The USA’s East Coast contains many of the country’s largest and oldest cities, many of which have a rich cultural heritage. The East Coast has been a cultural melting pot for centuries, and this is reflected in its culinary scene. We explore the 10 best cities and towns to visit in this part of the country, ideal for those looking for great food and culinary highlights.
As well as being known as the location of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, one of the country’s art hubs, and hometown of the Fresh Prince, Philadelphia is also famous for its Philly Cheesesteaks — a long bread roll stuffed with steak, American cheese, and other toppings. The city is home to a wealth of cheesesteak joints, with varying prices and quality, although a couple of the most popular include Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks. The city is also famous for its street food, including pizza, pretzels, and a range of other international dishes.
Providence is often overlooked by many but is, in fact, full of many hidden culinary gems. For a start, it has more donut shops per capita than anywhere else in the country and is also home to a great range of international restaurants, from familiar Italian to exotic Peruvian. The Little Italy area of the city, Federal Hill, dates back to the days of the Founding Fathers and hosts a wealth of great authentic Italian restaurants. The city is also home to the Johnson and Wales University, which has one of the top ranked culinary training programs nationwide, with many graduates staying on to work in the city, resulting in a high proportion of amazing restaurants.
For seafood lovers, Boston is a city that cannot be missed. The annual summer Boston Seafood Festival makes the most of the city’s coastal location and offers cooking demonstrations, classic dishes from local restaurants, as well as some more unusual twists. The city also has a thriving brewery scene, and many restaurants source local produce from the farms surrounding the city; farmers’ markets and local delis selling local and natural goods are a common sight.
Portland’s location right on the coast means it has access to a fresh and tasty selection of seafood. The city’s Old Port area is one of the main attractions for tourists, and there are plenty of restaurants and other food outlets to choose from there. Although Portland is Maine’s largest city, it only has a population of a little over 65,000 — but it is estimated to have well over 200 restaurants, making it one of the top US cities in terms of restaurants per capita. Culinary highlights include lobster, oysters, and even sea cucumbers. The area’s farming history also means that fresh, local, and organic produce plays a big part in the city’s food culture.
As one of the oldest cities in the country, Savannah has a long cultural history. It is full of beautiful colonial-era buildings, many of which have been adapted into sophisticated restaurants offering high-class Southern cuisine, especially locally sourced seafood. It is also home to a number of classy bars, plus the Forsyth Farmer’s Market where visitors can find produce from small farms or old colonial plantations. There is also a growing number of micro-breweries, which manage to circumvent the city’s regulations for the Prohibition era by offering free tastings.
Of course one of the USA’s most cosmopolitan and cultural cities makes this list. This vast city is home to an amazing number of distinct neighborhoods, and the diversity of NYC’s population means there is a great mix of different cuisines. Historical immigrants, such as Italians or Jewish communities, mean delicious pizza and bagels, and the growing number of Hispanic Americans or the rise of trendy hipster neighborhoods mean tasty Mexican restaurants or modern burger bars. The fast-paced and bustling atmosphere of the city guarantees that there will be something for all tastes at all times of day, making the city unmissable for foodies.
Heading down toward the Deep South is Charleston, an old city full of colonial and Civil War-era charm and a fantastic range of Southern-inspired cuisine. The city is also on the coast, which means there is a lovely range of fresh, locally sourced seafood readily available. Culinary highlights include Southern favorites such as grits, fried chicken and sweet tea in classic American diners or up-and-coming high-end restaurants offering modern twists on old-fashioned flavors. The BB&T Food and Wine Festival is an excellent opportunity to experience the city’s vibrant restaurant scene.
The USA’s capital city is home to an eclectic mix of residents, due to its international attraction and political ties. Consequently, the city has developed a reputation for an amazing range of dining options from around the world, including fine-dining restaurants for international diplomats to enjoy or bustling cafes for on-the-go office workers. There will be something for everyone to enjoy here as the city’s residents come from so many different backgrounds — although the most famous place is probably Ben’s Chili Bowl, which achieved worldwide fame after President Obama visited in 2009. The city also hosts the Truckeroo Food Truck Festival, featuring a range of cuisines at affordable prices.
Perhaps a lesser-known location, New Haven is famed on the East Coast for its pizza. Often overshadowed by its bigger neighbor, New York, New Haven pizza tends to be more traditionally Italian, with thin crusts, fired in a traditional pizza oven, not always perfectly round, and not always with cheese. This kind of pizza dates from the 1920s — the height of Italian immigration to the East Coast — with Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria starting the trend. It is a must-visit town for pizza lovers on the search for their favorite slice.
Crab is probably Baltimore’s main foodie attraction although the crabs come from Maryland’s coastal area, such as Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore is home to an abundance of restaurants preparing crab in a number of innovative ways. Blue crabs are traditionally steamed in salty water and are served in a straight-forward crab shell or in a more elaborate form such as crab cakes. Immigration over the years has also given Baltimore a diverse range of cuisines, such as German sauerkraut, Polish sausages, or Chinese food.