HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >

Discussion

What is the most overrated food city?

  • d
LOCKED DISCUSSION

To flip the question around since there is already a thread on the most surprising food city. Which city, based upon its reputation for good food, you found to be uninspiring and resting on its past glories?

  1. I'll probably get a lot of heat for this, but I think NYC is very overblown. Sure there are great restaurants here, but in the fantasy of the rest of America, it's a 24/7 adventure through every possible culinary delight. If that were true, would there not be a bounty of Mexican? Or good Thai? Or really good Ethiopian? Or Southern? Or Barbecue? Or Filipino? Or Viennese bakeries? Or...NYC certainly has a great dining scene. It's just not the scene that's sold to the tourists. And it's one that is improving, but still has room to grow.

    9 Replies
    1. re: JungMann

      Isn't there? A bounty of those places in NY, I mean? I had wonderful Thai a looooong time ago, when I worked in an out of the way place on an out of the way street in Lower Manhattan. I don't get to the city much anymore, and Thai in Westchester is sorely lacking.

      However, I believe the places that haven't yet been found by the food critics are serving up all those cuisines and more -- they just haven't made it to the gourmet map yet, while the overcharging 'places to be seen' have.

      On Topic -- I can't think of a city that is overrated, though.

      1. re: dolores

        There aren't that many standout places for that kind of ethnic food. There are a few good places here and there for Thai or Barbecue or Mexican or this and that. But that's it: a couple places that everyone raves about amidst a profusion of Italian, Japanese, Chinese, American like every other city in America.

      2. re: JungMann

        Who told you that NYC was "a 24/7 adventure through every possible culinary delight"?

        Thanks

        1. re: JungMann

          OK Jung, what US city beats NYC?

          1. re: JungMann

            mexican food has improved here in the last 5 years, as the mexican community has grown, and mexicans who were line cooks have moved on to open their own places.
            But to judge NY by its mexican food is sorta silly aint it? i mean what large city in the US is further from mexico? Our hispanic population is largely puerto rican and cuban and domincan and, well, spanish.

            There is excellent thai, i enjoy the ethiopian, but have never had any anywhere else to compare it to...
            the bottom line is that there communities that are underrepresented in NY, and those cuisines are not the best here,, mexican, though to a lesser degree than that used to be and cambodian are 2 that jump to mind. That said, what makes a great restaurant city is not just the number of ethnicities represented (though i challenge any city to have the ethnic diversity new york does) but the quality of food available from highest of the high end, to lowest of the low. and New York has all that.

            Try a place like craft or degustation or grammercy tavern or matsuri or nobu or pongsri. try the myriad of coffee shops and small neighborhood places.

            1. re: thew

              "i challenge any city to have the ethnic diversity new york does"

              Two words: Los. Angeles.

              1. re: ozhead

                Toronto.
                London.

                Strictly in terms of diversity.

            2. re: JungMann

              Someone hasn't set foot in Queens.

              1. re: JFores

                Someone hasn't been to LA's vast suburbs and communities.
                I think it's fairly guaranteed that you can find the best Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Guatemalan, Thai, Indonesian, Filipino, Persian, Peruvian, etc. in LA, amidst a plethora of others. Flushing does not as good authentic (as well as innovative; lets not talk Taiwan central SGV) Chinese have, or at least not the varying regional cuisines. But then again New York does have many great Eastern/Southern European cuisines, amongst others, represented, and might I say do a better job than LA does(overall, but LA is not lacking in any of these either).

            3. I'll reply to my own question. I'll have to put in Chicago as a contender. Deep dish pizza? You gotta be kiddin' me :)

              65 Replies
              1. re: dpan

                Them's fightin' words! Given that Chicago is a town that can combine the sophistication of Charlie Trotter, the daring of Grant Achatz, the intricacy of Rick Bayless or the ingenuity of Homaro Cantu with a native population of beef-eating, beer-swilling, pizza lovers who appreciate regional Mexican, royal Thai, Moroccan, Swedish, Filipino, German, Spanish, Polish, etc., I'd say that Chicago is one of the more underrated cities in the country.

                1. re: JungMann

                  A close family member lives in New York City. He always looks forward to his trips to Toronto where, he says, he can eat in some really good restaurants.

                  1. re: JungMann

                    Them's fightin' words! Given that Chicago is a town that can combine the sophistication of Charlie Trotter, the daring of Grant Achatz, the intricacy of Rick Bayless or the ingenuity of Homaro Cantu with a native population of beef-eating, beer-swilling, pizza lovers who appreciate regional Mexican, royal Thai, Moroccan, Swedish, Filipino, German, Spanish, Polish, etc., I'd say that Chicago is one of the more underrated cities in the country.

                    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                    Shows how much you know. I've been to all of them. For the money? Overrated.
                    Not one of them could I live without.

                    1. re: doogs

                      You realize "not one of them could I live without" means you couldn't live without Chicago's restaurants.

                      Everyone's entitled to their opinion. Yours is just contrary to about every important food critic in the country.

                    2. re: JungMann

                      I agree that Chicago is one of the underrated cities in the US. However, as a native Chicagoan, please remember, we're not all 'beer swilling, beef eating pizza lovers (though I do love pizza)', as two out of three of those labels don't apply to me or to most of my fellow Chicagoan friends.

                      1. re: JungMann

                        Agree 100%. Chicago is under rated not over rated. Personally I find the whole pizza culture of Chigao a wonderfull experience and I'm certain it's appreciated by many.

                      2. re: dpan

                        most chicagoans I know dislike deep dish pizza(the deep dish pizza is a tourists dish, most lifelong Chicagoans eat thin crust), and are embarassed that it is what people think Chicago is all about.

                        Many ethinic neighborhoods with great thai, mexican, filipino, & chinese food. Plus some top notch steakhouses, and the obligatory Italian beef, and chicago style hot dog.

                        I count myself as lucky to live so close to Chicago. Truly the best food city in the country behind New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans in my humble opinion.

                        The most overrated, I cant think of one, but I know the worst food city I have been to was Minneapolis... I couldnt get out of there quick enough.

                        1. re: swsidejim

                          wow, where did you eat in minneapolis to make you say that, Jim?

                          1. re: swsidejim

                            Huh. I ate at Charlie Trotter's last summer. It was wildly expensive and WAY overrated, though the kitchen tour was fun. I had a much better meal a couple of months later at La Belle Vie in Minneapolis, for a third the price.

                            I've had some great meals in Chicago. Not there, though. THe other place I thought was way overrated and overpriced was Everest. Not that the food at both places wasn't good; it just wasn't great and it was very, very expensive. (Happily, neither was on my dime. But I still expect, at those prices, (Charlie Trotter's was something like 300 a person) to go: wow, that's some of the best food I"ve had in a long time. ANd I didn't. Plus I'd heard so much about them I had pretty high expectations.

                            LoriQ

                            1. re: LoriQ

                              I dont eat at places like Charlie Trotters, Everest, or Alinea, I am not into small plates, I prefer local ethnic places.

                              I wouldnt even think minneapolis would rate in the top 20 food cities in the country, below Milwaukee, and St. Louis in my humble opinion. Our Minneapolis trip was probably one of the most forgettable weekends of food I have ever had. Nothing stood out, and Minneapolis seemed like a chain franchise hell. Perhaps things have changed since 2001.

                              1. re: swsidejim

                                I know I'm going to regret posting in this thread because I know it will stay on my MyChow page forever as this is the kind of thread that will hit 200 posts...

                                But, Anthony Bourdain described the Twin Cities as the crossroads of good and evil. He said that we are fighting it out on the front lines, right here, right now. I wasn't in the Twin Cities in 2001--I was living in one of those "rated" food cities--but I'm here now and I have to say, there's a lot going on in the local food scene, more than meets the eye. I have been pleasantly surprised.

                                Yes, there is serious chains action here: Good Earth, Buca, are all spawns of Minneapolis, for instance. (while not those restaurants specifically, I'm afaid we can blame a lot of our non-chowy influence on national food trends that on hometown giant General Mills.)

                                But, we also have some interesting ethnic influences. The Twin Cities have the largest urban Hmong population in North America. We have a huge number of Somali immigrants, again, among the largest immigrant Somali population in North America (these statistics are constantly changing, but, at various points these stats bounce up to "number 1 in the world", depending on how it's measured.) We have a lot of Latin American immigrants here, too, who are making their mark. These things take time--give it a chance to flourish. It has most certainly taken root.

                                Also, there is a lot going on with artisenal foods --beers and cheeses and chocolates and so on --and the whole "local" food scene with wonderfully intensely seasonal produce. The St. Paul Farmers market requires everything sold at the market to be produced within 75 files and, I have to say, when you go out 75 miles from St. Paul, MN, you encounter some of the finest soil in the world. And we have plenty of water here. :) When Kessler of the AJC was here earlier this year he said of our "eating local" scene “Golly, these folks mean it.”

                                As someone said later in the thread, "In order to be overrated, you have to first be rated," and I would say to be fair, I don't think the Twin Cities are getting a lot national press pushing it as a hot, "rated" food scene, but, I do believe it is coming into its own. In fact, the OP asked for cities where the scene is "uninspiring and resting on its past glories"--I would say the Twin Cities is exactly the opposite. What past glories? This scene is an up and comer if there ever was one.

                                Next time you're in town, drop us a post on the Midwest board and we'll direct you to some of the mom and pop eateries with the great chow. Heck, some of them are even within walking distance of the Minneapolis Convention Center: http://www.eatstreetminneapolis.com/

                                ~TDQ

                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  I can vouch for the quality of the Minneapolis and St. Paul farmer's markets. They put every other farmer's market I have ever been to (and I've been to a lot) to shame.

                                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                    i hear great things about minneapolis and st paul but i can challenge you on the farmers market. santa cruz and san francisco ferry plaza farmers markets are two of the best i've been to.

                                    1. re: trolley

                                      I love the SF FPFM, too. I can't remember being bowled over by the one in Santa Cruz, but I believe you.

                                      Given the very short growing season in Minnesota (we get about 120 frost free growing days a year here, depending on where you are in the state) compared to that of Northern California, it does make sense that the year-roundness builds a stronger farmer's market culture there. Also, in MN, you can only grow things you can plant, grow and harvest within three to six months, depending on how frost-resistant the crops are, etc. There is truly an external limit on the variety of things that can be grown locally...

                                      That having been said, Minnesotans go nuts, and mean NUTS, for the first tender salad greens of the season, the first asparagus, the first tomatoes, the first strawberries and so on. I think there's more of an appreciation here of how fleeting the season is compared to places where the season is more extended.

                                      That having been said, this thread isn't about the best food cities, but which cities are overrated based on the hype about them or their past reputations. While the farmers markets in the Twin Cities may not be as good as some in Northern California, certainly they are good enough to evidence the high-quality of fresh produce available here and evidence of some real chow-worthiness.

                                      ~TDQ

                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        altough the santa cruz market may lack the "fanciness" and the fun items like fresh fog island oysters or aidell's grilled sausages ferry but the quality, freshness and cost of the vegetables and fruits surpasses all farmers markets i've been to. in fact, my family who spent time in italy says santa cruz was the only place that had produce as fresh and delicious as florence.

                                        but i suppose our side bar is off the topic and i still find SF to be overrated. i still think NY is the best for diversity, availability and deliciousness of food. just don't tell any Los Angeles chowhounders i said this! shhhhh!

                                        1. re: trolley

                                          Trolley. I think you've lost track of this sub-discussion, which is about the Twin Cities...I'm not talking about (or engaging in a discussion of) San Francisco (or NY or LA or Santa Cruz or Florence), I'm defending the Twin Cities against a charge of being overrated (or being the worst food city), primarily I think because its food scene is not even "rated" to begin with. I think it's an "up and comer" with a lot of redeeming qualities, rather than a city leaning on its past glories or reputation for good chow...

                                          You brought the SF and SC "best you'd ever been to" farmers markets up as a counterpoint to the previous poster who was commenting on the high quality of the markets in the Twin Cities.

                                          However, since you brought "freshness" up, I have to say that I would be surprised if there were farmers markets with produce fresher than what's at the St. Paul Farmers Market since it all has to be grown within 75 miles, or it's not permitted. Most farmers pick their produce the day before it's brought to market and they arrive to the market very early on Farmer's Market Day. I get there at 7am (the market opens at 6am). I just don't see how it gets fresher than that unless some farmer is picking produce in the dark in the wee hours before he leaves his farm to come to market or you're eating from your own garden. I would certainly agree that there are markets with more variety or that are bigger, but that brings me back to my point above about the limitations of living in a harsh climate to the North with short growing seasons etc. It's just a fact of life here. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/47153...

                                          ~TDQ

                            2. re: swsidejim

                              Hey, I was born and raised in Chi-town, and there is nothing more beautiful to me than a pizza stuffed with oozing cheese and spinach, with that big, golden brown crust. Mmm! Now that is not the same as Pizzeria Uno deep dish. That is tourist pizza!

                              1. re: FoodieKat

                                At the risk of being kicked off the board (much shame is felt. Asian who usually can't blush is turning beet red)...

                                I must admit I kinda like Pizzaria Uno deep dish... For a tourist trap, it's pretty good... I concede that it is more of a casserole... but in my defense I live in a city where good american style pizza is a rare commodity... lots of thin crust italian style woodburning oven pizzas, but no big sloppy all-dresseds which i love too....

                                (averts eyes. Awaits admonishing slap. Understands they may take away her chowhound account.)

                                1. re: moh

                                  moh, it's ok. my father's family is from naples, supposedly the origin of pizza. first let's admit that "thin crust italian-style" is not necessarily good. secondly, there is sometihng to be said for an entirely different take that doesn't try to supplant the original. i have enjoyed the pizzeria uno sausage,onion, and tomato pizza. there's not much thick crust in NY. there's also a very good chain in detroit- pappadopolis(?).
                                  anyone looking for good thin crust in Ny, go to Una Pizza Napoletana.i

                                  1. re: fara

                                    At the risk of being controversial, but I have had more 'authentic' style Italian thin crust pizza in the UK. I liked the pizza I had in Little Italy in NY but it defintely wasn't authentic either (though it probably was just my choice of pizzeria). Tony's Little Italy in Placentia, CA comes close in terms of crust to the pizza I had in Italy. The owner's from Sicily so that could have something to do with.

                                    1. re: fara

                                      Place in Detroit =http://www.pizzapapalis.com/
                                      Not bad but Detroit has alot better pizzas.

                                    2. re: moh

                                      Yes, it can be good - when they don't burn the crust!

                                  2. re: swsidejim

                                    lol, Chicago, and New Orleans above LA?
                                    Even NY and SF, offer only certain notches above what you can find in LA and then they lack in other areas.

                                  3. re: dpan

                                    Chicago pizza sucks, but the Mexican and New American food is among the best in the country.

                                    1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                      I think the big mistake regarding NYC is that many people are only talking about Manhattan, and probably Manhattan south of 110th St. I don't live around there anymore, but you can find anything you can think of - and at least a couple of good examples of whatever cuisine floats your boat. So let's not forget Harlem, Queens, Brooklyn and even a good part of the Bronx when talking "NYC".

                                      That said, I probably look forward to going to Chicago for Mexican and Eastern European more than anywhere, SF (or Vancouver) for Asian, and NY/DC for most everything else.

                                      I think Las Vegas is the most overrated - yes, there are many places in the casinos, but virtually nothing outside of the casinos. Followed closely by LA - Cali-Mex/sushi... and not much else.

                                      1. re: Panini Guy

                                        The trendy Hollywood, West LA food scene is probably way overrated. But for authentic Chinese, nowhere in North America (and I would include Toronto and Vancouver) is there such a concentration and variety of genuine Chinese cuisine (Cantonese, Shangainese, Taiwanese, Islamic, etc) within the confines of the LA metro area, concentrated in the areas of the San Gabriel Valley, Rowland Heights, and Orange County (Irvine).

                                        1. re: dpan

                                          Making a comparison of Chinese food without mentioning the SF Bay Area? That just doesn't seem right...

                                          1. re: aynrandgirl

                                            I'll admit I haven't been to the SF burbs to try the food. I was just in SF without a car and Chinatown was horrible. But that's not a good gauge of the food as LA's Chinatown is equally bad on most accounts. The LA burbs, to me, is the Chinese food mecca in the Western Hemisphere simply because of the wide variety and numbers of restaurants available.

                                            1. re: dpan

                                              LA's Chinatown, isn't really a Chinatown anymore, that's why most people know to go to SGV to get the good stuff. And as far as comparing to SF, there is more diversity in LA area, of the various types of Chinese foods. Outside of SF, the south bay, does have a good selection of other styles of Chinese cooking though.

                                            2. re: aynrandgirl

                                              The Chinese food in the SF Bary area is almost entirely Cantonese. The Chinese food in Southern California encompasses far more varieties of Chinese cooking styles.

                                              1. re: raytamsgv

                                                The original Chinese immigrants to San Francisco as well as all US cities were initially from Canton, in the last few decades this immigration and the restaurants representing them here are from Hunan, Szechuan, Hakka, Bejing, Shanghai, Taiwan, as well as Chinese/Vietnamese, Chinese/Singaporean, Chinese/Korean and indeed if you go to Chinatown you will hear these varieties of Chinese spoken. Time marches on and immigration is fluid...

                                                1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                                  This has been going on in LA for about 100 years or so, but really picked up in the last 30 years or so, literally food groups of almost every country in Asia(Hong Kong, Korea, Japan central) and island in the Pacific(Taiwan central), to the point that many now share their cuisines. I've been to the SF burbs, eaten once cantonese in the burbs, and eaten cantonese in Chinatown proper and pretty much leaves the same impression as eating at LAs Chinatown--americanized chinese. Even with the burbs included in the Bay area, I would still say LA is just a notch above SF. There was a previous thread on an LA post earlier discussing this.

                                              2. re: aynrandgirl

                                                I live in SF and the chinese food available in the LA region is superior to that of the SF region--that said, it's a really high bar.

                                              3. re: dpan

                                                I can certainly vouch for OC, since I live here. The variety of Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese cuisine is outstanding.

                                                Try visiting Santa Ana some time though. I think the variety and quality of Mexican food rivals Chicago (and I do love those restaurants in the Little Village).

                                                1. re: dpan

                                                  I agree that the West LA food scene is overrated, much like SF it aspires to faux European cuisine(although I do have to say might be more authentic than SF, whereas SF is innovative with their European-French foodstuffs, West LA is innovative dish wise).
                                                  Underrated the Chinese over on the eastside San Gabriel Valley(SGV) to be specific, as well as the fusion restaurants.

                                                2. re: Panini Guy

                                                  I respectfully disagree re: Las Vegas. Aside from Lotus of Siam that has gotten a fair amount of coverage in the media and on these boards, there are plenty of anonymous, plain-looking establishments that serve absolutely delicious food (I can recall a pizza joint in a nameless strip mall that served an unbelievable calzone, a tiny Mexican place with fresh, well-seasoned quesadillas, etc. etc.).

                                                  1. re: jeni1002

                                                    Really? Would you please name some of these places, because we're lived in Vegas for six years, and we haven't found them, although we saw the calzone place (Four Kegs) on Guy Fieri's show. Yes, the Michouacans have good Mexican, and Metro has decent pizza, but Vegas is pretty much a desert for non-fancy food in our experience. How about good everyday Chinese, for example, or coffee shops, or Thai (apart from Lotus)? We just haven't found good neighborhood spots. No shortage of chains, though.

                                                    1. re: Steve Green

                                                      Hey Steve,

                                                      You should try a Chinese place called Sam Woo Chinese BBQ . . . I'm from Toronto where we get great Chinese BBQ and these guys have been open here for ever (decades I believe) . . . There food is great and they are quite cheap . . . It might not be a place to go for chicken balls but if you want some relatively authentic Chinese it is worth checking out...here is the address for you . . .

                                                      The duck and pork are awesome!!!

                                                      BUSINESS NAME Sam Woo BBQ Restaurant at Chinatown Plaza
                                                      ADDRESS 4215 Spring Mountain Rd
                                                      Las Vegas, NV 89102-8742
                                                      PHONE 1 (702) 368-7628

                                                      Let me know what you think...

                                                      SB

                                                  2. re: Panini Guy

                                                    >>>but you can find anything you can think of - and at least a couple of good examples of whatever cuisine floats your boat.

                                                    That was my impression, Panini Guy, and I was referring only to Manhattan. Judging from above, it seems that I am wrong?

                                                    I am always overwhelmed at the plethora of eating places I see, some dives, yes, but IIRC, I've seen Irish pubs across the street from Vietnamese which are next to Italian.

                                                    I can't vouch on the quality of the food in these places but the variety, to me at least, seems 'inspiring'.

                                                3. re: dpan

                                                  Chicago? No way! Alinea is still one of the most exciting experiences of my life. And the beer scene is fantastic.

                                                  1. re: dpan

                                                    Chicago has great steaks enuf said!

                                                      1. re: dpan

                                                        Deep dish pizza is God's gift to pizza. That paper-thin NY-style pizza is a pox on the house of pizza!

                                                        1. re: aynrandgirl

                                                          Deep dish pizza sucks. Too much of everything, too heavy, and sauce on top? Bluk!!

                                                          1. re: doogs

                                                            "Deep dish pizza" is not pizza. It's a red sauce casserole. Comparing it to pizza makes no sense.

                                                            1. re: Striver

                                                              great description of deep dish pizza. Just for the record most Chicagoans(myself included) I know prefer thin crust pizza, and leave the deep dish variety to the tourists who for some reason think that is what Chicago pizza is all about.

                                                              1. re: swsidejim

                                                                Chicago deep dish was the topic of a documentary or spot on either the History Channel or TVFood Network. And one of its proponents stated something to the effect of New York (and Italy I guess too) had gotten it wrong and Chicago had gotten it right and they're just jealous. Now I'm smart enough to know that that was said a little for fun and games but I still found it obnoxious. It's like we Americans simply can't appreciate "quieter" foods and instead need to clubbed over the head. You don't need two inches of cheese and crust if you have great cheese and crust.

                                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                                  I saw that show of which you speak, and thought the comment was kind of ignorant as well. I beleive it was one of the Malnati boys who own one of the chain deep dish pizza spots that the tourists flock to. Give me a New Haven style, thin crust, coal fired pizza anyday.

                                                                  1. re: swsidejim

                                                                    Whow Jim, can you see the smile of jfood's face. normally jfood reads of your love affair for chicago stuff and rightly so. And now you've added the beauty of a New Haven Pizza to that bucket and that is high praise. Never would have guessed you would have loved the NH variety in addition to your Chi-town favorites.

                                                                    Just was informed jfood is in Chicago on Monday night. Gotta figure where to eat. Was hoping a Bayless adventure but alas he's closed until Tuesday night.

                                                                    What do you think is the best pizza near Hancock? And of course we are talking thin crust.

                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                      My favorite pizza in Chicago is @ a newer(open about a year now) place called Coalfire, it is New Haven style pizza cooked in a coal burning oven. But it is closed on Mondays, perhaps on a future trip into the city. I do not have any other I would recommend

                                                                      Coalfire
                                                                      1321 Grand Avenue
                                                                      Chicago, IL.

                                                                      about 2.4 miles from the Hancock building

                                                                      1. re: swsidejim

                                                                        Thanks Jim, will place on the list. make sure you keep the path clear to the smoker with all that snow.

                                                                2. re: swsidejim

                                                                  Most Chicagoans I know happen to prefer stuffed pizza (not deep dish Uno-style pizza).

                                                                  1. re: FoodieKat

                                                                    what is stuffed pizza, calzone?

                                                                    1. re: fara

                                                                      No, it's a layered, pizza, kind of like a pie, but much denser, more layers of cheese and meat or spinach. And more sauce.

                                                                    2. re: FoodieKat

                                                                      must be north siders,

                                                                      I have lived in Chicago, or the suburbs for 37+ years, and pizza to me and the people I know is thin crust, with sausage, and mushroom.

                                                                      1. re: swsidejim

                                                                        Ha- maybe. I grew up in the Western suburbs (Oak Park and city limits) so could have something to do with it. We're further inland so we must feel the cold more in the winter - need something heartier!
                                                                        ;-)

                                                                        Although, I am quite partial to a nice, square-cut, not too greasy thin crust, three cheese or spinach and ricotta pizza (like Benny's - mmm!)

                                                            2. re: dpan

                                                              jfood is a big fan of both stuffed pizza (not deep dish) and thin. It's the toppings that jfood's brethren from the left coast that drives him crazy. Pineapple pizza, Thai pizza, that's jfood's issue.

                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                Amen to that. Why mess with perfection? I live on the west coast now too. CPK? Whatever! ;-)

                                                              2. re: dpan

                                                                If you think the Chicago food scene is alla bout deep dish pizza, you haven't been there. Sure it has great deep dish pizza. But that was invented here in the late '40s. Ancient history. It's like some foreigner saying "Chicago ... Al Capone ... bang-bang!" because that's all he's heard about the city.

                                                                Chicago is the home of innovative, extraordinary cuisine and Chicagoans are highly discriminating diners with superb choices. Is it the best food city in the country? Probably not, but it's up there with the best and the most interesting.

                                                                1. re: chicgail

                                                                  Yeah, actually Chicago tends to be underrated. In some respects I would say it's a far better food city than the much hyped San Francisco.

                                                                  1. re: choctastic

                                                                    Who is hyping San Francisco these days??? The only hype I ever hear is for big cities like NY or Chicago. San Fran would be underrated in my opinion.

                                                                    1. re: doogs

                                                                      I happen to agree that SF is a great food city - some of the best restaurants I've ever dined at are in SF. But I didn't like the pizza there. ;)

                                                                  2. re: chicgail

                                                                    Come on now. I grew up in Chicago in the 70s and 80s and go back every summer for a couple weeks. There are great places to eat there, but a WHOLE lot of overrated (and expensive)
                                                                    Lots of variety compared with other cities, I'll give you that. But more choices does not equate more flavorful meals. I have found more truely flavorful meals in small cities that, I find, try a bit harder.

                                                                    1. re: chicgail

                                                                      Agreed. There are lots of world class restaurants in Chicago. But the one thing I miss more than anything from my hometown though is the pizza (sigh :-().

                                                                  3. I would have to say New Orleans. Granted they do their type of food well, but there's not much variety. I think in order for a city to be known for their food, there must be some variety too. You might as well call Detroit a food wonder because they have perfected Lebanese cuisine like the New Orleans have with their Creole food.

                                                                    19 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Jacey

                                                                      Jfood must come to the aid of NOLA, and it truly does not need any aid when it comes to food.

                                                                      Four restos with four different perfect meals:

                                                                      Brigtsens
                                                                      Camillia Grill
                                                                      Cafe du Monde
                                                                      Central Grocer

                                                                      No overlap and four of jfood greatest meals of all time. Stop back after Jazz-fest when many more will be added.

                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                        Hurray! That just confirmed I made the right wish for Christmas. A trip to New Orleans to eat my way around town.

                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                          jfood,
                                                                          you sure about cafe du monde?
                                                                          ...just checkin'

                                                                          1. re: steve h.

                                                                            great coffee, great beignets, great music, powder all over jfood's shirt.

                                                                            yup, sounds like a perfect 10.

                                                                            Sometimes even a donut and a glass of milk is a perfect meal.

                                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                                              ahhh,
                                                                              and that's what makes a market.
                                                                              new orleans has a lot to offer. deb and i hope to be back in january. dinner at brigtsen's may be in order (we'll take the street car). heck, i might even strap on a tie and see some old (restaurant) friends. you never know.

                                                                              1. re: steve h.

                                                                                little jfood told us the st charles street car goes all the way to carrolton. not sure if it was a test run or it is fixed all the way.

                                                                                jfood is thinking of his birthday dinner at brigtsens in late Jan as well.

                                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                                  jfood -

                                                                                  little jfood is right...i read in the times-picayune that the streetcar is indeed now going to the end of st. charles.

                                                                          2. re: jfood

                                                                            I agree that there isn't a huge variety of cuisines in NOLA, but otherwise I have to agree with jfood. There's more variety there than you will find in the tourist district, however. When we lived there (pre-K), there was a very significant Vietnamese population which brought its fine food to the area, there was an El Salvadoran place for pupusas and an Eritrean place that we were quite fond of.

                                                                            NOLA has its own distinct cuisine that is representative of the culture of the state - how many US cities have that to boast?

                                                                            And what other city allows you to shoot pool while you do laundry, and eat roasted garlic smeared on crusty bread under the same roof?

                                                                            1. re: BeaN

                                                                              New Orleans has not had a large immigrant group that settled together in a certain area in a very long time. There wasn't much immigration or growth at all for many years because of the poor economy and lack of jobs.
                                                                              Prior to the Vietnamese, the last ones were the Cubans in the 60s. NOLA had the largest population of Cuban refugees after Miami but they either spoke English or learned it quickly and assimilated rapidly. NOLA's culture is fairly Latin anyway so Hispanic immigrants blend in more easily than in many other cities.
                                                                              It's hard to stick out in a city that has always been as multicultural as New Orleans.

                                                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                Youy are right about Cubans in 60's. But even before then, there was solid Cuban foundation in NOLA. Being at the mouth of the great river, NOLA was the major (more so than even today I would say sine other ports have come on board) gateway to the carribean and beyond. The spanish influence has always been part of NOLA even though the french gets more play for some reason.

                                                                                1. re: eatnbmerry

                                                                                  Napoleon bought the Louisiana Territory in the late 1700s from the Spanish because he wanted the Port of New Orleans and its trade with the Caribbean, especially Hispaniola, Josephine's home. New Orleans has very old ties to Latin America and to Spain, including the architecture of the French Quarter which is Spanish. All because of ties through the Port, the coffee and fruit trades. Not to mention sugar and rum. The common word "lagniappe" in Louisiana is from the Andean Quechua "la yapa," both words meaning "a little bit extra." Much more Spanish than commonly acknowledged if you pick it apart. People tend to group everything together as "French" when it's anything but.

                                                                                  The ethnic differences in South Louisiana don't stand out. The pattern has been that they've integrated into the general culture, unlike in other cities where ethnic groups tended to cluster together rather than assimilate.
                                                                                  Even now, there are beginnings of that with the Vietnamese who are opening some of the best new bakeries in New Orleans, producing terrific French bread, which has been produced by Germans. Bahn mi is Vietnamese for Po'Boy sandwich, you know, and they make wonderful ones. Many Vietnamese are entering the produce and seafood trades, supplying everyone, rather than opening strictly Vietnamese-oriented businesses.
                                                                                  They'll make changes and everyone will accept those as part of the "local" culture, not as Vietnamese, any more than we considered our French bread to be German.

                                                                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                    Touche,

                                                                                    BTW, lets not forget the French influence on Vietnamese and their cuisine.

                                                                          3. re: Jacey

                                                                            jacey,
                                                                            plenty of variety in new orleans: french, spanish, creole, southeast asian, italian, etc., etc. spend some time and get happy. it's all good.

                                                                            1. re: steve h.

                                                                              Oh, I have spent quite a bit of time there. My ex-boyfriend spent four years of medical school there, and lucky for me, he was also from there. When I used to go down there and visit, the local boy would take me around to different places and I just wasn't impressed. He even said the food his overrated in his beloved city.

                                                                              1. re: Jacey

                                                                                New Orleans isn't about "variety," although it has an amazing amount that you may have missed, or spending "quite a bit of time there." It's an attitude. That's why jfood can consider a "donut and a glass of milk to be a perfect meal" just sitting at Café du Monde watching the world go by, and your BF thinks the food is overrated.

                                                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                  But the question still stands, is it overrated? IMO, most of the time, watching the world go by is definitely overrated LOL!

                                                                                  1. re: eatnbmerry

                                                                                    Depends on what world you're watching go by. There's probably no other city in America where the food is how people live their lives - the social fabric that tourists don't see.
                                                                                    It's a CH heaven that may be easy to miss because the best is still in private homes and neighborhood restaurants. Get somebody to take you for a meal at their Mama 'n' them's. You'll really LOL and eat better than you'll ever believe.

                                                                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                      Having sppent some time there I would agree with you about the social fabric, etc. To some extent SF is that way as well.

                                                                            2. re: Jacey

                                                                              Boooo. Hissss.

                                                                              The question is not "What is the least diverse food city?"

                                                                              New Orleans has never claimed to be diverse. NOLA is a Creole town with some Cajun. Dabs of Italian, French and Spanish. Nowhere else in the Western Hemisphere will you get that mix!!!

                                                                            3. Atlanta... Hands down
                                                                              Everyone thinks it's a great city, but it's just a big city with a small town mentality.and uninteresting, overrated food choices.

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Tay

                                                                                To be overrated you first have to be rated LOL!

                                                                                  1. re: Tay

                                                                                    Tay, I've lived in the Southeast all my life, and I don't know anyone who considers Atlanta a "great city"!

                                                                                  2. Las Vegas. Everyone talks about the food, but really you have a choice between vast amounts of cheap, mediocre food at the buffets, or over-priced, not-so-mediocre food at the "signature" restaurants. We dropped over $400 for a party of five - no drinks - at Luxor, and came away feeling we've had better meals for less than $100 at Chinese places in Toronto.

                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: KevinB

                                                                                      "Everyone talks about the food".

                                                                                      Well, certainly the media hype talks about the LV food.

                                                                                      And then the gullible public repeats an orderly chorus because, saying goes, the emperor clothes must be very fine. Hey, if you spend $500 for a dinner for two it got to be good, right?

                                                                                      But you are absolutely correct, LV is a gastronomic desert, both before and after the fake gourmet explosion happened about 5 years ago.

                                                                                      And no, I won't go into too boring and abundant details.

                                                                                      1. re: RicRios

                                                                                        I have to agree about Las Vegas. Admittedly, I was stuck on the Strip with no car. But by far, the choice seemed to be cheap but still overpriced for the quality buffets, or high-end celebrity chef restaurants and other $250 dinner places. A decent $40-$50 per person dinner was not to be found. Honestly, my most memorable meal in 4 days was at Fatburger.

                                                                                        Plus, I think I would have killed for a place to just have a quiet drink without either blaring (and really bad) music or the electronic video game noises of the slots.

                                                                                        1. re: Fydeaux

                                                                                          Vegas is grossly overpriced. I can see paying Midtown Manhattan prices in Midtown Manhattan because it is some of the most expensive rents in the country because of its urban density.

                                                                                          But Vegas? Come on, it is in the middle of the desert.

                                                                                          1. re: BlueHerons

                                                                                            Have to agree. Vegas is either large quantities of cheap, crummy buffet food, or over-priced crummy "gourmet" food. I'd have picked NYC, but Ray's Famous has fantastic meatball heroes that are cheap, tasty, and a great value (the pizza is not bad either).

                                                                                          2. re: Fydeaux

                                                                                            Fydeaux, we asked our hotel concierge for a recommendation of an off-the-strip resto, and had a lovely Italian meal at a resto that I sadly can't remember the name of, since it's been several years ago. NO slots to be found! Our waiter was probably in his early 50's, said he had been a waiter in Vegas for over 25 years, and insisted that Vegas was much better when the mob ran everything. :-)

                                                                                            1. re: Suzy Q

                                                                                              I can certainly believe that!

                                                                                              Given the tendancy of Las Vegas to tear down and replace everything more that 10 years old, I'd be very surprised if your restaurant was still there. But who knows?

                                                                                              I stayed at New York New York when I was there. The concierge couldnt believe that I would want anything other than the Disney version of glitz and glamour and nightlife that Las Vegas currently offers--she had the nerve to suggest that I might enjoy Coyote Ugly as a good place to have a drink! I think your concierge has probably since been torn down and replaced also.

                                                                                              Considering my disappointment with Las Vegas as a whole, returning voluntarily is very unlikely.

                                                                                      2. Washington, D.C.

                                                                                        I spent four months living in the city and suffered sushi disappointment, after Ethiopian disapointment, after Spanish disappointment. Had a few meals that were memorable (giant bowls of pho in Woodley Park and falafel in Adam's Morgan), but never found out why the city has gained such a rep for food.

                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Captain Beefhart

                                                                                          Did you stayed inside the DC city limits the entire time? Most of the really good ethnic food are in the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia. Pho in Woodley Park? Try any of the pho joints in Falls Church instead.

                                                                                          1. re: Captain Beefhart

                                                                                            Captain B - what city would you give the nod to vis a vis Ethiopian? I've eaten at Meskerem, Red Sea (closed a couple years ago) and a third place a few blocks east of the Convention Center which was recommended by our Ethiopian cabbie. That's been the best I've had (over NYC, certainly over our one Pittsburgh entry). Not familiar with Ethiopian/Eritrean in other cities but would love to explore.

                                                                                            1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                                              in DC the best Ethiopian is around U and 14 NW these days (Dukem is my tip but there are others) for Vietnamese the best are out in the 'burbs (Eden Center area?), but Miss Saigon in GTown is pretty darn good. Spanish - what Jaleo? hit or miss, always weird service but when the food hits it rocks, sadly sometimes it's just limp. go to their sister Zaytinya instead.

                                                                                          2. Hands down, San Francisco. Practically nothing in the way of sushi, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Mexican, hell, anything else not faux European. I do like the Ferry Building Market and Cheeseboard across the water. LA has better food all round and the people down there are much nicer.

                                                                                            23 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: choctastic

                                                                                              i cant agree about the people.. but my experience is limited... but great cambodian food in SF.. and i think gary danko is one of the 5 best restaurants ive ever been to

                                                                                              1. re: choctastic

                                                                                                LA is also like 10 times larger and more populated than SF. Few, if any, offer the concentration of top shelf eats that SFO can produce within what in some cities is considered "walking distance". And if you throw in the East Bay,etc watch out. Also, I thought the Mission had its fair share of decent mexican, but then again, some of my favorite carnitas come from roach coaches.

                                                                                                But all that being said, I think you can name other cities much more deserving of overrated than SF proper..

                                                                                                1. re: eatnbmerry

                                                                                                  as to ratio of hype to quality, I think sf ranks right up there in the overrated category. Depends on what you're talking about but then that's true of L.A. too, or anyplace else for that matter.

                                                                                                2. re: choctastic

                                                                                                  perfectly said. SF is a food mecca for faux european but that's about it. great faux european though...baguettes, great cheese (cheeseboard!), great artisnal everything, slow food, braised everything etc. but outside of that realm SF is lacking. what makes a town great for food is the availability of most cultural cuisines. decent sushi was a dream in SF and the taco trucks down here can kill the mission burrito. i lived in SF for 5 yrs and now live in LA and agree that people down in LA are much nicer and they array of food here is much more vast. yes, you have to drive a bit more and the faux european food is not as accessible but it's here. you just have to look and drive.

                                                                                                  1. re: trolley

                                                                                                    "[W]hat makes a town great for food is the availability of most cultural cuisines."

                                                                                                    I totally disagree. Go anywhere in Italy and try and find a wide variety of cuisines.

                                                                                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                      OK, let's try this :

                                                                                                      "What makes a town great for food is the availability of at least one cultural cuisine."

                                                                                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                        well, if you open this up to the rest of the world then you are completely right. i was thinking in US cities. my father used to live in an area of outside of tokyo that i've been to that have amazing oden carts near the train station and a small tonkatsu restaurant that seats six that makes tonkatsu from kurobuta. this particular area didn't have faux european cusine, mexican food, artisan cheese shops, or any american/european food (except this japanese spaghetti shop that had the best mentaiko spaghetti!!) but i could call this area one of the greatest towns for food. they didn't offer much outside of japanese or japanese style euro food but it was and still probably has terrific food.

                                                                                                        however, in the US we expect more than one cultural cuisine in a major city and i feel fine about that expectation b/c it's reflection of the culture here. i can't imagine living in LA and eating only mexican food. it's just not what the US is about.

                                                                                                        1. re: trolley

                                                                                                          I agree with what you say broadly, however there are as I'm sure you are aware some exceptions. What would you say about New Orleans?

                                                                                                          1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                            i don't know. can't speak to NO b/c i've never been there. i hear it's great tho...

                                                                                                          2. re: trolley

                                                                                                            The cuisine in any American city is likely to be more than a One-Trick Pony but you shouldn't fault a city for not having a panoply of random styles.
                                                                                                            Miami has Cuban food for a reason. The East Coast doesn't have Mexican like California does for obvious reasons - different immigration patterns - and you're not as likely to find as much South American cuisine on the West Coast as in the NE or Caribbean as in the Gulf States or on the East Coast. There are many more Asians on the West Coast than on the East. Simple geography.
                                                                                                            Some cities have long ago absorbed their immigrant influences, such as the German cuisine in much of the Mid-West and Plains States, and there are no longer German "ethnic" restaurants as there once were. It's groups of recent immigrants that stand out and their prevalence in some cities is a function of settlement patterns, e.g. Iraqis in Dearborn, Ethiopians in Washington, Puerto Ricans in NY, Mexicans in CA, etc. No critical mass, no restaurants or markets to serve their community.

                                                                                                        2. re: trolley

                                                                                                          Thanks, trolley. You said it way better than I did. I'm always floored when people talk about San Francisco as a mecca for all things food, when it really is a one-trick faux-European pony. That's fine and all, but I just personally think San Fran is not nearly the big deal that the hype would lead one to believe. Sure there are cities with way worse food (I'm not a huge fan of Seattle), but they don't get the hype that Frisco does. Like I said, it's the ratio between hype and substance that I'm looking at when I said San Fran is the most overrated.

                                                                                                          1. re: choctastic

                                                                                                            Don't disagree; while I like visiting SF for the sites, etc., I've never been impressed by the food. I invite my American friends to visit Toronto; Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese, Greek, Japanese, French, Indian (west and east), Thai, steaks, Persian.. the only thing we don't have is good BBQ.

                                                                                                            1. re: KevinB

                                                                                                              I've heard dismal reports of the availability of good Mexican, not to mention Cuban and various South American cuisines. My friend moved there from Florida for grad school, and while he is in nirvana over the great sushi, Chinese, Thai, etc., he sure does miss the Latin foods he once took for granted. Perhaps he has overlooked a portion of the Toronto market?

                                                                                                              1. re: Agent Orange

                                                                                                                Well, yes and no. We just don't have a very large Latino/Mexican/South American population, and a good representation of a cuisine (and this seems to be a fact of which people in these discussions seem to be shockingly unaware) requires a 'critical mass' of people from that culture. How can you expect better, or simply equal quality, Mexican in Toronto as one might find in, for instance, San Jose, CA, just as I wouldn't expect to find a great Russian night club in San Antonio TX? It's a simply unrealistic expectation. That said, there are pockets, such as Kensington Market (Mexican, Guatemalan) or St Clair Ave. W. from Bathurst St west to Oakwood that has (despite being named Corso Italia) a few Central American joints. Get your friend to join CH, and poke around on the boards. We have plenty of well-informed (and opinionated, myself included) folk here in Toronto.

                                                                                                                1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                                                                                  Thank you for your reply, pang.

                                                                                                                  No, I would not expect a city with a very small Latin American immigrant population to be abundant in Mexican or Peruvian restaurants and bodegas. Frankly, my post was prompted in part by my (imaginative) perception of KevinB's smug assuredness in the quality and range of food in Toronto. I suppose I wanted to point out some of the unmentioned weak spots. That attitude is unfair both to KevinB and Toronto. I have traveled to the city once, briefly. I was impressed with the city itself, but at the time I did not have a fully developed appreciation for good food. I look forward to visiting again and enjoying the cuisines I can't get at home as well as taking a beating with the current exchange rate. I will definitely pass along the information on the Mexican and Central American spots that my friend at UT will surely be pleased to learn of.

                                                                                                          2. re: trolley

                                                                                                            If you put a map of LA over San Francisco...it would probably cover the South Bay, the East Bay, Napa and part of the Central Valley...yeah we can drive there too! and you can get your taco trucks aplenty as well as the great ethnic diversity evident over much of Northern California.
                                                                                                            .....and DON'T call it Frisco! Respect what the "Natives" call there living place...No wonder people didn't respond in a more friendly way! Shame! (and harumph!)

                                                                                                            1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                                                                                              Which is why I think LA and SF are similar, but I still have to say that for just about any food not involving European, you find better in LA (variety), even considering SF's burbs and outlying areas, (although you could also include Santa Barbara, and Temecula for wine, olive production, even if they are not quite to the same recognition or quality you can find in Napa/Sonoma), slowly we are catching up in those areas as well. It's just we have to import more european foodstuffs than SF restaurants have to, and that in no small terms, is largely due to the devotion of land to real estate and it is getting more difficult to find areas to be able to still viably grow produce and raise animals(even as large parts of LA were once citrus groves and dairy farms).

                                                                                                              1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                                                                                                Chow, you beat me to the punch. Hearing and reading the words "Frisco" and "San Fran" make my skin crawl.

                                                                                                                1. re: globocity

                                                                                                                  And if you're really from there, you call it the City - than which there is no other...

                                                                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                    funny. thats what we call NYC. and we've been doing it at least 100 years longer....

                                                                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                                                                      I know, I live in NYC now and have lived in the Bay Area. It amuses me that we Brooklynites call Manhattan the City.

                                                                                                                    2. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                      Yes, so true. Now that I am in San Diego, when I refer to the City (SF), I confuse the locals!

                                                                                                              2. re: choctastic

                                                                                                                SF can be snotty (I lived there so I can say that - the laughably rude waitress at Suppenkuche in fake Pippi Longstocking wig after a weekend in SD where everyone is even more friendly than LA comes to mind) but the trouble with LA is all the really good hole in the wall places - not reviewed or glam - just look like dumps and take a lot of energy to find. that perfect pupusa or gai grao pao are, in the end, quite worth it, but many can't be bothered.

                                                                                                              3. To be a great food city doesn't mean you have to have the best iteration of every ethnic cuisine on the planet -- no city in the world does. NYC is much more diverse in cuisines on offer than most cities I've been to around the globe. The only city that does food better (and this is a fairly recent development) is London. Sydney is getting there, but has a way to go.

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                  London is a hit or miss. Many of the most celebrated restaurants in central London are overpriced and highly overrated. If you were only looking at these places as a basis for comparison to other cities you could easily say that London is overrated. However, it is also one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the entire world (I lived there long enough to find this out) with the exception perhaps of NY and if you know where to look you can find truly excellent food (especially in the outer boroughs of the city).

                                                                                                                2. I agree "NY, NY" is overrated. within the island of manhattan. all the great inexpensive and interesting restaurants in brooklyn and queens, though, now provide what manhattan made its reputation on.
                                                                                                                  the thing about NY is that there are so many BAD restaurants. moving away from the city I wonder if it is a stats game? many of the restaurants that survive in NY -in places where no tourists ever go - would have no hope in most mid size cities. why? is it the eat-out life style coupled with most people's relative laziness in searching out a good place?

                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: fara

                                                                                                                    Interesting ideas. But because NYC is the biggest, by definition means that it should not only have more of the best, but alas, also the mediocre.

                                                                                                                    1. re: eatnbmerry

                                                                                                                      my point was not just many mediocre, but a large number of BAD restaurants. restaurants the average city would just not support. in fact probably the majority in NY are of this caliber.

                                                                                                                  2. What do fellow chowhounds from around the country think of Miami? Overrated or not?

                                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: eatnbmerry

                                                                                                                      We haven't been in Miami since 1998 but lived there for about 9 months. We were extremely disappointed in the food and we ate out daily the entire time. We ate all over the area from Homestead to the north of Miami, from the coast and South Beach to the West and asked everyone we worked with and our students about restaurants. Yes you can get good Cuban food there, there were a couple of decent Italian restaurants, one Indian that wasn't bad, one middle eastern that was good, but in general for the size and diversity of the city it was a wasteland for us. There was an excellent Mexican place in Homestead. But Asheville NC,Greenville SC, Hendersonville NC areas have far better food, greater diversity, better prices and are tiny by comparison.

                                                                                                                      Regarding NYC, in our five day stay we found one good restaurant - a Japanese noodle shop. Eating out 3 meals a day the rest were overpriced and very average.

                                                                                                                      In a three day stay in Toronto we NEVER got a mediocre meal. The food was overall outstanding anywhere we went. We used no travel guides - just went to places near the hotel. AMAZING!

                                                                                                                      SanFrancisco - 1997 - three days - every meal was excellent. We used a budget travel guide for locations to try.

                                                                                                                      Washington DC - use a budget travel guide here. There were really good restaurants - haven't been there in about 6 years though.

                                                                                                                      Myrtle Beach, Murrels Inlet, Garden City, SC north coast - it's been about 5 years but this is not an area for those who love good interesting restaurants. Go to the small, non touristy towns along the coast for the really good seafood at a reasonable price.

                                                                                                                      Charleston SC - there are some good and reasonable restaurants here. Check the budget guides and the internet. There was a neat little one past Folly Beach - I think on James Island.

                                                                                                                      1. re: warthawgs

                                                                                                                        Myrtle Beach, Murrels Inlet, Garden City, SC north coast???

                                                                                                                        Good Lord...has anyone ever considered any of these towns to be a "foodie" destination?

                                                                                                                        1. re: Suzy Q

                                                                                                                          now this is a culinary wasteland. I have been four times out of necessity, eaten almost all meals out. Not once did I have what I would call a good meal. Not even once.

                                                                                                                        2. re: warthawgs

                                                                                                                          Hi warthawqs,

                                                                                                                          Thanks for the Toronto plug. As a native, I can attest that the competition is so stiff that crummy restos just don't stick around (unless the media dubs them "cool", which gives them at least a six-month lifespan - memo: don't go anywhere "cool" except for drinks!).

                                                                                                                          But if you do come to Toronto, and want to try very good Chinese, drive the 8-10 miles north to Richmond Hill/Markham (just drive along west along Highway 7 or east on Steeles), and you will find hundreds (literally!) of Chinese spots that just blow away the food I've had in NYC, LA, or San Fran. When our Chinese friends and family come to visit us, they are always thrilled by the quality and execution.

                                                                                                                          1. re: KevinB

                                                                                                                            Really, pray tell where in LA you had Chinese. So far most people I know that have visited Toronto, say that for variety among Chinese and other Asian, LA has most cities down. Don't get me wrong I hear great things about Chinese in Toronto like I hear about in SF and Vancouver, but still above that, we all still come to the same conclusion, you'll be hard pressed to find more of anything Chinese/Asian(both ethnic authentic old school, to new fusion, to new styles, etc.) and I know Taiwanese and Hong Kong cuisine is widely available anywhere all at once than you can find in the LA metro area.

                                                                                                                      2. Wow, some of these responses really surprise me. Are Minneapolis and Atlanta known to be great food cities the way NYC, Chicago, L.A.,San Francisco and New Orleans are? I didn't know they were "rated" enough to be considered "overrated". There are plenty of cities where I have not been wowed by the food, but I don't know if they are really known for being great food destinations in the first place. I would say the five I mentioned and in the last few years Las Vegas have been given the most pub as good food destinations... Of those I would say L.A. is the most overrated. For big city food I prefer NYC or Chicago. I must admit maybe it is because L.A. is such a sprawl that you don't get the feel of "neighborhood" restaurants.

                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: jcoz23

                                                                                                                          Just to add... Just went to Las Vegas this past weekend. While it's not my favorite food city by a long shot, I don't think it's overrated either. I was only there for three meals and all three were great... Went to Enoteca San Marco (Mario Batali's casual place in the Venetian) for lunch, Firefly (tapas place off the strip) for dinner, and Bouchon in the Venetian for brunch the next day. All three meals were great. I think Vegas has improved a billion percent as far as it's food scene in the last ten years!

                                                                                                                          1. re: jcoz23

                                                                                                                            Enoteca San Marco at the Venetian was horrible. The pasta was salty and they didn't know how to cook steak. The bread they gave us was wrapped in paper and so hard that we didn't even bother trying to eat it.

                                                                                                                          2. re: jcoz23

                                                                                                                            Even in LA that is changing with centers like Santa Monica, Pasadena, etc. these faux small towns are giving way to top notch restaurants. The reason I would say is that LA can't afford to keep growing horizontally as it is finally being confined by land use. The vast majority of planned urban projects are proof of that. That being said though I would not count on all of LA being pedestrian friendly anytime soon, with the exception of these LA burbs of Santa Monica, Pasadena, Long Beach, Fullerton, Claremont, Manhattan Beach, etc among a few more two dozen towns being revitalized for urban living, in the suburbs yonder.

                                                                                                                          3. Just adding a different perspective - as chowhounds, we're not going after the typical or representative stuff. One could be totally accurate in saying that most places serving cuisine X in city Y sucks; but it may not be useful information as chowhounds aren't into "most places." If you're gunning for the top 1%, the middle 90% that may be completely representative of a city isn't going to matter to you. Sometimes one may find great stuff in a city or region not known for it; one never knows, and that's why chowhounding can be so much fun.

                                                                                                                            1. London. I don't even have to elaborate. It has the budget eating scene of a small college town in upstate NY.

                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: JFores

                                                                                                                                I beg to disagree. I have traveled to London on government business. The official per diem is $181. I could eat very cheaply (and very well) in London for about $30 a day (well maybe about $50 now with the exchange rate) and pocket the rest of my per diem. Chinatown is relatively cheap, as are the restaurants in Queens Gate off Bayswater. For cheap Indi-Pak food, go to Brick Lane in East London. There is a wide variety of cheap eats with options like Fish and Chips, East and South Asian cuisine, Middle East, American fast food, sandwich places like Pret a Manger, etc.

                                                                                                                                1. re: dpan

                                                                                                                                  Relatively cheap is the key phrase there.

                                                                                                                                  I spent about $18 per person on a bowl of wonton noodles and a drink (probably over $20 now with the declining dollar) in London's Chinatown. I could get that for $7 here in NYC.

                                                                                                                              2. My parents may disown me, but my hometown of Chicago might be one of the most overrated food cities in the country right along with L.A. I grew up in the Chicagoland area many moons ago. I still come back to see the family each summer for about two weeks and we hit some of the old joints and some new ones. Charlie Trotter has always been overrated IMO. And MANY of the Chicago pizza places are quite overrated. I travel the country a TON in my work, and I have had so many better pizzas out east in New York, New Hampshire, in St. Louis and yes, even in Texas. Also I find that the supposedly "best" or most talked about ethnic restaurants usually underwhelm in Chicago. But I have to say, one thing I do miss is the sandwich shops back home. The beefs in Chicago are unrivaled. So here you have it from a former Chicagoan and frequent visitor. On scale of 1-5, 5 being top notch, this is how I rate Chicago food overall:
                                                                                                                                Delis/sandwhich shops-5
                                                                                                                                Italian Restaurants-3
                                                                                                                                Pizza-3
                                                                                                                                Ethnic food (Cantonese, Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Greek, etc.) -2
                                                                                                                                Steak joints-3
                                                                                                                                Burger Joints-2
                                                                                                                                Seafood-1

                                                                                                                                16 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: Pollo

                                                                                                                                    LOL. I think that Vancouver should win for the highest smug foodie denizen ratio. I think I know what you are getting at.

                                                                                                                                    I live in Vancouver, but have traveled and lived in many other great food cities. In many ways, Vancouver is overrated (eg comparing in the highend). In many ways Vancouver is underrated (eg it doesn't get the media coverage compared to say Montreal).

                                                                                                                                    I don't think anyone can doubt that Vancouver is a great place to eat...and eating in Vancouver will hit your pocketbook much less than eating in NYC or Chicago and you would get an equally great meal.

                                                                                                                                    If you are a fan of Chinese regional cooking, Vancouver is top notch. If you like Euro-style dining, the options get more limited. It also has decent but not great Vietnamese, and very good Indian regional.

                                                                                                                                    Vancouver has many holes in its repertoire -- Mexican, South American, Carribean, Street food, Cheese & Salumi (only a couple of great stores), Neapolitan Pizza, Euro Pastries, Wine/Beer selection at the Liquor stores (though you can get pretty much any wine at the restaurants), Farmers Markets, Cheap Seafood (besides Sushi), Greek, Middle Eastern, Eastern European....

                                                                                                                                    So Pollo, I am sort of agreeing with you, but I can reassure anyone who reads this board...you can eat very, very well in Vancouver.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: fmed

                                                                                                                                      Same here...lived in YVR for almost 20 years and then traveled ALOT and I agree with you that you can eat v. well in Vancouver and mostly on the cheap if you know the places. It helps hanging out with Chinese/Indian UBC grad students and having munchies at 2 in the morning. I also agree that Vancouver has v. good Chinese and Indian food but as far as all the other "ethnic" you have listed my experience is also the same that these cusines are represented at a "generic" level... The upper level restaurtants (i.e. $$$) are taking themselves way too seriously. On a side note the best deli in my opinion in Vancouver that I always "hit" when in town is jn&z deli on Commercial....same location and same products last 20 years....worth the visit....

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Pollo

                                                                                                                                        Pollo - is the "White Spot" still in operation? Enjoyed many a "Triple-O" there in past visits.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: KevinB

                                                                                                                                          (Not Pollo)
                                                                                                                                          Yes Whitespot is still in operation, but it is a mere shadow of its former greasy self. The quality of food and service vary considerably from location to location since they started franchising in the 90's.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: fmed

                                                                                                                                        While I feel I just scratched the surface, and have not been there but four times, I cannot wait to get back to Vancouver. Seafood and Asian food. That can please me for quite a while, by itself. That and lots of fresh veggies at hand. I sure got the impression I could eat very well there for a very long time without boredom or sacrificing quality. Some high-end places were pretty pricey though.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: doogs

                                                                                                                                      I hardly think LA is overrated, for one thing. Most people never immediately think of LA as a epicurean oriented city as New York and San Francisco are. In any event it is underrated. I would say on your 1-5 scale for ethnic food I give it a 5, and that's the highest I would give any city in North America, followed closely by New York, San Fran, Toronto, Vancouver.
                                                                                                                                      As for the other Delis-1, Italian-2/3, Steak-1, Burger-2, Seafood-3, Pizza-3(because of the own unique California pizza styles; not NY thin, or Chicago deep)
                                                                                                                                      I go even further and add another category: Fusion, almost uniquely california LA, with the plethora of world cuisines available it's not hard to find a restaurant solely featuring fusion dishes(i.e. Vietnamese-French(La Vie), Italian-Chinese, Mexican-Asian, Chinese-Korean, etc, too many to name)

                                                                                                                                      1. re: b0ardkn0t

                                                                                                                                        you're kidding about vietnamese-french fusion and chinese-korean fusion being "almost uniquely california la," right?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                          nope,
                                                                                                                                          those were merely examples, but I bet you would be hard pressed to find the variety of fusion cuisines coming out of LA, from so many cultures that you would find in any other city. Parisian and Spanish cooking schools have done this for years, but more of a forced dish taken for inspiration, while In California it is far more organic and natural as so many ethnic groups live so close together and build a history together, a diversity that only comes close to in NY and SF, but not to the same extent as in NY the once ethnic European groups have largely assimilated. I grew up eating authentic cuisines from all over the world and can vouch personally for that. That and the fact that you find more of everythign in LA than SF or even NY(Flushing, give me a break). At least it has not been done to the same extent and as organically as it has been done in LA.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: b0ardkn0t

                                                                                                                                            But Vietnamese-French in particular is hardly uniquely LA. Even discounting the enormous French influence on pure Vietnamese cooking, Viet-French and Cambodian-French restaurants (such as Elephant Walk, so much an institution here in Boston that they're practically a chain) are common in many cities.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                                                                              yeah french-vietnamese is all over, as is korean-chinese & mexican-asian, even in littler cities. i think everyone can point to a particularly novel or unlikely local fusion food, my favorites being mexican-lebanese and korean-polish. i don't think l.a. has fusion food over anybody else-- not to knock b0ardkn0t's whole point, btw-- just that the l.a. fusion thing is a bit of a stretch for me.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                I do say that's true that every city has its fusion thing going on, but the point I was trying to convey is that LA has had a fusion of various cuisines going on for a long time, and if you grew up in LA you know that eating so many different ethnic food styles(especially given the vast array of Asian and Latin American, which is unmatched in my opinion in anywhere in North America, as well as evidenced by other chowhounders who have eaten at other north american cities and then eaten around LA's suburbs, which are not usually nationally known(and would you believe many Northeastern transplants, particularly, but not limited to New Yorkers, confine themselves to a particular LA region and never explore the rest of the area and very narrowly define LA which gives rise to stereotypes and ignorance); and more recently disappointingly Euro), many foods have merged (often in disappointing, to our chagrin, but some in interesting ways that have been created, and even the mediocre ones are still some of the best nationally known fusion dishes, known anywhere that were not created in their native countries, like French Vietnamese). The midwestern influence is not lacking either(town once dubbed Double Dubuque at the turn of the century with it's majority midwestern population(to add to that a large German and Irish immigrant populations during the 19th century, much like scandinavians migrated to northern cali; german roots which are are still evident in dairy production and of which you still find niche communities in Orange County) which gave rise to vast dairy farms and agricultural bounties, now exiled to central california or the margins of LA's surrounding counties) giving rise to the new american cuisine that LA shares with SF to the chagrin (or clever ingenuity?) of many non-Calis and Californians alike.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                  To add to that point, I can't believe how many times I hear New Yorkers complain about pizza (Chicago transplants are not quite as vocal) and Italian, food in general, and then when they go out exploring(whereas before they used to say I only eat so far to the eastside, meaning they only ate in West LA county(Santa Monica, etc.) or SFV(Hollywood; Sudio City, etc.)) then they come and say that dish was good but for LA that's an "anomaly"? Not to mention that they think the Chinese(dim sum, etc.) they find in Flushing is the best outside SF, until they come to LA find the real deal and then complain about greasy old like in New York Chinese fast food(which LA has plenty of as well in Chinatown proper and as well as in almost any suburb city), not really knowing what real Chinese is like.

                                                                                                                                                  What I'm really concerned about in LA is the disappearence of local farms and produce as they are pushed out of LA's surrounding counties, or even out of state, due to the high cost of doing business in the area and urbanization. Why SF has the whole local produce thing in their favor as opposed to LA where it had a rich agricultural legacy that is disappearing, as urbanization takes place and suburbs now encorach into the desert the only places to grow food viably are south in Orange/San Diego/west Riverside counties or north to Ventura/Santa Barbara (or central coasts/valleys). Agriculture is still alive and well, but it is ever threatened like never before. Digressed enough though.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: b0ardkn0t

                                                                                                                                                    my only comment is that with all the burger shacks (Fat, Whata, etc.) you gave it such a low rate - if any city scores on that scale it really should be LA. (except maybe for any Mid-Western town with a Vista)

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                      So true, with so many fast food chains(both small and big; great and just plain bad)
                                                                                                                                                      that came out of the greater Los Angeles area (and newer upscale burger joints) I should have given it a higher rating.
                                                                                                                                                      Examples of burgers born in LA area: McDonald's, Carl's Jr(owner of Hardee's), In&Out, Fatburger, Tommy's, Tops, Father's Office.
                                                                                                                                                      Another example of the midwest influence I was talking about and the influence of the cattle and dairy industries.

                                                                                                                                                      (San Diego has jack in box, ohio's wendy's, and Miami's Burgerking)

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: b0ardkn0t

                                                                                                                                                      that's too bad that you are losing your terroir. i don't think it's a digression at all, these are your local food products you're talking about, when the truck farmers stop coming to supply the urban markets, and the loss of local agriculture will impact the local restaurants and home cooks alike. although i think it's extremely important to a food city to have local produce, dairy, ocean/water harvest, & other local agricultural & foraged products, many would make the point that our most urban areas have to substitute with pseudo-local food products associated with urbanization. for example you might get your flour from kansas (or your noodles from china) but you have scads of artisan bakeries dotting the city who make their signature product, which your city becomes well known for. or charcuterie/deli products. if you speak to the average well-informed diner from nyc or boston, there is often very little interest in the idea of local agricultural products, with the emphasis instead on these artisan manufactured food products, and la is trending towards this too. it's interesting that many folks from cali think of the quintessential burger being midwestern while midwesterners think of the burger (& fast food in general) being a californian influence, and as you point out many burger chains started up in & around la and spread from there.

                                                                                                                                                      i still assert that "organic" food fusion occurs everywhere where someone from food culture x says to someone from food culture y: "what are you cooking?"-- and this happens everywhere, not just la. latest on my radar locally is ethiopian-singaporean. can't wait to check it out.

                                                                                                                                        2. Over-rated: Montreal. A couple of excellent restaurants, yes, but otherwise, meh. As a scene it's largely stuck in the past. Some good ethnic places, but not as broad as Toronto.

                                                                                                                                          Let the games begin!

                                                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                                                                                                            I will have to agree. I think there are certain things that Montreal does exceptionally: the French and French-Canadian food (both affordable and expensive versions), obscenely good Portuguese chicken, bagel (well it is exceptional only for an hour before it gets rock hard), patisseries, cheese, bread, Lebanese, strawberries, Haitian, and anything else that is specific to its terroir or made by cultures that make-up its immigrant base. However, there are also a surprising number of underwhelming restaurants that are overcrowded by people who keep raving about the food with a sense of inflated pride. It is hard to say this because I love this city and the people too much: But I moved here to expect miracles based on what I kept reading and was more often underwhelmed than pleased. I probably had the worst food experiences of my life here, surprisingly at well regarded restaurants to top it off; but I'll be fair also had the best. I had more food poisoning here than I ever had in my life (and one of the restaurants that gave it to me was featured in the Gourmet special edition). And I lived in some culinary waste lands and culinary heavens before, so I can compare the bad with the worst and good with the best.

                                                                                                                                            It is not the most wisest to ask for all ethnically distinct cuisines, say Ethiopian food or (sob) Mexican food, in a city where there are very few immigrants that support the culinary tradition of a certain culture; but one would perhaps have the right to expect food items that are natural to find in metropolitan cities: access to excellent (not just acceptable) seafood (even if you are landlocked), wine and spirits other than French imports. It is ironic that the the liquor store around the corner of my apartment in Wisconsin had much more variety than what SAQ offers here.

                                                                                                                                            There is an intense sense of pride that I read in most Montrealers narratives about our city; and while I cannot contest he fact that it is a great culinary destination I think sometimes we get too romantic about our food to forget out limitations.

                                                                                                                                            And there is also our biggest pride (after Celine Dion and Cojo the fashion guru): Marche Jean Talon. I think it is great, but people tend be oblivious to the realities of it. While the shops around the marche and some seasonal vendors are lovely, what consists the actual "farmers market" side is dominated by a bunch of pseudo farmers selling Californian, or Mexican produce or store bought eggs. But I go there because it is still better than your neighborhood grocery store (mostly due to the experience), and there are a small number of real artisanal butchers, farmers (that are only around there during the summer, naturally) and other food purveyors (bakeries, cheese, ice cream, sausages, crepes) embedded in the complex. I wish they could regulate the market so that only local produce could be sold there (which is the model in the brilliantly rich Madison, WI farmers market); then it could be something I could really brag about.

                                                                                                                                            Flame me away!

                                                                                                                                            1. re: emerilcantcook

                                                                                                                                              On the question of SAQ and wine tastes. A few years ago, I was having an informal barbeque at which there was a few Quebecois. Everyone had brought wine, but the white I supplied was a Cave Spring Chardonnay Special Reserve, that was really really good, and not cheap. A lot of harharhars from the Quebecois, mocking this crap that I was serving them, which was clearly inferior to the wines that they brought (ranging from Mouton Cadet to a couple of pretty good white Burgundies). I bore it all with reasonable grace, but when one of them was praising the Chablis in his glass, I gently corrected him... it was the Cave Spring his girlfriend had poured him. This says something about the CS, but more about the prejudices one brings to the glass. I think, also, that that attitude says something about the Montreal food scene: not very open or adventurous, a bit arrogant, and not always well informed.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                                                                                                                You and Emerilcantcook bring up some very valid points about the food culture in Montreal. I am also a transplant to Montreal, and I am an ardent Montreal supporter, but I agree that there are some serious shortcomings in the Montreal scene, including Asian cuisine (with the exception of Vietnamese), the local heirloom vegetable scene (but this is improving!), the fried chicken/BBQ situation just to name a few. And don't even get me started about the SAQ (I have ranted about this before).I also have been frustrated by the less adventurous attitude on some of my fellow dinners here. But what Montreal does well makes it a unique place in North America. Nowhere else in North America can you walk out into almost any neighbourhood in the city and pick up good quality bread, cheese, wine, croissants, coffee etc. at a very reasonable price and without much effort. You can find this stuff elsewhere, perhaps, but you have to drive all around the place to get them. Here, it is everywhere. I love the passion with which people eat in this city, and even though I wish they'd try a few other things, I love that eating and lifestyle are such an important part of so many people's lives here. It's not just work work work all the time. You can eat very well for very cheap, and there is a reasonable variety of food to be had. And everyone assumes wine will be a necessary part of the meal! I love this city as a home base, and yes you have to travel outside for certain other items, but still for day-to-day eating, you could be in worse places.

                                                                                                                                                I am starting to warm to Toronto, the food can be amazing there. But again, i hate all the driving around. And I find it harder to engage Torontonians when it comes to food and wine, like I say, it's always work work work... Maybe I am just hanging around in the wrong circles in TO, but it seems like I can't crack the code, what with being a lowly person from the Prairies...

                                                                                                                                                1. re: moh

                                                                                                                                                  Moh, buddy.. I don't care where you're from.. if you want to eat, let's get to it! I'll agree getting around Toronto these days is a royal PITA, but the ethnic neighbourhoods make it easy. You want Korean? Bloor West. East Indian? Gerrard East. Steak? Downtown core. Italian? College West, or St. Clair W. Portugese? College W. or Kensington. Greek? Danforth. etc., etc.

                                                                                                                                                  I'm from Montreal originally, and there are some great foods there that I just can't get in Toronto - great bagels, artisan cheese, real (and I mean REAL smoked meat), fries that don't taste like cardboard, and yes, I'll admit, a decent steamie! We have a cottage on Lake Champlain, and one of our favourite trips each year is to Montreal's markets and restaurants.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: KevinB

                                                                                                                                                    Must say, I am pretty happy to be in Montreal and have close proximity to both NYC and Toronto (5 hours away by car to each). Can we say best of all worlds???? I don't think you can do better in terms of location. All three cities are so great to eat in, and have different strengths. Like I say, Montreal is a great home base!

                                                                                                                                                    I am working on a road trip to TO soon, so thanks for the suggestions! I'll be trolling the Ontario board soon. Hakka and soup dumplings has a great appeal for me...

                                                                                                                                          2. I wasn't much impressed with Seattle but I just visited briefly and perhaps was ill-prepared. I spent more time in Vancouver BC on that trip and really enjoyed the food scene there. I like the big east coast cities and think that they pretty much fit their hype regarding food/restaurants..

                                                                                                                                            1. I think Miami is the most overrated food city.On the flipside,I think Portland,Maine and Providence,R.I.are the most underrated. New York City is # 1 and Boston is # 2 as far as the best food cities.

                                                                                                                                              16 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: raf945

                                                                                                                                                Is there a huge or small gap between nyc and boston in your opinion?

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                                                  Thats a good question.I think there is a huge gap in the sense that NYC is much more diverse.Both pull ingredients from the same region,but NYC is just a huge melting pot with eclectic fusion.Boston is a little more tradtional.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: raf945

                                                                                                                                                    Having lived in Boston from 1996-2003 and getting to New York as often as I can, I'd whole heartedly agree with you that there is a huge gap between the two.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                                                      Where Boston falls down is in the midrange. We have decent high-end options and we excel at cheap ethnic eats (folks have said, and I agree, that they could eat every day within a six-block radius of the corner of Brighton Ave and Harvard Ave and never get bored), but there are nowhere near enough of the places where you can go out for a meal at, say, $40-$50 per person and get good value for money.

                                                                                                                                                2. re: raf945

                                                                                                                                                  My best friend lives just outside Portland (we've known each other for 45 years). Whenever we visit, we go out for dinner one night (always different, always great), and spend one night for a clam/lobster bake with plenty of regional accents - oysters for appetizers, whoopie pie for dessert, Moxie to drink, and, if we time it right, blueberries in some style. Great food, great times.

                                                                                                                                                  And if I had to name a place - Naraganseet Lunch off Rte 1 in Maine - no frills, just lobster, butter, corn and potatoes served on a wharf. Quality ingredients, simply served, very delicious.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: KevinB

                                                                                                                                                    I think you mean Carrabaseet Lunch. Narragansett is affiliated with Rhode Island.Oh yeah,you just named all of the Maine must haves,as coffee syrup and Del's lemonade are to Rhode Island.I love the seasonal fruits and vegtables in Maine.Straeberries,blueberries,blackberries,fiddleheads,ect.I like the soft shell clams in Maine,but there is no better hard shell clam then in R.I.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: raf945

                                                                                                                                                      LOL I think you both mean Harraseeket Lunch, which is in Freeport. Gotta love those Indian names.

                                                                                                                                                      I'm glad to see both Providence and Portland not getting any votes for overrated. Twenty-five years ago, neither was even close to being rated. They were backwater dumps. Now, along with Charleston, they are the premier mid-sized East Coast food cities (OK, maybe Savannah belongs in that group too).

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Bob W

                                                                                                                                                          Bob I stood to be corrected. Thx

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: raf945

                                                                                                                                                      Yes, Portland has a great food scene for a city that size. We were there a couple of days last summer and definitely plan on returning again.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: raf945

                                                                                                                                                        Portland is great for white people food, and visitors love it. The fine dining options are impressive and cheaper than in big cities.

                                                                                                                                                        However, it sucks sucks sucks for "I don't feel like cooking, let's grab a bite somewhere or get takeout." Very limited options. Hardly any international cuisines worth mentioning, other than a slew of mediocre Thai. No decent Chinese for a hundred miles.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                          I think of it as food bought and sold (although not necessarily cooked) mainly by white people. In Portland I think of two categories:
                                                                                                                                                          1) Tourists. They want to be impressed but not challenged. Examples: Fore St, 555, Duck Fat. (Hugo's is an exception to the "no challenge" thing, but still in the fine dining category. And note that a lot of people complain about Hugo's.)
                                                                                                                                                          2) Blue collar folks. Looking for value, but generally not novelty. Examples: Gritty's, Amato's, Becky's.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: the_MU

                                                                                                                                                            Portland has great food trucks for budget dining. I wish my city had this kind of diversity of street food.

                                                                                                                                                            On Thai in Portland - I thought Pok Pok was pretty good.

                                                                                                                                                            I need to go back very soon to drink beer and eat at food trucks (and eat at some of the new sitdown, casual fine dining places there).

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: the_MU

                                                                                                                                                            Just to clarify: Which Portland are you referring to?

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Fydeaux

                                                                                                                                                              Ah yes...there's That Portland too. Now I see that the_MU is from Maine. Ignore my last post.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: fmed

                                                                                                                                                                Damn, I was getting all excited; food trucks!

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: steakman55

                                                                                                                                                            Those of you that pointed out Portland and Minneapolis as culinary secrets...very true. Now the real question and my answer...St. Louis. A few old school Italian restaurants and a sprinkle of other treats but not much going on and a city of weak tastebuds. You can thank Anheuser-Busch for that and that's a fact!

                                                                                                                                                          2. I dont know the reputation Austin has in the rest of the country for food but its terrible. The suburbanites fancy themselves sophisticated but the most common restaurant is bog standard Tex-Mex. Aka greasy tortilla wrapped something, with a slop of beans and rice, and maybe guacamole if you're lucky.
                                                                                                                                                            Downtown consists of a few incredibly overpriced steakhouses, hotel restaurants to service the politicians. Foods not bad though not great and value for money quotient is so horrid no one not on per diem is eating there.
                                                                                                                                                            The 'historic' restaurants in town are all chicken fried steak and fries type joints. Actually these are pretty decent joints when you want a lot of honest food for not a lot of money. But man cannot live on chicken fried steak alone.
                                                                                                                                                            Your average Chinese food here is worse than any city its size. There was a decent Indian downtown that has gone right downhill. Theres a lot of sushi in town but its usually overpriced and average.
                                                                                                                                                            We didnt even have a decent non-chain steakhouse away from downtown until recently!
                                                                                                                                                            I dont know what it is about this town but the best food is found in taco trucks. Outside of a few overpriced exceptions its greaseball tex-mex, chicken fried steak, and hamburgers.
                                                                                                                                                            As pretentious as Austin is, its got the worst food this side of Tulsa.

                                                                                                                                                            1. Houston: OVERRATED.

                                                                                                                                                              I used to travel to Houston constantly for work. All the people I worked with gabbed incessantly about how Houston had amazing food, and made fun of me for being from Baton Rouge.

                                                                                                                                                              Houston is a HUGE city, but it's also a city filled almost EXCLUSIVELY with bad chain restaurants. Fogo de Chao was my coworker's idea of a truly delicious, fancy dinner. For lunch my coworkers would take me to a terrible pho place, or a Mexican restaurant that was -- horror of horrors -- attached to a hotel.

                                                                                                                                                              I never had anything to eat in Houston that was remarkable... And I can't even tell ya how many places I ate at...

                                                                                                                                                              14 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: almond3xtract

                                                                                                                                                                LOL...you've summed up food in the state of Texas. Although we do have some fabulous BBQ and Mexican.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: almond3xtract

                                                                                                                                                                  Sounds like your co-workers have no clue, kinda like my co-workers. EXCLUSIVELY bad chains? What were all the places you ate at that were so bad? I want names. Yes there are chains, just like any city, but the ethnic diversity is incredible. Next time you're here, do a little research, or just hit a taco truck.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                                                                                    No, not exclusively bad chains. Also, bad standalone restaurants, like the pho place and the place connected to the hotel.

                                                                                                                                                                    You sound mighty defensive!

                                                                                                                                                                    Also, James, I did do research. The places we went to were SUPPOSED to be "the best". Although I don't remember their names, just do a Google search and you'll find 'em. Top rated in your city.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: almond3xtract

                                                                                                                                                                      I did a Google search for a pho place and a Mexican place connected to a hotel, but came up empty. There are hundreds of pho places, and many more Mexican places. They can't all be bad, given a city of this size and diversity.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: almond3xtract

                                                                                                                                                                        I think next time, you should check out the CH boards; you would surely make some better discoveries that simply Googling. (The question that always comes to mind is "top rated by whom?")

                                                                                                                                                                        On the one hand, I like reading this thread because I'm curious about what other Hounds are thinking--and I've made good discoveries about cities and what and where to look; on the other, I cringe at questions such as what is "overrated" because it invites offense-taking, and the terms are relative. Again, "overrated" by whom? For instance, I wouldn't consider that Houston or Atlanta or Baton Rouge "overrated" because I've never really heard them "rated" as top food cities--so therefore they may be "underrated." I've had wonderful meals in all three places. Heck, last month I had a stunning meal in an elegant little bistro in the tiny town of Mendon, Michigan.
                                                                                                                                                                        In Houston, I have had wonderful Mexican food; was taken to a small family-run place by someone who lives (to eat!) in Houston; had a wonderful Vietnamese dinner in a place I found in Zagat, I think. Have had good burgers and good sushi. Had to look, ask, etc., but found it. Several years ago I had one of my most memorable lunches at Cafe Annie.
                                                                                                                                                                        I've found CH boards to be the most reliable in terms of tips. Just throw a query out there about any good sized city, and you'll get a lot of useful feedback.
                                                                                                                                                                        Overrated, underrated: who cares? There's good food out there. You just have to sniff it out, Hounds.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                                                          What a great rebuttal, nomad! There seems to be so much negativity in the world anyway, why incite defensiveness and mild ire with this topic?
                                                                                                                                                                          Rather, look to what each city does have to offer. I'm looking forward to a trip to Austin, not for Mexican food per se, but to discover the local hidden gems.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: globocity

                                                                                                                                                                            Globocity, mild ire, that sums it up. I don't see how someone can eat at a few places in any city and declare it a wasteland, maybe a strong term but that's what I took away from the post. Check out head Houston chowhound Jenny, at imneverfull.com for lots of links to the Houston food scene, and thank you nomadchowwoman.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                                                                                              Yep, it's hard to draw a general conclusion even if one has eaten at a vast minority of places in a given city. For a city with 1000 restaurants, having eaten at 100 places is only 10%, making it easy to miss out on good places (and we've not even touched on places where 1 amazing dish and hides among 20 bad dishes). I worry that people who complain that the food wasn't good may not have searched hard enough for food that they would have liked.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: globocity

                                                                                                                                                                              I've only been once, and I ate very well. I wish I could remember the names of places, but I know you'll find good places. Open mind, curious palate, a little research--bingo!

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                                                                I live in Texas, and while there are some things that Texas does extremely well i.e. BBQ and TexMex. And there is an awful lot that Texas doesn't do well. I am not from Texas, but prior to living in Texas I've lived in Michigan, Chicago, St Louis and travel all over the US. If there is one thing I can tell you without any doubt, it's that Texas is not a place of fine cuisine.

                                                                                                                                                                                I had to move to Texas to find Carbonara made with Alfredo sauce...someone please explain this to me. Italian is NOT to be found in this state. I've had two decent Italian meals in 10 yrs...one in Austin and one in Houston. Olive Garden is continually voted #1 Italian!!!! I can't make this up. I've found some okay sushi, but nothing to write home about. I reference some places to other hounds as it's essentially the best your going to get in the area.

                                                                                                                                                                                Unfortunately, when you try to explain to someone from Texas that there are things Texas doesn't do well, all they can do is become offended and tell you to leave the state. No logical process at all. I'm orginially from Montana, and while I love Montana...the food there stinks!

                                                                                                                                                                                Most anyone that moves to Texas is dumbstruck at the sheer volume of chain restaurants. I've met two former chefs in the DFW area that now teach classes because they opened restaurants in areas where chains prevail....they couldn't compete.

                                                                                                                                                                                So before you go judge someone, I suggest you have the whole picture before trying to paint it with a rose colored brush.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: FoodChic

                                                                                                                                                                                  As for as Olive Garden number one Italian, these are the same people who vote Fuddruckers number one burger, Popeye's, all the Pappas, Papadeaux, Pappasitos, plus Goode Co. BBQ number one. Food for the masses. Yes, lots of chains. Just don't go to them, I don't. I assume you've never been to Da Marco for Italian. Check it out.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: FoodChic

                                                                                                                                                                                    Not sure whom I was "judging"--was simply saying that good food can be found almost anywhere, even in places not considered great food places. And sharing my experience that CH boards are the best place to get tips on good eating.
                                                                                                                                                                                    Lots of bad food out there, too. No question. Sorry that's been your experience in Texas--or anywhere.
                                                                                                                                                                                    Did I offend you because I said I ate well in Texas?

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                                                                      nomadchowwoman,

                                                                                                                                                                                      No offense at all. I've had some decent meals here, they're just far and few between. I'm very glad you enjoyed your time here. I get to travel a lot and one thing that makes it so fun is enjoying the local foods.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Cheers

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: FoodChic

                                                                                                                                                                                      I guess I'm a day late and a dollar short... Your and my posts are gone... Don't know why.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Here (on Chowhound), is where you should be looking for good restaurants and getting your information! Many, many good Texas restaurants are referenced here.
                                                                                                                                                                                      R.E., Olive Garden ("Olive Garden is continually voted #1 Italian!!!! I can't make this up."):
                                                                                                                                                                                      2009 Austin Chronicle Reader’s Poll:
                                                                                                                                                                                      Winner-Salad/Dressing: Leaf
                                                                                                                                                                                      Runner-up: Baby Greens
                                                                                                                                                                                      Honorable Mention: Olive Garden – only mentioned for their salads!

                                                                                                                                                                                      Winner-Italian: Vespaio Ristorante, also Readers Favorites (4)
                                                                                                                                                                                      Runner-up: ASTI, also Readers Favorites (29)
                                                                                                                                                                                      Honorable Mention: Mandola's Italian Market, Romeo's
                                                                                                                                                                                      Romeo's also winner of “Reader’s Romantic”

                                                                                                                                                                                      2008:
                                                                                                                                                                                      Winner-Italian: Vespaio Ristorante, also Readers Favorites (4)
                                                                                                                                                                                      Honorable mention: Readers Italian (TIE)
                                                                                                                                                                                      Romeo’s and La Traviata Italian Bistro

                                                                                                                                                                                      Winner-Best Female Chef of 2001: La Traviata Italian Bistro

                                                                                                                                                                                      In 2009 The Olive Garden was not mentioned at all except in the salad category. While I don't believe these polls, I want to point out that you have ignored the other results and cherry-picked. In nine years of the Austin Chronicle’s reader’s polls the Olive Garden garnered only one runner up (shared with Romeo’s in 2004), and one honorable mention, in 2003, with Carmelo's Ristorante, ASTI and Siena Ristorante Toscana, among any category that had anything to do with Italian food.
                                                                                                                                                                                      Look back at the winners and you’ll see that these reader’s polls are rather meaningless with ASTI #15 (most popular), in 2004. The Olive Garden is not in any of the 9 years most popular restaurants lists.
                                                                                                                                                                                      You won’t find this kind of volatility in opinions anywhere except on YELP or in Reader’s Polls! They are worthless. People stuff ballots. These are mostly young people participating and a tiny fraction of the population. The newspapers get additional advertising revenue and exposure from running these gimmicky polls. Places mentioned tend to run more ads before and after these meaningless polls. I have talked to newspaper employees about it this insipid fluff. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5267...
                                                                                                                                                                                      This is nothing like D Magazine doing their own “Best Of” lists, where they pound the pavement and eat the food. D is a respected, award-winning magazine.
                                                                                                                                                                                      Denton: Same thing (a reader’s poll). You singled out a small, two college town full of ex-ropers and college students, and with just 1,200 participating (.2% of the population, not counting small surrounding towns that rely on Denton), or one in two thousand, what do you expect? I used to go to Denton all the time and even in Denton there are a few good/upscale restaurants! I know Denton…
                                                                                                                                                                                      About the one Dallas Morning News article: Lunch Ladies: Olive Garden. They were panning the Olive Garden, not endorsing it!
                                                                                                                                                                                      There are three Olive Gardens in Chicago. Somebody must eat there! So what? Not everyone is a Chowhound.
                                                                                                                                                                                      Low participation and an atypical participant is typical of these polls. This is what you base your “Italian is NOT to be found in this state” argument on?
                                                                                                                                                                                      You are right: Texans don’t like being messed with.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. Easy....NYC!!!! Totally overrated!

                                                                                                                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                                              It's overrated as it has a lot of mediocre food. There are SOME great restaurants there, but I don't great restaurants are dominating in the city. Of the many meals I've had in NYC, only a handful have been great expereinces. The majority are expereinces I could have in any major US city.

                                                                                                                                                                              One thing NYC has that I would kill for is a great deli.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: FoodChic

                                                                                                                                                                                "The majority are expereinces I could have in any major US city."

                                                                                                                                                                                If one ventures out into the boroughs there's a ton of ethnic cuisine from all parts of the world (Africa, Middle East, Europe, etc) to be had in "NYC". Maybe a handful of cities (which we'd consider great I hope) can make the same claim.
                                                                                                                                                                                I personally don't think that a city must have deep broad diversity to be a great food city. But if it does I don't see how it couldn't.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: FoodChic

                                                                                                                                                                                  To Foodchic: How long have you spent here? You culd have experiences you would be very unlikely to have in virtually any other US citiy ust by reading the Outer Boroughs board and venturing out to some of the places recommended on it. There are also lots of excellent non-major restaurants in Manhattan. In the States I have lived in the Bay Area as well as in NYC and traveled extensively with extended stays in several major cities, and while many cities have wonderful food available, I cannot think of any others in the US offering the range or excellence of the food in NYC.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: FoodChic

                                                                                                                                                                                    everyplace in the world has more mediocre food than great food, almost by definition. i would say that in NYC there is tons of great food. great hole in the wall cheap food. great hip cutting edge food. great old school traditional food. and in absolute numbers i would say there is more in NYC than in most places. also in absolute numbers there is probably more mediocre food as well, because in absolute numbers i think NYC has a staggering amount of food options.

                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: FoodChic

                                                                                                                                                                                  Yep, I'm going to have to agree with you (even though I live here).

                                                                                                                                                                                  www.thelunchbelle.com

                                                                                                                                                                                3. Here's a question: would there be less overrated and underrated places if one were to chowhound harder to look for delicious stuff?

                                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Where is the "most surprising" thread? I can't find it.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. This thread is getting increasingly hostile and unfriendly as time goes on, so we're going to lock it. We hope everyone will return to discussing where they can find great chow, whether it's in cities with lots of it or where you have to ferret out the gems.