America is known for its exciting regional cuisine, and major metropolitan cities across the country are leading the way in culinary innovation. From Seattle to South Carolina, foodies can find some of the best dishes the United States offers.
Both cocktail culture and the rebirth of new American cuisine have spurred culinary growth in all regions of the country.
Chefs earn culinary degrees and Michelin stars, perfecting their hometown dishes and simultaneously creating pockets of exceptional food throughout the United States.
This comprehensive list reviews some of the best food cities in the US to visit and sample traditional and innovative American dishes.
Best Food Cities in the US
Whether you’re looking for a savory barbeque, a great slice of pizza, or a refined fine dining experience, these American cities will amaze you with their tantalizing flavors and high-quality food presentation.
New York City, New York
Nicknamed the big apple and known for its thin-crust pizza slices and New York-style cheesecake, New York City is synonymous with delicious and inspiring cuisine.
From well-established steakhouses like Smith & Wollensky to craft espresso bars like Frisson, every corner of New York City has delectable treats for every pallet.
Additionally, New York City has distinct neighborhoods where authentic cuisine from across the globe resides.
For instance, I love visiting Chinatown to enjoy traditional Asian-inspired dishes.
Regardless of your preferences, around every corner in New York City is a new restaurant ready to serve you some of the best food you’ll ever have.
Chicago, Illinois, is known for deep-dish pizza. Deep dish pizza is filled with sauce, cheese, and toppings, and often requires a knife and fork to enjoy.
Visit Gino’s East or George’s Deep Dish for a pie! Another Chicago specialty is the Chicago-style hot dog that comes with:
- Green relish
- Celery salt
Notably, Chicago is a Midwestern city, so much of the cuisine is informed by that designation. For instance, many restaurants serve grass-fed or dry-aged steaks alongside various types of potatoes.
I think the best foodie location in the city is near Hyde Park, which is adjacent to the University of Chicago.
San Francisco, California
Sourdough bread is the signature dish in San Francisco, California.
Visit Fisherman‘s Wharf to have a sourdough bread bowl full of chowder at the Boudin Bakery. Fisherman’s Wharf is also a hotspot for seafood, specifically oysters.
One of America’s first breweries, Anchor Steam, is from San Francisco and was founded in 1896. When I visited, I toured the brewery and sampled a collection of their best beers.
Also, be sure to visit Ghirardelli Square, where the famous Italian chocolate maker opened his company in the 1850s; visitors can still see the original chocolate manufacturing equipment at the facility.
Texas is known for slow-cooking beef brisket. Visit Goode Company Barbecue in Houston and sample some of the best barbecues the Lone Star state has to offer.
I recommend visiting Feges Barbecue; try the burnt ends and braised greens. In addition to incredible barbecue, Mexican flavors have infused the Houston culinary scene.
Houston is also known for its Tex-Mex cuisine that blends traditional Mexican flavors with a distinctive Texas flair.
If this sounds delicious, try out JQ’s Tex Mex BBQ. Other fantastic local Tex-Mex spots include Candente and El Tiempo. More traditional Mexican food also flourishes in Houston; visit Xochi’s and sample their epic mole.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina, is one of the best food cities in the US, known for its:
- Shrimp and grits
- Crab soup
The city is nearly surrounded by water but has deep-rooted recipes based on traditional Southern comfort food.
One of my favorite restaurants in Charleston is Lenoir; the restaurant serves cornmeal-dusted catfish, hushpuppies, and a cast-iron skillet blueberry cobbler.
Another hot spot in town is Husk. The restaurant serves pimento cheese, country ham, buttermilk biscuits, and Southern-style rutabaga.
I adore their robust cocktail menu, and the setting of the restaurant is in a porch-lined, white-painted house.
Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks and the home of Pike Place Market.
In addition to a particular penchant for coffee, seafood in the Pacific Northwest is some of the best in the country.
Hama Hama sells delicious oysters and has a vibrant happy hour. I also love visiting Westward, located adjacent to Lake Union, as it offers tasty seafood dishes and beautiful water views of Seattle.
Additionally, there’s an excellent bookstore in Seattle called The Book Larder. It specializes in cookbooks and often hosts cookbook author’s in the space.
Many foodies will enjoy picking their own fruit or foraging for mushrooms–activities that continue nearly year-round. Visit Billy’s Berry Farm and the Walla Walla wineries!
For foodies traveling to Portland, Oregon, you might find many recipes with pears or hazelnuts—both of which are the state’s main crops.
Portland is a popular foodie city due to
- The quality of dining
- The diversity of restaurants
- The affordability of meals
My favorite part about the food scene in Portland is the various food carts, which make it easy to grab a bite to eat as I explore the city. One I love is Erica’s Soul Food cart near Russell Street!
If you’re looking for a sweet treat, I can’t recommend Voodoo Doughnut enough – it’s one of the best donut shops in the country!
But, if you’re craving savory food, try the clam chowder with smoked bone marrow at an Argentinian restaurant called OX; the chefs at OX have won James Beard awards and aren’t afraid of bold spices!
Philadelphia is steeped in history and is known for being a great place to buy diamonds and a cool city to watch a show.
If you’re in Old City stop in the Olde Bar for a classic cocktail and fresh raw oysters at the bar.
Across town by the Italian market on 9th Street, be sure to stop in at Ralph’s Italian Restaurant, a popular Italian eatery that’s been a staple of the city for decades.
Of course, you can’t visit Philadelphia without trying a Philly cheesesteak. I recommend ordering from Woodrow’s Sandwich Shop if you’re near Center City, which has gluten-free options and a truffle cheese sauce. For a classic cheesesteak, visit Dalessandro’s in Roxborough.
For an upscale lunch or dinner, visit Parc; the bread basket and a shrimp salad are incredible.
The Texas State Capitol is located in Austin, and scattered along the streets around the massive building are wonderful restaurants. Try Iron Catus Mexican Restaurant or Pelon Tex-Mex.
Additionally, many spots in town cater to students from the University of Texas at Austin.
Visit Olamaie, near campus, for tasty Southern fare with fresh ingredients, modern plating, and an elegant setting in a refurbished home.
Near the Austin Convention Center is a myriad of restaurants and bars that cater to crowds visiting for conferences or concerts.
For me, the best dish you can find in Austin is breakfast tacos. This meal always starts my day off right.
Los Angeles, California
From Hollywood Hills to Rodeo Drive, the culinary scene in Los Angeles is diverse and high-end.
Generally, the cuisine in the city is a hodgepodge of foods from different cultures with creative preparations. Try the breakfast burrito at Lucky Boy, made with the classics:
After breakfast, head to Grand Central Market; a venue with about forty food stalls! The market has wood-fired pizza, ramen, pupusas, and much more!
The city also offers lots of plant-based and health-conscious dining options, so expand your taste buds at Baker’s Bench or Vegan AF.
The Cuban influence in Miami has impacted the city’s culinary scene, so starting your day with a Cuban coffee is necessary.
I also don’t think you can go wrong with ordering a Cuban sandwich; a satisfying dish with:
- Pulled pork
- Swiss cheese
- Yellow mustard
During the winter months, order a serving of stone crab: a specific type of crab only found in South Florida!
You should also check out some celebrity-chef-owned restaurants, like Scarpetta by Scott Conant or Nobu by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Robert DeNiro.
Finally, the club and cocktail scene in the city is diverse and varied—try a Miami Vice, a frozen cocktail with half daiquiri and half pina colada!
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana, is an eclectic city with a diverse pallet. From French influences to Cajun spices, the specialty dishes in Louisiana are remarkable.
Gumbo, jambalaya, and Boudin balls will delight your taste buds with an intense flavor and a soulful taste that speaks to each chef’s skill.
Café Du Monde in the French Quarter is known for its powder sugar-dusted beignets and chicory coffee. And don’t forget the drinks on Bourbon Street.
I always order a hurricane at Pat O’Brien‘s! For brunch or dinner, visit The Court of the Two Sisters and sample the étouffée.
For the mainlanders visiting the beautiful Honolulu, the culinary scene is filled with amazing local dishes.
Try a poke bowl with fresh, sushi-grade tuna and toppings like:
- Crispy onions
- Green onion
If you go to the North Shore Market, try the coconut-infused peanut butter! And, if you’re lucky enough to attend a Hawaiian luau, you might try a spit-roasted pig!
For a comfort meal, order the loco moco, a hamburger patty with gravy, and a fried egg—it’s a local favorite!
As you walk down Beale Street in Memphis, you’ll hear the sounds of a blues guitar from various establishments and smell the delicious scent of barbecue from Rendezvous.
You can also continue walking down the Street until you find Gus’s Fried Chicken, which has popularized its signature hot chicken.
Near the Memphis Zoo, check out another barbecue hotspot called Central Barbecue, and don’t forget to sample the side dishes, because the baked beans are just as good as the pulled pork.
Southern comfort food is easy to find, but another local specialty is Elvis’ fried peanut butter and banana sandwich; visit Graceland and order one at the cafe.
San Diego, California
San Diego is home to one of the country’s largest naval bases and to countless restaurants that food lovers and sailors flock to for delicious bites.
San Diego is known for Baja fish tacos with mango salsa and guacamole topped with feta cheese!
One of my favorite places in San Diego is Ember & Rye, a restaurant by celebrity Chef Richard Blais.
I also love taking my family to the Mediterranean restaurant, Herb & Wood, located near the Harborwood neighborhood.
Be sure to try all the beachside tacos that are available as you take a good tour through San Diego!
Las Vegas, Nevada
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…except for the rumors about amazing meals!
For starters, try the twenty-course meal at é by José Andrés. Other incredible restaurants are located near The Strip, like Restaurant Guy Savoy and Osteria Fiorella.
Restaurants in Las Vegas take service and performance to the next level, with most locations offering some type of table-side preparation or finishing touch!
What’s great about visiting Las Vegas is that you can satisfy any craving you might have.
For example, visitors can take a secret food tour that includes stops at Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant and The Cake Boss’ shop!
From cannolis, lobster rolls, and chicken and waffles, you can find any type of cuisine in Vegas, Baby!
Boston is home to the Sam Adams brewery, where visitors can tour the facility and enjoy various beers.
After you’ve sampled the local brews, grab dessert first and enjoy a slice of Boston Cream Pie, a creamy, chocolate layered cake. Try ordering the pie at S&S Restaurant on Cambridge Street.
Another of my favorite local dishes is the popular clam chowder. I think the best place to find this heart food is at one of the many locations of Legal Sea Foods in the city.
For another dessert option, try a cannoli from Mike’s Pastry, which has been serving the Little Italy neighborhood since 1946.
Best Food Cities in the US
- New York City, New York
- Chicago, Illinois
- San Francisco, California
- Houston, Texas
- Charleston, South Carolina
- Seattle, Washington
- Portland, Oregon
- Philadelphia, PA
- Austin, Texas
- Los Angeles, California
- Miami, Florida
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Memphis, Tennessee
- San Diego, California
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- Boston, Massachusetts
Whether you love southern soul food or West Coast Baja fish tacos, these are the best food cities in the US. While I listed some major metropolitans with a robust culinary scene, it’s easy for foodies to find a hotspot of new American restaurants in nearly every state.
From California to the Carolinas and everywhere in between, Instagramable dishes are waiting for you to discover, photograph, and enjoy!
Tell me about your favorite restaurant in the comments below. If you’re interested in learning more about foodie hotspots in the United States, check out the best soul food restaurants in America.
Check out our city guides to find the best food in these foodie cities!
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