10 of the most interesting food scenes in America

Note from 10Best: Someday, we’ll all be ready to pack our suitcases again and head out on our next adventures. In the meantime, here’s some inspiration for the future.

What makes a good food scene? Is it the number of James Beard Awards and Michelin-starred restaurants? Is it a unique culinary heritage that’s specific to the area? Or is it the creativity of chefs sourcing local ingredients to bring out and celebrate a city’s unique flavor.

In these foodie destinations around the United States, all of these things are essential ingredients needed to make an incredible food scene.

Charleston, South Carolina

The historic French Quarter of Charleston, South Carolina — Photo courtesy of Getty Images / Sean Pavone

An award-winning dining scene with a dash of Southern charm, Charleston, South Carolina has quickly become one of the hottest foodie destinations on the east coast. Its location next to the ocean makes fresh seafood easily available.

Pair that with the blended culinary traditions of Lowcountry cooking and vibrant African influences, and you’ve got incredible food that is uniquely Charleston. In addition to the food, Charleston is also a growing craft beer city.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s East Passyunk Avenue

Bing Bing Dim Sum on East Passyunk Avenue blends Asian flavors and cooking techniques with Jewish deli classicsBing Bing Dim Sum on East Passyunk Avenue blends Asian flavors and cooking techniques with Jewish deli classics — Photo courtesy of ©VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

Over the years, Philadelphia has been asserting itself as one of the best food cities in America. The city of Brotherly Love has had plenty of James Beard Award winners and nominees, and in 2019, the foundation deemed Zahav the Most Outstanding Restaurant.

One of the best neighborhoods to see just how diverse and passionate Philadelphia’s food scene can be is East Passyunk Avenue. What was once a predominantly Italian neighborhood is now a mile-long stretch featuring cuisines from around the world. Malaysian, Dutch and Northern European, Asian dumplings, Spanish tapas – if you can think of it, most likely, East Passyunk Avenue has got it.

Oahu, Hawaii

Paella featuring Portuguese sausage, Kauai shrimp and saffron spicePaella featuring Portuguese sausage, Kauai shrimp and saffron spice — Photo courtesy of Eating House 1849

Poke is merely the tip of the iceberg of incredible dishes that Hawaii has to offer. To get a taste of Hawaii’s rich and diverse food scene, we recommend Oahu. Oahu is a hotbed of creativity fueled by chefs who are leveraging the island’s fresh ingredients and melting pot of cooking techniques.

So much of what is considered “local food,” which is a culinary tradition all on its own, draws from several cultural influences such as Portuguese, Japanese and Filipino. It’s why you can enjoy everything from paella, sushi, Hanoi-style fish and, of course, the best Hawaiian-style poke you’ll ever experience.

Tucson, Arizona

Tiraditos clasicos cevicheTiraditos clasicos ceviche — Photo courtesy of Inca’s Peruvian Cuisine

In 2017, Tucson, Arizona became the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the United States, and it’s not hard to see why. With an agricultural history that goes back more than 4,000 years, it’s the longest known cultivated area in North America, which lends to its incredible southwestern and Mexican cuisine influences.

In addition to the city’s famous street food, the Sonoran hot dogs, Tucson has become a haven for other traditional cuisines to flourish. Diners will be delighted to find that the city offers Peruvian food, Japanese ramen, Polish pierogis (made in house) and even Ethiopian cuisine.

Richmond, Virginia’s Jackson Ward

Velma Johnson is the owner of Mama J's in RichmondVelma Johnson is the owner of Mama J’s in Richmond — Photo courtesy of Mama J’s

In the neighborhood that was once called the “Harlem of the South,” Richmond, Virginia’s Jackson Ward is having a culinary renaissance. There is certainly a lot of Southern comfort food to be found, but vegan, Filipino and fusion eats are on the rise.

From spots like GWARbar, the heavy metal-themed dive bar, to Tiny Victory, the Southeast Asian-inspired restaurant, the dining scene in Jackson Ward celebrates the diversity of the neighborhood.

Houston, Texas

Chef Hugo Ortega owns four restaurants in the Houston areaChef Hugo Ortega owns four restaurants in the Houston area — Photo courtesy of Hugo’s

Texas is known for barbecue and Tex-Mex, but the city of Houston has been building up its culinary offerings. According to Hugo Ortega, one of the city’s leading chefs, there’s plenty to eat in the metro area.

When Ortega isn’t working at his four restaurants, Caracol, Xochi, Backstreet Café and Hugo’s, he’s enjoying some of Houston’s best Indian and Pakistani dishes, noshing on Italian American cuisine and enjoying fresh seafood.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Slow-roasted pork arepaSlow-roasted pork arepa — Photo courtesy of Hola Arepa

The food scene in the Twin Cities has experienced a lot of change in recent years – and for the better. According to chef Sean Sherman – founder of The Sioux Chef, an indigenous food company – seeing local product on the menu has become a normal occurrence.

This push to put locally sourced ingredients is making Minneapolis a destination for fresh and seasonal eats.

Palm Springs, California

House-cured gravlax tartine, with grilled rye bread, horseradish cream, quail egg, dill and lemon at Workshop Kitchen + BarHouse-cured gravlax tartine, with grilled rye bread, horseradish cream, quail egg, dill and lemon at Workshop Kitchen + Bar — Photo courtesy of Audrey Ma

A culinary oasis in the Southern Californian desert, Palm Springs is home to a group of chefs that, according to Gabriel Woo, chef at Barn Kitchen, are “talented, industry-conscious, socially-involved individuals.”

The result is a food scene that is diverse and caters to food-lovers seeking a multitude of culinary experiences. Palm Springs chefs are concocting innovative dishes served up in fashionable restaurants that express the unique Southern California style.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Poke is a Hawaiian dish with cubed raw fish served over ricePoke is a Hawaiian dish with cubed raw fish served over rice — Photo courtesy of 2foodtrippers

There’s more to the Las Vegas dining scene than casino buffets. In addition to award-winning restaurants and celebrity chefs, Las Vegas has a bustling Hawaiian food scene.

So many Hawaiians find themselves in Las Vegas that the city has earned the nickname “the Ninth Island.” Classic dishes like lau lau, loco moco and oxtail soup are tough to find elsewhere on the United States’ mainland, but they’re easy to track down in Las Vegas.

St. Louis, Missouri

Cevapi (meat in bread) is a traditional Bosnian dishCevapi (meat in bread) is a traditional Bosnian dish — Photo courtesy of Getty Images / Sanja Cokolic

It might come as a surprise to many who don’t live in St. Louis, but this major city off the Mississippi River is also considered America’s Bosnian food capital.

St. Louis has the largest Bosnian population outside of Europe, and to feed those 50,000 to 70,000 residents who want a taste of their homeland, they head to a neighborhood known as Little Bosnia. There, visitors seeking traditional Bosnian flavors will find bakeries, grocery stores, butcher shops and restaurants serving up homestyle classics like sarma (stuffed cabbage with beef and rice), kabobs and chicken rouladen.

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