HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Match the city to its ethnic cuisine

I would like to get opinions on which "ethnic" cuisines are done well in North American cities (without launching into a huge discussion of what constitutes ethnic).
For example, my hometown of Montreal has excellent Greek and Vietnamese restaurants. What are the standouts in other cities across Canada and the US?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Just from my experience (and no surprise to anyone):

    Mexican in Los Angeles
    Chinese in San Francisco
    Italian in NYC
    Ethopian in DC (Adams Morgan)

    6 Replies
    1. re: mojoeater

      "and no surprise to anyone"


      1. re: mojoeater

        I think SF or at least the Bay area is also very strong for Indian.

        1. re: mojoeater

          Newark, NJ for Spanish/Portuguese
          Detroit for Greek (second to Astoria, New York)
          Dallas for BBQ (not exactly ethnic?)

          1. re: RGC1982

            Detroit--NO CONTEST--for Middle Eastern. Also good for Polish

            1. re: coney with everything

              I agree - being a Detroiter and having lived in Astoria, I say Detroit - Middle Eastern, and Astoria - Greek.

          2. Calgary: Vietnamese, no contest, but we also have more Ismaili-style "Indian-African" restos than I've seen elsewhere.

            Toronto is of course too diverse to permit generalisation, but the way it's elevated West Indian food to routine street food status (like burritos in SF) deserves special mention- everyone knows not only what roti is but can rattle off a list of their faves; every corner store sells Jamaican patties... etc.

            3 Replies
            1. re: John Manzo

              I often thought that Toronto had elevated Savoie cuisine to street food status

                1. re: John Manzo

                  I often thought that Toronto with its large Italian population and a large Irish community would be a hotbed of an area inbetween...namely Savoie. Hearty food with an abundence of flavours.

            2. Richmond/Vancouver will match San Fran for the Chinese. Seattle could take Japanese (mostly for the sushi, though) but also vietnamese or thai...I hear it is close 2nd behind DC for Ethiopian.

              1. Montréal for French and Québecois cuisine.

                5 Replies
                1. re: mrbozo

                  Yeah, but that doesn't really count as ethnic cuisine, does it? Montréal is in Québec, so of course they do Québecois food.

                  1. re: piccola

                    Québécois are not an ethnic group? Where outside of Quebec, especially in the United States, is one able to get authentic Quebecois cuisine to the extent that one can in Montreal?

                    1. re: mrbozo

                      No, what I meant is that it's not an ethnic food in Québec because that's where it's from.

                      I thought the point of this thread was to highlight the contributions of immigrant communities in various cities. What you're saying is, for Québecois food, go to Québec - which is a given.

                      1. re: piccola

                        ok, I'll bite... what's typical Quebecois food?? (sorry...)

                      2. re: mrbozo

                        Lewiston, Me., the Quebcois and Somali capitol of Maine. Go figure.

                  2. Providence for Portuguese

                      1. re: weezycom

                        Annandale? Which places are your faves?

                        1. re: mojoeater

                          Annandale has somewhere around 30 Korean restaurants. Some have no English signage. Just go to the DC Board and you will find out which ones folks prefer.

                        1. Orange County, CA for Vietnamese.
                          Chicago for Polish

                          2 Replies
                            1. re: 1000steps

                              Also Cleveland & Buffalo for Polish.

                              Chicago has good Mexican too from what I've read

                              Washingon DC & NY - Bolivian

                              NY - Romanian (?)

                              Hmong and Somalis.in Minnesota

                              Hmong in Fresno.

                              Brazilians in Framingham, MA

                              Filipinos in Daly City, CA & Hercules, CA

                              San Jose, Ca - Azorean Portuguese

                              A few more here

                            2. LA - Korean

                              San Antonio - Mexican a la Tex-Mex and authentic

                              Houston - Vietnamese and Chinese...I also heard one of the best Moroccan resto's in the U.S. is located in Houston. Forgot the name.

                              Dallas - Vietnamese

                              1. I also forgot that Montreal is very good for Lebanese and other Middle Eastern.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: hungryann

                                  Indeed (and Peruvian). And I would add Ottawa for Lebanese.

                                  1. re: mrbozo

                                    Ottawa is, IMHO, better for Lebanese than Montreal, or any city I've ever visited in fact. And no, I've never been to Lebanon.

                                    1. re: John Manzo

                                      I was going to mention that.
                                      Ottawa's also great for Northern Indian (in the Glebe, there's one Indian resto per block, and they're all good) and Vietnamese (though that population is diminishing, IMO).

                                      1. re: piccola

                                        No disrespect, I love Ottawa and the Glebe in particular, but one Indian resto per block is nothing compared to various parts of Toronto, Vancouver or Calgary.

                                        1. re: John Manzo

                                          True, but Ottawa is a relatively small city. Northern Indian places (good ones, too) make up a high proportion of its total restaurants - I'd say it's clearly one of the city's dominant cuisines.

                                2. (In addition to Korean and Mexican) Los Angeles - Persian.
                                  I also don't think DC's Ethiopian is any better than in LA's Little Ethiopia, sorry.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: writergirl

                                    Yes, Persian, Korean and Mexican in LA.

                                    1. re: katkoupai

                                      Korean in Garden Grove as well. Can we say that S.CA is filled with so many 'ethnic' varieties that we are just fortunate to live with such diversity.

                                  2. Brazilian and Italian in Boston
                                    Indian in Raleigh-Durham (never been out west, but it's the best i've had on the east coast)
                                    Jamaican, Greek, Cantonese, and "Jewish" in NYC
                                    Creole in New Orleans. mmm, definitely deserves it's own ethnic class
                                    BBQ in Austin, Texas
                                    Palestinian/Lebanese in Paterson, NJ

                                    1. There is a Vietnamese Shopping Center in Falls Church, VA called Eden Center that contains about 23 Vietnamese restaurants. In addition, there are bakeries and other food stores, big and small. My guess is that there are one or two other places in the country similar for Vietnamese, so if anyone can tell me where I'd greatly appreciate it.

                                      9 Replies
                                      1. re: Steve

                                        Garden Grove California has the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam. A third of its population is Vietnamese, there are too many restaurants to count. San Jose California also has a big Vietnamese population and a large number of restaurants. Check out this Wikipedia page...it mentions Eden Center. I've been to Eden Center, which is cool, but it's night and day compared to Garden Grove.

                                        1. re: writergirl

                                          That would be Garden Grove/Westminster. But that is another discussion altogether.

                                          1. re: writergirl

                                            Thanks for the response. Too many restaurants to count!!! Wow, that sounds like a lot.

                                            However, what I was really wondering was if within Garden Grove or San Jose, for example, there is a Shopping Center (or two?) that have the concentration of Vietnamese restaurants. Eden Center's 23 (not counting the cafes, bakeries, and others) is a pretty large concentration all within the same block, essentially.

                                            1. re: Steve

                                              I guess I misunderstood since the topic is match the city with the ethnic cuisine, not the shopping center ;-) Anyhow, I can't think of a shopping center like Eden Center. Garden Grove is Orange County, so it's part of the infamous So. Cal car culture. Things are spread out, you're more likely to find a string of strip malls full of Vietnamese restos and shops than one big mall. (but I live in LA, not OC, so it's highly possible there's a shopping center like you mention that I don't know about.). When I say there are too many Vietnamese restaurants to count, I'm being serious. It's like saying how many Chinese restaurants are there in SF...I couldn't begin to count.

                                              1. re: writergirl

                                                Well, if I say Falls Church, VA is known for its Vietnamese cuisine, that would be true mostly because of the Eden Center, although there are a few other Vietnamese restaurants nearby.

                                                1. re: Steve

                                                  huh? I don't disagree that Eden Center has a lot of Vietnamese restaurants. I've been there, and I agree it does. Garden Grove has restaurants spread throughout the city, not just concentrated in one spot

                                          2. re: Steve

                                            Garland, TX. Just outside of Dallas has a strong Asian shopping community (Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese) A smaller version of what Eden Center seems to be. Add the Vietnamese strip in Carrollton, TX and the one in Arlington, TX and you are looking at a strong and spread out community of Vietnamese people in the DFW area.


                                            "Saigon to Hue, a pho odyssey. That's right, David and I sampled pho in Saigon, Hoi An, Hue in summer 05 (also Boston & San Francisco) - and guess what? Duy Tan still the best. Photo: Rice plate with pork and fried egg at Saigon street stand. Cost about $.50!"

                                            Duy Tan is one of the many Vietnamese restaurants in Garland (DFW area). And yeah...the quote says it all!

                                            1. re: adkim

                                              Thanks for the link. That is the true Chowhound rundown. Makes me want to hop onthe next plane. Below is a link to Eden Center, with it's list of 27 restaurants, not counting the cafes, sandwich shops, bakeries, etc. Unless someone tells me otherwise, I guess it may be unique for Vietnamese in the US.


                                              1. re: Steve

                                                Yeah...Charles Kemp is certainly devoted and passionate about food.

                                          3. In Massachusetts:
                                            The North End of Boston for Italian
                                            Fall River for Portuguese

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: Gio

                                              I would add New Bedford for Portugese as well.

                                              1. re: joth68

                                                And don't forget East Providence, RI, as well (EP to locals), for Portuguese.

                                                1. re: Bob W

                                                  is that really a RI thing? I went around saying "NK" in my late high school years when I should have known better. Perhaps it's because RI is so small, that EG, NK, and 'gansett are known throughout the state.

                                                  1. re: fara

                                                    In my experience, East Providence is EP but North Providence is not NP -- it's "Nawt Prov." That's the home of Twins Pizza, to give this post some chowish content.

                                                    Also, Central Falls is CF. That burg's chowishness has been well documented on the New England board.

                                                    You must have grown up south of Providence; in Pawtucket I never heard EG (East Greenwich) or NK (North Kingstown). Those places might as well have been on the dark side of the moon. And that's definitely an RI thing!

                                            2. San Gabriel Valley, with its dozens of towns all nestled in his valley just east of Downtown LA is all about Chinese. Absolutely the broadest and best representation of Chinese cuisines in America. As obvious as this one is, I'm surprised no one mentioned this one - maybe they're all too busy eating at the dim sum houses and xiao long bao eateries...

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                I've been a Californian since 1986 (from Chicago another amazing place for every imaginable kind of food- my favs, Soul, Polish, Lithuanian, Mexico -especially from Michoacan, Jalisco, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Ethiopian and many more not listed)

                                                Here is my short Northern California/Central Valley List:

                                                Bakersfield, Newman, California Basque (actually much of the central valley)
                                                Modesto/Merced Hmong, Lao, Cambodian, Punjabi, Jamaican, Assyrian (especially in Turlock nearby),Vietnamese,Japanese, Basque
                                                Petaluma- Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese,Japanese
                                                Santa Rosa- Eritrean (large Eritrean community), Japanese, Chinese, Indian (including Nepalese Cooking)
                                                Oakland- you can get ANYTHING you want-- one of the most multicultural places on the planet! One of the Best "Chinatowns" in California with foods from all over Asia.

                                                1. re: drmimi

                                                  I didn't know that California's central valley had a large concentration of Basque. I live in SoCal, and there used to be two in SGV (both in La Puente) that I would frequent as a child with my grandparents. The food always seemed so exotic. Can anyone recommend a specific restaurant in Bakersfield or Fresno?

                                                  I'll add Chicago for Greek cuisine.

                                                  1. re: stopurmakingmehungry

                                                    When I was growing up in Fresno in the 50s and 60s there were two notable Basque places--the Yturri Hoel and one other (getting old I guess). Supporting what drmimi says, we grew up with real Mexican, Chinese, Armenian, Japanese, Italian, German, Swedish--because we had large populations of those peoples and cultures.

                                                    Later waves of immigration to the agricultural Central Valley brought Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Lao, Hmong, Cambodian, and others--along with their foods.

                                                    Flat, hot, increasingly crowded and polluted, the Central Valley remains a port of entry for many agricultural peoples around the world. The Hmong intensively farmed the lands that my grandparents put into peaches--and cashed in on the American Dream from re-zoning to residential; the Sikhs own many of the raisin farms that used to be the livelihoods of the parents of my friends.

                                                    Such a dynamic over time has continued to produce good restaurants and food, cooked and served by first generation cooks and chefs, eaten and enjoyed by a suprisingly sophisticated population of diners. Yes, such a food vision is the underbelly of what looks like endless strip malls, wide, flat multi-laned streets everywhere--but the Central Valley and ethnic cuisine are matched in the US in my mind perhaps only by New York.

                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                      Thanks for the info, Sam. I go to Fresno before every Xmas to exchange gifts with family from Sacramento, and we've always just ended up eating at a chain. I will definitely do my research on these boards before going this year. You've opened up a new world for me, thanks again.

                                                  2. re: drmimi

                                                    There are four Nepali restaurants in Boston! By comparison: only 1 that I know of in NYC (Jax Heights)

                                                2. We have very good Vietnamese here in Denver.

                                                  1. Philadelphia: South Philly for Italian. Port Richmond for Polish.


                                                    1. MONTREAL = THE BEST GREEK . My home town too
                                                      Brian the Food dude , Now in California

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: BRIANTHEFOODUDE

                                                        Toronto - loads of Chinese, Italian, quite a bit of Portuguese and Greek (especially on the Danforth). Definitely not Mexican, unfortunately.

                                                      2. Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) country cuisines in Boston/Cambridge and southeastern New England generally (let's say from Gloucester down to East Providence down through Fall River and New Bedford and back over to Provincetown).

                                                        Boston's Latino representation is stronger from Central America and Peru-Colombia-Venezuela than Mexico.

                                                        Our east Asian representation is better from Southeast Asia than China-Japan. The representation from southern India has improved mightily in the past decade and students and mmigrants increase therefrom

                                                        The huge gap in Boston is central European. An immense pity.


                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                          The greater Boston area has a large number of South Indian restaurants--Lowell MA is our go to place for dosais. Lowell also has good Southeast Asian restaurants because of the large Lao/Cambodian/Viet community.

                                                          1. re: whs

                                                            The best I've found is Chennai Woodlands in Ashland.

                                                        2. RENO, NEVADA for "all you can eat sushi" I not talking about buffet, this is sit at the bar order all you want till you can't eat any more. $19 for dinner and $14 for lunch approx. This has become sooo popular, seems like almost every strip mall has a place. This all you can eat style has led to seeing some things at sushi bars here that I usually do not see , say in the Bay Area, yhere you will see groups of macho looking football player type dudes all eating sushi together using chopsticks! Huge amounts of fish being served. The quality you might suspect might not be up to par, but it is! No different then what I get in SF. Has this sushi sytle gone to other cities?

                                                          1. I say Chinese-SF

                                                            1. Several people have mentioned Los Angeles/Orange County, but I don't think I've seen them all in one post. I'd be interested to hear if other cities have better restaurants of these types, from someone who knows both cities:
                                                              Vietnamese (Westminster, San Gabriel Valley)
                                                              Armenian/Lebanese (Glendale, Hollywood, San Fernando Valley)
                                                              Persian (Westwood, etc.)
                                                              Chinese (San Gabriel Valley)
                                                              Thai (Hollywood, San Fernando Valley)
                                                              Japanese (Torrance/Little Tokyo/Sawtelle)
                                                              Korean (Koreatown)
                                                              Mexican (East L.A. and everywhere)

                                                              Any takers? We're also strong in Ethiopian near Fairfax Ave. and Indian in Artesia, but it seems like other cities might have stronger claims to those.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: Chowpatty

                                                                San Jose, CA is #2 to LA/OC for Vietnamese.
                                                                Armenian/Lebanese/Middle-Eastern -- Detroit, hands down. LA/OC has the winner of largest portion of the Armenian diaspora but as a Middle Eastern destination, it's definitely Detroit.
                                                                Persian -- possibly LA/OC but also possibly New York.
                                                                Chinese -- New York, Seattle, Vancouver, SFBay, those are the big-league ones. Maybe Boston.
                                                                Thai -- probably LA/OC, but also SF and Seattle.
                                                                Japanese -- SFBay, Vancouver, Toronto, New York.
                                                                Korean -- LA/OC, no contest. No place even comes close to K-town, Garden Grove, Buena Park...
                                                                Mexican -- San Diego, San Antonio, Albuquerque, Phoenix...

                                                                While I love our Ethiopian places, there's no question that DC is the Ethiopian winner just in sheer volume of Ethiopian restaurants. Adams Morgan is the Little Saigon of Ethiopian culture.

                                                                As for Indian, the town in which I grew up, Woodbridge, NJ, has the largest concentration of South Asians (by percentage) in America. There are tens of thousands of Indian-Americans (and Pakistani-Americans and Sri Lankan-Americans) in Iselin (part of Woodbridge Township) and Edison (the next township over). New York City also has an astonishing number of Indian restaurants, as does Silicon Valley.

                                                                Basque food, by the way, is all about California's Central Valley (from Fresno to Bakersfield) and the Nevada-Idaho border area. You wouldn't think about chow in the latter, but some places you can smell the garlic from a half mile away -- quite the "ongi etorri" (welcome)!!

                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                  What about Chinese in LA San Gabriel Valley? I can certainly say I've had same or better than in SF Bay area, no one's mentioned this yet.
                                                                  Also heard about good Chinese in Vancouver and Toronto.

                                                                  1. re: b0ardkn0t

                                                                    Would that be where I said truly great Chinese could be got in Van, Seattle, SF, and New York? :P

                                                                    Taiwanese, though, it's LA hands down.