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The Best Food Cities to Travel to in 2023


We’re taking our time while traveling this year. After a fitful 2022, when a wave of pent-up wanderlust crashed over hot destinations, overwhelming hotels and airlines, 2023 seems like a chance to give up revenge travel and reset. That means leisurely strolling through neighborhoods with no set plan, putting aside time to unwind in nature, and following surprising new passions, to-do list be damned.

In picking dining destinations for the coming year, we thought not just about hit lists and must-try dishes (though those are important, too), but also the aspects of meals that make them feel immersive: the people, environment, culture, and history behind foods that force us to pause, inspire us to stray off the preplanned path, and tempt us to stay forever. Whether it’s the acidic hit of banana ketchup that sparks dialogue about Filipino food history, the intricate durum wheat pastas that distinguish Sardinia’s rural identity from the Italian mainland, or the endemic tītī seabird harvested by Rakiura Māori hunters that has aided a conversation about language and Indigenous culinary roots, these elements reveal deeper context to visitors who hang around long enough to taste it. Our sister publication Punch brought the same curiosity to its exploration of this year’s greatest drinking destinations, Where to Drink in 2023, from late-night drinking spots buried like time capsules beneath the streets of Osaka, Japan, to the revived corner bars reinventing Midwestern hospitality in Madison, Wisconsin. Together, these projects celebrate the ways food and drink viscerally tether us to a place. They encourage us to not just stuff ourselves until we’re full, but to eat, drink, and travel fully.


The Vietnamese boomtown feeling startup fever

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Crossing into Ho Chi Minh City’s Phạm Viết Chánh area is like skipping across time. Locals peruse fresh seafood at wet markets next to ultramodern cafes, old apartment buildings sit beside experimental pizzerias, young crowds listen to DJs at cocktail bars on balconies high above groups sharing local beers on plastic chairs in the street. But the neighborhood is just one microcosm of a citywide boom. Fueled by low rents and the startup fervor of early 2000s Brooklyn, aspiring entrepreneurs in Đa Kao, Thảo Điền, District 3, and Yersin Market stuff food and drink businesses into the metropolis’s hidden alleyways and apartment blocks, bringing new energy to the shophouses and street food stalls that continue to hold down their communities. As a strong Vietnamese economy continues to fuel new ventures, HCMC is set to become a financial and culinary lodestar. — Linh Phan

Map: The 31 Essential Ho Chi Minh City Restaurants

Anatomy of a HCMC Banh Mi

Compared to minimalist banh mi in Hanoi, the version in Ho Chi Minh City goes big with copious meats, herbs, and condiments. The bread is slashed with three slits that allow maximum expansion while baking, creating a thin crust that shatters when you bite into it, and a light, airy crumb. Inside, highlights include a variety of quick-serve thịt nguội (Vietnamese cold cuts) like pork liver pate, chả lụa/giò lụa (steamed sausage), and giò thủ (head cheese). Embrace the extravagant spirit by ordering yours đặc biệt, meaning “the special” or “the works.” — Austin Bush

Learn more about HCMC’s big, beautiful banh mi


The Appalachian charmer pairing beer with big ideas

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A visit to Asheville used to center on hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains and super hop-heavy IPAs at the town’s many craft breweries — and that’s still true, but now there’s a strong dining scene to go along with the beer. Especially in West Asheville, known for indie shops and hipster hangouts, a new crop of culinary talents is making names for themselves. Elsewhere, more exciting projects are on the way, like Top Chef competitor Ashleigh Shanti’s upcoming spot, Good Hot Fish, and Areta’s Soul Food by chef Clarence Robinson. They join a scene already enjoying national acclaim, thanks to seasoned restaurateurs like Meherwan Irani (Chai Pani) and Katie Button (Cúrate, La Bodega) bringing home James Beard Awards. There’s lots to explore, and not just in the mountains. — Erin Perkins

Map: The 18 Essential Asheville Restaurants

A Star Local Chef Shares Her Picks

Along with being an Eater Young Gun in 2019, a 2020 finalist for the James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef of the Year award, and a Top Chef competitor in 2022, Ashleigh Shanti is also a champion of the Asheville culinary scene. Here are a few of her own favorite places and people around town.

Hot spot: Cultura

Crafty neighborhood bar: The Golden Pineapple

Eclectic wine spot: Leo’s House of Thirst

Late-night venue: Different Wrld

Rising star to watch: Silver Iocovozzi of Filipinx restaurant Neng Jr.’s

Get Ashleigh Shanti’s full take on the Asheville scene


The time capsule serving up ancient Italian food

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The influencers have taken over Italy. In 2022 it seemed like every very online person was posting about the glittering sea and culinary bounties from Sicily, Puglia, and the Amalfi Coast. Not so much in Sardinia. Though hungry travelers have been fed snippets of the island from TV travel hosts like Stanley Tucci and social media accounts like the Pasta Grannies, the island remains resolutely rural, with spectacular hiking trails, pre-Roman Nuragic archeological sites, and small museums showcasing island crafts. While the extravagantly rich hole up in all-inclusive hotels in Costa Smeralda, cleverer travelers head for Cagliari, where young chefs are eager to celebrate local flavors with techniques learned abroad. Or they venture across the island in search of generational family restaurants and working farms, where they can dine on ornate handmade pasta, spit-roasted suckling pig, powerful bottarga, sweets spiked with wine must, and a dizzying variety of salted sheep’s milk cheeses. — Katie Parla

Map: The 16 Essential Sardinia Restaurants

Name That Sardinian Pasta

Durum wheat grows all over the island and locals have found ways to spin it into pastas of all shapes, sizes, and colors, from saffron-tinted malloreddus in Capoterra to sculptural culurgiones in Ogliastra. Here are a few varieties to keep an eye out for. — KP

Su filindeu: Made in and around the city of Nuoro for celebrations of San Francesco, su filindeu (“threads of God”) is formed from layers of dough pulled into fine strands.

Lorighittas: Intertwined rings of pasta form lorighittas, typical of the tiny village of Morgongiori.

Culurgiones: These plump pasta dumplings from Ogliastra are stuffed with mashed potatoes, garlic, and cheese, then pinched closed in a pattern that resembles a stalk of grain.

Fregula: Called fregola in Italian, this ancient form of dried pasta is made all over the island and resembles pearl couscous.

Malloreddus: Also known as gnocchetti sardi, malloreddus are bits of pasta dragged over a ridged surface, like a woven basket, to create textured cavatelli-like pieces.

Maccarones de Busa: These long tubes are formed around a ferretto (straight, thin piece of iron).

Andarinos: This tight, ridged corkscrew shape is made around Usini in northwestern Sardinia.

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The coastal dining scene celebrating its Māori roots

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New Zealand’s fast-and-firm pandemic lockdown impacted the country far beyond healthcare. The Māori community has long pushed residents to recognize and return to the islands’ roots, including the everyday use of te reo Māori (the Māori language) by both Māori and non-Māori (a group sometimes called Pākehā). Since 2020 that long-overdue culture shift has only accelerated, and — though the process is very much ongoing — restaurants have played a unique part, restoring foodways that were nearly lost and using the original names for local ingredients in place of English counterparts. The pandemic also briefly disrupted the nation’s agricultural trade, inspiring renewed interest among local chefs in working with crops historically grown for export. Returning visitors (some coming by Air New Zealand’s new nonstop flight from JFK) will find a modern Aotearoa cuisine utilizing endemic ingredients and Indigenous techniques that all feels distinctly of the moment. — Hillary Eaton

Map: The 38 Essential Tāmaki Makaurau Restaurants

Learn The Lingo

Many restaurants in Tāmaki Makaurau refer to ingredients by their names in te reo Māori, the language of the Indigenous Māori peoples. Here are a few common types of kai (food) and other terms you’ll see on menus and hear at restaurants around town.

Kina — Urchin

Kūmara — Sweet potato

Kōura — Freshwater crayfish

Kaimoana — Seafood

Pāua — Abalone

Tuna — Eel

Ika — Fish

Kia ora — Hello! Cheers!

Mana — Authority, influence

Whānau — Family

Iwi — Tribe


The city vibrating to the rhythm of tradition

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Senegal boasts over 300 miles of enviable coastline and a deep culture of teranga — a Wolof term undersold as “hospitality” in translation — so the capital, Dakar, is always a good place to be a traveler and a diner. Local culinary traditions like thiéboudienne, dibi, and thiéré, as well as many West African dishes that cross borders, are preserved like precious treasures from generation to generation. In recent years, the arts hub has been booming, with the return of the Dakar Biennale after a COVID hiatus, a lively music scene, and exhibitions at the Museum of Black Civilisations. Add a flourishing surfing culture and national pride riding high after winning the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, and Dakar’s timeless appeal is especially timely. — Yasmine Fofana

Map: The 17 Essential Dakar Restaurants

Hit a Dibiterie

In Senegal, “dibi” refers to a range of grilling styles with influences from across West Africa. At dibiteries, customers often share tables, and if your food arrives first, it’s customary to offer to share with neighbors who are waiting. Lamb is usually the meat of choice, sometimes cooked to tender perfection en papillote: bundled in kraft paper that balloons with steam as it cooks and unleashes a heavenly cloud when unwrapped at the table. There’s no need for a fork, but it’s good etiquette to eat only with your right hand.

Chef Pierre Thiam on where to eat dibi in Dakar


The modern dining capital honoring Maya heritage

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Guatemala City is a copal incense stick burning at both ends. On the one side, there’s the exciting contemporary restaurant scene fueled by public and private investment, which is centered on the arts district, Quatro Grados Norte, full of colorful street art, creative spaces, restaurants owned by young Guatemalan chefs, third-wave coffee shops, and boutiques. At the same time, the city is producing more platforms for Indigenous cooks celebrating Maya culture, representing some of the oldest recipes from the region. Throw stellar street food into the mix with a flurry of chow mein tostadas, foot-long guacamol-slathered hot dogs, and shrimp-topped beer-tails, and you’ve landed in one of the most exciting spots to eat in Latin America. — Bill Esparza

Map: The 21 Essential Guatemala City Restaurants

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The Streets Are Lined With Tostadas

Tostadas are a popular street snack in Guatemala, though the corn tortillas are wavy, rather than flat like the Mexican version. Most vendors spread mayo as a base layer before adding an array of popular toppings, from chow mein noodles to potato salad. Here are a few to eat as you wander Guatemala City. — BE

Enchilada — This classic starts with a lettuce leaf layered with curtido — a pickled cabbage, carrot, and beet salad — along with ground beef, tomato sauce, fresh onion rings, a slice of hard-boiled egg, and crumbled cheese, followed by chopped parsley and picante, a mild hot sauce.

Chow mein — Instant Cantonesa-brand chow mein noodles are cooked with chicken bouillon, chayote, and vegetables before being piled onto a tortilla.

Ensalada hawaiana — This cold macaroni salad is packed with manchego cheese, cubed ham, and pineapple.

Guacamol — Spelled without the “e,” Guatemalan guacamol consists of mashed avocados mixed with fresh lime juice, salt, and oregano, making it a popular spread for a number of street food dishes.

Ensalada rusa — Guatemala-style “Russian” potato salad usually includes carrots, green beans, peas, and apple.

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The sprawling metropolis calling chefs home

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Not so long ago, the pinnacle of Manila dining was whatever Western franchise was entering the market. But things are changing, and as Filipino food grows more popular around the world, there’s no better place to taste it than in the Philippines. After years of working abroad, a generation of chefs is coming home to disrupt the food scene by focusing on local flavors from their own storm-battered archipelago. They’re finding a hungry audience, with a large, young working class filling cocktail bars where DJs spin into the night, devouring haute takes on traditional ferments at modern restaurants, and indulging in coconut-filled choux and pina colada lattes at funky cafes. — Toni Potenciano

Map: The 38 Essential Manila Restaurants

The Enduring Appeal of Banana Ketchup

Banana ketchup has been an essential Filipino ingredient for generations, but it’s also a vehicle for constant reinvention. Some of the country’s top chefs have introduced ingredients like turmeric, bell peppers, and banana peel vinegar, prompting diners to reevaluate not only a beloved condiment but their relationship with the history of their cuisine.

Get to know banana ketchup (again and again)

The university town graduating to culinary destination

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Historic, beautiful, and just 40 minutes by train from London, Cambridge attracts 8 million visitors each year. They’re left in slack-jawed awe by the stunning architecture and picturesque River Cam, but slack jaws aren’t much good for eating; despite the city’s evergreen popularity, it’s never been thought of as a dining destination. Restaurants have had to broker an uneasy truce between appealing to students at the famed university, who are only there for half the year, and year-round residents. That all changed during the pandemic. With many students kept away from the city in 2020, restaurants formed closer ties with locals and each other. Add in a modest flourishing of new openings and some retrospection on what it means to serve two communities at once, and Cambridge’s food scene has become as serious as any other. With a little attention — and willingness to go beyond the historic center — seasonal visitors can learn to love it too. — James Hansen

Map: The 18 Essential Cambridge Restaurants

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The Rules of Cambridge Pubs

Diminutive Cambridge squeezes in more than 100 pubs. While locals and students can extensively test every spot, visitors aren’t as blessed with time for trial and error. To avoid disappointment, follow these rules for finding a place to drink. — JH

Stay away from your fellow tourists

Cambridge’s touristy center may be stunning, but it’s not a place for great pints. It’s worth taking a look at the exterior of the Eagle, a 17th-century pub where Francis Crick announced the discovery of DNA — before immediately leaving to drink elsewhere.

Don’t walk, crawl

Some of the city’s greatest pubs are close together. A solid start would be a trio of pints at the Free Press, the Elm Tree, and the Clarendon Arms; or a crawl including the Live & Let Live, the Cambridge Blue, and the Petersfield.

Ignore the pubcos

A great many British pubs are leased by giant pubcos, which often means they are contracted to serve a few identikit beers. Steer clear of any pub with their branding, and head for one of Cambridge’s many free houses that make their own rules or one of the independent brewery taprooms, like Calverley’s.

All rules have exceptions

In Grantchester, a pretty village and tourist haven a short country gallivant from the center, there’s a pub called the Red Lion that’s run by a big pubco. But its fire is warm, the surroundings are idyllic, and the beer runs true from the lines. It conforms to none of the rules of Cambridge pubs, but it’s worth a pint.

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The historic pit stop connecting the new Southwest

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For years Route 66 (and later I-40) took travelers through Albuquerque, where they’d pull over to dine on Southwestern specialties like red and green Christmas-style chile enchiladas — and then quickly move on. That roadside culture has faded, but in its place the Duke City now enjoys an allure of its own. Bars and restaurants gaining national recognition now dot a revitalized stretch of old Route 66 in the Nob Hill neighborhood. At the same time, a burgeoning entertainment industry — responsible for TV shows like Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and Stranger Things — has put a spotlight on the city and invited financial investment. The interstate still brings visitors to town, but these days, they stick around. — Justin De La Rosa

Map: The 25 Essential Albuquerque Restaurants

A Food Crawl Along the New Route 66

Over the course of a few blocks of Central Avenue, which takes the place of Route 66 within Albuquerque, you can eat your way through some of the city’s most ambitious hot spots.

Mesa Provisions — This Southwestern heartthrob puts its own spin on classic dishes, like watermelon aguachile and duck leg with pumpkin mole.

Gather — This new neighborhood hangout attracts locals for cocktails and creative small bites.

M’tucci’s Bar Roma — The fifth location of an Italian power player restaurant group, Bar Roma serves up house-made pasta and other Roman classics.

Happy Accidents — The award-winning cocktail bar serves Oreo Negronis and other wild cocktails while reducing waste.

Ihatov — This crowdsourced bakery is beloved for its buttermilk biscuits and Kenji Miyazawa poems that adorn each cup of coffee.

Central Bodega — This do-it-all spot pivots easily from daytime sandwiches to date-night seafood.

Frenchish — This creative French restaurant weaves together classic steak frites, a formidable burger, and a clever carrot hot dog.

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The arts hub getting a food scene to match

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Kolkata, Eastern India’s biggest city, was once the colonial capital of British India, but today it’s more often called India’s forward-looking cultural capital. Yet even as the arts and fashion scene pushes boundaries, conversations about food have long been charged with nostalgia, dominated by eateries that have been around for decades. In the past few years, though, the city’s culinary scene has undergone a transformation, with a slew of openings, more local chefs experimenting with seasonal produce, and posh venues engaging with global flavors and sustainable practices. Even traditional establishments are getting in on the rush, like the city’s age-old pice hotels: Once strictly functional eateries serving economical, homestyle Bengali food, they’re increasingly catering to visitors looking to better understand Kolkata’s cuisine and culture. — Priyadarshini Chatterjee

Map: The 31 Essential Kolkata Restaurants

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Bengali Mishti Sweeten Every Visit

Any place known as the City of Joy has to include decent sweetshops, and Kolkata more than delivers. Some businesses have been serving up particularly beloved treats for over a century. Among the array of classic desserts, here are a few worth seeking out. — PC

Sandesh: Made of chhana (cottage cheese), sandesh come in myriad shapes, flavors, and textures, often pressed into intricate shapes with molds.

Darbesh: This nutmeg-scented ladoo is made with syrup-soaked bonde (deep-fried beads of gram flour) held together with lots of khoya, nuts, and raisins.

Amriti: Popular in Kolkata though not exclusive to Bengal, amriti are swirls of fermented black gram batter, deep-fried and soaked in sugar, that look even more intricate than their jalebi cousins.

Mishti doi: Creamy, dense, and almost custard-like, mishti doi is sweetened yogurt set in clay pots, which gets its distinct reddish-brown tinge from caramelized sugar.

Roshogolla: One of Kolkata’s most iconic sweets, roshogolla are balls of fresh chhana stewed in sugar syrup.

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The idyllic pocket of Sweden that’s glowing up

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It came as a surprise in 2021 when Äng in the tiny village of Ästad received the first Michelin star in Halland, a sleepy rural county between Gothenburg and the country’s breadbasket, Skåne. By 2022, when restaurant Knystaforsen nabbed a star, the trend was clear. The area’s vast tracts of fertile farmland, teeming forests, and breathtaking coastline have attracted an ambitious cast of restaurateurs, natural wine fans, adventurous foragers, and entrepreneurs. They’re not only using the raw ingredients of the land and sea around them, but also luring guests into the wilderness, where they can disconnect from daily life and connect to the meals in front of them. As this region gains buzz in between Northern Europe’s gastro-capitals, it’s now clear this is only the beginning for Halland. — Per Styregård

Map: The 16 Essential Halland Restaurants

Get Fancy With Your Fika

Fika is a hallowed part of the Swedish day, a critical daily (or hourly) break for coffee and baked goods. Cinnamon and cardamom rolls are standard, but in Halland, bakeries offer an exciting fika of unique local sweets made with regional flours and fruits. Here’s what to order. — PS

Solbulle at Solhaga Stenugnsbageri: At a summer house-turned-bakery, this sweet wheat bun filled with creamy custard utilizes flour from local Berte and Limabacka mills.

Punsch-roll at Feldts Bröd & Konfekt: Another name for this sweet is dammsugare, Swedish for “vacuum cleaner,” not only because it looks like an old vacuum but because it’s said to be made with scraps from the bakery floor.

Pain perdu at Borgmästargården Kafé: Borgmästargården’s pain perdu is made from yesterday’s rolls, served with the bakery’s own jam and whipped cream.

Spandauer at Kustbageriet: At Kustbageriet in coastal Varberg, this multilayered sweet Danish pastry comes filled with marzipan and jam.

Apple bomb at Stålboms Konditori: This Falkenberg cafe, set in a turn-of-the-century villa, serves puff pastry filled with baked apple, butterscotch, and cinnamon, all drenched in vanilla sauce.

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Editorial lead: Nicholas Mancall-Bitel

Creative director: Nat Belkov

Contributors: Austin Bush, Priyadarshini Chatterjee, Justin De La Rosa, Hillary Eaton, Bill Esparza, Yasmine Fofana, James Hansen, Leisha Jones, Bettina Makalintal, Nikki Miller-Ka, Katie Parla, Linh Phan, Toni Potenciano, Gina Smith, Per Styregård, Pierre Gorgui Thiam

Editors: Erin DeJesus, Erin Perkins, Stephanie Wu

Illustrator: Ryan Duggan

Copy editors: Nadia Q. Ahmad, Leilah Bernstein, Rachel P. Kreiter

Fact checker: Katrina Janco

Engagement editors: Kaitlin Bray, Frances Dumlao, Kristen Kornbluth, Mira Milla

Engagement designer: Lille Allen

Special thanks to: Talia Baiocchi, Terri Ciccone, Adam Coghlan, Missy Frederick, Chloe Frechette, Irina Groushevaia, Damla Heard, Amanda Kludt, Ellie Krupnick, Lizzie Munro, Mary Anne Porto, Lesley Suter, and Aroha and Hamuera Tamihana

Photos, in order of appearance: Xuan Huong Ho, Austin Bush, Anan Saigon, Pizza 4P’s, Austin Bush, Austin Bush, Austin Bush, Zack Frank, Jason B James, Whitney Anderson, Erin Perkins, Gianlu Pi, Katie Parla, Steve Estvanik, Katie Parla, Fabiano Goreme Caddeo, Andrew Lever, Tez Mercer, Rory Dunleavy, Ricardo Barata, Yasmine Fofana, Yasmine Fofana, Najma Orango, Najma Orango, Guayo Fuentes, Steven Burton, Aleksandar Todorovic, Richie Chan, Miguel Nacianceno, Jar Concengco, Toni Potenciano, Wonho Frank Lee, Wonho Frank Lee, Claudio Divizia, Kit Leong, Victoria Ditkovsky, Bill Addison, Justin de la Rosa, Brian Scantlebury, Abir Roy Barman, Ajp, Rudra Narayan Mitra, Artesia Wells, Eva H. Tram, Bar Glou Glou, Stedsans, Iuliia Pilipeichenko, Sofia Kvistborn

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