Best American Cities for Food

Best American Cities for Food
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Best American Cities for Food

Check out the best food cities in the U.S.

Portland, ME

If Portland (the other Portland) doesn’t immediately make you think of food, you might need to rethink your assumptions. Recently included on Condé Nast Traveler’s list of Best American Cities for Foodies, Portland has come a long way from the lobster roll (though you can still find those, too). The city is currently offering up some of the country’s best and most innovative seafood.

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Okay, so most folks don’t go to Hawaii for the grub, but according to Travel + Leisure’s list of best food cities in America, great food is an unexpected bonus on these volcanic islands. Don’t miss the raw poke, a local delicacy, or any of the amazing, fresh-from-the-ocean sushi that the city has to offer.

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Las Vegas

While most visitors come to Vegas for the gambling, they stay for some of the most extravagant restaurants in the world. Name a celebrity chef, including Wolfgang Puck, Gordon Ramsay, and Mario Batali, and it’s a safe bet he or she has a restaurant in Vegas.

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Franklin Barbeque rightly tops just about every travel magazine’s list of best barbeque joints in America, but the city is also a treasure trove of food trucks, trendy foodie spots, and first rate Tex Mex.

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Don’t let the flying fish at Pike Place Market fool you, Seattle’s food scene is as sophisticated as it comes. Practically every restaurant you stumble upon has a James Beard Award nominee in the kitchen, from Renee Erickson’s oysters at The Walrus and the Carpenter to Ethan Stowell’s simple Italian at Staple & Fancy.

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You might be surprised to find this sleepy Southern hamlet near the top of everyone from Condé Nast to Travel + Leisure’s lists of best American food, but the city is more than just Uncle Bubba. They do Southern cooking proud at myriad cafés, diners, and fine dining establishments alike.

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Deep-dish pizza! Chicago dogs! Who doesn’t love this city’s signature comfort food? But the city is also home to a great foodie scene as well. So much so that this year’s James Beard Awards (the Oscars of food) were held in the heart of The Windy City.

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New Orleans

Take a stroll though the city’s cobblestone French Quarter, and you’ll feel as if you’re in another country. Try the food and you might feel as if you’re in several. New Orleans cuisine takes the best of the city’s Spanish, French, Creole, Italian, and even Cuban heritages and serves up rich, spicy flavors as complex as the city’s history.

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San Francisco

You’re not going to find many cities in America with more diverse eats in the city that’s home to both the famous Mission burrito and the oldest Slow Food chapter in the U.S. In fact, the city is home to more restaurants per capita than any other major city in the country.

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New York City

This town is pretty much synonymous with food — New York strip, New York slice, even The Big Apple. New York City has some of the most renowned (and pricey) restaurants in the world, but it’s also a city where visitors and locals alike can easily find delicious cheap eats like pizza and falafel on virtually every street corner.

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There are some people who go on vacation to "ooh" and "ahh" over architecture and museums, and some who love to ride atop double decker busses with binoculars in one hand and a camera in the other, hoping to snap a picture of a makeup-less celebrity bringing in the morning paper.

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Then there are the culinary connoisseurs, who plan trips with the express intention of hitting as many James Beard Award-nominated spots as possible, who've Googled "Best Diners on the East Coast," and have big red Xs on their roadmaps marking the spot of a can't-miss crab cake.

Some cities have more of a reputation for great food than others, and some are world famous for a certain dish. If you've ever come back from Chicago without having tried a deep dish slice only to be met with downright indignation from a co-worker who couldn't understand how you could have wasted a trip eating things besides Chicago's famous pie, then you understand that in famous food towns, there are some things visitors simply have to try.

But what is a "food town"? For the purposes of this list, it's a city with a strong food history, usually involving at least one famous local dish. But while a specialty is important, these towns also offer variety. For example, San Francisco is a mecca for food, a place where you'll find the best burrito of your life located directly across the street from dim sum you'll daydream about for weeks after your trip. A great food town has to welcome a variety of culinary perspectives. And finally, we couldn't ignore critical acclaim. There are some cities where it seems that nearly every chef in town has been nominated for at least one James Beard award, places that travel experts like Condé Nast and Travel + Leisure consistently name as top spots for dining. The old standbys are here as well as a few cities that might surprise even the most well-traveled foodies.

So join us as we take you from coast to coast of this great nation, stopping in ten remarkable food towns on the way. Maybe you'll be inspired to take your own culinary vacation.

Click through the slideshow above for the top 10 best cities for food in America.

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