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America’s Emerging Food Cities

There are great eats in these up-and-coming places.

One of the most exciting parts of traveling is trying new food and local dishes. There are a lot of well-known foodie meccas you can travel to in the U.S., like New Orleans for their famous crawfish or Po’Boys, Los Angeles for tasty tacos, and how about New York pizza?

But there are so many other food scenes popping up across the country. These spots may not be as famous, but they’re worth the trip! Here are some lesser-known food havens to visit and what you should taste when you get there:

Pile a platter with ribs, BBQ chicken, and pulled pork!

Charleston, South Carolina

When it comes to Southern food cities, New Orleans hogs most of the attention, but Charleston brings plenty to the plate too. Speaking of hogs, South Carolina barbeque takes center stage. The state even has its own “BBQ trail” of top-notch restaurants—the best places to start sampling pulled pork, brisket, and all the ‘fixins’ like collard greens and cornbread.

There’s even a lively debate over the different types of sauce bases used: vinegar and pepper, mustard, or tomato. Try each and weigh in on the discussion!

As popular as BBQ is, shrimp and grits may be even more famous. A coastal city, Charleston has direct access to sweet shrimp, so you can dine on fresh seafood meals all across town. Some restaurants combine fresh shrimp dishes with andouille sausage or country ham.

Also known for: sweet tea, boiled peanuts, pecans, and biscuits.

Sushi is perfect for sharing, so bring a travel buddy to Seattle too.


Seattle is called “Emerald City” because it’s surrounded by the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest, but it also sits on the edge of the Pacific ocean’s Puget Sound. This means fresh fish all the time, especially near the famous Pike Place Market on the waterfront. It’s easy to find fresh prawns from Alaska or the native sockeye salmon.  

Add that to Seattle’s large Japanese community and you get some of the best sushi in the country! You can find authentic sushi spots throughout the city and shake off Seattle’s infamous rainy drizzle with some warm sake.

Also known for: excellent coffee, west coast oysters, and ramen noodles

Steak fajitas are the delicious, sizzling cornerstone of Tex-Mex.


When you think of food in Texas, you’ll probably think of tacos—and you should! But did you know Houston invented the fajita? This Tex-Mex staple is said to be created at Ninfa’s restaurant in downtown Houston (or they at least popularized the dish), and it’s still a go-to spot for tasty strips of steak and grilled veggies in homemade tortillas.   

The longhorn state is known for delicious cuts of steak in just about every other way too, from Dallas to Galveston. But Houston holds it down with dozens of quality steakhouses offering up filets, ribeyes, and porterhouses—often aged in-house.   

Also known for: pho, kolache, chicken-fried steak, tamales

Why not sip on a sour to switch things up?

Portland, Maine

The east coast Portland is known most for one type of food: lobster. Rolls, tails, bisques—you name it, they have it. From seafood shacks to upscale eateries, seafood is a can’t-miss attraction in New England.

But there’s so much more to this port city! Breweries are abundant here and many come with a twist—Oxbow specializes in sour beers and others brew kombucha as a fermented lightly bubbly drink.  

Have a sweet tooth? The Holy Donut typically has 20 or more flavors to choose from. Or you can pop into one of the numerous bakeries in search of a “cruffin,” a croissant-muffin combo.  

 Also known for: oysters, bahn mi, coffee