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Dec 21, 2007 05:16 AM

What is the most overrated food city?


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"?


          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


                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.


                            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:


                                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.


                                      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.


                            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 =
                                      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 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...


                                                  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

                                                                      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:

                                                                      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

                                                                          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

                                                                              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


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

                                                                          3. re: 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. The original comment has been removed
                                                                              1. 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"!