Skip to Content

The 20 Best Food Cities in the US

We’ve eaten our way around America from from sea to shining sea. Discover our picks for the 20 best food cities in the US and see if your city made the cut.

Buffalo Wings at Elmos in Buffalo

We’re loud and proud about our appreciation for food in the USA.

We love it all from Cubanos in Florida to Poke in Hawaii. And don’t even get us started about our love for Hamburgers and Pizza. Sure, we can eat American food in our adopted city of Lisbon but it’s just not quite the same.

Burger at Carson Kitchen in Las Vegas
We’ve eaten a lot of burgers in America. We ate this one at Carson Kitchen in Las Vegas.

This love developed while we grew up in Atlanta (Mindi) and Philadelphia (Daryl). It blossomed during our many travels across the country both separately when we were single and then together after we met in 2006.

It came to fruition during a marathon 7-week North American road trip with the ambitious goal of eating our way around the country. And that’s exactly what we did during a whirlwind tour that hurtled us through 26 cities, 16 states and one Canadian province.

How We Travel for Food

BBQ at Q39 in Kansas City
Having the chance to eat food like this gorgeous plate of Kansas City barbecue at Q39 is a perk of living a life of food and travel.

Food was our passion before it became our profession. Accordingly, we enjoy doing tons of research to make sure we didn’t miss a bite before we visit a new destination. That epic U.S. road trip was no exception.

We almost killed ourselves while driving through snow storms in Pennsylvania, hail storms in Texas and torrential rain in Florida. And we’ll never forget the way our nifty Nissan Sentra rattled during the last few thousand miles. But we never got bored and we certainly ate well.

Our Picks for the Best Food Cities in the US

Buffalo Wing Selfie at Elmos in Buffalo
We shuffled off to Buffalo to eat these wings. It was worth the effort.

When it comes to food, some American cities stand above the rest. These cities tend to have mature food cultures as opposed to being famous for just one special dish. They also offer diverse great casual and upscale dining as well as great tasting food.

Based on the above criteria, the following cities get our votes for the top food cities in America:

1. New Orleans

Muffaletta at Cochon Butcher in New Orleans
This Muffaletta at Cochon Butcher is one of many tasty treats we’ve eaten in New Orleans over the years.

New Orleans has all the makings for a rocking party – amazing food, festive music and flowing cocktails. This is a city where the good times roll all year long for both hometown locals and visiting travelers.

We’ve joined NOLA’s party multiple times when we were both single and after we got married. Though we haven’t yet visited during Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest, we’ve had as much fun as possible without breaking the law at other times of the year.

While we’ve enjoyed raucous second line performances on Frenchmen Street, shopping in the Garden District and touring Bourbon Street, most of our best New Orleans experiences have involved food. The others involved cocktails.

Cocktails at Port of Call in New Orleans
These cocktails at Port of Call turned our lunch hour into a happy hour.

While we’re all about the city’s cheap eats ( think Beignets at Cafe du Monde, Po Boys at Parkway Bakery & Tavern and Fried Chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House), that’s just one aspect of eating in New Orleans. We also enjoy chowing down on both Cajun and Creole cuisine and dining at top New Orleans restaurants like Commander’s Palace, Cochon and Galatoire’s.

We plan to return to New Orleans sooner than later so that we can indulge in more decadent culinary experiences. We also plan to explore the city’s burgeoning international scene featuring Vietnamese, Israeli and Indian cuisines.

Top Things to Eat & Drink in New Orleans
Beignets, Cocktails, Fried Chicken, Global Cuisine, Gumbo, Jambalaya, Muffalettas, Oysters and Po Boys

2. Charleston

Breakfast at The Park Cafe in Charleston
Good food is available all day long in Charleston. We started our day right at The Park Cafe with poached farm egg breakfast featuring house sausage, French lentils, rouille and a baguette.

One of America’s oldest cities dating back to the 17th century, Charleston is a city that oozes history with its antebellum houses and cobblestone streets. It’s also a city that sets the bar for modern southern cuisine at neighborhood markets, casual eateries and upscale restaurants.

Charleston’s culinary scene has hit the international radar, with three restaurants (FIG, Husk and Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ) recognized with James Beard awards. Accordingly, making reservations is a must when visiting the Holy City.

Pork with Carolina Gold Rice at FIG in Charleston
Eating at FIG was a culinary highlight of our Charleston visit. One of many excellent dishes, this suckling pig rice bowl was a brilliant display of Lowcountry southern food. Ingredients included braised pork cubes, cara cara orange supremes and Carolina gold rice.

We followed our own advice and arrived in Charleston with advance reservations at both FIG and Husk. Each meal was fantastic, featuring sophisticated dishes constructed with local ingredients. But these weren’t the only great dishes we ate in Charleston.

Lowcountry classics like Okra Gumbo and She Crab Soup displayed flavors and ingredients from the Caribbean and Africa. But, just like the city’s more upscale offerings, the tastes in these more humble dishes were 100% Charleston.

Top Things to Eat in Charleston
Carolina Gold Rice, Cornbread, Fried Green Tomatoes, Hush Puppies, Modern Southern Cuisine, Pimento Cheese, She Crab Soup and Shrimp + Grits

3. New York City

Di Fara Pizzeria in NYC
Crowds flock to Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn. We snapped this photo while waiting for our pizza.

New York City isn’t just one of the best food cities in America. It’s also a culinary melting pot with food available from every corner of the world and at all prices.

On the high end, luxury diners can spend the big bucks at three-star Michelin restaurants like the Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, Eleven Madison Park, Le Bernadin, Masa and Per Se. Some of our favorite NYC restaurants like Le Coucou and Gramercy Tavern have Michelin stars too.

Without a doubt, New York’s temples of fine dining are amazing for those who can swing spending a car payment on dinner. Everybody else can eat equally well in Gotham for a lot less money.

Heebster Bagel at Russ and Daughters in NYC
The Super Heebster at Russ & Daughters Cafe is one our favorite NYC dishes. The lower Manhattan eatery tops a bagel with whitefish salad, horseradish cream and wasabi fish roe to make this dish.

We’ve had plenty of time to explore New York and its food scene. Mindi lived in Manhattan for eight years and Daryl worked in the city for that same amount of time. We ate it all from late Sunday bagel brunches, steak filled business lunches and late night pizza slices… and then we ate some more.

Ironically, our paths never crossed in New York. We later bonded over our mutual love for bagels when we met at a party in Philadelphia in 2006 and got engaged in Central Park later that same year.

Smoked Salmon at Russ and Daughters Cafe in New York City
It’s no secret that Daryl loves eating lox in New York.

We never tire of eating in New York. Our favorite NYC foods include Bagels + Lox in the Lower East Side, Soup Dumplings in Chinatown and Pizza in all five boroughs.

If we can’t eat it there, we can’t eat it anywhere. That’s why we’re happy to return multiple times a year to take more bites out of the big apple.

Top Things to Eat in New York City
Bagels + Lox, Cheesecake, Cronuts, Fine Dining, Global Cuisine, Hot Dogs, Pastrami on Rye and Pizza

4. Houston

Texas BBQ at Underbelly in Houston
Chef Chris Shepherd served us this modern interpretation of Texas Barbecue at Underbelly before the restaurant closed and re-opened as Georgia James. The James Beard award winner’s restaurant group also includes UB Preserv, One Fifth and the Hay Merchant.

The past decade has been transformative for chefs in Houston as well as for the city’s six million residents. Not only is H-Town a mecca for meat eaters, but the city has also racked up notable accolades for its diverse food scene.

Brisket wasn’t a surprise when we rolled through the lone star’s biggest city during our road trip. We expected to find Texas Barbecue as well as Tex Mex and chef-driven cuisine. But we weren’t previously aware of the emergence of international cuisine, especially Vietnamese food, in Houston.

Com Hen at Nam Giao in Houston
We ate this plate of Cơm Hến at Nam Giao in Houston. The flavors were a precursor to our meals in Hue, Vietnam a few months later.

We got our first taste of Vietnam at Nam Giao. The Houston restaurant took as straight to Hue with authentic dishes like Banh Beo dumplings and Cơm Hến, a melange of baby clams, roasted peanuts and sesame seeds over rice. Then we ramped it up by eating Viet-Cajun Crawfish at Crawfish & Noodles.

Tasting Texas mud bugs seasoned with garlic and lemongrass was a revelation. Plowing through through a pile of tongue-tingling crustaceans, we feebly attempted to keep up with our Houstonian cousins who were clearly not first timers at this seafood rodeo.

Cajun Crawfish at Crawfish Noodles in Houston
We ate this heaping serving of Viet-Cajun Crawfish at Crawfish & Noodles in Houston. The spicy, juicy seafood was nothing short of a party on the plate.

It all made sense during a memorable lunch at now-closed Underbelly. After serving us dishes like Korean Braised Goat with Dumplings and Vietnamese Style Flank Steak, Chef Chris Shepherd rapped with us about the growing Vietnamese community. We learned, through Chef Shepard, that there are no crawfish in Vietnam and that Viet-Cajun Crawfish is a true Houston specialty.

Shepherd finished the conversation by letting us taste pork tacos that he had prepared that day for a Bon Appetite photo shoot. At the end of the day, that’s what Houston is all about – good food and southern hospitality wrapped together and tied with a bow.

Top Things to Eat in Houston
Barbecue Brisket, Cajun Crawfish, Kolache, Tex Mex and Vietnamese Food

5. San Francisco

Colorful Dish at The Progress in San Francisco
We ate this Don Watson Lamb Tartare with Tumeric Kohlrabi, Chili-Lime Vinaigrette + Black Rice Cracker at The Progress, a Michelin starred restaurant in San Francisco.

San Francisco is easy to love. The hilly city has epic views on every corner and buzzes with electric energy at all hours of the day and night. Flanked by the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and powered by cable cars, California’s cultural hub is nothing short of a feast for the five senses.

We’re not immune to the City by the Bay’s charms. Mindi lived in San Francisco for two years after college and we’ve both visited multiple times prior to and including our epic US road trip. It’s a city that simultaneously exhausts and excites us. Plus, it’s just a relatively short drive from both Napa Valley and Sonoma wineries.

Sliced Rebel Within at the Craftsmen in San Francisco
Cutting into this Rebel Within, a cheesy muffin with a soft boiled egg center, was a magical experience only surpassed by eating it. The pastry is a signature dish at San Franicsco’s Craftsman and Wolves.

Make no mistake – San Francisco isn’t a cheap city to visit as is the case with many of the world’s most dynamic cities. But it’s a city that demands attention from all who travel for food. On the high end, the city has three dozen Michelin starred restaurants including a trio (Atelier Crenn, Benu and Quince) honored with three stars.

But San Francisco isn’t just about expensive meals. Some of our favorite SF meals have involved eating little plates of dim sum and ginormous mission burritos. As for dessert, we never refuse pastries at B. Patisserie, Craftsman & Wolves or Tartine Bakery.

Top Things to Eat & Drink in San Francisco
Cioppino, Dim Sum, Ghiradelli Chocolate, Irish Coffee, Mission Burritos, Sourdough Bread and Wine

6. Los Angeles

Chinese Food at Chengdu Taste in Los Angeles
Eating Toothpick Lamb with Cumin at Chengdu Taste was a highlight of our most recent trip to Los Angeles.

Proving that San Francisco isn’t the only great food city in California, Los Angeles restaurants shine as bright as Hollywood spotlights. Let’s face it – stars and aspiring stars need to eat somewhere. In the City of Angels, that somewhere is everywhere.

We’re not kidding. Food trucks are literally everywhere in Los Angeles, bringing new meaning to the concept of a movable feast. These mobile restaurants serve a range of food from countries like Korea, Japan and Mexico.

Paris Brest at Petit Trois in Los Angeles
We ate this Paris-Brest at Petit Trois, Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s Hollywood bistro.

Though we’ve never lived in La La Land, we both have siblings that did so in the past. Accordingly, we’ve visited multiple times and have explored the city’s culinary delights.

While we haven’t yet eaten at any of the city’s two dozen Michelin starred restaurants, we’ve eaten at enough Los Angeles eateries to find our favorites. Our top spots for eating in LA include Chengdu Taste, Petit Trois, Pink’s Hot Dogs and Zancou Chicken. Nancy Silverton’s Pizzeria Mozza is high on our dining wish list for our next visit.

Top Things to Eat & Drink in Los Angeles
Anything Sold by Food Trucks, Donuts, Global Cuisine (especially Asian and Mexican) and Smoothies

7. Las Vegas

The Stove in Las Vegas
Locals fill Las Vegas restaurants off the strip. We joined them when we ate Sunday brunch at The Stove.

Food travelers could easily visit Las Vegas without gambling and still have a great time. They could also eat well without leaving the strip; however, that second move would be an unfortunate mistake.

While many accomplished chefs operate restaurants like Carbone, Guy Savoy, Mizumi and NoMad Bar in casinos, many of the city’s most exciting restaurants are located off the strip. Some are downtown while others are in strip malls. Many serve food from countries like China, Japan and Thailand.

Uni at Sparrow and Wolf in Las Vegas
International cuisine is the norm at Las Vegas restaurants like Sparrow and Wolf. Pictured here are Chinatown Clams Casino with lap cheong, shiitake mushrooms and uni hollandaise before we ate them.

We’ve spent a good bit of time in Las Vegas both before and after our road trip. Not only have we attended three weddings in Sin City, but Daryl’s brother lives in Henderson, a suburban neighborhood not far from the action.

Our recent trips have all focused on eating off the strip when we’re not spending time with family. Highlights have included an omakase anniversary dinner at Raku as well as meals at spots like The Black Sheep, Sparrow and Wolf, Lotus of Siam and Partage.

Top Things to Eat & Drink in Las Vegas
Asian Food, Chef Driven Cuisine, Cocktails, Cupcakes and Hawaiian Food

8. Philadelphia

Roast Pork Sandwich at Dinics in Philadelphia
If it’s wrong that we prefer Philadelphia’s Roast Pork Sandwiches over its Cheesesteaks, we don’t want to be right. Pictured here is Roast Pork Sandwich that we ate at DiNicks Roast Pork in Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal.

Philadelphia may be located half way between New York City and Washington DC, but it no longer lives in the shadow of those two cities when it comes to food. The Philly food scene has garnered national attention for cuisine that goes way beyond Cheesesteaks.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Cheesesteaks! After living in the historic city for many years, we’re still happy to chow down on a great Cheesesteak at John’s Roast Pork once in a while. But Philly’s most famous sandwich is just one food worth eating in the City of Brotherly Love.

Dishes at Zahav in Philadelphia
Michael Solomonov’s Zahav has won multiple James Beard awards. Diners flock to the Old City restaurant to eat modern Israeli cuisine in Philadelphia.

Let’s start with sandwiches. Philly has wonderful Roast Pork Sandwiches and loaded Hoagies (local submarine sandwiches typically topped with Italian meats and cheese) that are equally if not more satisfying than Cheesesteaks. And this doesn’t include more eclectic options like Falafel, Tacos, Banh Mi and Bagels + Lox.

But let’s not stop at sandwiches. Philadelphia’s restaurant scene competes favorably with both NYC and DC thanks to a cadre of talented chefs who have made the more affordable city home. Nationally recognized restaurants like Zahav, Vernick and Vetri Cucina are so popular with both locals and food travelers that advance reservations are an absolute must.

Pulled Noodles at Nan Zhou in Philadelphia
Asian immigrants have carved a spot in the Philadelphia dining scene. We ate this bowl of soup with hand drawn pulled noodles at Nan Zhou in the city’s Chinatown neighborhood.

Beyond chef-driven dining, Philadelphia’s best restaurants include cozy BYOBs, Asian eateries and pizza joints. With the addition of craft beer bars and Italian bakeries, Philly easily earns its slot as one of America’s best food cities.

Top Things to Eat in Philadelphia
Asian Food, Cheesesteaks, Chef Driven Cuisine, Hoagies, Mexican Food, Roast Pork Sandwiches, Scrapple, Soft Pretzels and Water Ice

9. Portland

Smith Teas in Portland
Portland hipsters take their food and drinks seriously as we learned during a seriously good tea tasting at Steven Smith Teas.

Although Portlanders take pride in keeping things weird, Oregon’s largest city demands attention for a diverse food scene that goes way beyond gimmicks. The Rose City does many things well from earthy-crunchy hipster food to sophisticated dining.

Portland is a mecca for food travelers who savor eating and drinking locally when they travel. From food trucks to fine dining, most Portland eateries incorporate local, seasonal ingredients into their offerings with a passion that borders on obsession.

Thai Noodles at Pok Pok in Portland
Eating Thai food at Pok Pok in Portland is the next best thing to eating Thai food in Chiang Mai or Bangkok. These noodles paired well with the restaurant’s famous Ike’s Vietnamese fish sauce wings.

Originally intended to be a quick stop during our US road trip, Portland excited us so much that we extended our stay by several days. Even still, it was a challenge to fit the best Portland food into our hungry bellies in just five days.

The city initially hooked us with a third wave coffee scene that equals its craft beer scene. Specialty coffee shops like Heart and Coava gave us daily caffeinated boosts that powered us to explore the city’s scene from dawn to dusk.

Portland features a wide variety of food options with many chefs focusing on a unique cuisine, whether it be Thai at Pok Pok, Russian at Kachka, New American at Ned Ludd or Ice Cream at Salt & Straw. We ate at these spots as well as ramen bars, noodle houses and donut shops.

Top Things to Eat & Drink in Portland
Asian Food, Fine Dining, Craft Beer, Donuts, Oysters and Specialty Coffee

10. Buffalo

Schwabls in Buffalo
Gene Staychock has been making Beef on Weck sandwiches at Schwabl’s, a Buffalo restaurant that dates back to 1837, for 40 years.

Once an elite American city, Buffalo spent decades as a brunt of jokes. Well, as the saying goes, Buffalonians are getting the last laugh.

New York’s Queen City has re-emerged as a city worth visiting for reasons beyond its proximity to Niagara Falls. Not surprisingly considering its presence on this list, one of the primary reasons is Buffalo’s emerging restaurant scene.

Chicken Parm at Chefs in Buffalo
We ate this Spaghetti Parm at Chef’s Restaurant, a Buffalo restaurant that’s been serving Italian-American dishes since 1923.

Globally famous for buffalo wings invented at Anchor Bar, Buffalo claims credit to a handful of quintessential American foods. We ate those famous wings at multiple pubs plus a slew of other Buffalo food favorites during our week-long, food-focused visit.

Many other aspects of Buffalo exceeded our expectations. After eating a range of food at classic spots like Ted’s Hot Dogs and Schwabl’s as well as at modern restaurants like The Dapper Goose and The Black Sheep, we loved everything and everywhere we ate.

Top Things to Eat & Drink in Buffalo
Beef on Weck, Buffalo Wings, Charcoal-Broiled Hot Dogs, Craft Beer, Peanut Sticks, Sponge Candy, Pizza, Spaghetti Parm and Tom + Jerry Cocktails

11. Miami

Vaca Frita at Versailles in Miami
We ate this Vaca Frita at Versailles in Miami. The shredded steak dish came with heaping sides containing rice, black beans and plantains.

Located just 230 miles from Havana, Miami is a destination for anybody who loves Cuban food but can’t visit Cuba. However, Cuban food is just one part of Miami’s food story, albeit an important part. The city’s food scene is equally notable for foods like stone crabs and ceviche.

Miami was a necessary part of our journey to taste America. Not only did stopping here give us the chance to scratch our Cuban food itch, but it also allowed us to stroll on the beach and eat amazing seafood.

Stone Crab Claw at Beachcraft in Miami
We ate these Stone Crab Claws at Tom Colicchio’s Beachcraft before the South Beach restaurant closed.

We started our Miami food journey by eating seafood in South Beach, the city’s touristic beachside area that’s home to Joe’s Stone Crab and My Ceviche.

Following the Miami playbook, we also ate Cuban food at Versailles and Peruvian ceviche at CVI.CHE 105. However, funky Wynwood hit our sweet spot with casual spots like Zak the Baker, Panther Coffee and Salty Donut.

Top Things to Eat & Drink in Miami
Ceviche, Cubanos, Deli Sandwiches, Fritas, Juice, Key Lime Pie and Stone Crab Claws

12. Seattle

Fish at Pike Place Market in Seattle
Pike Place Market is a popular tourist destination in Seattle.

Ironically, one of Seattle’s greatest contribution to American food culture isn’t technically a food. It’s a drink. Whether you love or hate Starbucks, there’s no debate that the Seattle-based company has changed the way that the nation drinks coffee.

More importantly, Seattle is one of the artisan coffee movement’s founding cities. Coffee shops like Victrola and Analog serve great grinds all over the city.

Travelers should absolutely visit numerous Seattle coffee shops when they pass through Seattle. It’s a must. But eating is equally a must for any visit to the Emerald City.

Breakfast at Lola in Seattle
We enjoyed this Mediterranean breakfast at Lola so much that we returned and ate it again.

It goes without saying that we drank a lot of coffee, including flat whites at Storyville in Pikes Place Market, during our Seattle sojurn. But we also ate great food including modern Korean dishes at Joule and comforting breakfast dishes at Lola. Other top Seattle restaurants include Canlis and JuneBaby.

Food enthusiasts will want to visit the aforementioned Pike Place Market where fish literally fly through the air. Although it’s a tourist spectacle, this public market is a fun spot to stroll among stalls manned by local fishmongers, farmers and artisans.

Top Things to Eat & Drink in Seattle
Asian Food, Craft Beer, Hom Bow, Seafood, Seattle Dogs and Third Wave Coffee

13. Chicago

Deep Dish Pizza with Cheese
Chicago’s Deep Dish Pizza is nothing like pizza in Naples but it sure does taste good.

Chicago is a city that demands attention. After visiting the Windy City three times (twice separately and once together), we’ve only scratched the surface of the midwestern city with a food culture that inspired a devoted cult following.

And who can blame fans for loving a city that specializes in deep dish pizza and loaded hot dogs (i.e. Chi-Dogs). Beyond these foods, the city is home to two dozen Michelin starred restaurants including Alinea, one of the country’s most innovative restaurants.

Chi Dog
Too much is just enough when it comes to adding toppings to Hot Dogs in Chicago. Typical toppings inlclude yellow mustard, diced onions, relish, dill pickle spears and chili peppers.

Eating in Chicago is nothing short of exciting. During our most recent visit, we ate at chef-driven restaurants including avec, Girl & the Goat and Publican. We also chowed down on hamburgers at Au Cheval, scarfed Chi-Dogs at both Hot Dougs and Wrigley Field, drank third wave coffee at Intelligentsia and experienced modern mixology at The Aviary.

As much as we accomplished during our visits, we somehow missed out on eating Italian Beef and Jibarito sandwiches. This omission is reason enough for us to plan a return visit, not that we need an excuse since we love eating in Chicago.

Top Things to Eat in Chicago
Chi Dogs, Deep Dish Pizza, Garrett Popcorn, Italian Beef Sandwiches, Jibarito Sandwiches, Pierogis and Steak

14. Nashville

Hot Chicken at Princes in Nashville
This Hot Chicken at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack made our tongues tingle. If it hadn’t, it would have just been chicken.

If you visit Nashville and don’t eat Hot Chicken, did you really visit Nashville? While we ask this question with our tongues in our cheeks, there’s no denying the importance of this dish in Nashville’s food scene.

Legend has it that hot chicken dates back to the 1930s when Thornton Prince’s girlfriend added an inordinate amount of cayenne pepper to the batter to punish her cheating man. Often imitated but never replaced, Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack has been serving the popular poultry ever since that fateful act.

Deviled Egg at Husk in Nashville
We ate these Deviled Eggs at Husk, the Nashville outpost of the lauded Charleston restaurant.

Beyond hot chicken, Nashville is a worthy dining destination for fans of southern food. We dove into the virtual frying pan during our week-long visit by eating Grits and Shrimp at Husk and buttery Biscuits at both Biscuit Love and Sweet 16th Bakery.

We enjoyed a lot more during our visit including a delightful dinner at Rolf & Daughters and decadent donuts at Five Daughters Bakery. It’s no wonder that we want to plan a return visit during our next US road trip.

Top Things to Eat & Drink in Nashville
Biscuits, Hot Chicken, Meat + Three, Southern Food and Whiskey

15. Honolulu

Poke at Island Sushi in Las Vegas
We ate this Poke at Island Sushi in Las Vegas. The Nevada city has so many Hawaiian visitors that it’s often referred to as the Ninth Island.

Popular with honeymooners and bucket list travelers, Honolulu is a food city hiding in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Not many visit the Hawaiian capital for its food, but those who do are rarely disappointed.

While Mindi visited Honolulu with her sisters years ago, Daryl is yet to travel to Hawaii. After enjoying Poke in cities like Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Lisbon, he is anxious to eat it at the source.

Spam Rice at Island Sushi in Las Vegas
Fried Rice with Spam is a popular dish in Honolulu. We ate this version at Island Sushi on the 9th Island.

When he’s not enjoying Honolulu’s natural beauty, Daryl plans to eat as much yellowfin tuna as possible. As for Mindi, she can’t wait to eat more of the best pineapple she’s ever tasted.

We both want to eat local dishes like Loco Moco as well as Malasadas, the popular Portuguese dessert that’s even more popular in Hawaii. As for Poi, we’ll leave that for the locals to enjoy though Daryl says he’ll try that too.

Top Things to Eat & Drink in Honolulu
Fresh Fish, Kona Coffee, Loco Moco, Malasadas, Poi, Poke, Shaved Ice and Spam

16. Boston

Clam Chowder at Union Oyster House
Mindi ate this Clam Chowder at Union Oyster House. The Boston restaurant is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in America.

Boston is a city of contrasts when it comes to food. The historic city has numerous old-school restaurants including Union Oyster House, the country’s oldest continuously operating restaurant.

But Boston’s food scene isn’t stuck in the past. It’s also teeming with modern culinary trends like bagels, sushi and donuts.

Lobster Roll
Lobster rolls trend popular throughout New England and in the Canadian Maritimes. Boston is no exception to the trend of eating lobster inside toasted hot dog buns.

Sure, it would be easy to spend an entire visit eating clam chowder at Union Oyster House, pizza at Regina Pizzeria and everything at Faneuil Hall, but that would be a shame. The Boston food scene has much more to offer food travelers willing to make the effort.

Top Things to Eat & Drink in Boston
Barbecue, BBQ Spaghetti, Biscuits, Cupcakes, Fried Chicken and Southern Food

17. Memphis

BBQ at Paynes in Memphis
We ate a lot of barbecue in Memphis. This BBQ served with baked beans and mustard coleslaw at Paynes Bar-B-Que was our favorite.

Although Memphis is just 200 miles from Nashville, the two Tennessee titans are a world apart when it comes to food. Sure, both cities serve some similar foods like Biscuits, Grits and Fried Chicken. But, while Nashville focuses on Hot Chicken, Memphis’ claim to fame is its barbecue.

We can’t overstate the importance of barbecue in Memphis. With more BBQ joints than would be humanly possible to visit in a week, the Bluff City justifiably deserves a place in any BBQ hall of fame along with the Carolinas, Kansas City and Texas.

As we gleefully discovered during our week-long visit, Memphis serves its ribs both wet (prepared with sauce) and dry (prepared with spicy rub). This approach makes condiment junkies like Mindi and purists like Daryl as happy as pigs in… Well, you know what we mean.

Fried Chicken at Four Way in Memphis
We ate this Fried Chicken with sides of turnip greens, boiled okra and mac & cheese at The Four Way in Memphis.

Since we were tempted to exclusively eat BBQ in Memphis, we took a self-guided crawl to spots like Paynes Bar-B-Que (our favorite), The Bar-B-Q Shop, Cosy Corner and Central BBQ. However, we didn’t stop there.

We continued our Memphis exploration at iconic eateries including The Arcade Restaurant, The Beauty Shop, The Four Way and Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. Since all this eating made us thirsty, we also explored the bars in Memphis.

Don’t worry – these two food fanatics hit important Memphis sites including Graceland and The National Civil Rights Museum too.

Top Things to Eat in Memphis
Barbecue, BBQ Spaghetti, Biscuits, Cupcakes, Fried Chicken and Southern Food

18. Kansas City

Joes Kansas City BBQ in Kansas City
Crowds queue at Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que to eat the restaurants’s signature Z-Man brisket sandwich and other meaty morsels.

It would be wrong to visit Kansas City and just eat barbecue but that’s exactly what we did. And why not? The city calls itself the ‘Barbecue Capital of the World’ after all.

Disclosure – We also ate donuts in Kansas City in our quest to eat donuts across America.

Ribs at Joes in Kansas City
Our ribs at Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que came with Texas toast and pickles.

Kansas City’s commitment to barbecue qualifies it for this list of the best food cities in the US. It also made the city a necessary stop on our mad dash around the country.

During our 24-hour visit, we ate slow-roasted meat slathered in sweet sauce at three joints – Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, LC’s Bar-B-Q and Q39. We hate to pick favorites, but we’re heading straight to LC’s and ordering burnt ends when we return to KC.

Top Things to Eat in Kansas City
Barbecue, Burnt Ends, Fried Chicken, Russell Stover Chocolates and Steak

19. Austin

Tex Mex at Polvos in Austin
We ate this Tex Mex platter at Polvo’s Downtown in Austin.

Austin is yet another American food city that specializes in barbecue. In this case, the barbecue is the Texas variety which very well may be the best variety.

Texas barbecue involves slow cooking meats like brisket and sausage over mesquite wood. Unlike other American barbecue styles, Texas pit masters rely on technique instead of sauces to achieve maximum flavor. Food travelers to Austin can sample Texas barbecue at super-popular Franklin Barbecue as well as in nearby Lockhart.

Butter Half Mural in Austin
Food is so important in Austin that it’s part of the street art culture.

After eating our weight in BBQ in Lockhart during our American road trip, we high-tailed it to Austin. However, we focused on eating the best of the rest at local food trucks and restaurants.

Avocado Margarita at Curras in Austin
This Avocado Margarita at Curra’s Grill whet our whistles in the most delightful way.

Culinary highlights of our Austin visit included eating donuts at Gourdough’s Big Fat Donuts, sushi at Uchiko and Tex Mex at both Maria’s Taco Xpress and Polvo’s Downtown. We washed it all down with beer, coffee and avocado margaritas – as one does in Austin.

Top Things to Eat & Drink in Austin
Avocado Margaritas, BBQ, Breakfast Tacos, Donuts, Food Truck Food, Kolaches and Tex-Mex

20. Cincinnati

Cincinnati Chili at Skyline Chili in Cincinnati
We ate this 3 Way Chili at Skyline Chili in Cincinnati. It’s one of the city’s two iconic dishes.

Cincinnati may be less famous for its food compared to other cities on this list but don’t count out Ohio’s City of Seven Cities. The salt-of-the-earth city has a burgeoning food scene and two iconic foods to call its own.

We specifically drove to Cincinnati to eat those two foods with no regrets. What can we say? We love ice cream and we love chili. Apparently, we also love chili topped with spaghetti and cheddar cheese.

Graeters Ice Cream in Cincinnati
Graeter’s Ice Cream is Cincinnati’s other iconic food.

Eating ice cream was our top priority when we visited Cincinnati and not just because we had arranged a private tour at Graeter’s Ice Cream. The family-owned ice cream factory produces what may be the best ice cream in America with its labor-intensive French Pot small batch process. We adore every flavor but especially the Black Cherry Chocolate Chip chock full of chocolate chunks.

Chili was our second priority – specifically Skyline Chili made with spaghetti, chili and shredded cheddar cheese. Known as 3-Way Chili, this Greek-inspired local specialty is cooked with cinnamon, nutmeg and hints of chocolate. It’s a must-eat for anybody who loves comfort food with a kick.

Top Things to Eat in Cincinnati
Cincinnati Chili, Donuts, Goetta and Graeter’s Ice Cream

Hungry for More American Food?

Check out our guides to the best donuts in America and the best sandwiches in America.

Pin It for Later

Pinterest image: image of a Muffaletta with caption reading "America's Best Food Cities"
Red Beach Selfie in Santorini

About the Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Disclosure

We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

What to Eat in Japan | 37 Japanese Food Favorites
← Previous

TK

Saturday 16th of January 2021

Dude?!? What about Portland, ME? It’s only Bon Appetit’s 2018 restaurant city of the year.

Daryl and Mindi Hirsch

Saturday 16th of January 2021

Please see below.

P bell

Sunday 10th of January 2021

Wow. Did you guys go to any cities with pop les tha a million? Portland Maine out classes all on your list.

Daryl and Mindi Hirsch

Tuesday 12th of January 2021

We've heard great things about Portland, ME and even have a friend who lives there. We may have to make a stop in the great Northeastern state, and Portland in particular, on our next tour through the US.