The best US cities for foodies

Eat your way through the US, dining out on Philly cheese steaks, NY deli sandwiches and all of the carbs, keeping your fingers crossed you can fit into your tightest jeans at least until your flight home. Because this is America and it’ll be damned if you don’t find something deep-fried or covered in cheese that you can’t help but order an outsized portion of time and time again. Whether eating for comfort in New England’s balmy cities or sweating out Tex-Mex spices down south, the US is bound to leave you in a blissful food coma for weeks afterwards. Read on for a look at the best US cities for foodies, as rated by us at Mr Hudson.

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Chicago | Photo: Pedro Lastra

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Renowned for deep-dish pizza and The Blues Brothers, Chicago has a whole lot more up its suit sleeve for hungry travellers.

1. New Orleans, Louisiana

Starting with a big hitter on the US’ gastronomic radar, we venture to the city of New Orleans, in the Deep South state of Louisiana. The state’s unique history as a melting pot for African, French, American and French-Canadian cultures reflects heavily on the state’s culture, inspiring a jazz movement, a sophisticated French Quarter and – most importantly – a fantastic Creole and Cajun food scene.

Of all the dishes to try while in the city, the po’boy and muffuletta sandwiches are perfect lunch bites, while the gumbo and jambalaya are served as hearty evening meals across the French Quarter, Central Business and Warehouse districts. Those with a sweet tooth will also want to save room for a beignet (a deep-dried pastry) and some praline at the Café du Monde, followed down by a local cocktail – such as the Sazerac and Ramos Gin Fizz – at any jazz, blues or rock ’n’ roll bar that takes your fancy. In addition to year-round foodie treats, New Orleans is famous for its annual Mardi Gras celebration, when carnival floats, masked revellers and merriment take over the streets and, eventually, the clubs on Bourbon Street. Read up on all this delicious city has to offer with our New Orleans gay travel guide.

French Quarter, New Orleans | Photo: Rosie Kerr

Photo: Rodnae Productions

2. Boston, Massachusetts

Moving north to New England we arrive in Boston, getting intellectual stimulation by way of world-class museums, libraries and leading research institutions. Those hungry for stimulation of a different kind can also have fun in Boston, becoming a sport fanatic in support of the Red Sox, the Patriots, the Celtics or the Bruins, with college teams also making for a great show. The Boston Marathon is another key sporting event for the city, as is the two-day rowing event, the Head of the Charles Regatta. After watching so much sporting action, exploring Boston’s food scene will no doubt become a priority, having you salivating at local seafood specialities such as steamed lobster, oysters, chowder and ‘sacred cod’, served readily in the Seaport District afront the harbour.

Alternative options in Boston for foodies abound, most notably Italian pasta in the North End and authentic Asian dishes in Chinatown, with contemporary fusion restaurants also divvied around town. Certainly, a city of contrasts, Boston and its flavour palette never get boring, allowing for traditional bites at the nation’s oldest (continuously operating) restaurant – Union Oyster House – as well as bang-on-trend experimental fare and international offerings (from sushi to bagels) at eateries, food trucks and markets across the city. Try the North End Market Tour or Yummy Walks to get your fill of the city’s best – including Boston Public Market and Quincy Market – washing everything down Boston’s best craft beers in Cambridge and Somerville. Munch on Massachusetts’ finest city a little longer with our Boston gay travel guide.

Boston | Photo: Jacob Licht

3. Chicago, Illinois

Renowned for deep-dish pizza and The Blues Brothers, Chicago has a whole lot more up its suit sleeve for hungry travellers. As well as hosting the most ice cream and fro-yo joints per capita than almost any other city in the US, Chi-Town goes big on science, arts and culture too. For the 1893 Chicago World Fair, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla famously fought for the right to illuminate the venue, while later in the 1920s, mobsters like Al Capone fought with the city’s authorities to bootleg alcohol across the city. With this industry and entrepreneurship came culture and wealth, seen in style via the Chicago Architecture River Cruise, the Willis Tower Skydeck or the John Hancock Centre’s 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck.

As the 20th century went on, immigration surged across Chicago, bringing with it Greek, Polish, Italian, Irish and Jewish communities. As such, some of Chicago’s most notable dishes come from abroad, including the Italian beef sandwich, best sampled at Portillo’s in the downtown area. Other international treats include the hummus of Greektown, the tacos of the Lower West Side and the pasta of Little Italy. Then there’s Chinatown for Asian specialities, Indian and Pakistani fare in the Rogers Park neighbourhood and contemporary fusion across Streeterville, Lakeview and Lincoln Park. As for the city’s steakhouses, the Loop and the North Side are well known, including at Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf and the Magnificent Mile, though be warned, a good steak in this city does not come cheap.

Can’t get enough of the deep dish? See more slices of the Windy City with our Chicago gay travel guide.

Chicago Theater

Photo: Christian DeKnock

Photo: Uriel Mont

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Not only does this Big Apple have more restaurants, cafés and speciality food stores per capita than any other city in the US, but it also brings the most diversity and highest quality foods anywhere to be found

4. New York City

One of the most iconic cities for foodies where even the nickname is edible, New York City is an easy mention in our rundown of best cities in US for foodies. Not only does this Big Apple have more restaurants, cafés and speciality food stores per capita than any other city in the US, but it also brings the most diversity and highest quality foods anywhere to be found. Constantly evolving, this cosmopolitan city is never the same two days in a row, with foodie places springing up across its distinct districts. The East Village and Brooklyn win out as trendsetting neighbourhoods, opening up independent coffee shops and iconic bakeries on the daily, while Fifth Avenue’s boutiques and galleries come complimented by the fanciest of restaurants.

Exploring New York in its entirety can be a trying task, necessitating savvy travellers to scour the streets for the best cocktail spots and hole-in-the-wall eateries amidst the chaotic concrete jungle. And although eating in NYC doesn’t come cheap, the sheer choice will keep you smiling, as will the best pizza slices you’ll ever eat (don’t tell Chicago we said it). According to the locals, it’s Joe’s Pizza and Grimaldi’s Pizzeria that fight amongst themselves for the top spot, though a good bagel or snack at Chelsea Market and Gotham West Market can also suffice.

Squeeze all the juice from the world’s favourite city, with our New York gay travel guide.

NYC | Photo: Ketut Subiyanto

Photo: Taryn Elliott

5. Portland, Oregon

Another of the best food cities in America is Portland, Oregon, a hip city that flies somewhat under the mainstream radar and is all the better for it. As well as being one of America’s top cities for craft beer and wine production (second-most per capita) Portland is also one of the more affordable foodie cities, where its 600 food carts and ton of innovative ideas have changed how locals eat, live and hang out. All this combined with a vibrant arts and music scene makes for some great experiences, of music events ranging from jazz to classical and cultural exhibits inspired by Native-American culture. Split into 5 quadrants, each of Portland’s neighbourhoods offers something different, whether the boho cafés of the Hawthorne District or the upscale boutiques of the Pearl District. But all over, the city’s slogan, ‘Keep Portland Weird’ rings true thanks to oddball locals who embrace naked bike rides, soap-box derbies and anything a little bit different.

Based north of the Willamette Valley and close to the Pacific, Portland takes advantage from a wealth of agricultural land and seafood, almost guaranteeing fresh local produce wherever you eat in the city. Celebrity chef James Beard was born in Portland and top chefs have saturated the city in recent years, giving life to a progressive food scene, particularly in the downtown area. Sign up for a food tour – such as with Forktown Food Tours – or visit Portland State University farmer’s market to taste the best of Portland, buying up a picnic to enjoy at any of the city’s 37,000 acres of lush green space. Discover more with our dedicated Portland gay travel guide.

Photo: Jackie Hutchinson

6. Seattle, Washington

Birthplace of Starbucks and Amazon, Seattle has a lot to answer for in the world of coffee and books, but redeem itself it certainly can by leading new trends in craft cider, legal weed and vegan ice cream. Despite it’s billion-dollar commercial hits, Seattle is much more weird than it’s given credit for, with odd contemporary sculptures and unique museums – such as the interactive Seattle Pinball Museum – dotted throughout diverse neighbourhoods. There’s the elegant area around Queen Anne, the bustling Capitol Hill, artistic Fremont, hipster Ballard and the old school Pioneer Square, with the up-and-coming South Lake Union and out-of-town West Seattle fighting equally for their place. Art lovers will split time between Chihuly Garden and the Seattle Art Museum while boat people will head straight to the Hiram M Chittenden Locks (also the place to go for a craft beer). Nearby Puget Sound and Lake Washington meanwhile are two places to go for outdoor pursuits such as kayaking, hiking, camping and even whale watching, closely followed by the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier for skiing in winter.

In amongst all this, Seattle’s entrepreneurial spirit makes itself known through countless macro-businesses and grassroots initiatives, spanning microbreweries, independent bookstores and some of the best coffee houses in the nation. The city’s restaurants are well known for their local produce and Asian influence, serving Pacific Northwest salmon, clams and shellfish alongside specialty game meat like moose, caribou and elk. If seeking vegetarian food, Café Flora near the Washington Park Arboretum can delight, while pasta and wine connoisseurs can head to Altura on Capitol Hill. Then, if the countless bakery and café visit in-between don’t leave you satiated, Pike Place Market can be your ultimate end point. Find more things to do in the city with our Seattle gay travel guide.

Seattle | Photo: Ben Dutton

7. Napa, California

A city synonymous with grapes, Napa is where all the most discerning foodies go to wine and dine. Within its celebrity and Michelin-starred restaurants Napa keeps it real with exquisite farm-to-table fare showcasing the region’s meats and seasonal veggies. Of these, French Laundry stills wows with its unique dishes, while The Goose and Gander offers gastro-pub styles and great cocktails. But nor does a meal in Napa Valley have to break the bank however as casual eateries are also available for homely Mexican food, Texas BBQ and burgers as well as takeout pastries to die for. Dining in the surrounding towns can also help you save money if necessary.

Though French wine was once the zenith of the industry, today’s Californian wineries compete with the Europeans and offer a range of respected vintages. Get tipsy in Cali following our series of the best wineries in Napa Valley, taking a tour or going it alone if time is not an issue. On your journey, you’ll cross stunning hillside scenery and wealthy estates hiding vast wine caverns beneath the earth. Stay at a luxury resort to feel involved, indulging in gourmet dining, spa treatments and golfing trips nearby.

Napa Valley | Photo: Bel Ragay

Photo: вадим маркин

8. Miami, Florida

Go loco for Florida’s food scene in the beachside city of Miami, the place to go for both a Cuban sandwich and a shrimp ceviche. Influenced heavily by its proximity to Cuba, the Caribbean and much of South America, the Florida Peninsula does things a little differently than mainland US, particularly cosmopolitan Miami. Art deco architecture and lively arts and nightlife scenes come backdropped by tropical gardens and expansive views over Miami Beach, making for a picture-perfect vacay time and time again. Many of the mid-century hotels that run down Ocean Drive come with sunny poolside terraces, as well as their own restaurants and nightclubs that remain popular among both locals and travellers. Dine in at Mandarin Oriental’s La Mar for the ultimate Peruvian-Japanese fusion fare, or head out to either Little Havana or Sweet Liberty Drinks on South Beach to sample empanadas, tostones and rum cocktails in equal measure.

The list of foods to try in Miami goes on, and while we can’t get enough of a pastelito paired with a cafecito at La Carreta, other dishes such as street churros, pan con mantequilla and stone crab can be picked up at a food truck or beachside bar of your choice. If looking for a particular neighbourhood to eat your way through, try Wynwood or the Brickell financial district, closely followed by the Coral Gables and the area extending up to Fort Lauderdale for all manner of Jamaican, Peruvian, Haitian and global-fusion choices. See our Miami gay travel guide for more recommendations and things to do in and outside of Disneyworld!

Miami | Photo: Jason Briscoe

Photo: Junior Reis

9. Los Angeles, California

Last but not least we have Los Angeles, the City of Angels Dancing on my Tongue! Said to be the place to grab a gourmet burger, Los Angeles is quick to embrace many other foodie trends such as molecular gastronomy, fusing international, non-traditional concepts to create new and interesting dishes. Its location on the West Coast also helps, providing fresh seafood as well as much immigration from across Asia. As a result, Los Angeles can offer the most authentic Chinese ramen, Korean BBQ and Vietnamese banh mi across its sprawling 1,300 square kilometre area. To find Asian fare, try the long-standing Little Tokyo or ‘sushi row’ along Ventura Boulevard. Angelinos are also big on Mexican food and as such known to be harsh taco critics. Try any of the trucks around the city for an introduction, trying the tacos de lengua (beef tongue tacos) or even the sushi burrito if feeling adventurous.

As well as visiting the Hollywood you’ve seen in the movies, shopping chic boulevards and touring movie studios, visitors to LA should also make sure to see the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Getty Center for cultural and architectural masterpieces. Outside of downtown, there’s also Malibu and Santa Monica for sun, sand and surfing (and a sublime Hawaiian poke bowl), as well as Venice Beach for the quirkier side of LA’s beach culture. If beaches are not your priority, Griffith Park and Angeles National Forest has hiking trails for days. Need more details? See our Los Angeles gay travel guide.

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Los Angeles | Photo: Cameron Venti

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