10 food paradises to explore around the US

10. Portland, Maine

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You might not have realized this, but the East Coast Portland is one of the most restaurant-dense cities in the country, with restaurants (and good ones, at that) lining nearly every street of Downtown. Its waterfront is still lined with active fishing wharves, bringing in some of the freshest seafood you’ll find anywhere , and it’s being put to good use at restaurants like rough-and-tumble J’s Oyster to the insanely popular Eventide Oyster Co. But there’s a lot more to Portland than just great seafood; other must-visits include Central Provisions , Duckfat , and Fore Street .

9. Austin

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Austin is a certifiable treasure trove for food lovers. Barbecue fans line up daily for Franklin Barbecue’s legendary ‘cue, but aficionados will tell you that John Mueller , Lambert’s , and La Barbecue (and The Salt Lick outside of town) are nearly as good. Austin is also Tex-Mex central (don’t leave without a breakfast taco from Papalote ), and it’s also arguably the food truck capital of America, with more than 1,000 food trucks on the streets serving everything from vegan comfort food ( Arlo’s ) to deep-fried jambalaya on a stick ( Baton Creole ). It also has no shortage or hip and exciting Modern American spots.

8. Charleston

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Charleston is located right in the heart of South Carolina’s Low Country , and there’s no shortage of great chefs around taking advantage of the bounty of local ingredients. Mike Lata ( FIG ), Jeremiah Bacon ( Oak Steakhouse ), and Sean Brock ( Husk , McCrady’s ) have done their fair share to put Charleston on the map through their restaurants, where simple local crops like Carolina Gold rice and field peas have been elevated to new heights. Robert Stehling’s Hominy Grill is arguably the finest classic Southern restaurant in America, and Charleston is also homebase of Gullah cooking, which can trace its roots back thousands of years to West Africa.

7. Las Vegas

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Every year, it seems as if another one of the world’s finest chefs opens a restaurant in one of Las Vegas’ gilded casinos. Charlie Palmer ( Aureole ), Mario Batali ( B&B , Carnevino ), José Andrés ( Bazaar Meat , Jaleo , and others), Thomas Keller ( Bouchon ), Emeril Lagasse ( Delmonico Steakhouse ), Gordon Ramsay ( Gordon Ramsay Steak ), Jean-Georges Vongerichten ( Prime Steakhouse ), Joël Robuchon ( Joël Robuchon ), Nobu Matsuhisa ( Nobu ), Guy Savoy ( Restaurant Guy Savoy ), Wolfgag Puck ( Spago , CUT ), and many other legendary chefs all have restaurants here, turning The Strip into a veritable who’s who of legendary chefs. There’s plenty to enjoy off the strip, too, for every budget; look no further than Lotus of Siam , which just might be the best Thai restaurant in America.

6. Portland, Oregon

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Portland’s thriving food scene grew from the stunning bounty of the Pacific Northwest, and local ingredients continue to serve as its backbone. Portland has served as a certifiable chef magnet over the years thanks to its amazing ingredient, whether they arrive to run a fine dining restaurant or one of its more than 500 food carts. Beast , Pok Pok , Clyde Common , Le Pigeon , Paley’s Place , Olympia Provisions , and Ned Ludd are just a few of the restaurants that have helped but this city’s stunning culinary scene on the map.

5. Chicago

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The Windy City has something for everybody. Love pizza? There’s a whole genre of pizza that Chicago made legendary (and plenty of thin-crust places, too). Love Mexican? Rick Bayless has chosen Chicago to open some of America’s finest Mexican restaurants. Italian? Spiaggia is one of the best Italian restaurants in the country. Steak? Chicago’s always been a steak town, and it’s home to some of America’s best steakhouses . Molecular gastronomy? Ever heard of Grant Achatz ? Burger? Kuma’s Corner has lines out the door every day. And if you’re just looking for a great roast beef sandwich, the Italian beef is quite possibly the most delicious sandwich on earth. (the team behind Stephanie Izard’s standouts like and as well as showstoppers like and ) seems to open a new winner every six months. Oh, and did we mention the hot dogs ? It’s impossible to visit Chicago and not fall in love with its food.

4. Los Angeles

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The Los Angeles dining scene is impossible to summarize in one paragraph. It’s so varied that you can live your whole life there, eating at a different restaurant every day, and you’ll still probably feel like you’ve missed something big ( just ask Jonathan Gold ). You have an endless supply of produce-driven cuisine thanks to its year-round growing season, ridiculously good Mexican food and Korean food (and chefs like Roy Choi to mash them up in his Kogi truck and kick off a nationwide craze), foo

d trucks hawking everything under the sun, and everything in-between. Wolfgang Puck forged his empire here; the trio of Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook, and Vinny Dotolo have created their own zeitgeist with their restaurants including Trois Mec , Animal , and Son of a Gun ; and did we mention how good the tacos are ? Food in Los Angeles is exciting, democratic, constantly in flux (as recently put it, “Michelin no longer puts out a guide to L.A. because it would have to be published weekly”); and always ahead of the curve; if it’s going to become a nationwide trend, it’s going to catch on here first.

3. New Orleans

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New Orleans is synonymous with Cajun and Creole cuisine , which means it’s also synonymous with deliciousness . Barbecue shrimp, po’boys, jambalaya, gumbo, crawfish étouffée, beignets, muffuletta, red beans and rice… these are some of the most delicious dishes on earth, and while you can probably find serviceable variations outside of New Orleans (and environs), they’ll never be as good as the real deal, served at legendary institutions like Brennan’s , Commander’s Palace , Galatoire’s , Dooky Chase , and Tujague’s . Chefs such as Emeril Lagasse, John Besh, and Donald Link have brought this classic cuisine into the 21st century, and New Orleans also has plenty of amazing restaurants that aren’t remotely Cajun or Creole; You can find arguably the best fried chicken on earth at Willie Mae’s Scotch House , and the city’s more than 14,000 Vietnamese residents have also left their mark on the local dining scene.

2. San Francisco

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The dedication to fresh, regional, seasonal ingredients pioneered by chefs like Judy Rogers ( Zuni Café ) and Alice Waters (just across the Bay Bridge at Berkeley’s ) is still a guiding principle in San Francisco , elevating restaurants like Gary Danko , Nopa , Saison , Quince , and Benu to greatness, but this city is about so much more than that. Impeccably fresh seafood can be found at the ancient, renowned Swan Oyster Depot . Some of the country’s best Neapolitan-style pizza can be found at Una Pizza Napoletana . Yank Sing serves some of the best dim sum outside of China. Boccalone makes some of the best charcuterie this side of Genoa. And we hear the burritos and sourdough bread are pretty good there too.

1. New York City

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New York, New York , the greatest food city in America, and possibly on earth . Whatever you want, you can find it here. Even the cheap pizza is good. You don’t know what a bagel is until you’ve had one here. The fine dining here is second only to perhaps that of Las Vegas, but more non-household-name chefs are opening a lot more mind-blowingly good restaurants here than in Sin City. Want Mexican? There’s a neighborhood for that. Want Russian? There’s a neighborhood for that. Want Asian? There are a few neighborhoods for that. How about Uzbeki? Ethiopian? Tibetan? Burmese? Korean barbecue? Just a subway ride away. Not only does New York have pizza , bagels , and Jewish deli to claim as its own, it also has upscale, downscale, highbrow, lowbrow, insanely cheap, jaw-droppingly expensive, hidden gems, world-renowned institutions… the list goes on. Spend a few days eating your way through New York, and you’ll agree that it’s the best food town in the States.

By: Miranda Agron

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