Foodies crave variety. Yet in something of a paradox, food lovers seek out many of the same epicurean experiences in cities like New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo. It’s time to snap out of old habits. The world is large! What you once may not have considered a culinary epicenter worth traveling for might now be home to James Beard award-winning chefs (looking at you, Milwaukee). Consider these 7 destinations whose culinary scenes are flying just under the radar.
The influx of yogis and digital nomads has super-charged the food scene. The root cause? The intersecting Venn diagram of “beachfront paradise” and “low cost of living” has lured chefs who’ve cracked open the full range of global cuisine—from Latin American (Barbacoa) to Thai (Mama San) to the almost-hidden burger joint, Bo$$man. Our advice: For authentic Indonesian, it’s still tough to beat the unmarked warungs—stick to the smaller roads away from Canggu and Ubud, which are best accessed by moped.
LA has the glam and San Francisco has the money, but Sacramento has access to incredible produce. This farming powerhouse churns out 80 percent of the nation’s caviar, 99 percent of its sushi rice, and 96 percent of the world’s processed tomatoes. Who knew? The point is that what Sacramento lacks in flash, it makes up for in substance. Thanks to all the fresh tomatoes and peaches and vineyards, the “farm-to-fork” concept is 100% legit. Come for the Midtown Farmers Market, and stay for an immersive, meet-the-chefs, five-course meal at The Kitchen, which nabbed the city’s first Michelin star. We won’t blame you for wanting stop by for cocktails at Revival, either. It is the city’s first rooftop bar, after all.
Embrace the chaos. Don’t attempt to evaluate the Yelp ratings—simply plunge into the glorious mayhem of Taipei’s night markets. Challenge yourself to sample the full gamut of sticky rice dumplings, deep-fried mushrooms, and “stinky tofu” (trust us) at the Shilin and Raohe outposts. And for those craving order, we haven’t neglected you: Andre Chiang’s Raw will provide your Michelin fix, serving up a blend of Paris-inspired “bistronomy” and hyper-local Taiwanese produce.
The city’s ethos: Good food doesn’t need to be snobby. Just ask the regulars at Peanut Butter & Jelly Deli, which just notched its second Michelin star. (Kidding!) Yet PB&J’s commitment—10 types of breads, local jams, peanut butter ground on-site—typifies the city’s newfound culinary chops. See also: Snack Boys (“nightlife for your mouth”), where you can get both a noodle soufflé and a view of Burt Reynolds, courtesy of a large mural. Play some bocce at Zocalo, the food truck park, before grabbing some tortilla tacos. As for James Beard nominees? Yep, Milwaukee’s got those, too. Justin Carlisle’s Ardent, which makes good use of the city’s organic farms, will help you forget every stereotype about Wisconsin’s cheese and bratwurst. The consistently top-rated Tre Rivali serves up inventive Mediterranean cuisine from a wood-burning oven made with only the highest-quality products from independent farmers, fishermen, and artisan purveyors.
It begins with the Markthal, and the Markthal is to food what the Louvre is to art: Its 100-ish food stalls, enveloped by a horseshoe of luxury apartments, let you mainline the city’s stroopwafels, krokets, and cheese sandwiches (actually a thing). Variety abounds. Rotterdam is a shipping town—it’s the biggest port in Europe—so the cuisine ranges from kebabs to kimchi to artisanal yogurt at none other than The Yoghurt Barn.
We know, we know…the land of haggis? It’s true that pub fare (think: fish and chips) still has an outsized presence, but the culinary scene has quietly expanded to include bistros like the sustainability-focused Fhior (which sources local produce with commendable fervor) and the Edinburgh Food Studio, where you sit in long communal-style tables while the chef personally guides you through the menu. Haggis optional.
Yes, you can get your fill of craft beer. The city has that in spades, but the food scene is now Denver’s sneaky draw. Exhibit A: LoHi’s collective eatery Avanti. With seven (always rotating) restaurants to choose from, you’ll be spoiled for choice. The semifinalists of 2019’s James Beard awards include a whopping eight from Colorado, such as Kelly Whitaker, who improbably fuses Asian and Italian at The Wolf’s Tailor. And we defy you to find a better Eggs Benedict than the Smashed Avocado Benny served at Snooze, which is also the best spot for morning drinking. (Don’t judge…we won’t). And we can say without bias that Citizen Rail should be on your list as well. Highlights include smoked, braised oxtail over rice porridge, blistered eggplant caviar with roasted garlic, and a burger so rich it’s almost obscene.