texas, Mezza Grille, Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse, the Capital Grille and even the Brazilian steakhouse, Chama Gaucha, are favorites.
10. Los Angeles
The City of Angels is 24/7 Tempo's pick for the best foodie destination in the nation and U.S. News includes L.A. in its top five. In this celebrity-filled town known for its creative people and industries, the food is as interesting as the people.
La-La land's abundance of ethnic neighborhoods ensures you can sample dishes from myriad other cultures. You'll find Little Tokyo, Thai Town, Little Armenia, Historic Filipinotown, Chinatown, Little Ethiopia and Koreatown, among others, bringing international flavors to the people.
Los Angeles' Top Eats
The revolution of food trucks began in Los Angeles when, in 2008, chef Roy Choi delivered outrageously inventive and restaurant-quality food from his Kogi truck. The resulting lines of people eager to get a sample showed other would-be chefs that a brick-and-mortar restaurant wasn't needed to be successful. Voila! Gourmet food trucks became all the rage.
Today, you'll find trucks in L.A. peddling everything from sushi burritos to fancy hot dogs to Chinese dumplings. But Kogi continues to do it best.
9. Portland, Oregon
Portland's hipster scene may have come into the limelight thanks to its craft breweries, but that's not the only source of the city's fame. Its equally bold and inventive culinary landscape has landed in the top 10 on both U.S. News' and 24/7 Tempo's lists, and landed at No. 2 on Yelp's list.
Why all the love? The city has a bounty of fresh local ingredients to pull from and isn't afraid to push the envelope. Plus, its brunch scene is killer and its sweet tooth unmatched (donuts and ice cream are everywhere here, and you really can't go wrong no matter where you land).
Portland's Top Eats
When visiting Portland, try a food tour of Yelpers' favorite restaurants. Begin at Akadi PBX to sample traditional African dishes that include cassava and yassa. Next, try the Thai delicacies at Thai Champa. From there, sample Portland's renowned food trucks, where Fried Egg I'm in Love provides takeaway breakfast and sandwiches and Mumbo Gumbo PDX serves up Creole-inspired fare. (It's the No. 1 restaurant in the city, according to Yelp reviewers!)
In the evening, you'll want time to savor Willow, a small restaurant that provides two nightly dinner seatings for guests to enjoy a six-course dinner that is only $65. Plus, you get to sit at the chef's counter and talk to the chef/owners as if you were in their home kitchen!
The Windy City is the largest city in the Midwest, which bodes well for visitors and residents alike when it comes to food. As in other cosmopolitan areas, Chicago's diversity carries over into its menus. 24/7 Tempo ranks Chicago as the fourth-best food city, while U.S. News gives it a third-place spot.
Visit Lincoln Square in the Northside, where German immigrants settled in the mid-1800s, to sample sausages. Or find south-of-the-border fare in Pilsen, home to the largest Mexican community in the city. West Town, also known as Polish Downtown, is the place to go for pierogis and borscht, while Little Italy and Chinatown will provide dishes to satisfy other cravings.
Chicago's Top Eats
TripAdvisor's best restaurant in Chicago is Alinea, a fine-dining favorite that happens to boast 3 Michelin stars. Reservations must be secured months in advance, and you'll have to buy "tickets" to try the restaurant's out-of-this-world creations. When you go, you don't choose from a menu. This is a place where you thank the chef for giving you a taste of whatever is placed before you.
But don't forget, Chicago is also home to deep-dish pizza. (It is said Pizzeria Uno created this special pie in 1943.) For one of the best pies — with graffiti ambiance to boot — visit Gino's East. It's a far cry from Alinea, but equally appealing in its own way...and certainly more affordable.
7. Washington, D.C.
The home of diplomats from around the world, not to mention a highly diverse population of Washingtonians in ethnic neighborhoods showcasing the essence of faraway lands, D.C. is a fantastic place for food-lovers.
Find Latin bites in Adams Morgan, Korean food just outside the metro area in Annandale and Ethiopian food along the 9th and U in this dynamic destination that landed in the top 10 on 24/7 Tempo's list.
Washington's Top Eats
Though DC offers plenty of ethnic diversity, its most beloved restaurant is more traditional. It also happens to be one of the oldest restaurants in the country, dating back to 1856 when it first opened as a saloon: Old Ebbitt Grill.
Stop in for a weekday meal and you'll see high-powered business lunches or politicians grabbing a much-needed after-work drink. The menu is classic dishes done right, including excellent takes on pot roast, sea scallops and meatloaf.
6. Las Vegas
Once upon a time, the joke about Las Vegas included its all-you-can-eat buffets. But the joke is on us, because as the city's casino-resorts began to up their game, the world's most renowned chefs and restaurants took up residence.
Take the Venetian, for example. It provides an Italian setting with restaurants to match, as does Paris, New York and other massive properties. These days, Vegas isn't just about gambling: You could base an entire getaway around food. (Which, admittedly, I have had the pleasure of doing.)
Las Vegas' Top Eats
Originally — and arguably — one of Manhattan's best French restaurants, Le Cirque, found a home in Las Vegas' Bellagio Hotel & Casino. A 5 Diamond restaurant, it offers a theater-like setting before travelers head to the actual theater, and is ranked by TripAdvisor as one of the best places to eat in the U.S.
Another top-rated spot is Mr. Mamas, famous for its hearty breakfast, ideal as a morning-after antidote following a night on the town.
5. San Francisco
The City by the Bay is one of the most diverse of the West Coast cities, and as such, diners get to travel around the world just by traveling to different neighborhoods.
The Latino community of the Mission, the seafood-faring Marina, Chinatown, Little Italy in North Beach, Little Saigon in the Tenderloin and the "Harlem of the West," the Fillmore District, are all reasons U.S. News places San Francisco at the top of its foodie list. (It also appears at No. 3 on 24/7 Tempo's list.)
San Francisco's Top Eats
The fine-dining Kokkari Estiatorio restaurant has been a fixture of the Embarcadero and offers authentic Greek food that out-of-towners and locals both love.
Also earning raves from travelers is Mersea, which pairs a superb menu of comfort foods (try the truffle fries!) on Treasure Island, overlooking the city skyline across the water.
The Capital of Latin America is a surefire destination for getting a dose of international foods within the borders of the U.S. Latin and Caribbean influences can be found at every turn across Miami and Miami Beach, along with interesting and complex dishes from other international expats who have made this hot city a major player on the food scene.
24/7 Tempo ranks Miami No. 9, and TripAdvisor's reviewers have four Miami restaurants listed as among the best in the country.
Miami's Top Eats
"I can't stay away," says one TripAdvisor reviewer of Miami Beach's Bazaar by Jose Andres, which combines Latin and Spanish concoctions in a vibrant, artistic space that melds well with the South Beach environment.
You may also head to the famed Fontainebleau Resort for the Chinese dumplings and other Asian flavors found at Hakkasan. If you need to keep the budget in check, Pane & Vino is considered the No. 1 restaurant for everyday dining in the country — plenty of hearty pasta dishes are served in this Miami Beach Italian favorite.
3. New Orleans
The Creole combinations alone make New Orleans' menus shine with diversity and flavors. No wonder 24/7 Tempo, Yelp and U.S. News give the Crescent City high marks for its food. (U.S. News ranks it the second-best food city in the country.)
From Po'Boys to etouffee, jambalaya to muffuletta, gumbo to beignets, New Orleans' traditional foods pair perfectly with a side of jazz and will leave you wanting more.
New Orelans' Top Eats
Yelpers claim the five best places to eat in New Orleans are Cafe Porche and Snowbar, GQ Fins, Bearcat Cafe, Desi Vega's Steakhouse and Heard Dat Kitchen — quite an array!
Cafe Porche, a breakfast and lunch spot, also features a stand serving sweet snowball treats. Meanwhile, Desi Vega's provides a place to sit back and take in a long meal of hearty steaks.
Seafood is king at GQ Fins, while Heard Dat presents a combination of soul food and Cajun comfort fare.
2. New York City
It has been said that you could dine out for all three meals each day, eating at a different restaurant for each one, and it would take you a year to try every restaurant in New York City. Not only are restaurants plentiful, but they reflect a hodgepodge of cultures, experiences and prices.
On the streets, food vendors hawk pizza, pretzels and hot dogs. Across the city, various neighborhoods offer the authentic dishes of Italy, Greece, Poland, Turkey, China...you name it! And, if a chef can make it here, a chef can make it anywhere, so you just may be sampling the creations of one of the world's biggest up-and-comers.
24/7 Tempo and U.S. News both rank New York City as the second-best food city, and we agree.
New York's Top Eats
TripAdvisors's No. 1 fine-dining restaurant in the country, Daniel, can be found in New York. Experience what one reviewer calls "an explosion for all the senses" at this French-inspired stunner, where four-course menus have earned a Michelin star.
While locals tell foodies to avoid Times Square at all costs, the tourist trap is surprisingly home to one of the best restaurants in town: Carmine's Italian Restaurant. Traditional fare is made to perfection at this home-style favorite.
Reviewers also sing the praises of Obao, serving creative Vietnamese-fusion dishes.
1. Charleston, South Carolina
Yelp and U.S. News both rank Charleston as one of the best food destinations in the country (at 3 and 7, respectively). Combine that with several restaurants that land on the TripAdvisor lists for best fine and casual dining, and you have a winner.
A great way to try all of the city's culinary delights is to attend the annual Charleston Wine + Food festival in March. Enjoy samples at the Culinary Village and tasting menus at local restaurants with award-winning chefs.
Shrimp and grits are the city's specialty, cooked in a variety of different ways that can be enjoyed day after day.
Charleston's Top Eats
The mouth-watering menus of the Peninsula Grill, Circa 1886 Restaurant and Grill 225 all land on TripAdvisor's list of the best fine-dining restaurants in the country. Yelp reviewers provide another set of must-bite-into restaurants: Lewis Barbecue, 167 Raw and Sorghum & Salt.
Both outlets, however, say Halls Chophouse is the be-all, end-all. Located on Kings Street in the heart of the historic district, this steakhouse offers sustainable and local ingredients, including seafood, vegan and vegetarian dishes.
Runner-Up: Asheville, North Carolina
U.S. News and 24/7 Tempo didn't think about this hipster North Carolina town in the mountains, but Yelp reviewers know better. They ranked Asheville the No. 1 foodie destination in the country.
Taking Appalachian comforts foods and turning them upside down with new twists, Asheville is home to a number of James Beard Award nominees. On top of the creativity in the kitchen, this is an artistic town with notes of "different" and "unusual" at every turn.
Add in breweries, wineries and historic mansions that were once owned by America's richest men, and you have an overall excellent addition to the domestic bucket list.
Asheville's Top Eats
Of the many places to sample when in Asheville, Yelpers recommend Tupelo Honey for Southern breakfast and lunch favorites; the vegetarian Rosetta's Kitchen; and the Spanish-inspired Curate, where the tapas are delectable.
At No. 1 is Sunny Point Cafe, a Southern breakfast cafe where chicken and waffles are king. The restaurant is so green that it has its own adjoining garden, from which it picks fresh produce to serve in its dishes.
Runner-Up: Napa & Sonoma, California
Leave it to two fabulous Northern California wine regions to land on U.S. News' list for great food. Although they are separate, visitors often make a trip to both when hitting the West Coast to sample world-famous wines.
But wines are even better when paired with dishes to bring out the notes the winemakers want you to experience. As a result, the restaurant scene in Napa and Sonoma is on par with great vintages.
Napa & Sonoma Top Eats
For the best meal in Napa Valley, reviewers suggest Cordeiro's Steakhouse, where surf and turf can be paired with dozens of varietals.
In Sonoma, the best of the best is considered Cafe La Haye, an American bistro with more seasonal, locally sourced dishes driven by the seasons.
For the record, the most-popular vineyards in each area are Napa's Hess Collection Winery & Art Museum and Sonoma's Jacuzzi Family Vineyards.
The Hawaiian Islands received lots of love from foodies, but rather than call out just one city, many lists singled out Hawaii as a whole.
Yelp, for example, ranks Maui and Honolulu as the No. 4 hottest food spots, even though they are two different island locations. For this reason, we're giving Hawaii a runners-up position — it's like naming Texas as a foodie state and ignoring each city's different qualities.
Hawaii may get the grouping because the islands share a similar style of Pan-Asian dishes, but each brings something different to the table. Why not make a few trips so you can try what all the islands have to offer?
Hawaii's Top Eats
One of the best restaurants in the U.S. can be found in Honolulu, says TripAdvisor. Duke's Waikiki provides toes-in-the-sand dining with a tiki vibe. Find fresh seafood Pupus, seasonal seafood and island favorites like Huli Huli Chicken.