The 10 Most Underrated Food Cities in the U.S.

Hungry foodies traveling the nation can rest assured that just about everywhere they go, there’s something delicious to eat and new to try.

The best part of exploring a new destination? Most of the time, it’s the food. From distinctive cultural fare to hometown dishes you won’t find anywhere else in the world, a large part of getting to know a city is indulging in its cuisine. If you’re a food connoisseur, these 10 underrated urban food destinations in the U.S. are a must for your bucket list.

Sure, we all know about the streetside bites of the Big Apple and the taco haven that is LA. But what about all the other cities in the U.S. that have foodie appeal? Check out one, or all, of these ten cities for an underrated foodie experience that you can bite right into.

Bend, Oregon

Photo by CURRENTS at the Riverhouse

Bend, Oregon has long been known as a place for outdoor adventure and lots of sunshine, not cutting-edge food and restaurants, but that’s starting to change. Chefs, restaurateurs, and critics alike are beginning to take notice of Bend’s exciting growth in the restaurant world. Bend is happenin’ with foodie news. Local restaurants have received plenty of awards, including the Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” at CURRENTS at Riverhouse on the Deschutes for 13 years straight. Chow was one of the first restaurants to bring “farm to fork” to Bend and partners with local suppliers to source ingredients. You’ll find the menu is simple, which allows intense flavors and fresh ingredients to shine through. The quaint downtown cottage offers an intimate feel, beautiful surroundings and an on-site garden that adds to the charming environment.

Head on the Bend Ale Trail for a hoppy take of the city. Visit places like Cuban Kitchen, Ariana and Bangers & Brews for a wide variety of flavors. Bos Taurus is a joint that’s all about beef, and it can’t get better. You can learn about the scene via the Oregon Fine Dining podcast to get your drool rolling.

Healdsburg, California

Photo by Campo Fina

Healdsburg is a Sonoma County city that does the foodie thing right. A visit to Healdsburg is sure to include great wine and an experience of the local culinary scene. El Farolito is a Mexican restaurant that’s been serving up its goods for four decades. This restaurant offers upscale Mexican inspired dishes with a taste of authenticity in every bite. Meanwhile, Chalkboard is a small plate haven that’s perfect for sharing the love. Journeyman Meat Co is one of the newest culinary arrivals to Healdsburg. It is a butchery shop, salumeria and tasting bar sharing salumeria, other culinary bites, wines and more. Campo Fina inspires the feeling of laid back summertime in Italy: al fresco dining, wood fired pizzas, brick columns and an outdoor bocce court.

Obviously, you’ll want to try the wine around these parts. There are plenty of vineyards to choose from, but Jordan Winery is at the top of the list. It’s 1,200 acres and wholly elegant from the ground up. A taste of Bordeaux and Burgundy in Healdsburg, Jordan Winery makes just two wines at their French-inspired chateau: Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay made in an old-world style that focuses on food friendliness.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Photo by Milwaukee Public Market

From classic establishments with decades of history to trendy newcomers serving avant-garde cuisine, Milwaukee’s restaurant scene is thriving. All Milwaukee is known for is beer and cheese, right? At least that’s what most visitors to the city seem to think. However, we think you are going to be surprised by how much good food there is in Milwaukee, and yes, don’t worry there will be beer and cheese involved. Lately, Milwaukee has really taken to the brunch scene. Milwaukee’s favorite destination for brunch is Blue’s Egg. Specializing in all things breakfast, you can expect to find standard diner fare elevated to new gourmet heights. They’ve got a flawless Bloody Mary if you’re in need of a little “hair of the dog.”

If you’re ever indecisive about what you want to eat for dinner, La Merenda is the answer (especially if you like to share). One of the initial restaurants to open in the trendy Walker’s Point neighborhood, it was a key source of attraction for hungry suburbanites. With small plates from around the world, its tapas are as varied as its guests and furnishings: No two items are the same. For all the foodies out there, check out the Milwaukee Public Market, a public market located in the Historic Third Ward neighborhood. St. Paul Fish Company, Foltz Family Market and Café Benelux are the local go to spots.

There is no shortage of breweries in Milwaukee, but Lakefront Brewery tops them all for a full boozy experience. The brewery tour is a must, providing tokens for free beer tastings at the end. Even if you aren’t interested in how their beer is made, their Wisconsin-centric menu will win you over. The Friday Fish Fry is consistently rated one of the city’s best, often paired with live polka music. Keep the oil-dunked fare going with a dish of their popular fried cheese curds.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Photo by Livestock Tavern

Golden beaches, lush landscapes, excellent surf and mastery of the good, barefoot lifestyle aren’t Hawaii’s only accomplishments. These beautiful Pacific islands also host delicious gastronomic experiences. It’s all thanks to its luscious island ingredients (fresh seafood, tropical fruits) and influences from its Polynesian roots as well as China, Japan, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Portugal. Ask anyone who’s been to Honolulu and they’ll tell you the city is a paradise for food lovers. And they’re correct, whatever you wish to eat you’ll find a tasty representation of it on the island.

Honolulu is teeming with all kinds of cuisine from the world over. However, it also features authentic Hawaiian flavors, and that includes Oahu Grill. Here, generational recipes take the reign. Kalua pig, lomi salmon and chicken hekka will all make you go yummm. The Paia Fish Market is iconic while the Rangoon Burmese Kitchen provides a taste of an often-overlooked nation of delicious food.

Lucky Belly gets the lines and the long waits, but trust us when we say that every dish in this place is to die for. You and your belly will get lucky at this predominantly Japanese restaurant in the northern section of downtown Honolulu. Match them with a nice, modern ambience and drinks to boot, and you’ve got yourself an unforgettable feast worth every waiting minute. From the team behind the hotspot Lucky Belly, comes this casual approach to fine dining. Livestock Tavern is a seasonal American eatery serving as a restaurant and bar to Honolulu’s Chinatown Art District. For a bit of a Portuguese flair and desserts you’ll be dreaming about for weeks, Leonard’s Bakery is a must stop. This spot located east of Waikiki made its name baking the warm, sugary, fluffy deliciousness that are the Malasadas since 1953.

New Haven, Connecticut

Photo by Shell & Bones Oyster Bar and Grill

Head to New England for a foodie experience you may not have realized was there. New Haven is only 90 minutes from NYC, but it holds a flavorful culture all its own. No matter what you’ve got a taste for, restaurants in New Haven can dish it out. From top-rated dining destinations to roadside clam shacks. Local comfort food to cuisines from around the world. Unique culinary experiences, such as farm dinners, vineyards, brew pubs and even a Pizza Trail — you’ll find them all right here in Connecticut.

Bella’s Cafe is a major brunch spot, featuring a stylish and cozy cafe set in the heart of the New Haven’s Westville community. For dinner, ZINC New Haven offers American farm-to-table cuisine with a slight Asian slant in sleek, chic decor with a bar. Since opening their doors in 1999 they have become a favorite for all dining experiences with innovative, locally sourced and a globally driven menu. If you have seafood on your mind, check out Shell & Bones Oyster Bar and Grill. This seafood eatery is perched on New Haven Harbor offering steaks, water views and a seasonal deck.

Greenville, South Carolina

Photo by The Lazy Goat

It’s currently touted as an emerging food-driven city, following in the culinary footsteps of Charleston. Greenville is a big city with a small-town feel, nestled between some of the South’s biggest players: Atlanta, Charlotte, Asheville, and the aforementioned Charleston. Sure, Greenville has its fair share of southern food. It is a South Carolina city after all. But it’s no longer solely reserved for a single kind of cuisine. Here, you can find all kinds of cuisine, including Persian fare like torsh kabobs and roasted salmon from Pomegranate on Main.

If you are aching for some southern eats, however, check out Henry’s Smokehouse or Bobby’s BBQ. For a blend of contemporary continental cuisine infused with traditional Southern ingredients, check out Soby’s New South Cuisine, known for their famous fried green tomatoes. Trio is one of the best Italian restaurants in Greenville and is best known for its gourmet, wood-fired pizzas with their famous homemade pasta and sauce. Immerse yourself in the Italian culture by choosing from over 25 wines from the glass surrounded by an eclectic atmosphere of rustic brick walls and handcrafted glass lanterns. The Lazy Goat is best known for its food made from scratch with Spanish, Moroccan, Italian, French, Greek, African, and Middle Eastern influences. Enjoy house made drinks or private dining events in this relaxing and scenic environment overlooking the Reedy River and Greenville’s gorgeous west end.

Traverse City, Michigan

Photo by Folgarelli’s Market & Wine Shop

Almost overnight, it seems, Traverse City has acquired a reputation as one of the country’s up-and-coming foodie towns. Traverse City is on the opposite end of Michigan state from Detroit. In recent years Traverse City has seen an influx of more modern, trendy bars and restaurants serving everything from farm-to-table cuisine to Latin food to Asian-inspired fare.

As far as its food scene, it’s growing and thriving like no other. Folgarelli’s Market & Wine Shop is a great example. For decades Folgarelli’s has been the choice for the best selection of gourmet foods, sandwiches and wine in the Traverse City area. Since 1994, Amical has been serving eclectic European cuisine with Northern Michigan flair. Overlooking the West Grand Traverse Bay, the view is the other draw to this longtime institution. The chicken pot pie is a staple and Sunday brunch is a beloved ritual. Another great spot, Patisserie Amie is brunch haven, no matter the day of week. Local favorite Poppycocks is American fare with global inspiration. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free eaters will also rejoice at the many options that aren’t simply piles of lettuce. The restaurant also features craft cocktails and frequently hosts live music.

With so many delicious craft beers made in Michigan, it can be difficult to narrow down the selections. Right Brain Brewery makes it easy with creative and tasty beers such as the Spear Beer (made with asparagus) and Thai peanut brown ale, which tastes like Pad Thai in a glass. For some desert, check out the classic ice cream joint Moomers, which was named “Best Scoop” by Good Morning America, so you might as well take a lick while you’re there.

Asheville, North Carolina

Photo by Omni Grove Park Inn Sunset Terrace

For a relatively small town, Asheville has a vibrant cultural and culinary scene. Full of charming Art Deco and Gothic architecture, great cultural events and a beautiful, mountainous region, Asheville is also hip in the foodie space. Asheville is known for its chef-driven, award-winning restaurants whose passion for local food creates authentic farm-to-table dining experiences. Often referred to as a modern Appalachian culinary experience, you can find James Beard chefs galore here.

To eat like the locals, Henrietta’s Poultry Shoppe and Sawhorse are a must-visit on your trip. The Marketplace is a farm-to-table situation that’s been around for forty years, and shows no signs of stopping. There’s a little slice of France…in downtown Asheville. Your visit to Bouchon will acquaint you with locally sourced French comfort food served in a cozy space with a bar, open kitchen and alley patio. For a restaurant experience like no other, check out Cúrate. This hip Spanish eatery in a former 1927 bus depot offers elevated small plates, cured meats, and a variety of wine.

For a date night, head to Asheville’s original tapas restaurant, Zambra. This romantic spot is the perfect restaurant to share small plates and enjoy a bottle (or two) from their incredible wine list. A classic destination for date nights in Asheville, The Omni Grove Park Inn Sunset Terrace is one of the only places in town where you can dine while watching the sun set behind the western mountains. Their food is nothing short of amazing, earning them the AAA Four Diamond Award 18 times.

Charlottesville, Virginia

Photo by Three Notch’d Craft Kitchen & Brewery

Known to locals as C-ville, Charlottesville has a whole lot going for it. Home of the Monticello wine trail, Charlottesville, Virginia attracts thousands of food and wine lovers every year. To cater to tourists and locals, Charlottesville has a wide variety of fantastic restaurants. A must try is The Local, a farm-to-table place featuring Buffalo Creek short ribs and tasty specialty cocktails. Mas Tapas is a buzzy Spanish eatery that emphasizes simple, well-made ingredients. In addition to a lively bar and patio, Mas Tapas offers tapas and wine in an industrial-chic setting.

Three Notch’d Craft Kitchen & Brewery is a flagship expansion of a beer maker’s local empire, and it features a German brewpub menu to go along. Visit King Family Vineyards for some local wine and lovely scenery. King Family Vineyards is a family owned and operated winery located at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Crozet, Virginia just fifteen minutes from Charlottesville. Early Mountain Vineyards stretches across the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains and produces classic, Bordeaux-style varietals like Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The vast tasting room, which was voted #1 in America by USA Today, offers both high-end dining and casual lounging for sampling wines from Early Mountain and other vineyards throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Scottsdale, Arizona

Photo by Cafe Monarch

Scottsdale has got it going on, but did you know that its food scene is on the rise, too? Old Town Scottsdale itself features plenty of well-known restaurants, but a lot of the best gems live within the surrounding neighborhoods. Try the grilled slab bacon and beef heart carpaccio at Hush Public House, dive into sushi at Old Town’s ShinBay and enjoy the romantic atmosphere and customized menu at Cafe Monarch, a magnificent way to get fancy without flying to France.

Delicious and fun, Hash Kitchen prepares a brunch spread like no other in town. From classic smoked salmon eggs benedict to extravagant banana split brioche french toast, this eclectic restaurant in North Scottsdale has over 60 brunch items, making it the best brunch spot in Scottsdale to indulge yourself. It’s not really brunching without a Bloody Mary. Hash Kitchen takes the conventional Bloody Mary to a whole new level with its Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary Bar.

Arizona wouldn’t be Arizona without authentic Southwestern food. Unlike Mexican or even Tex-Mex, Southwestern is a blend of foods traditionally eaten by Spanish colonial settlers, Native Americans, cowboys and Mexicans. The result is dynamic spice-forward cuisine exemplified by restaurants across the city. The margarita is Arizona’s unofficial state cocktail, and with nine salt-rimmed options to choose from at the Mission, you’ll understand why. The Mission Restaurant and Lounge serves modern Latin cuisine in a fantastic bar restaurant with a wonderful outdoor back patio.

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