When posed with the question, “What are your favourite food cities in North America?” you know you are going to get many different responses.
Ask six members of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association this same question and to follow are the results.
Looking for cities outside of North America? See the previous article in this series entitled: Best Food Cities to Eat Around the World.
1. Montreal, Quebec: Poutine, Anyone?
From trendy, casual restaurant dining to a plethora of bars, breweries and cafés; from historic farmers’ markets to fun food tours; from a vibrant food truck to the engaging street food scene, Montreal has everything to entice culinary enthusiasts from around the world. Add award-winning chefs like Normand Laprise of Toqué Restaurant fame, customers with a sophisticated dining palate and an unrivalled national dish (Poutine, anyone?). Violá! You have all the makings of a must-visit global food capital.
But wait, there’s more: did I mention a host of inexpensive dining options, thanks to Canada’s current declining dollar? Or the innovative influences of Montreal’s diverse cultural communities set within the architectural wonder of the city itself? And let’s not forget the friendly hospitality of the Québécois.
For your culinary escape to Montreal, be sure to explore as much of the city’s diverse flavours as you can. Whether taking tea time at Birks Café by Europea on the mezzanine floor of the fabled Birks jewellery store, discovering the culinary delights along Saint-Laurent Boulevard or eating your way through the Jean-Talon Market in Little Italy, you’re bound to leave satiated and enriched by your exceptional dining experiences in one of Canada’s favourite cities.
Seattle-based travel journalist, Nancy Mueller, runs an established media site at www.wanderboomer.com, where she inspires fun travel adventures for the young at heart.
2. New Orleans, Louisiana: The Big Easy for Food and Spirits
Author: Barbara Jean Barrielle, Freelance writer
New Orleans is a city of many facets. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the town is in a renaissance of cuisine and culture and droves of people are rediscovering ‘Nawlins or simply stumbling upon its greatness for the first time.
I first went there 20 years ago before my daughter was born and pre-Katrina. I bought a painting by Michalopolous that I have dragged from house to house as the local artist’s star rose. The crooked colourful houses this former street painter depicts are representative of the bright and playful approach to architecture and life in this city that truly never sleeps.
So when my daughter chose to go to school at the reputable Tulane University, I was thrilled. Not only did she choose well but now, when I visited, it was this city of food and fun that I simply rediscovered each time I visited.
Start any New Orleans visit by stopping at Café du Monde for beignets and coffee… so cheap and so sugary. Then head to the Organic Banana Juice Bar in the French Market for what my local friends claim is the best Bloody Mary in a city of Bloodies.
Mother’s is classic for a late breakfast or early lunch and yet another Bloody Mary, which pairs beautifully with their best-in-the-world ham and some turnip greens (also magic with ham!)
And then there are oysters, cheap and creamy. My favourite oyster happy hour is at a hip brasserie called Luke, one of many John Besh restaurants, where the bi-valves cost you 75 cents each and cocktails are half off. Also check out The Blind Pelican on Charles Street (easily accessible by charming, but sometimes crowded historic street cars) where raw oysters cost a quarter (yes, 25 cents) from 4pm to 8pm and these fantastic chargrilled oysters (with butter and cheese) are only $7.50 a dozen.
Fried green tomatoes, crab, shrimp etouffee, bread pudding, jambalaya, cornbread, biscuits, hushpuppies are all representative of New Orleans cuisine. Wash them down with Dixieland jazz and cocktails. New Orleans bartenders developed the Sazerac and the Vieux Carre then perfected the Pimms Cup and the Hurricane. There is a lot to drink in the French Quarter (and in all quarters), but a handy to-go cup makes sure you don’t miss a drop as you crawl between bars!
Barbara Jean Barrielle is a long-time publicist who began writing four years ago with a speciality in food, wine, travel and entertainment.
3. Portland, Oregon: Food Writer’s Paradise
It’s not easy living 10 minutes from a city ranked as the number one food city by the Washington Post’s food critic, Tom Sietsema. Whether it’s a stop by a Portland food cart (many chefs get their start this way), or a multi-course wine dinner, you’ll need to visit, dine and imbibe to understand why Portland has become known as a foodie paradise.
The James Beard Awards, named for the eccentric chef and Portland native who revolutionised the American dining scene in the 20th century, are the nation’s highest annual culinary honours. With such a talked-about and delicious food scene, it comes as no surprise that Portland chefs have racked up a few James Beard Awards themselves over the years.
It’s not easy being a travel writer covering the food scene for quite a few reasons.
One, it’s impossible to get to every new opening or keep track of the latest innovations by Portland chefs. It seems like successful restaurants are ever evolving and spin-offs are common. Noted Chef Jose Chesa started with a popular Spanish tapas restaurant, then added a neighbourhood house made Xurro and Xocolate venue and, next door to that, put in a paella restaurant. This was all in between leading tours to Barcelona for foodies with Portland Food Adventure‘s Chris Angelus.
And two, I’ve gained weight, enjoying every morsel of Portland goodness.
Elizabeth Rose, based in the Portland, Oregon area, travels throughout the West and beyond writing about destinations, services, accommodation, events and restaurants. As an expert in cultural tourism, her writing reflects that passion.
4. San Francisco, California: Where Food is Medicine
San Francisco has had a reputation as a restaurant town since the days of the Gold Rush. A port city, people from all over the world came to San Francisco, and still do, bringing with them their food and culture. Within a mere 50 square miles you can find cuisine from Asia, Latin America and Europe, from high end to casual, always innovative.
Voted best food city in the USA by Bon Appetit Magazine, San Francisco has restaurants that always make the ‘best of’ lists and more Michelin stars regionally than any other city – as of 2015 there were 55 restaurants with one or more Michelin stars.
One memorable summer when I suffered from an undiagnosed digestive disorder that killed my appetite, I was healed the moment I landed in San Francisco. True story! The ocean air, outdoor lifestyle and abundance of local, fresh food instantly rejuvenated me. You can find absolutely anything you can imagine to eat in San Francisco. If someone isn’t making it already, ask them and they will.
If food is your medicine, I recommend San Francisco.
Penny Sadler travels for wine, food and beauty. She plans to visit every major wine region in California, Italy and beyond sometime before the end of the 21st century.
5. Toronto, Ontario: World Cuisine in One Location
Author: Mary Chong of Calculated Traveller Magazine
Even though my taste buds are spoiled from all my tasty travels throughout the world, I always return home to my birthplace of Toronto, Ontario, Canada and continue the journey. Here, I can find every type and style of exotic cuisine in the world thanks to the multicultural population of 5.5 million people that live in the Greater Toronto Area. This past month alone, I ate exotic meals from England, Ireland, China, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Italy, India, Poland, the Caribbean, Vietnam and Japan.
Toronto is a safe, diverse, welcoming city to all and I’m fortunate to be able to ‘travel’ without getting on a plane.
Mary Chong is a travel writer, world cruiser, social media influencer and founder of Calculated Traveller Magazine based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
6. Vancouver, British Columbia: Avoiding the ‘V’ Word
Vancouver abounds in good vegan restaurants. But on a recent visit, I learned that many of the proprietors avoid the ‘v’ word. Instead, they emphasise taste first and plant-based second. Their target demographic? Omnivores.
It seems to be working. “Approximately 70 percent of our clientele aren’t vegan,” says Linda Antony, owner of the MeeT chain of vegan comfort food restaurants serving burgers and fries. They come with a veggie friend, or out of curiosity, or because they’re cutting down on meat. And with coconut Bavarian cream-filled doughnuts for dessert, nobody’s complaining.
At The Acorn Restaurant, plant-based dining is upscale. Owner Shira Blustein employs two chefs, both omnivores. “What chefs say about vegetarian cooking is, you know how to cook a perfect steak. With vegetables, there are no rules. You can treat a carrot a thousand ways. They have limitless possibilities.”
Vancouver has two shops that specialise in nondairy desserts. Nice Vice offers dozens of flavours of sweet potato-based ‘vice cream’, from a familiar take on chocolate to such challenging flavours as Earl Grey bergamot with activated charcoal. Virtuous Pie, a new plant-based pizzeria in Chinatown, offers a small selection of innovative pizzas, plus nut-based frozen desserts like turmeric black pepper. (Vegan) heaven!
Teresa Bergen is a Portland-based travel writer who specialises in fitness, wellness and vegan lifestyle.