The matrimony between travel and dining is almost as ancient as the marriage between man and woman. However, since the explosion of reality TV in the late 1990s, the pairing of exotic destinations and delicious cuisine has been popularized to unprecedented levels.
Television shows like No Reservations and Parts Unknown (made famous by the late, great chef Anthony Bourdain) and Huang’s World (hosted by actor and foodie Eddie Huang) have simultaneously satiated and increased the viewing world’s appetite for fun and exciting locations for exploration and eating.
In an attempt to give the people what they want, we have devised a March Madness-style list of 64 food and travel destinations in the United States, broken down by region: East, South, Midwest, and West.
If you choose to travel to any of these locations, it won’t be difficult to find an out-of-this-world meal, but just in case we listed favorites for each location. Also, check out these tips that are sure to help you cut down the travel stress — especially during those busy holiday seasons and summer.
Here is the list of which states are represented in this region:
East: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania
South: Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas
Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin
West: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
Disclaimer: Even though every region is represented by 16 cities, not every state in the Union is represented on our list.
Without further ado, here are our top travel food cities in the US, beginning with the East:
1. New York, NY
As the most populous city in the United States, New York City gets a lot of hype and attention. And with the exception of its professional basketball teams, much of the hype is well-earned and well-deserved. The sheer volume of people in the Big Apple creates a melting pot of diverse cultures and cuisines to sample. From pizzerias to posh restaurants owned by celebrity chefs to hole-in-the-wall eateries of innumerable ethnicities, New York, New York has it all to offer, making the City That Never Sleeps a no-brainer #1 seed.
2. Philadelphia, PA
The City of Brotherly Love is more than just cheesesteaks and roast pork sandwiches. Philadelphia boasts an ever-growing brewery and microbrewery scene as well as a plethora of trendy hipster cafes. Staples like the Reading Terminal Market offer tourists and natives alike a variety of delectable delicacies on which to dine. Locals and visitors who like to dabble in creating culinary works of art for themselves can purchase high-quality tools from the famed Fante’s Kitchen Shop in the historic Italian Market.
3. Boston, MA
Boston is so much more than clam chowder, baked beans, and lobster, although they have an abundance of all those things. From fine dining of the North End to the famed Boston Seafood Festival to the flavorful doughnuts at Blackbird Doughnuts and other pastry shops, Beantown has plenty of options for the curious foodie traveler.
4. Providence, RI
The capital city of the smallest state in the land is home to a plethora of ethnic eating options, from Italian to Thai to Haitian (Garden of Eve) to Peruvian. Visitors to Providence can find virtually any type of food offering just by perusing the famed Federal Hill district of the city. With heralded culinary school Johnson and Wales University housed within its city limits, it’s no wonder that Providence has a thriving food culture.
5. New Haven, CT
Maybe a surprise 5-seed to some who are unfamiliar with the area, but New Haven, Connecticut is home to superior pizza-making and Italian cuisine, even while living in the gargantuan shadow cast by big brother, New York City. Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana and Barcelona Wine Bar are must-visit attractions that are capable of satisfying any and all palates.
6. Portland, ME
With a ratio of about 250 restaurants to 65,000 residents, Portland, ME boasts one of the most favorable restaurants per capita numbers in all the land. Famous for its fresh farming and fishing industry, Portland has dozens of options for lobster, potatoes, oysters, sea cucumbers, and steak. Try these great spots the next time you’re in Portland: Duckfat, Central Provisions, and Fore Street.
7. Falmouth, MA
Located on historic Cape Cod, the town of Falmouth has menu options that would delight even the most discerning gourmet. Falmouth has three distinct areas that offer different, yet equally delicious eating experiences: Main Street, Woods Hole, and Falmouth Heights. The eclectic Main Street offers beach and burger bars, Indian cuisine, and a high-end Mexican bistro. Woods Hole provides scrumptious oceanfront seafood and a trendy bakery and internet cafe. Falmouth Heights is home upscale dining and lots of live music throughout the summer.
8. Buffalo, NY
Wings, pizza, barbecue, bison dip, and so much more. Buffalo is the Mecca of Tailgating Foods. But it’s not just the football foods that make Buffalo a great travel spot for the roving foodie, the city also has fine dining establishments such as Chef’s Restaurant and Chiavetta’s Catering.
9. Hartford, CT
The thing about the Hartford food scene that makes it unique is that some of its top eating locations aren’t stationary. Hartford is home to a popular and competitive food truck industry. Whether you’re jonesing for some Jamaican or in the mood for some Mexican or have the inclination for some Indian, Hartford probably has a food truck for you. And if ordering your meals from a motor vehicle isn’t your thing, Hartford has plenty of excellent traditional shops for you to select as well.
10. Waterbury, VT
If you like beer, bed and breakfasts, gastropubs, or smoked meats (and not necessarily in that order), then Waterbury, Vermont is the place for you. This “hidden” New England town is full of great options for hearty, American food. Establishments such as The Blackback Pub, Hen of the Wood, and Prohibition Pig will fill you up with tasty bites that will leave you saying, “Mmm, mmm, mmm, ‘Merica!”
11. Atlantic City, NJ
Blessed (or cursed) with a handful of lavish casinos, Atlantic City offers visitors not only a variety of gambling and entertainment options but also a cornucopia of culinary choices. With the awesome Asian cuisine and ambiance of Buddakan to the hearty soul food and live music of Kelsey’s, a food expedition to Atlantic City on the South Jersey Shore is well worth a roll of the dice.
12. Provincetown, MA
From the coffee at Kohi to the pastries at Connie’s Bakery & Cafe to the smorgasbord of delicacies at the Provincetown Portuguese Bakery to the fish and chips and open seating at the Canteen, the food, beverage, and atmosphere—just like the residents—of Provincetown are memorable and full of flavor.
13. Burlington, VT
Burlington, Vermont has dozens of quaint and cozy farm-to-table dining options as well as many establishments that serve wonderful brunch menus. One such location is Penny Cluse Cafe. The Istanbul Kebab House is a terrific and underrated restaurant that offers authentic Turkish and Mediterranean cuisine as well as a rooftop dining experience.
14. Manchester, NH
This unassuming New England town is no pushover when it comes to delivering the goods for your gullet. The ribs from KC’s Rib Shack can rival just about any barbecue joint in the country while the farm-to-table Italian and Mediterranean offerings of Campo Enoteca could hold their own against the more heralded restaurants of New York’s Little Italy.
15. Lancaster, PA
Lancaster, PA is home to the Amish Village and the Pennsylvania Dutch baked goods and more microbreweries than you could count. Annie Bailey’s Irish Public House is a must-go stop when you’re in Lancaster County.
16. Pittsburgh, PA
The Steel City is the home of the almost famous Primanti Brothers and their illustrious sandwiches. But sandwich-making, Stanley Cups, and Super Bowls are not the only things that Pittsburgh is known for, Pittsburgh also boasts the award-winning Argentinian restaurant, Gaucho Parrilla Argentina, as one of its sources of civic pride.
So these are the top 16 food travel cities in the East region of the United States. But unlike the college basketball version, we can guarantee that whichever destinations you choose to visit and to dine, there will be no upsets.
Schimri Yoyo is a writer for exercise.com and a financial advisor. Born in Haiti. Reared in Brockton, MA. Matured in Philadelphia. Schimri is a proud graduate of Arcadia University, having earned both a Masters in Special Education and an MFA in Creative Writing from the castle-riddled campus in Glenside, PA. By personality and by profession, Schimri is an educator and a storyteller who is eager to assist individuals and families to craft and complete their own financial success stories.