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New York, Rome, Tokyo, Paris — the cities known for their world-renowned restaurants tend to be spots most people choose to visit anyway. But other cities around the world are emerging as some of the best destinations for foodies. These are seven of the most underrated cities — home to both delectable fine dining and creative food truck fare.
Food in Oaxaca is a celebration of both nature and the local Indigenous peoples who have populated the area throughout history. Today, more than 15 Indigenous groups call Oaxaca home, with ancestry in the region dating back thousands of years. These groups created the cradle of traditional Mexican cuisine here; they were the first to domesticate corn, and they grew fruits such as prickly pear. The ancient foods remain significant in modern Oaxacan cuisine. Corn comes with everything, whether it's used to make tortillas or served as corn con mole — kernels roasted with lime and chile peppers. In the 16th century, the Spanish brought over Middle Eastern ingredients such as sour cream, limes, and onions, which began to garnish traditional Oaxacan cuisine and add a tangy twist. In Oaxaca, traditional recipes reign supreme, and visitors can try ancient delicacies at restaurants including Casa Teviche, which serves masa de gato (a soup thickened with corn), or Pitiona, which serves beef tongue cooked in chile adobo sauce and covered with potato foam and toast topped with grasshoppers.
Norway, the second-largest exporter of seafood in the world, has always been praised for its world-famous seafood restaurants, but the city of Bergen’s devotion to serving only the freshest catch means its cuisine is especially deserving of the spotlight. Bergen’s fish market, located right on the water, sells some of the city’s best seafood. Many believe that the cold ocean water off the coast causes the region’s fish and oysters to grow larger and more flavorful. To truly experience the best seafood Bergen has to offer, visitors should order Bergensk fiskesuppe (traditional Bergen fish soup). Restaurants such as Lysverket add a modern spin to the centuries-old dish by adding leek oil and celeriac. The chef, Christopher Haatuft, also elevates other traditional foods including reindeer, paired here with beets, Jerusalem artichoke purée, and blackcurrant jus. Foraged ingredients, such as pine needles and sea buckthorn, are big in Bergen, too, ensuring every meal is locally sourced, seasonal, and fresh — a food trend referred to as neo-fjordic cuisine. Bergen’s food is so outstanding that the city has even been named a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy.
Known mostly for its beer, sausage, and cheese, Milwaukee isn’t on the radar when it comes to other foods — but it could be soon. The city’s long history of immigration means the best greasy-yet-still-gratifying grub and comfort food extends far beyond just German delicacies. With traditions like hot ham and rolls every Sunday, Polish pączki (fried and filled doughnuts) on Shrove Tuesday, burek (flaky pastries stuffed with ground meat) from one of the city’s two Serbian restaurants, massive corned beef sandwiches from one of the only hand-carvers left in the country, and fish fry every Friday, Milwaukee should definitely be on the map for those in search of a hot, satisfying meal. Foodies won’t be disappointed by the city’s slew of options: Odd Duck creates the most tailored cheese plate in the city, while local bar Vanguard serves sausages featuring a variety of unique toppings, such as baked beans and a zinfandel reduction.
Modern-day cooking in Budapest builds on the culinary tradition of roasting over an open flame — a technique popularized by the nomadic Magyars, an ethnic group native to Hungary. Numerous cultures have influenced the modern-day menu in Hungary, which means a unique array of spices and ingredients is evident in the dishes served. Garlic and ginger were introduced by the Italians in the 15th century, while Ottoman Empire control over the nation introduced eggplant and saffron. Due to its close proximity to Austria and Czechia, Hungary is also home to wienerschnitzel, German pastries, and goulash. Traditional Hungarian food is delicious, but the city is taking leaps forward in other styles of cuisine, as well. Into molecular gastronomy? Head to Zoma. Want Michelin-starred dining? Try one of the six restaurants that maintained their star status in 2020. Hungary is also home to many farm-to-table restaurants, in addition to craft coffee shops and even vegan eateries.
People heading to Italy often skip Modena, looking to satisfy their hunger for pasta or pizza in Rome, Venice, or Florence instead. But in doing so, they’re missing out on some of the best cuisine in the country. Modena is home to what some consider the world’s best restaurant, Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana. Modena’s pasta was even featured in the show Master of None. And the city’s parent region, Emilia Romagna, is a gastronomic carnival, with 25 entire museums each dedicated to single ingredients. The medieval city of Modena is separated by the Po River, which led ancient Romans to realize the value of the spot for both cheese and pasta production. Classic Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is aged three years here into a crumbly, nutty delight, pairing perfectly with the city’s traditional 12-year-old balsamic vinegar. The local pasta’s hallmark flavor comes from locally sourced durum wheat. And in a nod to the rest of Italy, salumi and meat is ever-present in Modena. Pair all three with the local favorite dish, tortellini en brodo (meat-filled tortellini in broth with a side of parmesan), and you’re in heaven.
The city of Melbourne is a cultural melting pot of more than 200 nationalities, thanks to a robust history of immigration. Today, Melbourne can easily overtake Sydney as Australia’s food capital — serving pork and vegetarian dumplings at Lu Yang in Chinatown and fine Italian espresso at Grossi Florentino, where Australia’s first espresso machine made its debut. Chefs embrace the city’s laid-back atmosphere, often getting creative with cooking techniques and local ingredients. The chef at Henry Sugar, for example, cooks innovative Spanish cuisine with only three or four seasonal and local ingredients per dish. Or try new spot Mr. Brownie, which offers an Indian take on English pub fare.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel Aviv is home to over 4,500 restaurants, and the city is overflowing with innovative fusion cuisine. Highlighting recipes and culinary traditions from Turkey, the Mediterranean, and the numerous cultures of expats from around the world, Tel Aviv is a mecca for food enthusiasts. For a unique dining experience, visit OCD, Tel Aviv’s first tasting-menu-only restaurant, where the chef believes selecting food from a regular menu is boring. Tel Aviv has also been noted as a vegetarian food capital by Conde Nast Traveler magazine (try Dosa Bar for Indian pancakes, or Rainbow for veggie burgers); the Imperial Craft Cocktail Bar is considered one of the world’s 50 best bars; and in 2019 alone, six restaurants in Tel Aviv earned World Luxury Restaurant Awards. And the city offers more than just restaurants. The local markets, featuring stalls displaying colorful spices, candy, dried fruit, and fresh produce, are a must on any foodie’s itinerary.