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Match the city to its ethnic cuisine

hungryann May 24, 2007 07:32 PM

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?

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  1. m
    mojoeater RE: hungryann May 24, 2007 07:45 PM

    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
      scubadoo97 RE: mojoeater May 24, 2007 09:11 PM

      "and no surprise to anyone"


      1. re: mojoeater
        hungryann RE: mojoeater May 25, 2007 10:55 AM

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

        1. re: mojoeater
          RGC1982 RE: mojoeater Sep 7, 2007 07:46 PM

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

          1. re: RGC1982
            coney with everything RE: RGC1982 Sep 9, 2007 07:13 AM

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

            1. re: coney with everything
              Prav RE: coney with everything Feb 20, 2008 07:54 AM

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

          2. re: mojoeater
            mattboy RE: mojoeater Sep 7, 2007 07:55 PM

            ethopian in oakland too

          3. John Manzo RE: hungryann May 24, 2007 09:15 PM

            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
              WelcomeBack RE: John Manzo May 25, 2007 01:04 PM

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

              1. re: WelcomeBack
                John Manzo RE: WelcomeBack May 25, 2007 02:43 PM

                And why did you "often think" that?

                1. re: John Manzo
                  WelcomeBack RE: John Manzo May 26, 2007 02:56 PM

                  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. dagoose RE: hungryann May 25, 2007 10:03 AM

              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. mrbozo RE: hungryann May 25, 2007 10:43 AM

                Montréal for French and Québecois cuisine.

                5 Replies
                1. re: mrbozo
                  piccola RE: mrbozo May 26, 2007 03:53 AM

                  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
                    mrbozo RE: piccola May 26, 2007 06:04 PM

                    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
                      piccola RE: mrbozo May 27, 2007 06:39 PM

                      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
                        mariekeac RE: piccola Sep 7, 2007 05:19 PM

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

                      2. re: mrbozo
                        Passadumkeg RE: mrbozo May 28, 2007 04:07 AM

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

                  2. clamscasino RE: hungryann May 25, 2007 11:10 AM

                    Providence for Portuguese

                    1. w
                      weezycom RE: hungryann May 25, 2007 11:39 AM

                      Annandale, Va. for Korean

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: weezycom
                        mojoeater RE: weezycom May 25, 2007 12:12 PM

                        Annandale? Which places are your faves?

                        1. re: mojoeater
                          Steve RE: mojoeater May 26, 2007 03:50 AM

                          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.

                      2. Sam Fujisaka RE: hungryann May 25, 2007 12:03 PM

                        Fresno for basque

                        1. 1000steps RE: hungryann May 25, 2007 02:46 PM

                          Orange County, CA for Vietnamese.
                          Chicago for Polish

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: 1000steps
                            katkoupai RE: 1000steps May 25, 2007 07:41 PM

                            Yes, Westminster for Vietnamese.

                            1. re: 1000steps
                              rworange RE: 1000steps May 27, 2007 08:07 PM

                              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. adkim RE: hungryann May 25, 2007 03:31 PM

                              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. hungryann RE: hungryann May 25, 2007 04:29 PM

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

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: hungryann
                                  mrbozo RE: hungryann May 25, 2007 05:14 PM

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

                                  1. re: mrbozo
                                    John Manzo RE: mrbozo May 25, 2007 07:34 PM

                                    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
                                      piccola RE: John Manzo May 26, 2007 03:56 AM

                                      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
                                        John Manzo RE: piccola May 28, 2007 08:38 AM

                                        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
                                          piccola RE: John Manzo May 28, 2007 11:48 AM

                                          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. w
                                  writergirl RE: hungryann May 25, 2007 04:50 PM

                                  (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
                                    katkoupai RE: writergirl May 25, 2007 07:39 PM

                                    Yes, Persian, Korean and Mexican in LA.

                                    1. re: katkoupai
                                      justagthing RE: katkoupai May 26, 2007 12:06 PM

                                      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. f
                                    fara RE: hungryann May 25, 2007 05:22 PM

                                    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. s
                                      Steve RE: hungryann May 26, 2007 03:56 AM

                                      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
                                        writergirl RE: Steve May 26, 2007 09:41 AM

                                        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
                                          justagthing RE: writergirl May 26, 2007 12:07 PM

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

                                          1. re: writergirl
                                            Steve RE: writergirl May 26, 2007 01:59 PM

                                            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
                                              writergirl RE: Steve May 27, 2007 05:04 PM

                                              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
                                                Steve RE: writergirl May 27, 2007 10:11 PM

                                                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
                                                  writergirl RE: Steve May 28, 2007 09:50 AM

                                                  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
                                            adkim RE: Steve May 26, 2007 12:26 PM

                                            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
                                              Steve RE: adkim May 27, 2007 10:09 PM

                                              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
                                                adkim RE: Steve May 28, 2007 04:51 PM

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

                                          3. Gio RE: hungryann May 27, 2007 06:04 PM

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

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: Gio
                                              joth68 RE: Gio Feb 19, 2008 11:13 AM

                                              I would add New Bedford for Portugese as well.

                                              1. re: joth68
                                                Bob W RE: joth68 Feb 19, 2008 12:29 PM

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

                                                1. re: Bob W
                                                  fara RE: Bob W Feb 19, 2008 03:50 PM

                                                  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
                                                    Bob W RE: fara Feb 20, 2008 07:52 AM

                                                    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. b
                                              bulavinaka RE: hungryann May 27, 2007 10:27 PM

                                              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
                                                drmimi RE: bulavinaka May 28, 2007 10:17 AM

                                                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
                                                  stopurmakingmehungry RE: drmimi Sep 7, 2007 05:11 PM

                                                  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
                                                    Sam Fujisaka RE: stopurmakingmehungry Sep 7, 2007 05:59 PM

                                                    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
                                                      stopurmakingmehungry RE: Sam Fujisaka Sep 8, 2007 06:08 PM

                                                      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
                                                    Prav RE: drmimi Feb 20, 2008 07:57 AM

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

                                                2. Megiac RE: hungryann Sep 7, 2007 11:36 AM

                                                  We have very good Vietnamese here in Denver.

                                                  1. monavano RE: hungryann Sep 7, 2007 11:42 AM

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


                                                    1. b
                                                      BRIANTHEFOODUDE RE: hungryann Sep 7, 2007 05:29 PM

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

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: BRIANTHEFOODUDE
                                                        ekammin RE: BRIANTHEFOODUDE Sep 7, 2007 08:18 PM

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

                                                      2. Karl S RE: hungryann Sep 9, 2007 11:01 AM

                                                        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
                                                          whs RE: Karl S Sep 9, 2007 03:27 PM

                                                          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
                                                            Karl S RE: whs Sep 9, 2007 04:32 PM

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

                                                        2. MofCarson RE: hungryann Sep 9, 2007 05:52 PM

                                                          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. xlildorkiie RE: hungryann Feb 19, 2008 08:38 AM

                                                            I say Chinese-SF

                                                            1. Chowpatty RE: hungryann Feb 19, 2008 01:43 PM

                                                              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
                                                                Das Ubergeek RE: Chowpatty Feb 19, 2008 03:25 PM

                                                                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
                                                                  b0ardkn0t RE: Das Ubergeek Feb 19, 2008 03:52 PM

                                                                  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
                                                                    Das Ubergeek RE: b0ardkn0t Feb 19, 2008 08:54 PM

                                                                    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.

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