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These 33 Cities Have Been Nominated as America’s Next Hottest Foodie Destination For 2021!

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Of course we all know about the incredible Cajun food they’re serving up in New Orleans.

And everyone is familiar with the world-famous deep dish pizza in Chicago

But what about those lesser-known or undiscovered places throughout the country just waiting to be found?

Places like Walla Walla, Washington instead of Seattle and Natchitoches, Louisiana rather than New Orleans?

Places serving up incredible dishes that haven’t been discovered- until now. 

Thirty-three top travel bloggers have nominated their favorite lesser-known cities as America’s Next Hottest Foodie Destination. 

 

Voting has now closed — congratulations to Little Rock, Arkansas for winning the title of America’s Next Top Foodie Destination for 2020!

 

Costa Mesa, California

Nominated by: Megan of Bobo & Chichi

One of the best foodie scenes in the US is a local’s secret in Southern California.

Costa Mesa is most famous for being home to the mega luxury mall South Coast Plaza and being near beach cities like Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, but what really makes this destination special is its incredible foodie scene.

Costa Mesa is easily one of the best foodie spots not only in Orange County but all of Southern California. Its culinary scene boasts some of the best fusion global cuisines. 

Costa Mesa’s food scene is no doubt influenced by the different cultures of people who live here.

And instead of being just Mexican, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean or any specialty restaurants of a region many of the chefs in this area do tons of fusion style restaurants beautifully combining different cultures and flavors making this a hotbed for one mouthwatering restaurant after another.

There are actually new restaurants popping up all the time in the area as the foodie scene is booming.

You won’t find many chain restaurants in this area as independently owned restaurants with a unique culinary focus dominate this area.

We recommend checking out the food hall at SOCO Collection & OC Mix, the restaurant and amazing nightlife scene on 17th Street where you’ll find the most concentrated area of restaurants, and the independent eateries at both The Lab and The Camp near South Coast Plaza.

Huntsville, Alabama

Nominated by: Gemma of Two Scots Abroad

Alabama’s Huntsville has secured its place on the map as the Rocket City but did you know that its food scene is out of this world?

From BBQ to breweries, it’s hard to digest that there are over 500 Huntsville restaurants in the tiny 5.5-mile radius. What the foodie scene may lack in physical size, it makes up for in character.

Take Toy Box Bistro as an example. Here, Frankenstein-style hot dogs, aptly named The Punisher, are consumed amongst the hanging board games and throwback toys.

At Pints and Pixels, the game theme continues. Play Pacman as you pack away chili fries. Need a breather? Have a beer on the rooftop garden.

Looking for a date night meal? Wow, your other half with the fried green tomatoes at Commerce Kitchen. Don’t skip the dessert.

My personal favorite foodie experience in the city is Campus 805. This is a converted high school turned entertainment space. Eat pizza, drink craft beer, find the speakeasy, throw axes or hang by the lockers at the family-friendly campus.

No trip to Alabama would be complete without BBQ. Fill up on meat, potatoes, beans and ‘half and half’ tea at Big Bob Gibson BBQ in Decatur.

Hop aboard the Blue Bayou for a set menu on a stationary train. The menu changes each week so you can visit again for this really unique dining opportunity in the US. 

Walla Walla, Washington

Nominated by: Sarah of Discover the PNW

Walla Walla is in the heart of Washington State wine country so naturally, it’s a popular spot for wine tasting.

What goes well with wine tasting? Food! But not just any food.

Generally speaking, wine lovers are also often foodies. So, as wine seeking visitors began to flow into the charming town of Walla Walla the need for great food options grew.

Soon, the little town was attracting chefs and restaurateurs from all over America and was being tagged as a “small-town foodie haven.”

Today you can find every type of restaurant imaginable from cute, casual cafes to gourmet fine dining and everything in between.

It would take more than a few paragraphs to list all the scrumptious meals you can enjoy in Walla Walla but here’s a tasting for you.

Start with breakfast at the aptly name Bacon & Eggs and try the biscuits and gravy or papas pastores.

For lunch go to the quirky and incredible Andrae’s Kitchen which is housed in a gas station. If you think gas station food is the thing of nightmares you will be proven wrong.

Chef Andrae arrived in Walla Walla after years working the high-end restaurant scene in places like NYC and has settled into a quieter life.

Join the crowd and order up some brisket tacos, in-house smoked prime rib, and Voodoo Fries. You may also see his food truck at the wineries around town.

If you’re ever hungry again after a hearty lunch at Andrae’s, reserve a table at Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen.

This award-winning restaurant has been serving up incredible fresh fare since 2007 and is still one of the most popular places in town.

The menu is small which is a sign that they take their food creations seriously and you can’t go wrong with the Lingcod en Salsa Verde or Wood-Grilled Ribeye.

Torrance, California

Nominated by: Ayngelina of Bacon is Magic

Although many people talk about food in Los Angeles, many of these restaurants are just places to be seen with decadent interiors and patrons that are too afraid to eat most of the food because they are on some kind of special diet to land them a leading role.

But just outside LA has some of the best food in the country, and locals know it.

A hub for Japanese carmakers, Torrance is known to have the best ramen in California and incredible Japanese restaurants that are authentic and fairly priced.

Much like the city, Torrance restaurants are all substance over style.

You find the best spots in strip malls and industrial parks. It may not seem appealing but people drive here just to eat and there are lines out the door to get real authentic food.

The diversity here is fantastic, but the draw to Torrance is its ramen. It is known as the ramen empire of SoCal.

One of the most famous spots is Hakata Ikkousha Ramen. The original outpost is in Japan and the recipe is the same – which is not common as many American ramen joints adapt recipes for local flavors. 

While there is a full menu of ramen options the most popular is Tonkotsu. What makes it so good is the ramen broth. Pork based, it is simmered over low heat for so long that it has a thick, creamy consistency.

There’s almost always a broth pot on the stove because the restaurant can’t keep up with demand and it serves up to 800 bowls on a Saturday in its small spot.

Stuart, Martin County, Florida

Nominated by: Emily of Emily Luxton Travels

Perched on Florida’s Treasure Coast almost halfway between Orlando and Miami, the small seaside city of Stuart, Martin County, often goes relatively overlooked by tourists.

But this colorful city, with its historic downtown and a big focus on independent local businesses, should be on any seafood lover’s list.

Stuart is known as the “Sailfish Capital of the World”, while the neighboring town of Port Salerno was historically a fishing village. You can still find incredible seafood at the waterfront restaurants lining the harbor.

There’s no shortage of fresh-caught seafood throughout Stuart and the surrounding area of Martin County.

In fact, almost all ingredients and produce you’ll find in local restaurants are as fresh as can be: the region’s rich countryside means farm-to-table food is easy to find.

You can even dine right on a farm itself! Kai Kai farm, a popular local supplier found just outside of Stuart, regularly host special dinner nights featuring a tour, paired wines, and food made using ingredients fresh from the farm.

If you can’t make it out to the farm, let it come to you at one of the many independent local restaurants that focus on using only home-grown produce.

Mobile, Alabama 

Nominated by: Maria of Maria Abroad

To be honest, when I planned my trip to Mobile Alabama, I did not really know what kind of food to expect other than Southern with a dash of seafood. Boy was I wrong.
 
Mobile took my foodie’s heart by storm with its innovative cuisine, fresh ingredients, and delectable tastes.
 
Mobile bridges the gap between innovation and comfort food, leaving your tastebuds excited and yet give you the cozy feels of homemade shrimp and grits. 
So where should you eat in Mobile? Here are some of my favorite spots in this cute city:
 
– Bob’s Downtown Diner aka On The Corner of Fat and Happy: Old-fashioned Diner with the classics – fried green tomatoes, homemade corned-beef hash, Po-Boys and more. 
 
– Wintzell’s Oyster House: This is an institution and a must if you love seafood. Their oysters are sweet and taste like the ocean, fresh and juicy. I also loved their seafood boil that had a little Cajun kick to it (but not as spicy as a Louisiana style boil).
 
– The Noble South: Tasty Farm to Table restaurant with an Instagram-able flair. Not only is the food really, really tasty, but the decor is beautiful and reminds me of a modern mid-west barn. 
 
– The Haberdasher: A stunning bar with a hipster vibe and great cocktails. The bartenders take their mixology serious at this place and you can look forward to some delicious treats. 
 
Mobile definitely should be on your radar, if you are a foodie. You won’t be disappointed, I promise! 
 

Durango, Colorado 

Nominated by: Jenn of The SoFull Traveler 

Denver seems to be the hot spot when it comes to visiting Colorado. A lively city, sure, but what major cities in Colorado are missing is the rustic charm of what used to be.

On your next trip out to the big skies of Colorado, make your way out to the Southwest corner of the state where you can take a step back through time in the charming town of Durango.  And, for the foodie loving adventurer, you’re in a for real treat (see what I did there?).

Durango has more restaurants per capita than San Francisco! From saloon inspired pubs to trendy breweries or artisan style pizza to ethic Japanese foods, this hidden gem spans a wide range of cuisines to suit anyone’s taste buds.

Pretty consistent amongst some of the best Durango restaurants is a Colorado favorite: farm to table ingredients and craft cocktails. Sustainability drives many decisions in this little town thus implementing as many eco-friendly plates as possible.

And as far as the craft cocktails go, they sure know how to hit a millennials weak spot with artisan crafted drinks with names like “Letters to Elliot” and “Fireside Chat.” So. Very. Instagram-able.

Natchitoches, Louisiana 

Nominated by: Margie of DQ Family Travel

Natchitoches, Louisiana is a small town about 4 hours north of New Orleans. Known as the oldest permanent settlement in the state, this charming Southern town is filled with antebellum history.
 
Visitors not only come here for the food and riverfront charm but also because Natchitoches was the filming location for many scenes from the movie Steel Magnolias. It is also a fantastic place to spend a weekend and eat some delicious regional cuisine. 
 
Due to its location just across the Texas line, Natchitoches serves up all the New Orleans classics: jambalaya, red beans and rice, gumbo, crawfish, as well as some tasty barbeque spots.
 
It’s well known, however, for its meat pies. A Natchitoches meat pie is similar to a Spanish empanada, only that it is much bigger and is seasoned with different spices.
 
You will find this perfect lunch item on many of the local menus, yet the only place to get the original meat pie is at Laysone’s, which opened its doors in 1967.
 
The downtown area is also home to craft breweries and several family-owned Creole and Cajun restaurants. If you enjoy a little Southern charm and cooking, then the small town of Natchitoches is waiting for you. 
 

Wayzata, Minnesota 

Nominated by Sam of My Flying Leap
 

What would you expect from Wayzata, MN as a foodie destination? Probably not much, and you’d be very, very wrong!

This suburb of Minneapolis is a foodie mecca hiding several gems.

My favorite of which is called Sushi Fix and was opened by locally-renowned chef, Billy Tserenbat. This place won’t disappoint—of course, unless you forget to make a reservation and can’t get a seat! Yes, it’s that good! 

And the local’s tip is that they even have a hidden sushi menu. Ask about it and be prepared to be wowed.

This place boasts some of the most creative sushi dishes I have ever had, including the Frankenstein roll, a mix of two other rolls they offer with a spicy mouth-kick. It may not be pretty but it’s truly incredible. 

By far the best presentation is the Shiso Yummy with bonito flakes sprinkled over shiso peppers. It’s delivered to your table and almost appears to be alive on the plate.

Don’t get taken in by the sweetness of the peppers as there are a few in every plate that will knock your socks off and may just cause flames to shoot from your mouth! 

 This place is truly a gem and it’s located in a lovely setting on the picturesque street along Wayzata Bay. You won’t be disappointed and it’s well worth the drive from Minneapolis.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Nominated by: Stephanie of Oklahoma Wonders

Even though I’ve spent the past four years traveling full time, there’s nothing quite like thinking about the food from home to make one homesick. For me, home is Oklahoma City, and the food is unparalleled.
 
While I’ve eaten in some of the best restaurants in London, New York, Paris, and Rio, the one meal I miss more than anything in the world is the classic Tex-Mex served up in OKC at places like Ted’s Cafe Escondido and Chellino’s.
 
That’s not to say that the foodie scene isn’t growing, because every time I come home I find more restaurants to explore.
 
The bar seems to get raised year after year, and now places like The Jones Assembly serve up modern takes on classic Southern cooking.
 
Fried okra, Nashville Hot Chicken, and updated banana pudding are the comfort food the city is known for but with an updated attitude. You could spend months here and not experience every place worth visiting.
chicken fried steak with eggs okc breakfast restaurants

One hidden gem that doesn’t get much national press but every Okie knows is Johnnie’s, the charcoal hamburgers that rival anything that In-N-Out Burger or Shake Shack has on offer.

Except they don’t skimp on the toppings, have extra cheese, and you can buy a piece of pie for dessert. Nothing says Oklahoma like having an extra slice of pie!

The best foodie neighborhoods to explore when you’re here are Bricktown and Deep Deuce, but don’t be afraid to branch out further afield. There are hidden gems all over the city.

Richmond, Virginia

Nominated by: Becky of SightDOING

Richmond has one of the south’s most notable culinary scenes, with dozens of good eats throughout the city.  Classic southern stapes get a modern twist here, taking the mundane to new, noteworthy, and delicious. 

Start with breakfast at The Fancy Biscuit, where a traditional ham biscuit adds homemade caramel sauce to Virginia ham for a sweet-and-salty bite. 

The Roosevelt serves up mouth-watering pork chops with pimento cheese grits, perfectly paired with creative cocktails. 

And for classic southern favorites, Mama J’s is a local favorite, especially for the fried chicken or catfish.

There are plenty of great restaurants that go beyond southern food, though: you’ll find modern takes on Greek food at neighborhood favorite Stella’s, award-winning Sichuan cuisine at Peter Chang China Cafe, and Jewish deli favorites at Perly’s.

Richmonders are restaurant-obsessed, with some of the best eateries scattered among local suburbs for convenience to residents.  Visiting foodies should rent a car to make sure they can taste some of the city’s best restaurants. 

Within city limits, the Church Hill neighborhood has a high proportion of wonderful local restaurants ranging from quick eats at Proper Pie Co. to full-service restaurants like Alewife.

Omaha, Nebraska

Nominated by: Stella of Around the World in 24 Hours

Omaha, Nebraska has long been famous for its amazing steaks. And if you’re looking for top-quality beef, you can find delectable, Nebraska-raised wagyu at places like The Boiler Room.

But the rest of the local food scene has come on strong in recent years, and now Omaha, the largest city in Nebraska, is set to become America’s next top foodie destination.

The most iconic dish in Omaha might be the Reuben sandwich. This sandwich is made with corned beef, grilled Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing, all piled on two slices of rye bread.

Legend has it that Lithuanian immigrant Reuben Kulakofsky invented it at the Blackstone Hotel in Omaha. Nowadays M’s Pub serves a mighty tasty Reuben. Of course, New York City also claims to have invented the Reuben…but don’t bring that up in Omaha.

Omaha has many other great places for casual dining.

You can get a fabulous Croque garcon burger at Block 16. (Like the famous French Croque madame sandwich, it comes with an egg on top.)

For a sweet treat, get ultra-premium 20 percent butterfat ice cream made fresh daily at Ted and Wally’s.

If you’re more in the mood for fine dining, both V Mertz and The Grey Plume have exquisite tasting menus that can stand up to any in the country. Dine on wagyu beef tartare, steelhead trout, and cocoa nib ice cream one night at The Grey Plume.

The next night you can have pate, morel mushroom lasagna, and Japanese cheesecake at V Mertz. When it comes to dining, Omaha has an embarrassment of riches.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Nominated by: Courtney of Coco Betty

New Mexico’s food culture is still widely unknown so I’m gonna let you in on the secret: if you are looking for food that makes your mouth water, your eyes get wide and your stomach to roar in agreement then you need to make your way to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
 
New Mexico may be one of the only states with a State Question; “Red or Green?” This refers to a person’s preference for red chile or green chile on their food.
 
Now if that doesn’t give you enough of an indication for how much they love their food, let me tell you more. This isn’t Baja or Tex-Mex, this is New Mexican cuisine that reaches to the roots of their Mexican heritage and what can be more New Mexican than tacos?
 
Small in size but bursting with flavor, the best can be found at El Cotorro in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill right off the famous Route 66. These soft corn tortillas are sometimes doubled up to help with the mess. Who needs napkins?
 
They can be made with Al Pastor (Pork), Carnitas (Pork), Barbacoa (Lamb), Carne Asada (Beef), Fish or Vegetarian like Nopales (Cactus) and then topped with onion & cilantro.
 
Generally, the food can be pretty spicy so be careful how much hot sauce or salsa you throw in. Squeeze a lime wedge on top and enjoy! Bon Apetit!
 

Ridgeland, Mississippi

Nominated by: Kita of Pass The Sushi

Just outside the capital city of Jackson sits Ridgeland, Mississippi, a hip, vibrant urban town growing at a rapid pace.

And with all expanding hubs, comes the salacious foodie scene that follows. There is an abundance of fine dining, and trending coffee shops along with locally owned stylish lunch spots specializing in regionally sourced ingredients and a killer Comeback sauce. 

Famous for, and rightly so, some of the best fried catfish and fried chicken in the Delta (with restaurants like Cock in the Walk specializing in and only that) Ridgeland is also alluring diners to think upscale with the exceptional steakhouses, craft cocktails, and oysters shipped in daily from the gulf. 

The culinary experience is that of a bustling city five times its size, with talented chefs arriving back to their roots in a slice of America’s heartland.

From fresh fried green tomatoes topped with crawfish to scratch-made cinnamon rolls, Ridgeland is pumping out a culinary experience easily overlooked. 

Be sure to experience the fresh redfish and butter dipped crab claws – all fresh from the gulf before saddling up at a diner for a real blue plate special. 

Whether road tripping through or looking for a casual and unexpected long weekend, the culinary scene in Ridgeland is fresh, vibrant, and guaranteed to surprise you. 

Portland, Maine

Nominated by: Jamie of The Daily Adventures of Me

Portland, Maine is a perfect New England town with brick buildings and lighthouses on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. It is also one of the US’ best food destinations.

There are many foodie entrepreneurs here experimenting with the flavors and local ingredients of New England.

Although you can find favorites, like a traditional New England lobster roll, you can also find many deviations such as the brown butter lobster roll from Eventide.

Other unique things Maine is doing with local crops are potato donuts at The Holy Donut and some of the best fries you have had from Duckfat.

Portland also has thriving producers making craft spirits, locally produced wines, and beer.

A few of the best are the uniquely different gin at Hardshore Distilling Company, the rhubarb wine at Eighteen Twenty Wines and the lavender honey mead at Maine Mead Works.

And Portland is the perfect place to start an exploration of the whole state of Maine!

Scottsdale, Arizona

Nominated by: Nicole from American SW Obsessed
 
If you love food like me, then you need to make Scottsdale Arizona your next foodie stop.
 
Scottsdale has over 800 restaurants to choose from with a variety of different cuisines.  You’re sure to find something for even the pickiest eater here.
 
If you would like to try a lot of different places on a day trip from Phoenix, why not try a foodie tour like Arizona Food Tours.  You can walk around downtown with the group and try several different places while learning about the history of the area or restaurant.
 
You can try authentic Southwestern cuisine which is a cross between Spanish, Mexican, and even Tex-Mex.  All I have to say is that it is high on flavor!
 
Scottsdale also boasts two of the Top 100 Restaurants in the USA – Café Monarch and the French Restaurant Sel.  Both are excellent choices anytime.  Don’t forget to leave room for Rum Cake.

Naples, Florida

Nominated by: Lori Sorrentino of Travlinmad

In the southwest corner of Florida at the western edge of the Florida Everglades lies Naples, Florida, one of the most popular vacation spots in Florida.

In Naples, high society and small-town charm still go together like seafood and beer.

Add in excellent white sand beaches, year ’round warm weather, Italian-inspired architecture, world-class shopping, and a vibrant restaurant scene, and it’s easy to see why Naples is such a hot spot, for foodies or anyone.

Being right on the Gulf of Mexico means local food specialties like fresh Gulf shrimp, oysters, snapper, grouper, and other saltwater fish dominate the menu. But the one dish everyone looks forward to each season are fresh Florida stone crabs.

Stone crab fishing is a sustainable industry in Florida — by law, only one stone crab claw can be harvested from a crab allowing it to grow back and delight us again for seasons to come!

There are so many great restaurants in Naples to choose from no matter what mood you’re in, whether it’s high style or low — from beach cocktails in your shorts with your feet in the sand to excellent high-end dining with a celebrity flair.

But the best way to enjoy any meal is on the beach or overlooking the water with a cocktail in hand.

Buffalo, New York

Nominated by: Jennifer P. (aka Dr. J) from Sidewalk Safari

Buffalo has always had a great food scene. People living outside of Western New York just haven’t realized it yet. Let’s talk about what to eat in Buffalo, shall we?

Charley the Butcher is famous locally for beef on weck. Picture thinly sliced roast beef on a perfect crusty roll covered in salt and caraway seeds.

Beef on weck is best served with loganberry pop. Buffalo is the only place in the world where I’ve seen this hybrid of a blackberry and raspberry turned into a soft drink. 

Of course, the food scene in Buffalo already has some renown the world over.

Who doesn’t know that Buffalo wings were invented in Western New York? Head to Duffs for a less-touristy chicken wing experience.

Duff’s wings are spicy by default. Medium is hot, medium hot is very hot and hot is very, very hot. The spicy, vinegary sauce at Duff’s is simply outstanding and goes down well with a pint of craft beer from one of Buffalo’s local microbreweries.

In the mid-19th century, Buffalo experienced a wave of immigration from Poland. Great Polish food is another reason Buffalo is a fantastic foodie destination.

Head to Polish Villa to try classic Polish cuisine. A typical dish comes with pierogi and kielbasa served with a huge potato pancake.

Now you can find upscale takes on Polish classics at Local Kitchen & Beer Bar. Try the Cheektowaga Polka–large pierogi with spare ribs and caramelized onions served with an elegant flourish.

Boise, Idaho 

Nominated by: Lauren from TheDownLo

When I tell you Boise is the next great foodie destination, you’ll likely scoff.

A state most known for the humble potato? Come on. But I’m not alone in my assessment. 

Vogue said it was on the brink of a culinary revolution. 

People said it was one of the hottest new food cities in America.

And still, others said it was one of the most underrated dining destinations in the country.

So what exactly makes Boise so great? The diversity, the affordability, and the star power.

Celebrity chefs from Portland, Seattle and Denver are moving there in droves, priming it to become the next great Western city.

With the second-largest Basque population in the US, the Basque Market is a must for their pintxos and weekly paella feasts.

Bittercreek Alehouse is a local watering hole known for its craft beer and diverse menu. Fork is another farm-to-table favorite, while Goldy’s is the go-to brunch spot.

But if you do want to honor the state mainstay, Boise Fry Bar has five different cuts and colors of fries with dozens of toppings and the “the burger on the side.”

Westside Drive-in also has potato-shaped ice cream sundaes perfect for the ‘gram. Just don’t limit your palate to potatoes. 

Asheville, North Carolina 

Nominated by: Bret Love & Mary Gabbett of Blue Ridge Mountains Travel

Located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Asheville has emerged in recent years as the Southeast’s answer to Portland– another mountain town famous for its gorgeous natural surroundings, thriving cultural scene, and forward-thinking environmental consciousness.

The city is perhaps most famous for George Vanderbilt’s lavish Biltmore Estate, which was built in 1895: With 250 rooms and 135,280 square feet, it remains the largest privately-owned house in the United States.

But Asheville has also garnered a lot of (well-deserved) hype for its thriving culinary scene.

Drawing numerous critically acclaimed chefs to the area from major cities, Asheville now has more Green Restaurants per capita than any other city in the country and has garnered glowing articles in revered publications Bon Appetit and Food and Wine.

From laid-back cafes such as Green Sage and Tupelo Honey to cool BBQ joints like 12 Bones Smokehouse (President Obama’s favorite), hip vegan eateries like Plant, and farm-to-table French restaurant Bouchon, the town has tons of incredible options for diehard foodies to choose from.

And though the scene’s focus is generally on fresh, locally sourced Southern food fare, Asheville icons like Peter Pollay (Posana) and multi-James Beard Award nominee Katie Button (Cúrate) continually find new ways to surprise visitors and locals alike with their inventive culinary creations.

Kona, Hawaii

Nominated by: Constance from The Adventures of Panda Bear

When you think of Hawaii, you might think of coffee, macadamia nuts, and chocolate. Obviously Kona is world-famous for its delicious coffee because of its unique climate is perfect for growing coffee beans, but did you know it is also renowned for native Hawaiian eats? 

Lau lau is a Hawaiian dish consisting of beef, pork, chicken, or fish wrapped in taro leaves. Today, it is typically steamed; however, traditionally it is prepared in an imu, a Hawaiian underground oven. 

Don’t forget to try poi! This Hawaiian staple is made of taro that is cooked and mashed into a creamy, thick consistency. It was found to be a naturally shelf-stable food in the warm, tropical weather of Hawaii and is often eaten fresh or fermented.

Though be warned that the fermented version can be a bit tart tasting! 

Poke is one of the most famous Hawaiian foods, made from various types of raw, marinated fish, it has also become one of the most popular Hawaiian foods on the mainland United States.

The ahi tuna poke in Kona is like none other because it is also super fresh! Most poke places in the Kona area will sell the day’s catch and once they run out, they close up shop. 

And last but not least, be sure to take a tour of a coffee farm and get a taste of that real Kona coffee. It’s one of the best things to do in Kona, and plus, if you didn’t try Kona coffee in Kona, did you even really go to Kona? 

Bellingham, Washington

Nominated by: Lizzie of Lizzie Lau Travels

Bellingham is Seattle’s baby sister on the Canadian border, offering the same outdoor lifestyle and laid back vibe.  

With a towering, snow-topped volcano to the east, and the Salish Sea to the west, this PNW city has long been a destination for mountain biking, snow and water sports.  

Where it has more recently distinguished itself is in the foodie scene with award-winning breweries, outstanding coffee, and critically acclaimed restaurants.  

Fortune.com recently profiled the area and called it a “place to take a culinary vacation.”  Here are three restaurants worth trying:

Aslan Brewing in downtown Bellingham is an excellent choice, with a fantastic selection of beers, and a menu of elevated pub food that looks and tastes more farm to table than fast food.  The spicy yam tacos and the massive bacon bison burger are favorites.

On the road to Mount Baker, people in the know stop at Rifugio’s Country Italian Cuisine.  
 
Their brunch menu is mouth-watering, with things like Breakfast Carbonara topped with poached eggs and roasted tomatoes. Try Chef Richard’s riff on eggs benny on a giant handcrafted potato cake, served in a skillet. Call ahead for a reservation. 
 
A 7-minute ferry ride away on Lummi Island is the Willows Inn, home of James Beard award-winning Chef Blaine Wetzel.  
 
Here you can go all in for the 4 hour $225 tasting menu dinner consisting of over 20 dishes, or easier on the pocketbook, their $45 breakfast.
 
On days they’re open for dinner, they also open from noon until 4 pm for snacks and drinks. Overnight guests of the inn have first dibs on dinner seating so this truly is a destination restaurant.
 

Little Rock, Arkansas

Nominated by: Lori of Southerner Says

When you think about cheese dip and its origin you probably think about Texas or the American southwest. But did you know that Little Rock, Arkansas is the birthplace of cheese dip?

According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, cheese dip was invented by Blackie Donnely in the 1930’s when he and his wife opened their first Mexican restaurant, Mexico Chiquito, in North Little Rock.

Whether or not that was the first time cheese dip was made in the state is still debatable but it’s no secret that even today, cheese dip is as important to Arkansans as pizza is to New Yorkers.

In fact, Little Rock now hosts a yearly World Cheese Dip Championship. It’s so popular, this year alone the company that provides the tortilla chips made up 15k bags of chips.

Attendees munched on the chips, sampling 23 different types of cheese dip, prepared by both amateurs and professionals.

Dining out in Little Rock, it’s not uncommon to see cheese dip on the menu, even at non-Mexican restaurants.

Chefs from all over the city seem to have their own special recipe just like Donnely’s, whose was a closely guarded secret and made his restaurants famous all-over central Arkansas.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Nominated by: Hannah & Adam Lukaszewicz from GettingStamped

We know just the place for amazing foodie spots and it’s actually right in our backyard. Milwaukee, Wisconsin is an up and coming food scene, home to classic establishments and hip new spots all over town.

We’ve eaten all over the world, and in our opinion, Milwaukee can compete with any big city in terms of quality and diversity of food options. Not only does Milwaukee have so many places to choose from, but the city also offers restaurants for all budgets. 

If you’re in the mood for some classic comfort food, you need to check out Kopp’s Frozen Custard. This place is a local favorite, serving up amazing butter burgers and frozen custard.

Milwaukee’s best spot for internationally-inspired small plates is Odd Duck, with a menu always changing based on what’s fresh.

And if you’re looking for a meal with a view, look no further than Harbor House, as it’s situated right between the Milwaukee Art Museum and Discovery World Museum looking out at Lake Michigan. It serves the best seafood in town and serves brunch, lunch, and dinner. 

While Milwaukee is definitely known for beer and cheese, there really is more to try. We hope you pay a visit to our hometown soon!

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Nominated by: Julie from Ruhls of the Road

Minneapolis, Minnesota has a burgeoning foodie scene that makes this Northern destination a MUST for food lovers from around the globe.
 
You may not immediately think of Minnesota as a travel destination, but let us tell you that if you skip over Minneapolis you will be missing out on an incredibly awesome experience, and some wildly good food as well.
 
Minneapolis has incredible food for all times of day, from early morning breakfast dining to late-night dimly lit steak dinners.
 
However, where Minneapolis really shines is during brunch. There are tons of delicious brunch options all around the city, each one a yummy experience.
 
What Minnesota does best is skillet dishes, such as hash or hot-dish. Minneapolis chefs are full-on experts at combining various different ingredients into a hot-plated meal. Every bite is an explosion that puts together every flavor on the plate.
 
Our particular favorite brunch dish served in Minneapolis locales is corned beef hash.
 
Whereas other locations will put eggs, potatoes, meat, and vegetables in separate sections on a plate, we love to combine everything together here in Minneapolis! Every plate comes out so yummy and steaming hot, ready to eat.
 
Another awesome aspect of the Minneapolis foodie scene is all of the awesome breweries around town. Surly calls Minnesota home, as well as many other fun breweries that are dotted all around town. After brunch, head for a beer at one of these awesome breweries for a local IPA or stout!
 

Tucson, Arizona

Nominated by: Leigh of Campfires & Concierges

For many years, Tucson, Arizona has remained in the shadow of Phoenix and Scottsdale when it comes to tourism. However, in 2015, Tucson was the first U.S. city to receive the UNESCO City of Gastronomy designation.

Joining cities like Parma, Bergen, and Chengdu, Tucson was recognized for having the longest agricultural history of any city in the United States.

The local natives were masters of irrigation, allowing them to grow crops in the desert, and you can still visit their agave fields and grinding stones today.

Local chefs are incorporating these ancient wild foods into modern dishes, incorporating mesquite flour, cactus fruit, and agave into gourmet dishes and even beer.

In addition to ancient foods, Tucson is the best place in the US to have Sonoran-style Mexican food. Better than Tex-Mex, in my opinion, Sonoran Mexican feels more authentic to the food I’ve eaten in Mexico.

Forget the cheese, sour cream and other toppings; the best local tacos are simplicity at its finest. Local spots like Boca Tacos emphasize mouthwatering meat, homemade tortillas, and fresh salsas.

Another top Tucson restaurant, Cafe Poca Cosa, has a new menu every day and the owner regularly returns to Mexico for inspiration.

El Charro Cafe is another top spot for Sonoran Mexican food in Tucson. Not only is it the longest-running family-owned Mexican restaurant in the country, the family who owns it also invented the chimichanga.

A Tucson food tour is a great way to learn more about the foodie scene in the “Old Pueblo.”

Cleveland, Ohio

Nominated by: Amanda of Cleveland Traveler

When it comes to up-and-coming foodie cities in the US, Cleveland, Ohio, is usually overlooked and underrated.

But this city on Lake Erie actually has a lot to boast about, including James Beard-nominated chefs, more than 30 craft breweries, passionate coffee roasters, and interesting cultural influences that make for some tasty local dishes.

Cleveland’s “signature dish” is somewhat debatable, but I think many locals would agree that it has to be the pierogi.

These pillowy dumplings were brought to Cleveland by Eastern European immigrants during the late 1800s and early 1900s, when Cleveland was quickly growing into one of the largest cities in the United States.

The most traditional pierogis you can find at a restaurant are at Sokolowski’s University Inn, a family-run spot that’s been serving Polish and Eastern European comfort food since 1923.

Today, Cleveland’s roots as a melting pot are evident in its food culture.

Pop into the West Side Market in the Ohio City neighborhood to see this first hand; in this 100+-year-old market you can buy everything from fresh-made pasta to falafel to Scotch eggs to gyros to mochi all under one roof.

But it’s not just old dishes that are popular in Cleveland.

In recent years, the city has been going through a modern food and drink revolution, characterized by craft breweries (we have more than 35), locally-owned coffee shops (Rising Star and Phoenix are the favorites), and young, innovative chefs willing to try new things.

Stop in to Spice Kitchen + Bar in Gordon Square, where they use ingredients from their own farm in Cuyahoga Valley National Park; or Brewnuts, where they’ve blended craft beer and imaginative flavors into delicious donuts; or the Ohio City Galley, where local chefs can try out new concepts in Cleveland’s first restaurant incubator.

The food scene in Cleveland is a delicious mix of old and new, and certainly deserves a spot on any foodie travel bucket list.

Orange Beach, Alabama

Nominated by: Toccara of Forget Someday

A visit to Orange Beach, Alabama will take you on a mouth-watering culinary journey of the deep south.
 
Choose from a plethora of delicious Orange Beach restaurants offering local cuisine that will leave you drooling long after you return home.
 
From fresh seafood straight out of the Gulf to savory southern comfort food, there’s definitely something to please everyone in your party.
 
For a local treat, head on over to GTs on the Bay and order their shrimp and grits. Enjoy large Gulf shrimp sautéed with Worcestershire, garlic, cream, and Cajun spices, served over fried Parmesan grit cakes (see the picture below and try not to drool!).
 
Not only does Luna’s Eat & Drink have one the largest selections of craft beer in the area, but it’s also worth popping in for their pimiento hushpuppies. Dip these fried and fluffy puppies in their housemade Blueberry pepper jelly for a truly unique taste!
 
For more craft beer options, check out Big Beach Brewing in nearby Gulf Shores and find your favorite of their 12 beers on tap.
 
Other foodie stops in Orange Beach include The Yard for insanely decadent freak-shakes, Brick & Spoon for southern food and Bloody Mary bar, and Rum Sisters for their delicious alcohol-infused cakes.
 
There is definitely no shortage of calories to be consumed in southern coastal Alabama!
 

Kauai, Hawaii

 
Kauai has an incredible food scene. It’s a mixture of traditional Hawaiian food, Asian-inspired entrees, and Mainland food items.
 
Visitors will find food trucks all over Kauai, and it’s not a new thing.
 
These lunch wagons have been around for decades, but recently, they feature more organic and innovative items, like sushi burritos, Hawaiian-style chicken and waffles, and lots of Kauai shrimp.
 
For those short on time, the Tasting Kauai food tours are a great way to sample some of the trendiest Kauai food trucks and mom and pop restaurants.
 
One of the stops on the North Shore tour is the Hanalei Poi truck. Hanalei is known for its vast taro fields and supplies most of Hawaii with poi, which is fermented taro root that is mashed to create a liquid paste.
 
They created a bowl that features 3 of Hawaii’s signature dishes: kalua pig, lomi lomi salmon, and fresh poi. It’s outstanding!
 
This food truck is just steps away from the taro fields, so it’s really as close as you can come to farm to table.
 
Kauai also has some of the best organic shaved ice in Hawaii. They use real fruit and cane sugar syrup and top their shaved ice with fresh Kauai fruit, li hing mui powder, tiny mochi, and you can top it off with condensed milk or haupia foam. And you can usually order it with a scoop of Hawaiian-made ice cream in the bottom.
 
Kauai knows how to do food right!
 

Dallas, Texas

Nominated by: of Outside Suburbia 

Dallas, Texas is known for Tex-Mex dishes of queso dripping enchiladas and tacos, barbecue meats, smoked brisket, and pecan pies but there is so much more to the food scene here.
 
We have lived in Dallas for over 20 years and had many dinners and celebrated events in many of the amazing Dallas restaurants and truly believe it is America’s next foodie destination.
 
Your taste buds can literally travel the world without leaving Texas.  You can be sipping Sangria at Bulla Gastrobar or eating sushi made from fish flown from Tokyo, the options are endless!
 
If steak is what you are craving for Chef John Tesar’s Knife is where you will find some the best steaks, some even dry-aged for up to 240 days. 
 
Haywire Restaurant in Plano, a suburb of Dallas has the best Chicken Fried Steak.
 
You will find deep-fried everything at the Texas State Fair of Texas, from mac ‘n cheese to bacon sliders to Oreos.  Plan ahead, the fair runs only for three weeks in October.
 
For an elevated Modern Texas Cuisine head to Chef Stephan Pyles’s Flora Street café, food is theatre here. Every course is beautifully plated and presented, the roasted tri-color beets with comes on a bed of stracciatella cheese with coffee cardamom soil and the Mediterranean Bronzino is better than anywhere else in the country! 
Don’t be foolish and forgo dessert, it is a pretty plate of dense pistachio mousse with passion fruit sorbet!

Billings, Montana

Nominated by: Heather from Trimm Travels
 
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Billings, Montana for a conference. I set aside a couple of extra days to explore because, in my research, I found so many cool foodie places.
 
I know what you’re thinking…is there really that much in Billings? The answer, my friends, is yes!
 
In a matter of 2-3 days, I had some of the best food of my life and I didn’t even get to everything on my list.
 
Since this was indicative of a second trip, I was perfectly okay with that.
 
Seriously though, I had all types of food from the sophisticated to unique twists on classics and everything in between.
 
From my Blueberry Vanilla-Mosa I paired with The Bennie (a Hawaiian take on eggs benedict-think caramelized pineapple hollandaise sauce) at Sassy Biscuit to burrata cheese with peaches, prosciutto, and honey along with a vegan ramen bowl at The Field House, there was incredible food everywhere I turned!
 
I was in pure heaven eating the World Food Championships 2016 Burger Champion “I’m Your Huckleberry Burger” from the Burger Drive. All I can say is goat cheese with a Huckleberry Hatch chili barbecue sauce. Absolutely divine. 
 
At Walker’s, I had the most amazing poutine with a mushroom gravy accompanied by a malt vinegar mayonnaise! I washed it down with the Big Skai, a martini with wild roots huckleberry vodka.
 
Later on, a peanut butter cup martini from the Northern Hotel made a fabulous dessert!
 
I have mentioned huckleberry a couple of times. Montana is famous for huckleberry and it is a delightful specialty you will find in most places so be sure to try it.
 
As you can see, there is something for everyone and if you are a foodie like me, you will rave about Billings. It is a fabulous well-kept secret that deserves its place in the foodie world.
 

Houston, Texas

Nominated by: Kay from Skyline Adventurer 

Houston is Texas’ hidden gem for foodies and one that’s packed with some of the best eats in the country.
 
Anyone who has lived in Houston for any amount of time will tell you the same thing: Houston’s diverse population definitely infuses its foodie scene. With this trend comes an awe-inspiring array of different international dining options.
 
From Peruvian ceviche to Polish kielbasa, Korean barbecue to Afghan kebabs, and of course, some of the most flavorful Vietnamese food you can find in the country, eating in Houston is like traveling the world.
peruvian ceviche peruvian cuisine peruvian dish peruvian food
 
Whether you’ve been trying some of Houston’s outdoor activities and need to escape the heat, or you’re simply looking for something delicious and cheap to try, Houston’s international restaurants are hands down, the best out there.
 

Woodinville, Washington

Nominated by: Lydia from Africa Wanderlust

Woodinville is located near the Sammamish River Valley just 30 minutes outside of Seattle and has been hailed by many as America’s next top food destination. 

Known as a wine mecca, this small town has more than 100 tasting rooms, plus breweries, wineries, and whiskey distilleries. Besides, dozens of restaurants offer both fine and casual dining, giving you a chance to sample the exquisite wines produced in the valley.

Not only that, you can browse arts and crafts at the Woodinville Farmers market in the middle of town. This market gives visitors a taste of the area with everything from locally grown produce and flowers to clothing. 

Finally, keep your calendar clear because Woodinville has a full range of activities and festivals throughout the year.

You can listen to live bands, participate in crush events, or go on wine walks.

If you love the outdoors, there are scenic hiking trails through the woods and an abundance of spas for ultimate relaxation. 

With so many places to eat, drink, and be merry, it is easy to see why this small town has become a top attraction for food lovers. The only thing you will need on your packing list is an appetite, so be sure to swing by Woodinville as soon as you can!


 

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My Eatcation With Costa Mesa, California | What to See, Do and Eat in Costa Mesa, CA | Foodie Flashpacker

Friday 10th of July 2020

[…] my recent competition to find America’s next top foodie destination, Costa Mesa, California was nominated by my good friends Bobo and Chichi.  Since we had all […]

Janie Pace

Sunday 23rd of February 2020

I would have nominated Fort Worth, TX. Tim Love’s restaurants: Lonesome Dove, Gemelle, Love Shack, Atico. Chef John Bonnell, Bonell”s and Waters. Wicked Butcher, Chefs Richard Triptow and Austin Carlson. Reata chef James Gaines. ToroToro Chef Richard Sandoval. Grace Chef Blaine Stanford. B&B Butchers & Restaurant Chef John Piccolio.

Anita

Friday 20th of December 2019

Durham, NC should've been nominated because it has many locally owned restaurants and bars, many that are very good. It also has a very diverse culinary scene from Ethiopian, Southern, to El Salvadorian! The many food trucks draw a crowd so having the Food Truck location app ensures you can get in line as soon as it arrives. Since it didn't make the list I will have to find the next best place:-)

Bill Fitzgerald

Monday 16th of December 2019

The World Cheese Dip Championships are only ONE reason for Little Rock to be a Top Foodie destination. We've been Farm to Table since before Farm to Table was cool!

Bob Steel

Monday 16th of December 2019

There's more than cheese dip in Little Rock. In fact, on Main Street downtown, there are six home grown restaurants in a single block and many more down the street. You will find all the amenities of a big city but none of the hassle. You can walk to all these eateries from your hotel. The food in Little Rock is superb and Southern hospitality isn't a myth.

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