8 Under-the-Radar Foodie Towns You Need to Visit
Think beyond NYC and San Francisco
OK, San Francisco, we get it. You have really good food. You too, New York, New Orleans, Charleston and Chicago. Gold stars for all. But if you’ll excuse us, we’ll let everyone else fight over your charms for a little while and turn our attention to the culinary underdogs—smaller towns and cities with surprisingly great food scenes.
Rhode Island may be the smallest state in the country, but when it comes to food, it’s in a sweet spot. It draws talent from New York and Boston, ingredients from the nearby New England coast and has Johnson and Wales, one of the country’s top culinary schools. Make sure to visit the old-school, red-sauce Italian restaurants on Federal Hill and grab some Syrian street food at East Side Pockets near Brown University. For new flavors, try the food trucks at the Providence flea market, tortas at Tallulah’s Taqueria and the Blue Hill-inspired tasting menu at Persimmon.
It’s been one of America’s great college towns since Thomas Jefferson’s time, but there’s way more to offer than beer and ramen. Stop by Feast! at lunchtime for a grilled pimento cheese sandwich. For dinner, brave the lines at Lampo for an authentic Neapolitan pizza, indulge in sophisticated comfort food at Commonwealth or splurge on a romantic night of butter-poached lobster and stuffed quail at Fleurie.
Traverse City, MI
We would have guessed that Mario Batali spends his summers in Tuscany, not Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. But with the abundance of super-fresh produce, fish and hand-cured meats and cheeses, Traverse City is actually the perfect place for a superstar chef (and anyone else with a good appetite). Your first stop should be the Grand Traverse Pie Company for a slice of cherry. Then make a reservation for farm-to-table fare at The Cooks' House or just-caught Michigan whitefish at The Cove.
Let the bachelorette parties storm Napa and Sonoma and instead head north to Oregon’s Willamette Valley for beautiful scenery and wine tasting that’s just a bit more…peaceful. McMinnville, known for its rolling hills and Pinot Noir, also has some of the best food in the region. We love the rustic, seasonally driven fare at Thistle, the paella and tapas at La Rambla and the famous Dungeness crab and pine nut lasagna at the nearly 40-year-old Nick’s Italian Café.
OK, so you’ve probably heard of Cleveland. But what you might not know is that it’s been going through a food renaissance. Cleveland’s food halls (think: really exciting food courts) have inspired a nationwide trend, and its West Side Market, which dates back to 1912, is unparalleled. Sokolowski’s is unbeatable for Old World favorites like pierogi and sauerkraut, but Cleveland also has plenty of exciting new bistros—like Michael Simon’s flagship restaurant, Lola.
This quirky West Texas town is three hours from an airport and boasts a year-round population of only 2,000. But thanks to a thriving art scene (including an installation of a Prada store in the middle of a vast desert) and some seriously good eats, it’s gotten a lot of hype. Your first priority should be a falafel sandwich from the mostly Mediterranean Food Shark truck. After that, head to Cochineal for fancy-pants Chilaquiles and cocktails.
It’s smack-dab in the middle of bourbon country, so you already know the beverages will be on point, but Louisville also has some of the best Southern cooking in the country. We love both the new and old takes: For modern, prix-fixe fare, Edward Lee’s 610 Magnolia is always exquisite. For old-time fine dining, we like the stately 80-year-old Jack Fry’s. For a more casual experience, follow your nose to the smokers at the Frankfort Avenue Beer Depot.
Baseball fans have been flocking to this upstate New York town for over a century to pay homage to the Hall of Fame. But there are now attractions for the less athletically inclined, too, thanks to the elegant Otesaga resort and the Ommegang Brewery, which also has a great café. Make sure to check out Alex’s Bistro, from former Dean & DeLuca manager Alex Webster, for eats like the Tipsy Spotted Pig—penne alfredo topped with chipotle pulled pork and roast chestnut hash.