With fine wine comes a great love for food – Napa, an epicenter for food lovers and wine drinkers, is a hallmark for fine dining with a long list of celebrity chef and Michelin-starred restaurants, alongside farm-to-table fare highlighting the region’s local produce, meats, and seasonal cuisine. Big names include Thomas Keller‘s French Laundry, Bouchon Bistro, and Ad Hoc, La Taberna, Morimoto, Farmstead, Bistro Jeanty, and Michael Chiarello’s Bottega; but for those who aren’t willing to dish out the big bucks, Napa hosts an array of more casual eateries, from homestyle Mexican eats and Texas-style BBQ to bakeries and burger joints.
Los Angeles, California
Home to the gourmet burger, Los Angeles has always been applauded for keeping up with the trends. Whether it’s implementing molecular gastronomy or featuring unique cuts of meat, this food-centered city has built a reputation for bold flavors, nontraditional concepts, and star-studded restaurants. While this coastline region is known for its fresh seafood, it’s also recognized as one of the most diverse food scenes, from Chinese ramen and Korean BBQ to authentic Mexican fare and Vietnamese pho. Plus, with an area that covers over 500 square miles, the hot spots and must-visits are aplenty – don’t miss downtown’s Grand Central Market, or local favorites Bäco Mercat, Bestia, Guisados, and Sugarfish. Other must-stops include Night + Market, Pink’s, Providence, AOC, Animal, Gjelina, Trois Mec, n/naka, Sqirl, Father’s Office, Rosco’s Chicken & Waffles, and the classic fast-food icon of the west, In-N-Out.
World, meet Portland, Oregon’s foodie haven – this lively city, filled with a quirky, hipster-like population, has distinguished itself as a pioneer in the food industry, sparking what is known today as the food truck revolution. Here, find designated areas, or ‘pods,’ throughout the city filled with food carts dishing out anything from Chinese egg crepes to deep-fried octopus balls. Plus, in a city where the locals are just as mad about wine, beer, and coffee as they are food, Portland makes for the ultimate food-lover destination. The city also plays host to an array of eclectic eateries, including the famed Pok Pok, a Thai street car-turned-restaurant, Beast, Biwa, Voodoo Doughnuts, Revelry, Poke Mon, Han Oak, Ned Ludd, and Le Pigeon, alongside craft breweries and local vintners.
New York City, New York
The iconic foodie destination of New York City has been a longtime reputed fine-dining epicenter and favorite amongst restaurant enthusiasts. While it’s one of the more expensive cities (most restaurants will verge on breaking the bank for just one meal), NYC is also home to some of the best pizza joints in the nation, including L&B, Patsy’s Pizza, Best Pizza, Prince Street Pizza and Emily, which make for a cheaper venture into getting to know this metropolis’s food scene. Other less expensive options include Mission Chinese Food, Uncle Boons, Balthazar Restaurant, Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, and Katz’s Deli, an iconic NYC deli since 1888. For those who don’t mind splurging, head to The Spotted Pig, Gramercy Tavern, Estela, Fedora, Santina, Lafayette, Tori Shin, Cosme, Wildair, Little Park, or The Breslin.
New Orleans, Louisiana
The food scene in New Orleans is just as much a way of life as its vibrantly colored homes and obsession with jazz music. Dubbed the food mecca of America, NOLA plays host to some of the most iconic Creole joints along the bayou, including Brennan’s, the said creator of bananas foster, Café du Monde, Domilise’s, The Central Grocery, and the Commander’s Palace, alongside fine-dining establishments like Balise, Peche Seafood Grill, Patois, Angeline, and Bayona. As the creator of soul food, NOLA’s rich and flavor-packed dishes are not only the basis for foodspiration across the globe but also have a history deeply rooted in the city’s early beginnings in the 1800s. From seafood classics like oysters Rockefeller, alligator, and crawfish to Southern staples like jambalaya, gumbo, po’boys, and the muffaletta, New Orleans has no shortage of good eats. Pro tip: check out the under-the-radar Vietnamese food scene, a real find in an otherwise butter-driven food culture.
San Francisco, California
In a place where burritos are regarded as a sacred institution, brunch is a regular Sunday affair, and sourdough bread snobbery is a thing, it’s easy to see why San Francisco is one of the most highly regarded food cities in America. Yes, this is the ultimate seafood destination (Pier 39, though touristy, is an entire area dedicated to seafood-based street eats), but SF also prides itself on having a long list of ethnic eats, locally inspired menus, and historic restaurants that have been around for decades. For experiencing the best in the sourdough business, be sure to stop by Boudin Bakery for clam chowder (bread bowl, anyone?); get to know the city’s legendary coffee scene at Blue Bottle Coffee or Buena Vista Cafe; get your hands on the city’s claim to fame, the Mission-style burrito at La Taqueria or El Farolito; or take advantage of the sprawl of Chinese cuisine at the longtime favorite, Mission Chinese Food. Other favorites include Flour + Water, Burma Superstar, Bi-Rite Creamery, Ike’s, Swan Oyster Depot, Tartine Bakery, Shanghai Dumpling King, Benu, Saison, Hog Island Oyster Bar, and A16.
Nashville, otherwise known as ‘Music City,’ is the South’s music capital, home to legendary honky tonks, sweet tea, and the state’s own creation with a kick, hot chicken: fried chicken slathered in cayenne sauce, served on white bread. For first-timers, head to Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, the iconic institution for hot chicken at its finest, or opt for a newcomer switching things up: Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. The city is also known for damn good BBQ joints (outside of Memphis), such as Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, Loveless Café, Jack’s Bar-B-Que, Hog Heaven, and Arnold’s Country Kitchen, the go-to for Nashville’s ‘meat-and-three’ (meat plus three veggies), best washed down with fruit tea, cornbread, and a few biscuits. Nashville is also known for its top-notch whiskey bars, coffee shops, and upscale dining stops, including Etch, Husk, The Southern Steak & Oyster, Pinewood Social, Rolf & Daughters, and City House.
Steadily rising to the top as one of America’s most prized food destinations, Portland – located in a state that has established itself as the lobster capital of the nation – is filled with dozens of renowned restaurants, many of which highlight the eastern seaboard’s array of fresh shellfish and seafood. However, this coastal village has spread its wings to include many other types of cuisines, from Vinland’s innovative local fare to Salvage BBQ’s smokey meats reminiscent of Southern BBQ. For a taste of the state’s famed dish, the lobster roll, head to Bob’s Clam Hut, Fisherman’s Grill, or Clam Shack, or opt for a unique lobster roll stuffed inside a steamed Asian bun at Eventide. For those on the prowl for unusual fare, don’t miss Central Provisions, Empire Chinese, Blue Rooster Food Co., Duckfat, Fore Street, and Miyake, all top-notch stops for arousing your taste buds.
For the best in Latin cuisine, Miami is an obvious choice – home to the Cuban sandwich and Cuba Libres, this waterfront city boasts a pristine coastline dotted with beachside bars, a bustling nightlife, and renowned restaurants. Be sure to get your hands on Miami’s most famous dishes: the pastelito, best paired with a cafecito from La Carreta; street churros; pan con mantequi; salchipapas; conch and gator fritters; croquetas; stone crab (when in season); and, of course, the Cuban sandwich. If you’re a first-timer, don’t miss the exotic fruit milkshakes at Robert Is Here, fresh squeezed tropical juice from El Palacio de los Jugos, or the cinnamon rolls at Knaus Berry Farms. Despite the lavish spread of Cuban eats, Miami is also home to famous pizza joints and ice cream shops (looking at you, Casola’s, Frankie’s Pizza, and Abuela Ice Cream), alongside noteworthy upscale hot spots like La Mar by Gastón Acurio, Pubbelly, Vineyard Restaurant and Wine Bar, The Forge, The Federal, Il Mulino, Parador La Huella, LoKal, and La Esquina del Lochon – the go-to spot for caja china, a Cuban-style pig roast usually done in a local’s backyard.
Seattle may be the coffee epicenter of America, but with its fresh seafood, farm-to-table cuisine, and long list of uber chic cocktail bars, it’s no wonder this Northwestern gem is considered an epic destination for food lovers. Head to Pike Place Market, the city’s famed farmers market, for the iconic ‘seafood sling’ and must-eats at Mee Sum Pastry, Pike Place Chowder, Piroshky Piroshky, Oriental Mart, Daily Dozen Donuts, Lowell’s, The Alibi Room, and Cafe Campagne, or opt for a more local feel and head to Pioneer Square, a market featuring gourmet eats. For drinks post-gorge at Pike Place, don’t miss Seattle’s most iconic institutions Can Can Kitchen & Cabaret, Zig Zag Café, and White Horse Trading Co.