A city might strike your interest for its museums, parks, or even its weather—admittedly, it’s rarely one single element that draws you to a new place. To us, a great city is defined by a combination of its people, its landscape, and of course: its food!
It can be hard to decide where to go and what to eat so we've we’ve narrowed it down to cities that are best suited to different types of eaters. So, here it is: our top list of cities for (almost) every type of eater out there.
FOR STREET FOOD LOVERS: OAXACA, MEXICO
When we think of street food, the image that comes to mind is a hot griddle and a cold drink. Mexico is known for their open-air markets and food stands, and (thanks to mezcal lovers and chefs alike) Oaxaca has been unofficially crowned their classic foodie capital. We could spend days maneuvering the zocalos (aka town squares in Central Mexico) and still not put a dent into the assortment of street food from aguas frescas (with flavors like tamarind and passion fruit), to tacos, and tlayudas.
FOR ALFRESCO DINING: COTE D'AZUR, FRANCE
Dining alfresco requires little more than a temperate climate so pretty much any city on or near the Mediterranean is likely to offer both the weather and the vista. But the South of France tops our list when it comes to relaxed, summery outdoor dining. We tend to stick to the restaurants with the best views for pre-dinner drinks then uncover an unsuspecting streets for the family-owned cafes that cook for the locals. And if you’re like us, never skip the Tarte Tatin.
FOR MODERNISTS: COPENHAGEN, DENMARK
No surprise here: Copenhagen is still king when it comes to modernist cooking. With summer days that last all night and bone-chilling winters, it’s no surprise that the when produce is at its peak, it's celebrated. It is certainly out of creative necessity, but not with a lack of passion, that Danish cuisine has defined modern cooking in recent years. Their creativity in foraging stems from the influence of Rene Redzepi’s Noma, and trickles down as his staff branches out on their own with highbrow experiences from the likes of Amass and elegant, coffee concepts like Atelier September.
FOR FARM-TO-TABLE LOVERS: MENDOCINO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA
You can't talk “farm-to-table” without paying homage to Northern California’s influence (where Alice Waters is so revered she might as well be knighted). The favorable growing conditions and a passionate population have laid the groundwork for nearly every type of farm. And one of our favorite NorCal communities is Mendocino County. Tuck into an elegant meal with an oceanside setting and 100% local and organic catch at Wild Fish in Philo. Take home a gallon of fresh-pressed juice from the Philo Apple Farm. Or scoot down to neighboring Healdsburg and taste the fruit of the labor at Barndiva, whose Mendocino farm provides seasonal bounty.
FOR PLANT-BASED EATERS: SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA
If Northern California gave us “farm-to-table, then Southern California gets a nod for their “health food” movement. With beach weather all year long and a celebrity culture, it’s easy to see why the community revolves around looking and feeling great. That's why we turn to Santa Monica for the tastiest plant-based dining on the planet. The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market has been a driving force in the community for 35 years and counting when it comes to all things local, sustainable, and organic. Head there early morning and you'll see the top local chefs shopping for that day's menu. When it comes to eating, some of our favorite spots are True Food Kitchen, Beaming, Café Gratitude, and nearby Plant Food and Wine for meals that you wouldn’t even realize are entirely plant based.
FOR COCKTAILS FOR DINNER: TOKYO, JAPAN
Tokyo is like a cocktail onion: you could continuously peel one layer back to find yet another, but we find that it’s best to experience it all at once and with an open mind. That’s why we choose Tokyo as the best city for “cocktails for dinner”. This is the mother of the “city that doesn’t sleep,” with unforeseen nights laid before you in the folds of hidden karaoke bars, dizzying skyscrapers, and underground cocktail bars without menus. If we had to choose, we might select something with green chartreuse at Bar High Five or the cocktail tasting menu at Bar Gen Yamamoto.
FOR MODERN MIDDLE EASTERN: TEL AVIV
Although small, don’t let Tel Aviv fool you: this young city is brimming with global influence. For something casual and healthy, there's vegan-ified Middle Eastern at Meshek Barzilay. Restaurant Dalida brings it with flavors that are familiar but creatively combined (Spicy Feta Brulee Dip, anyone). And there's the trendy Abraxas North (aka Tzfon Abraxas), where celeb chef Eyal Shani puts on a performance every night, grilling lamb on an open fire, thin-slicing tomato carpaccio, and charring cauliflower, all while singing and dancing. Be prepared to start happy hour early and party late into the wee hours be it at the restaurants or one of the city's clubs or speakeasys.
FOR CHOCOLATE LOVERS: TURIN, ITALY
If we say chocolate, you likely think of Switzerland, but our hearts go straight to Europe's original chocolate capital: Turin. Chocolate history here runs deep (as in centuries) and it's taken seriously (many pastry shops roast and blend cacao beans to make their own chocolate). If you like to sip your chocolate, then the bicerin—a layered chocolate, espresso, cream combo—is a must, which we get it at the namesake Caffe al Bicerin. And Turin is also home to one of the most famous chocolate spreads out there: gianduia (the chocolate and hazelnut paste most widely marketed under the Nutella label) that we love best from Peyrano or Guido Gobino.
FOR LATE NIGHT: BARCELONA, SPAIN
The energy is palpable in Barcelona and dinner usually begins with a late meal that leads into an even longer night. Most restaurants serve dinner from 9PM to midnight, which leaves plenty of time for pre-dinner drinks. Fortified wine (as in vermouth and sherry) is on trend so we might start the night with a glass at Entrepanes Diaz before settling into a meal. It's hard to go wrong in this city where El Bulli alum cook on every corner, but a few favorites are Albert Adria's Tickets, tapas (and more vermouth) at Bar Mut, or the newcomer, Palo Cortao. Somewhere in there we make time for a gigantic Gin and Tonic (Xix Bar makes some of our faves), and, of course, it isn't truly a late night in Barcelona until youv'e stayed up 'til sunrise to nosh some churros and chocolate.
FOR COFFEE ALL DAY: MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
We would be remiss not to include coffee on this list, as it deserves it's basically its own food group in our minds. No one has reimagined the “coffee shop” more than Australia these days, and Melbourne takes the cake. Market Lane Coffee (with multiple locations) is one of our favorite roasters and shops, with lovely monochromatic details throughout. And if you do desire a fantastic coffee paired with fantastic food, The Kettle Black is one of the hottest tickets in town, producing “black bun” burgers and topping chia pudding with a rainbow of flowers and fruits.
Did you know we lead boutique food and wine tours for food lovers? Come join our next Salt & Wind trip!
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Opening photo by Marti Sans