Best Global Food Towns (Let the controversy begin): Chit Chat #11
My favorite food cities, in one giant list.
OK, so last week everyone was pretty geeked about my take on Rome.
BUT I said it probably wasn’t in my global top 10 and might not even be my favorite eating town in Italy. I promised a list of my own.
Here are my top 35 food cities.
Yes, I know 35 is a lot, but if you haven’t heard, a lot is my middle name (just kidding, it’s Scott).
Here’s how I selected my choices: I closed my eyes and did a few minutes of Wim Hof breathing. Then I focused on one question only, imagining I had 3 days/nights to eat in only one city, where would I want to go…JUST TO EAT?
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I had a dozen others on it, but wound up cutting them because the food was to mono-stylistic or I was only going for one genre of meals. Buenos Aires, Rio, Santiago, Medellin, Geneva, Vienna, Stockholm, Cape Town, etc. are all great examples. Some I cut because they had a sibling on the list, so Hanoi got scratched in favor of Ho Chi Minh City.
Do you agree or disagree with these picks?
Queens NYC, NY… Pound for pound, by square block, the best place to eat on earth. Been saying it my whole career.
New York City…I think the best food city on earth despite its soaring prices and real estate problems.
San Francisco… Coastal wine country bliss, with a food scene that is filled with such expertise— from raw bars to farm markets. And the eaters in this town know their shit.
Chicago… Sheer size and quality alone make it a global top 25, without question. Maybe higher if I had to rank simply because of the culinary diversity, which I think gives some US cities an edge
Mexico City… Right after China, Mexico rules the roost for depth/breadth, variety of ingredients, regionality etc. You can find it all is in Mexico City, and the streets food and markets are without peer.
Oaxaca… So unique, so much pre-contact food. The best markets I know of. I can get lost just in their criollo tomatoes alone. And the mole situation is serious. Anyone who’s been knows why this town’s food scene is special.
Toronto… Five Chinatowns alone, an international and diverse hub for culinary excellence. Just go already.
Los Angeles… Again, the quality and diversity make LA a top 15 global food town. No question. The San Gabriel Valley? All the superb Mexican food, Korean, Japanese, Persian…
Montreal… The joke is Lumberjack Gourmet, but skip the punchline, go to the markets and the Arabic restaurants and call me.
Lima… From Amazonian fruits and fish you’ve never see to Chifa and Nikkei. Brilliance abounds, from high to low.
Madrid… Reinvented over the last decade or so, a top 25 food town for sure IMHO
Copenhagen… Just for its ingenuity and unique take on what food can be, and then the traditional Nordic fare along with it.
Barcelona… The city that jump-started a food revolution, and still enjoys five meals a day.
Florence… The trattorias of this town continue to haunt my dreams.
Paris… Sure it was down for a while, but has come ROARING back. Anyone not putting this town in their global top 10 hasn’t been lately or enough times.
Venice… I would rather eat in this town in late spring or late summer than just about anywhere. But I’m biased. The restaurants are for visitors, sure. But check out all the little bacaro (bars) that offer the typical Venetian aperitif or “ombra” (small glass of wine) and a “cicchetto”, something typical and small to eat often called Venetian tapas.
Lyon… Too romantic, too fantastic, too fucking delicious not to include, and despite the homogenous food scene, it’s THAT special. Their seasonal approach means go any time of year.
London… Like so many American cities, sheer diversity and expertise makes London special. The food in England USED to be boring, bland and boiled. Not anymore.
Istanbul… Always ignored, but Turkish cuisine is sophisticated, diverse and the country holds on to its rootsy traditions, too. Average meal is piles of breads and a dozen mezze, followed by a grilled whole fish and a haunch of roasted lamb. I could eat this way for the rest of my life.
Fez… Maybe the best place to eat in all of North Africa, and the old town is a brilliant mess of riads, where the best cooking is found
Alexandria… BIG sleeper. Egyptian cuisine, Mediterranean influence, lots of seafood. Remember: its got 35 kilometers of coastline! Alexander the Great knew what he was doing.
Beijing… Chinese cuisine is the world’s greatest for depth/breadth, variety of ingredients, regionality etc, and it all is in Beijing.
Chengdu… The home of Sichuan cuisine, and the province is the bread basket of China.
Hong Kong… From low to high, and with international presence, a world-class food city.
Dubai…Glittering variety of everything, but the Afghan, Iraqi, Pakastani foods found in the working class areas make this a top eating destination.
Taipei… Most underrated food town on earth. Full stop. An island capitol city with amazing foods of all kinds. Killer restaurant scene.
Tokyo… A top ten food town without peer. Yes, superb styles of Japanese food, but some of the best Italian and French food on earth as well.
Bangkok… Buzzy, noisy and brilliant.
Ho Chi Minh City… Southern charm, Vietnamese-style. Hard to pick over Hanoi, so I flipped a coin and in a Top 50 list, they would probably both be on it.
Mumbai…Along with Hyderabad, Delhi, Kerala and more, Indian food for the win here.
Seoul… A sprawling massive Asian capitol with everything Korean (of course), but more diversity than you imagine.
Osaka… Could have been Kanazawa, Kyoto or Okinawa, all superb food towns. But the size of Osaka and the recent bubbling up of non-Japanese food styles in that city make it a must.
Shanghai… China’s most progressive city has a food scene that, like Guangzhou, is somewhat monochromatic. BUT the international influence here (and the fact that’s its an international business hub) built a food scene that some say is the best in China.
Tel Aviv… The markets, the chefs, the attitude, the historical cross roads, and its geographic position make Israeli cuisine a global thought leader stylistically. Add in the leveling up of quality over the last decade, and this city is a top food town for sure. And as more and more Jews from around the world return, the international influences grow.
Sydney… The hybridized food styles of this town, its diversity, wine culture, ocean perch, growing seasons and global positioning right below South Eastern Asia make Sydney a global top 20 food city. Melbourne would be on this list, too, if I used a few more slots up.
Did you actually make it all the way to the end? I know, it’s a long list— but so many places to choose from!
Anyway, lists are meant to be argued over. Where am I wrong? What am I missing? Where am I oh-so-right? Share in the comments.
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