Chefs' Favorite Food Cities

We asked top chefs from around the country their favorite U.S. city to visit for great food. Check out their picks, plus where they'd eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Michael Symon, Food Network Host, Chef-Owner of Lola in Cleveland

Food CityI would say, as a general statement, New York’s the greatest food city in the world. I don’t think that anybody could really argue [with] that — the depth that it has, and you could get anything, at anytime, anywhere. But I think my favorite American food city is probably New Orleans, because they just have a culture all their own. The food is truly theirs. 

BreakfastI’d go to Café Du Monde and get some beignets and some chicory coffee, for sure.

Lunch: I'd probably more wander the streets for lunch. Just grab snacks — no particular place.

Dinner: Cochon. To me it's spectacular. I'd get a whole roasted pig's head and some other stuff. And just feel real good and greasy.

See More Photos: Where to Eat in New Orleans

Aaron Franklin, Pitmaster-Owner of Franklin Barbecue in Austin

Food City: Portland (Ore.)

Breakfast: So breakfast would be at Imperial, because they have a really rad grill, lots of charcuterie, housemade bacon.

Lunch: I’m gonna go to Pok Pok on Division Street for wings, of course. Then some ice cream up the road at Salt & Straw.

Dinner: Then later on we’re going to Ox

See More Photos: Welcome to Portland: A Newcomer's Eating Tour

Ming Tsai, Chef-Owner of Blue Ginger in Boston

Food City: Chicago

Breakfast: Little Goat, Stephanie [Izard]’s little diner place, because how can you not have a great breakfast there? I like savory. Give me a bacon double cheeseburger for breakfast.

Lunch: Ramen, probably, is what I would eat for lunch. Slurping Turtle, because Takasi-san is one of my favorite guys on the planet. I hear Ramen-San, which is newer, is also quite good.

Dinner: I would go see Grant [Achatz] at Alinea or Next. That’s a very special, extraordinary experience. Any of Paul Kahan’s restaurants. Sean McClain’s restaurants, Rick Bayless’ restaurants, and Naha. However, after 2 a.m., there’s only one place: the Wiener’s Circle

Photo by Francis Son

See More Photos: The Best Restaurants in Chicago

Richard Blais, Food Network Host, Chef-Owner of Juniper & Ivy in San Diego

Food City: I love San Francisco … there, I said it! 

BreakfastStart in the Mission and grab a pastry, coffee and whole sourdough boule at Tartine Bakery

LunchHead on down to the Ferry Building and find a few snacks — maybe a dozen Hog Island Oysters or a grilled cheese sandwich from Cowgirl Creamery. Also, grab a scoop of creative ice cream from Humphry Slocombe and a coffee at Blue Bottle. From there, march into Chinatown, but not before getting the fried chicken plate from Tyler Florence at Wayfare Tavern!

DinnerAfter a nap, I suggest a first dinner at Zuni Cafe, a true landmark. Some oysters, a Caesar salad, some wine, and now you're ready for a second dinner at Rich Table. Have a few more snacks, like the Porcini Doughnut. If you're still hungry like me, order in some Mission Chinese food.

See More Photos: Golden Gate Grub: What to Eat in San Francisco

Jenn Louis, Chef-Owner of Lincoln in Portland, Ore.

Food City: Miami 

Breakfast: Panther Coffee, then 27 Restaurant 

Lunch: Tossup between El Mago de las Fritas or Puerto Sagua for no-frills, authentic Cuban food.

Dinner: Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink

See More Photos: The Best Restaurants in Miami

Andrew Zimmern, Travel Channel Host

Food City: New York. As someone who would put his travel and eating cred up against just about anyone, New York’s the best food town on planet Earth. And within New York City, the best place to eat is Queens. I think the most-underrated food place in the world is Queens, New York. 113 different ethnicities, [each] represented by over 10,000 people ... there’s constant new immigration there that keeps the food honest — I think [it] is the most-exciting place to eat in the world.

Breakfast: Deposit me in front of Rokhat Kosher Bakery and let me sit there all day long.

Lunch: Tawa, for some central Asian food.

Dinner: Flushing, for some of the best Chinese food on the planet. Queens is where it’s at.

See More Photos: On the Road: Top New York City Restaurants

Marcus Samuelsson, Chef-Owner of Streetbird in New York

Food City: Los Angeles

Breakfast: Nick's Cafe, a classic old-school diner near Chinatown that is great for a simple breakfast of ham and eggs or a breakfast burrito. There are always neighborhood regulars at the counter.

LunchPollo a la Brasa, a delicious Peruvian-chicken joint in Koreatown, or Quarters Korean BBQ, for amazing small plates.

Dinner: Sushi Park. After a meal here, I finally understood why people talk about how much better West Coast sushi is. The outside of the restaurant doesn't look like much, but when you sit down and start the chef's amazingly fresh omakase menu from the Pacific, it's so delicious.

See More Photos: Welcome to Los Angeles: A Newcomer's Eating Tour

Lee Anne Wong, Chef-Partner at Koko Head Cafe in Honolulu

Food City: Chicago

Breakfast: My girl Stephanie Izard's Little Goat. Exceptionally creative all-day fare, but her breakfast/brunch menu hits the spot. Those crumpets ... she will always be my Top Chef. 

LunchPurple Pig. I love the Bannos boys, Sr. and Jr. I've been eating at Purple Pig since it first opened and am so thrilled at the success Jimmy Jr. has had with his gutsy local Mediterranean fare. It's the perfect place to cruise for a lazy lunch, and the wine program is tops. 

DinnerAvec. Any of Paul Kahan's restaurants would be a stellar choice for a satisfying meal, but Avec will always have a special place in my heart for its wood-burning awesomeness. Intensely satisfying dishes like their signature brandade (which I dream about) and their Taleggio cheese focaccia are a prelude to whole roasted fish, housemade charcuterie, and handmade pastas and pizzas. 

Photo by Marina Miller

Curtis Stone, Food Network Host, Chef-Owner of Maude in Los Angeles

Food City: New Orleans. It's a lot of fun — great music, great food everywhere you go, even on little corners. And they like a drink down there.

Lunch: There’s this little place that does these incredible roast beef sandwiches.

Dinner: We’d probably have gumbo in the evening. Listen to some music on Magazine Street, some jazz. 


Photo by Francis Son

Michael Schlow, Chef-Owner of Tico in Boston and Washington, D.C.

Food City: New York. There are so many great dining destinations in this country, but if you have to pick one last city to eat in, it has to be New York City.

Breakfast: Russ and Daughters, without question, has the best smoked salmon, whitefish, bagels, bialys and pickled herring on the planet. Balthazar has a completely different vibe, and the food is always delicious; it makes you feel like you're eating breakfast in Paris.

Lunch: While it’s something of a special treat, lunch in The Dining Room at The Modern is one of the best meals I’ve had in recent memory.

Dinner: Unless you are going to Astoria, Queens, or jumping on a plane to Mykonos, no one in NYC prepares better Greek food than Milos. And Jean-Georges is still one of the most-exciting restaurants in New York. [Jean-Georges Vongerichten is] one of the all-time greats.

Photo by Megan Pappadopoulos

Wylie Dufresne, Chef-Owner of Alder in New York

Food City: Los Angeles. I was there not long ago and it was really fun. I think it changes — I don’t think there’s a city that really holds the prize. I think it’s a dynamic thing. Right now LA is up there.

Breakfast: When I travel I like to skip breakfast, because it means I get to sleep in.

Lunch: I’d love to see what Roy [Choi] is doing for lunch. 

Dinner: Ludo’s place was great. We had a great dinner at Trois Mec. We went to a great place for drinks — Seven Grand — really big, lots of antlers on the walls, good late-night cocktails. Chi Spacca is wonderful, really fun. LA has good eats right now — really good eats. Exciting stuff.


Photo by Travis Huggett

Gavin Kaysen, Chef-Owner of Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis

Food City: San Francisco. I haven’t been there in a long time, so there’s a lot for me to explore. I just love the produce; I love the philosophies.

Breakfast: I’d go down to the wharf and have some seafood. To me, that’s the best breakfast. I’d get a shot of espresso and throw down a bunch of fresh seafood at, like, 11 in the morning.

Dinner: I’ve never been to Saison, so I’d really like to go there. 

Jessica Largey, 2015 James Beard Rising Star Chef, formerly of Manresa in Los Gatos, Calif.

Food City: Chicago. It's a lot of pork, but that’s a lot of fun — I love eating pork.

Breakfast: Publican for brunch.

Dinner: Lighter Japanese food at Momotaro.

Late night: Snacks at The Aviary.


Photo by Francis Son

Tandy Wilson, Chef-Owner of City House in Nashville

Food City: New Orleans

Breakfast: I do like the beignets, for sure.

Lunch: I’ve always wanted to do that long Friday fish lunch at one of the classic New Orleans places like Galatoire’s.

Dinner: I’d really love to eat at Shaya right now.

Jose Andres, Chef-Owner of ThinkFoodGroup

Food City: Asheville, N.C. I love Asheville now. It’s small, with great little restaurants opening everywhere. And Katie [Button of Curate and the Nightbell] was nominated for a James Beard Award. 

Sam Kass, Former White House Chef

Food City: Chicago. I’m from Chicago, so I’m definitely going to say Chicago.

Breakfast: Valois. After that, it gets really complicated.

Lunch: You’ll have to give me a pass. Can I get a pass on lunch? Everybody has their pizza spot. We would always go to Giordano’s on 53rd Street growing up.

Dinner: Avec. That’s where I spent many a night slaving behind the stoves. 

Lidia Bastianich, Chef-Owner of Felidia in New York

Food City: New Orleans

Breakfast: A muffuletta sandwich.

Lunch: Creole food down in the French Quarter anywhere I stop in, just walking around.


Photo by Francis Son

Rick Bayless, Chef-Owner of Topolobampo in Chicago

In this country, every city has something unique. I used to not say that. Some cities were good food cities and others weren’t. For instance, I grew up in Oklahoma City, and it was like a wasteland for great food. But every time I go back, new things have opened up. There are chef-owned restaurants now that are doing really cool stuff. So I can’t really say that one city in this country attracts me more than others. All these places that used to not be on my radar screen as much, now I can’t wait to get there because there’s so much going on.


Photo by Francis Son

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