If you’re a bonafide foodie, hunting down all of the best places to eat when you travel may be — just as if not more— important as sightseeing on vacation is. It’s not just about taming a growling tummy, either. It’s about experiencing the rich culture of a destination, one bite at a time. From exotic street food to hometown dishes to Michelin-starred restaurants, there’s something for everyone no matter where your travels take you.
So, if you’re more into moo shu pork than museums, we’ve rounded up 12 vacation ideas (in no particular order) for foodies in some of the best food cities in the world. Bon appétit and bon voyage!
New York City, New York
With more than 8,000 restaurants to choose from, the most challenging part of taking a New York food vacation is deciding where to go. Between an incredibly diverse food scene and some of the biggest names in the biz leading the kitchens, there’s plenty of opportunities to be wowed. Even so, don’t dismiss staples such as bagels and lox, enormous pastrami sandwiches, potato knishes, black-and-white cookies, a Waldorf salad, and a foldable NYC slice of pizza.
San Sebastián, Spain
San Sebastián is well-known for its Basque cuisine (think fresh seafood, local ingredients and produce, etc.), which has been internationally recognized, thanks to the chefs who put this Spanish city on the map. Along with being home to some of the best seafood in the world, the city boasts a total of 18 Michelin stars combined. It’s also one of the best food vacations for pintxos, culinary bites ranging from the original slice of bread piled with various toppings to more elevated miniature Haute creations.
While Chicago is known for having some of the most exclusive restaurants run by award-winning chefs devoted to local and sustainable ingredients, it also has a reputation for its stick-to-your-ribs staples. We’re talking about deep-dish pizza, seasoned Italian beef sandwiches, and the iconic Chicago dog — an all-beef hot dog on a steamed poppy seed bun topped with yellow mustard, relish, tomato wedges, chopped onions, a pickle spear, hot peppers, and celery salt (never ketchup!).
The birthplace of mezcal, Oaxaca, is known for various moles and satisfying stuffed street food, including memelas, tetelas, tacos, empanadas, and tamales. Carnivores with more substantial appetites will appreciate the region’s famous carne asada, which could be beef or pork. Jicama dusted with chili powder and salt is the perfect complement to a cold cerveza.
One of the best food vacations is Kyoto. For starters, the waterfront neighborhood of Gion (the former geisha district) is made up of several bustling narrow streets filled primarily with restaurants of all price points. Don’t leave without experiencing kaiseki ryori, a multi-course haute cuisine you’ll find in this ‘hood. It originates many centuries starting with simple meals served at the tea ceremony but later evolving into an elaborate dining style popular among aristocratic circles.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Great jazz and Mardi Gras isn’t aren’t the only reasons to visit The Big Easy. Foodies flock to New Orleans for its mouth-watering Cajun and Creole specialties such as gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish, red beans and rice, beignets, muffulettas, and po’boy sandwiches. Of course, you’ll also find several high-profile restaurants specializing in top-notch fusion cuisine.
You can’t have a list of the best food vacations without mentioning the City of Light. While gastronomic options abound (seriously, the French practically invented the sauce concept), some of the best things to eat in France (including Paris) are the simplest. Think flaky croissants, fluffy omelets, rotisserie chicken, a crusty baguette, and (of course) a good glass of vin to wash it all down.
San Francisco, California
San Fran spearheaded the farm-to-table movement back in the 70s, and it hasn’t skipped a beat since. The restaurant scene is chock-full of farm-fresh cuisine made with fresh, local, and organic products. Many food critics and connoisseurs consider San Francisco the capital of food and wine in the States. Some defining dishes include cioppino (a shellfish stew cooked with tomatoes, herbs, and white wine), crab Louie salad, and the “Hangtown Fry,” an egg omelet stuffed with fried oysters and bacon.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
If you’re into Youtube travel videos that cover street food, then chances are you wish you had smell-o-vision when watching all of the tempting options found in Chiang Mai — a destination known for its street eats. But despite being “fast food,” don’t expect any shortcuts when it comes to taste. There are copious favorites, including khao soi (egg noodle curry), sai oua (grilled spicy herb sausage), sticky rice, pad thai, kaeb moo (crispy pork rinds), quail eggs, som tam or som tum (green papaya salad), and grilled meats on a stick. For the adventurous foodie, you’ll find exotic bites like crickets, silkworms, ant eggs, bats, dried lizards, and more.
Dry rubbed but never dry, Memphis has one of the most straightforward yet most distinct versions of American barbecue. Sauces with various bases (vinegar, tomato, or mustard) are served on the side, and the ribs are cut St. Louis style and caked with rub. You’ll find both old-school joints who put Memphis barbecue on the map, as well as newbies offering a more contemporary version.
In general, Italy has some of the most popular food in the world, and the city of Florence is no exception. While you’ll find all of the Italian staples here, some authentic Florentine foods include crostini neri (liver paté on toasted bread), crespelle alla Fiorentina (a typical stuffed pasta dish), Florentine steak, and baccalà — salted codfish. Don’t leave the table without trying a slice of zuccotto, thinly sliced cake and filled with sweetened ricotta cheese and candied fruit (especially lemon peel), and almonds.
Honolulu has its fair share of traditional Hawaiian restaurants serving up staples such as kalua pig, Lomi Lomi salmon, poke, and poi. However, its gateway location as an international nerve center has drawn cuisines from around the world. How about kimchi from Korea, teriyaki beef from Japan, and chicken long rice from China, among other global dishes.
Ready to eat some of the best food in the world? Then get ready to pack your bags! Whether you need a suitcase with extra room for all your food-related souvenirs or the perfect backpack for toting around your market finds, Briggs & Riley will be there to help you with all of your food vacation needs. That’s why we offer a lifetime guarantee that comes with each piece of our luggage.