Best Chowhound Cities
Everyone knows that San Francisco, Chicago, New York, New Orleans ... are great food cities, but I am interested in the others. How do you rank the cities that you have lived in? It's easier to evaluate a city when compared to other familiar cities. Here is my ranking of the US cities that I have lived in:
1) San Francisco
3) San Diego
4) Madison, WI
6) Tampa/St. Petes
To that original list, I would add Los Angeles (so long as you include the outer suburbs, like Monterey Park). My ranking would go:
New York (for the sheer variety and general high quality),
Chicago (for our strengths in ethnic cuisines and award-winning chefs),
New Orleans (for the wonderful regional Cajun and Creole cooking),
Los Angeles (but I acknowledge that I don't know the area all that well)
San Francisco (last only because it's been a long time since I've been there).
For an old stomping ground, it's Singapore.
But to be honest, the grass is always greener on the other side. It's always better to be chowhounding in a city one has never been before, because imho, chowhounding is not just about eating great food, it's also about learning, discovering and treasure hunting on one's own.
For the places I have been, I would say:
Toronto - what a great eating town!
Paris (if you avoid the overblown and touristy)
Madison, Wisconsin (lots of variety and quality in a small place)
It's a short list, because I haven't travelled nearly enough! For example, I've never been to LA or New Orleans or Singapore.
Time to dust off the passport,
Sorry, I just don't think the Twin Cities are in the same league as the other cities on my list, with the possible exception of Madison (which I included mainly because it's so small yet has such nice places to eat).
Maybe it's the "grass is greener" syndrome, or maybe it's because because I grew up here and still think of the place as a gastronomic wasteland (as it was in the 60's and 70's). Or maybe it's because we have only one Chinese bakery, one real Spanish tapas place (unlike Chicago, city of tapas happiness), very little choice for good Italian, and really mediocre Greek and Indian restaurants (with one or two exceptions).
But the Twin Cities are getting better - in a few more years (and more than one Chinese bakery), I'll expand my list!
re: Grass is greener -- MHO is that the more I know about a city, the less of a chowhound city for me, just because there are less places to suss out. At least from my perspective, it's more about what's unknown and the opportunities to treasure hunt, discover stuff, rather than just simply how much great food is available. Many cities are great cities for food lovers, gourmands and connoisseurs, but IMHO good chowhound cities will depend on the chowhound and how little she or he knows about the chow in the city, rather than the city per se.
In a city like Chicago there are so many diverse restaurants opening each year in neighborhoods and older close-in suburbs that it is impossible for anyone to know them all. Small ethnic restaurants and groceries of all persuasions keep cropping up (and often not lasting too long). I live in a particularly chow-friendly area in the western part of Lincoln Square but near Albany Park and could not keep up with the sheer volume of new entries within three miles of my house even if I didn't sample the goodies elsewhere or go back to old favorites.
Add Hong Kong to everyone's lists. One city I have not been (not recently) but will be next is Shanghai.
My top-10 list would be the following (some are regions, and not necessarily "cities" per se):
1. Los Angeles County
2. New York City
3. Hong Kong (and specifically the districts of Kowloon City and Tsim Sha Tsui)
4. Ho Chi Minh City
6. City of Vancouver
7. San Francisco
9. Las Vegas
10. Mexico City
With respect to LA > NYC, it's really more about familiarity than anything else.
Having lived in LA for a while, I know alot about the nooks and crannys for good chow. While I grew up in Queens and visit NYC quite often, there isn't that same level of familiarity. (I suppose Astoria doesn't really count as NYC, does it? Lottsa good eatin' there.)
In any event, if you compare the general LA area (including San Gabriel Valley), then I think at least with respect to Asian cuisine, LA far outpaces NYC -- both in terms of depth and quality. In fact, I dare say that Monterey Park/Alhambra (both in the San Gabriel Valley) offers the best and most eclectic Chinese cuisine this side of the Western Hemisphere.