Travel's Best Culinary Destinations
Food lovers make it their mission to experience mouthwatering meals -- and they're willing to travel far and wide to do so. From Sweden's flavorful shellfish to the fresh flavors of Bangkok street food, and the United States' hottest dining trends, our panel of experts has helped select Travel's Best Culinary Destinations. With their passports in hand and appetites in check, travelers can feast on the world's most memorable meals.
Travel Channel host, Andrew Zimmern writes, "If Queens, NY was its own city it could lay claim to being the greatest food city on Earth. As it stands now, it’s the largest of New York City’s 5 boroughs and has a population of almost 2.5 million residents, half of whom are foreign-born. There’s almost nowhere on Earth I would rather eat than Queens. Golden Mall in Flushing has some of the best Chinese dumpling and noodle vendors in the county, Milkflower has some stunning pizza, Rokhat Kosher Bakery serves Bukharan meat pies, and some of the most amazing specialty breads I’ve ever tried. Hit Kebabish for my favorite Pakistani dish, kata-kat, a savory, spicy sauté of minced offal, or go to Maima’s in Jamaica Queens for the crazy-hottest Liberian cuisine you will ever have."
Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City is one of the most vibrant and passionate capital cities in the world, according to Travel Channel host, Samantha Brown. It not only showcases the nation's rich culture, but it also represents the many cuisines sprinkled throughout Mexico's sprawling states. Brown suggests that after travelers dig into the city's acclaimed high-end dining and multi-course meals prepared by star chefs, they should make a beeline to sample the food that exists on the streets. "Head to the areas just outside of themercados and city squares," says Brown "The meals and snacks assembled on small carts or prepared on a folding table are simply not to be missed."
Andrew Zimmern writes, "Bangkok is one of the most beautifully complex cities in the world and its ability to teach a traveler the lessons of life make it one of my favorite destinations. Approach the city with an open mind. Eat the street food; it's everywhere, and it's where I take most of my meals. Sukhumvit Soi 36 is a street with some superb food stalls, as is Soi 38 just 2 blocks over. Don’t skip Chinatown, also called Yaowarat. Wander it for a day and you still won't see half of its hidden mysteries. For tonier restaurants I like Soei, Baan, Bo-Lan, Nahm, Le Du, Issaya Siamese Club. Check out Sra Bua, and get some boat noodles at the night stalls behind the Victory Market. Plus, try Wattana Panich for beef noodles and Thip Samai for some good pad thai on the cheap."
At first glance, the unassuming town of Kittery, Maine, located just 2 miles outside Portsmouth, NH, might seem like an unlikely destination for food fanatics. But those in the know realize that this little corner of Southeast Maine has grown into a New England culinary hub, according to Travel Channel host, Samantha Brown. The town's Foreside neighborhood has been strengthened by a community of restaurants like Anneka Jans and Black Birch, both local favorites with serious eating chops. "To top it all off, legendary Brewer Todd Mott has his own brewery and tasting room, Tributary," says Brown. "The neighborhood is both incredibly cool, but unpretentious and downright welcoming."
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
When visitors to Dubai aren't snapping photos of the extraordinary 2,700-foot Burj Khalifa high rise or shopping for souvenirs in the world's largest mall, they will find themselves dazzled by the city's vibrant culinary scene. The city lays claim to some of the best restaurants and top chefs in the United Arab Emirates, and travelers can dine on a melting pot of authentic international cuisines. For a treat, indulge in a French-Mediterranean meal at La Petite Maison, arguably the city's top restaurant, or enjoy a proper English tea with views of the sea at Al Fayrooz Lounge. Diners on a budget can savor cheap Keralan fare alongside scores of Indian expats at Calicut Paragon, or dig into casual Southeast Asian favorites, like pad Thai, at Noodle House.
Video: Dubai: City of ExtremesDubai blends tradition with modern luxury on the Persian Gulf.
Gothenburg and the Bohuslän Coast, West Sweden
Widely touted as Sweden’s culinary capital, Gothenburg in West Sweden is home to the best shellfish in the Bohuslän Coast region. The North Atlantic's cold, clean waters create the perfect ecosystem for maturing shellfish and give them fuller flavors. "Travel along the Bohuslän coast and its tiny fishing villages on a seafood safari in search of the region's own Big Five: lobsters, oysters, mussels, crayfish, and prawns -- called 'skaldjur,'" says Stockholm-based writer and photographer, Lola Akinmade Åkerström. She suggests travelers embark on a "Shellfish Journey," a jaunt aboard a fishing boat to haul lobsters and crayfish from the sea in Smögen, farm for oysters in Grebbestad and seek mussels in Ljungskile's sea beds.
"Thanks to restaurant innovators like Strategic Hospitality's Max and Benjamin Goldberg and City House's Tandy Wilson, I'd put Nashville up as a contender against any major culinary destination in the United States, or even the world," says travel writer and blogger, Kristin Luna. Many chefs, including Nashville-area natives such as the Farm House's Trey Cioccia and Etch's Deb Paquette, are setting the bar high for new concepts to launch and thrive. "If you can nab a coveted spot (only 20 per seating), the Catbird Seat is still one of the finest meals on this side of the Mississippi," according to Luna. Food-truck-turned-brick-and-mortar Biscuit Love’s Southern-inspired breakfast menu is a must-do any day of the week, and splashy French bistro Le Sel is a current frontrunner for an impromptu night on the town.
Emilia Romagna, Italy
Known as the birthplace of sleek Ferrari sports cars and the late, iconic Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, Italy’s wealthy Emilia Romagna region is also home to multi-generational, family-run local producers of the classic trifecta of Italian gastronomy: aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, traditional balsamic vinegar, and Parma ham charcuterie. "Its capital city, Bologna, houses some of the best gelato shops in the world, including famed Carpigiani Gelato University," says travel expert Lola Akinmade Åkerström. "And you can try your hand at making local Bolognese dishes like tortellini, ragu, and gnocchi, from scratch at regional cooking schools."
Austin is widely considered the barbecue capital of America, thanks to venues like Franklin's, where it's not unusual for diners to wait in line for hours -- even on weekdays. However, according to food and travel writer, Spencer Spellman of Whisky Tango Globetrot, the culinary standout that often goes unnoticed is the city's street food scene. Sprinkled throughout the city, unique food trucks tempt travelers' tastebuds, including the sandwich truck, Short Bus Subs, actually housed in a short bus, and Gordough's, which serves some of Austin's best donuts out of an Airstream trailer. "I was most surprised by Austin's enthusiasm for tacos, such as Torchy's Tacos, which does a unique variation of tacos, such as fried chicken with green chiles, and naturally, brisket tacos," says Spellman. "Breakfast tacos are also a thing in Austin. Best wake-up call, ever?"
Adelaide, South Australia
Adelaide owes its status as a top culinary destination in large part to its vineyards. The nearby Barossa Valley helped Australia earn its reputation as a global wine star and is home to some of the oldest vineyards in the world. Plus, as food and travel writer, Spencer Spellman of Whisky Tango Globetrot notes, Adelaide is a smorgasbord of many of the world's culinary influences. Visitors can experience those flavors in places like Adelaide Central Market, which dates back to the mid-1800s and is one of the region's most notable food markets, as well as Africola, a restaurant specializing in South African cuisine. The street food trend also thrives in Adelaide, thanks to Fork On The Road, a recurring food truck event held in different neighborhoods. "On one night I visited, it included many of the best food trucks in the city, plus several local craft breweries pouring beer," says Spellman. "The best of all worlds!"