The world’s a big place and there’s good food to be found everywhere. Whether you’re into street food, morning markets, eating with local families or fine dining, there’s something for everyone. While others may travel to see a monument or world wonder in person, we base most of our travels around certain cuisines, or even one particular dish. Aside from the more popular food destinations such as New York City, Paris or Rome, there are hidden gems if you look hard enough.
We find that traveling for food is the most delicious ways to literally take in a culture and connect. Some people are adventurous, some aren’t, but locals will likely be happy when you do take that step forward and try their food. Here are just a few of our favorite cities for food-lovers.
Everyone has a love for something tasty, so we’d love to hear about your favorite cities for food-lovers too.
Charleston, South Carolina
Lately, we've been very into the South and Southeast. With recent trips to New Orleans, Nashville and Louisville and an appreciation for the hospitality and comfort food, it was time we visited the ever-so-charming Charleston, South Carolina. We’re firm believers that each city has culinary gems and for us, finding them in the smaller cities of America is pure fun.
With the rise of many young, up-and-coming chefs in the area, Charleston, the little classy charmer, has been on the radar for many epicureans. Access to many organic farms, amazing local seafood, and the iconic ingredients of soul food make South Carolina food quite addicting. You can get the traditional low-country meal of fried chicken, collard greens and mac and cheese but you can also indulge in a platter of ice cold oysters from nearby, sweet white shrimp and grit-free catfish.
We actually took the opportunity to try many fish we haven’t tried before such as triggerfish, grouper, black drum and rudderfish – all so amazing whether grilled, blackened or pan-fried.
If you like steak, you'll have to eat the grilled steaks of free-roaming, grass-munching, cows of Argentina. If you like fresh, citrus-forward ceviche, you'll have to visit Peru. But if you're like us and want both steak and ceviche, you should definitely go to Bogotá, Colombia.
Although ceviche is mostly attributed to Peru, almost all the Central American and South American countries offer some sort of “lime-cooked" seafood, tossed with herbs, spices and vegetables – and they are all different. We found that we enjoyed Colombia's the most with its perfect balance of lime and sweet cream (crema).
The steaks that we enjoyed at the famed steakhouse and night club, Andres Carne de Res, were unforgettable. Rather than grilling meat over a grill (parilla), your choice of steak is packed with local rock salt and tied tightly in a cloth satchel. It is then tossed into the embers of a scalding fire pit and cooked for under ten minutes. Upon service, the cook cuts open the satchel and removes all the excess rock salt and you're left with an immaculate steak – juicy and perfectly seasoned.
On a side note, the Colombians have been working hard to clean up the bloody and violent image from the Pablo Escobar days and have successfully gone from drug capital to food capital. The people, music, dancing and food will definitely leave a lasting impression on you.
When most people visit Japan, they head straight to Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. If you want to avoid huge crowds and need a cooler place to hang out in Japan in the hotter months, head to the island up north, Hokkaido.
On a recent visit, we stopped in a southern fishing port called Hakodate and were completely taken aback by just how much seafood was available. Hakodate’s Morning Market, Asaichi, is nowhere as large, dense, or congested as the famous Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, but it touts some of the freshest local kekani (hairy crab), Russian spider crab, squid, sea urchin and salmon one could have in Japan. The thing to get is the seafood donburi, or rice bowls that are covered in a mound of your favorite fruits de mer Japonaise.
In the evenings, we enjoyed hanging out at Daimon Yokosho, a collection of 25+ tiny, retro style restaurants and bars in one area. Each “restaurant” fits no more than 8 people. Here you can find squid swimming in small tanks ready to be served as sashimi, grilled, or folded up into a squid ink gyoza.
Tip: If you fly into Japan on Japan Airlines (JAL) or All Nippon Airways (ANA), each offer special fares and air passes for exclusive use by foreign visitors to Japan, which enable holders to fly anywhere within Japan for 10,000 yen (~$100 USD) per flight. Killer deal!
For the street food and night market enthusiasts, it’s a neck-to-neck horse race between Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan – but Taipei may just take the crown. Night markets, known as yie shi
(pronounced "yeh shi" in Chinese), are a way of life for the Taiwanese. It’s a young couple’s first date, quality time for three generations of family, and it’s the means of survival for the vendors.
Anyone with a deep-fryer, portable grill and a curious palate can offer anything that will draw the thousands of hungry visitors each night. With over 40+ different night markets all over the island of Taiwan, there's no way you'll starve even if you have a few dollars in your pocket.
There you’ll find every possible grilled meat on a stick, luscious soup-filled dumplings, tropical fruits, etc. Just imagine an Asian version of your favorite county fair. And don’t forget to wear your elastic band jeans!
Some of the most iconic Mexican dishes like tacos, flautas, pozole, tortas ahogadas and birria all hail from the western Mexican state of Jalisco. You may have had variations of it before, but there's nothing like eating the real deal in Guadalajara.
There are many street vendors and mercados (markets) that offer just about every type of favorite Mexican snack you can think of. And why these vendors make such good food is largely in part of survival and the natural instinct to rise above their fellow competitors. It is not uncommon to see a row of taqueros (taco vendors) selling the exact same food. They usually only offer one thing and you can bet that it'll be pretty damn good.
Also, if you love tequila, you can easily visit the towns of Arandas and Tequila to sample one of Mexico's most beloved agave spirit.
Dylan and Jeni are our guests for June — Travel Month at The Kitchn! They will bringing us tips and good ideas for eating while traveling, and finding good ways to bring your travels home to your own kitchen.
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(Images: Dylan Ho + Jeni Afuso)