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Foodie Travel Guide 2019: The 10 Best Cities for Everyone Who Loves Food

From Michelin-starred Nordic gastronomy in Copenhagen to flavorful Vietnamese street food in Ho Chi Minh City, excellent cuisine is a determining factor for travelers when considering where to go next. Here, Indagare rounds up ten destinations with serious culinary cred and speaks to several of the world’s top foodie insiders to hear their picks.

Tokyo

Tokyo is one of the food capitals of the world, with an estimated 300,000 eating establishments ranging from hole-in-the-wall noodle shops to fine kaiseki restaurants and wagyu beef institutions that can hold their own with the best in any of the world’s capitals.

Copenhagen

For such a small city, Copenhagen has a surprisingly large and varied culinary scene. From casual fish restaurants to three of the world’s Top 50 Michelin-starred culinary destinations, Copenhagen has something for everyone. We recommend a nice mix of the heavy hitters as well as local favorites.

Insider Picks: Candace Nelson

Candace Nelson is the co-founder and executive pastry chef at Pizzana in Los Angeles, as well as Sprinkles cupcake shops. She’s also an executive producer and judge on the Netflix show Sugar Rush.

What are some of your favorite destinations for food?
New York is always at the top of my list—there are always so many new and exciting restaurants to try. This past spring, my family and I spent a week eating our way through the city, feasting on Italian at Via Carota, Don Angie and Café Altro Paradiso, and savoring dumplings at Pinch Chinese and truly inspiring Thai at Uncle Boon’s. Internationally, I was blown away with the incredible food we experienced in Copenhagen this summer. Everything from Noma (a bucket list meal for me!) to the Danish hot dogs from the humble hot dog stands. Everywhere we went, there was an emphasis on showcasing local ingredients in a distinct and memorable way.

What are some of your favorite dishes from around the world?
In general, I’m a sucker for great Italian. My husband and I always seek out pizza when we travel, which is part of what inspired us to open Pizzana with chef Daniele Uditi and our partners Chris & Caroline O’Donnell last year. It’s fascinating to see how different regions interpret pizza…both domestically in the U.S. and, of course, in Italy with Neapolitan versus Roman-style, etc. At Pizzana, Daniele reinterprets the pizza he grew up eating and making in Naples for a Southern California audience, so it’s really a beautiful marriage of our two cultures. In terms of sweets, pavlova will always have a special place in my heart. I was first introduced to it when I was growing up in Indonesia by my Australian friends. It’s one of my go-to desserts to make at home, but is also one I can’t resist ordering when I’m dining out.

Do you have any tips on the best way to experience the culinary culture of a new place?
I’m a planner, so I love to visit a new place armed with a list of spots that have been recommended by friends (particularly those who are similarly passionate about food!), but some of the best culinary experiences I’ve had have also been the ones that were unplanned. I’d advise you to be open and flexible and keep your eyes and ears open—if you have a great meal at one restaurant, ask your server to recommend a place that they personally love. Asking locals often leads you to the hidden gems that really capture the true culinary culture of a city or destination.

Are there any destinations that you feel every foodie should visit?
As a pastry chef, Paris is the holy grail… the sheer number of patisseries is awe-inspiring. And, of course, the cheese, wine and local produce are the cherries on top. The influence from the Middle East also makes it a great destination for finding incredible hummus, falafel and dishes that reflect the bold flavors and spices from that region.

Do you have a favorite food trend?
I’m a huge believer in the classics—I built my career on elevating humble comfort foods—so it’s exciting for me to see a trend back toward more rustic presentations and dishes that let the high-quality ingredients on the plate do the talking. The bread scene in L.A. is exploding right now, which really speaks to this desire for simple pleasures.

Any other places on your bucket list for food?
In L.A., n/naka is at the top of my list, and I would love to visit Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy.

Portland, Oregon

Named America’s Best Food City in 2015 by the Washington Post, Oregon’s quirky capital has an astonishingly diverse food scene and laid-back approach to culinary indulgence. Some of the city’s best restaurants morphed from food carts into full-fledged establishments (food cart pods are a defining feature of Portland and can be found on nearly every block), and the range of cuisines offered (Thai, Mexican, Indian, Lebanese, Italian) is staggering.

Montreal

Montreal’s culinary variety puts many of the world’s foodie cities to shame—in the course of a day and in a few-mile radius, a visitor can feast on a classic Montreal-style bagel (smaller, denser and sweeter than the New York variety), a bacon-and-cheddar sandwich bundled between two slabs of foie gras and a dry-aged filet mignon from a decades-old Jewish steakhouse.

Insider Picks: Amanda Hesser

Amanda Hesser is the co-founder and CEO of Food52. She is also the author of The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century.

What are some of your favorite destinations for food?
Two places that I think are way underrated are Sri Lanka and Laos. The food in Sri Lanka is close in nature to the cuisines of southern India, meaning they eat lots of fish and herbs, and use coconut oil and coconut milk rather than ghee and yogurt, so everything is light and incredibly vibrant.

What are some of your favorite dishes from around the world?
Speaking of Laos, I love larb, a meat salad which is typically made with either fish or pork. The meat is minced and cooked, then blended with cilantro, mint, basil, lemongrass, chiles, fish sauce, toasted rice flour and lime, and eaten wrapped in lettuce with more herbs.

Do you have any tips on the best way to experience the culinary culture of a new place?
It’s always a good idea to go to the local food markets to get a sense of the foundational ingredients and foods. I also like the markets because you find good snacks! And street food is always a generous opportunity to eat local.

Are there any destinations that you feel every foodie should visit?
Tuscany. It’s actually difficult not to eat well there. Sure, it’s clichéd as a food destination, but there’s a reason for this.

Do you have a favorite food trend? A least favorite food trend?
I’m pretty excited about how great casual food has gotten, and how undefined it all is. It feels like cooking has become more and more about flavor than about specific cuisines. And it’s no longer incredibly expensive to eat well in restaurants. Much of the best food being made these days is at casual restaurants in urban neighborhoods. I’m less keen about “clean eating.” It feels so binary and joyless!

What places are currently on your bucket list?
Patagonia, Kenya, Tokyo (for the 2020 Olympics), a road trip in the southwest U.S. and Bhutan.

Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City, which most everyone calls Saigon, boasts a delectable melting pot of cuisines—authentic Vietnamese dishes with a confluence of French and Cantonese flavors. To get a true sense of Saigon’s culinary delights, visitors should try the city’s street food stands in addition to its upscale restaurants, or opt for an in-home cooking class or food tour.

  • Best Lunch: Quan An Ngon or Cuc Gach Quán
  • Best Snack: L’Usine Café or Fanny Ice Cream
  • Best Dinner: Square One
  • Best Drink: Chill Bar or Social Club Restaurant and Rooftop Bar (MGallery Saigon, Str, 76-78 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai)
  • Iconic Bites: Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese savory crepe) at famous 46A food cart; pho; banh mi; cua lot (soft shell crabs); ca kho to (caramelized fish in clay pot); thit nuong (charcoal grilled pork)

Mexico City

Walk down any street in Mexico City and you will encounter the smell of hand-made tortillas and fresh tacos, but the city offers much more than just street cafés. In fact, the fine dining and gastronomic innovation make for an exciting culinary scene that is leading the way in Mexico City’s cultural revival.

  • Best Lunch: Contramar or Tetetlán (Av. de Las Fuentes 180)
  • Best Snack: El Turix Tacos (Calle Emilio Castelar 212) or Tsubomi Bakery
  • Best Dinner:PujolQuintonil or Rosetta
  • Best Drink: Fifty Mils Bar at the Four Seasons Mexico City or San Angel Inn (We highly recommend trying Mezcal, neat. This local spirit has gained well-deserved international notoriety, and you will find many options that are only available in Mexico.)
  • Iconic Bites: Al pastor tacos and tuna tostados; a refreshing Michelada, a beer of your choice (go for a Mexican brand) poured over lime juice and ice, with a generous amount of salt around the rim

Paris

Long revered for setting the global culinary standard, Paris’ restaurants remain some of the top in the world. From authentic French bistros to haute cuisine haunts, Parisian dining will delight both traditionalists and visionary foodies. Reservations for all restaurants should be made well in advance.

Insider Picks: Chef Marc Murphy

Chef Marc Murphy is the owner of Landmarc restaurant in New York, Landmarc Tribeca Events and his catering arm Benchmarc Events. He is also the author of the cookbook Season with Authority: Confident Home Cooking and a judge on Food Network’s Chopped and Chopped Junior.

What are your top five favorite restaurants in the world? Top meal?
I’m not sure that I can narrow the list down to five restaurants, but I can name some of my top favorite food cities. In no particular order….New York, Istanbul, Tokyo, Paris and Rome. My top meal? One is just too hard to pick, but I had some of the best unexpected meals while visiting Turkey. The spices and the traditional cooking techniques took the food to another level.

Do you have any favorite foodie destinations that you return to for inspiration (and incredible eating)?
New Orleans! Whenever I go, I leave ten pounds heavier, and I’m inspired by the tastes and the vibes you get just by walking in the streets. It’s an incredible city with so much history and passion, which you can really taste in all the different flavors of the food. That’s something really special, and each time I visit, it feels like a new experience.

Do you have any tips on the best way to experience the culinary culture of a new place?
Let your guard down. Experience it for what it’s supposed to be. Embrace the culture, forget the diet. Just try to enjoy the moment, be open-minded and trust the local staff. I find that always leaves a great impression on my experiences.

Are there any culinary tricks that you’ve picked up from other destinations?
So many! I absolutely love seeing new or different techniques across different cultures. In Istanbul, for example, they dry yogurt in the sun, and then it’s reconstituted to add to soups or stews or just for the robust flavor. It was incredible, and while I can’t dry yogurt in my backyard here in New York, I have tried to use the flavors when I can in a way that works at my restaurant Landmarc.

San Sebastián

The Basque Country, divided between Spain and France, is one of the world’s great gastronomic destinations. Bordered by the sea on one side and the Ebro Valley on the other, the region is blessed with a wealth of natural resources that have long contributed to its elite culinary status. San Sebastián now has a higher density of Michelin stars than Paris.

  • Best Lunch: Saltxipi
  • Best Dinner: Arzak
  • Best Drink: Café Iruna
  • Iconic Bites: White tuna with marinated strawberries; patatas bravas; Txakoli (sparkling white wine) 

Lima

As astute foodies know, Peruvian cuisine has emerged in recent years as one of the world’s most buzzed-about. Ceviche, which is a national obsession, is traditionally eaten only at lunch, to be sure that the fish is fresh, and many of the best seafood restaurants are not open for dinner. Also, don’t miss trying coca tea, which is great for altitude sickness, and the national cocktail, a pisco sour.

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv offers the same flavorful cuisine and organic flavors as other Israeli cities, but thanks to a young cultural scene, dining out is also a lively, energetic experience.

  • Best Lunch: The Old Man and the Sea or Orna and Ella
  • Best Snack: Abu Hasan
  • Best Dinner: The Salon
  • Best Drink: Aria (Nahalat Binyamin St 66)
  • Iconic Bites: Hummus; falafel; shakshuka (eggs poached in tomato sauce); sabich (fried eggplant pita with lots of mixings); vegetable salads

Insider Picks: Devon Fredericks

Devon Fredericks is a creative force behind one of New York’s most famous foodie brands, the Zabar gourmet empire.

What are some of your favorite destinations for food?
At the moment, London has my favorite restaurants and the best food scene.

What are some of your favorite dishes from around the world?
Raclette in the Alps, espresso in Italy, tramezzino in Venice and spaghetti alle vongole on the Mediterranean.

Do you have any tips on the best way to experience the culinary culture of a new place?
I always visit local supermarkets and food halls.

Do you have a favorite food trend?
Comfort food.

A least favorite food trend?
Tasting menus.

What places are currently on your bucket list?
Mexico City, Morocco and anywhere to ski.

– Indagare on October 23, 2018

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