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What city should I go to for a culinary vacation?

Hi everyone! I'm planning a bit of a culinary vacation, and I'm wondering exactly what city I should go to. Right now I'm thinking New York. This isn't something I'm doing immediately, but I thought I would get your input. :) Does anyone have any suggestions on where to go? Although, I only want to go somewhere I can speak English, so Paris is out. Thanks!

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  1. I've had two trips which were focus on food and resturants. Most recently New York, which was FANTASTIC, and the other is Las Vegas which was awsome as well. Next on my list is Napa Valley or Chicago but I haven't decided yet. Culinary trips are fun just pace yourself.

    1. Singapore or Hong Kong. English spoken both places.

      If you go to Singapore make sure to get a copy of the Makansutra Guide. I really liked Singapore. Did I mention they have great food all over the place and cheap? And it's on the equator, so it's always warm.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Louise

        Singapore is definitely food heaven. You can go to the outdoor food courts and order heavenly food--Singaporean, Chinese, Indian, Malayasian-- very inexpensively, including very fresh seafood and tropical fruits that are typically much better than you can get in the States. Try an oyster omelet, which cannot be duplicated in the States because the oysters here are much larger and more strongly flavored. Or have them grill you a fresh fish, get a bowl of rice and gai lan stir fried to order. Follow up with a tropical fruit plate. Try a murtabak--sort of the SE Asian version of pizza, piping hot from the griddle. I could have chicken rice every day--perfectly poached and flavorful chicken served with the broth and rice cooked in the broth, with a chile sauce and ginger sauce on the side. Makes me want to catch a flight out of here over the Pacific.

      2. Some previous threads that might help you out:

        "Best Food City in North America" - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/361397

        "Breakfast Around The World" - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/413698

        "As a tourist, do you plan your vacations around food?" - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/498067

        1 Reply
        1. re: LindaWhit

          Thank you very much! I tried searching but I got all kinds of stuff that wasn't relevant. :) This is a big help.

        2. A bit depends on how long you are likely to be in just one city. Some of these could take a lifetime to dine around, but some can be worn out in a full week. Now, what you get, while there can be fabulous, but they are just smaller, so the total number of outstanding restaurants is also smaller.

          These are cities (and their environs) that I have had wonderful culinary vacations. They are listed in no particular order, but just as I recall them:

          New Orleans
          San Francisco (and up to Napa)
          Las Vegas (the food is the only thing that will get me there, but it is worth the trip - to me)
          Charleston, SC (small, but with several genres of Deep South food available)

          Though we travel to many more places, these were ones that we headed to, just for the food and no business involved (except for LV, because wife has meetings there - I only went for the food).

          Other cities where we found plenty of good dining, but were really there for other reasons:

          New York

          Good luck, and travel safely,


          1. Be original! How about Helsinki in the summertime? Nearly 24 hrs of sunlight, excellent English spoken and wonderful people. a very unique city. Seriously, think about it.


            3 Replies
            1. re: Passadumkeg

              That sounds really interesting, I'll have to look into that!

              1. re: AriaDream

                Great Opera Festival in the lake area, in an old castle. Jazz festival in another castle town of Turku. Unique country; give 'em all something to talk about.

              2. re: Passadumkeg

                Thanks for your post - and for making reference to the old link. Don't know how I missed the nyt article... Helsinki would make the top two or three on my list.

              3. New Orleans, San Francisco/Oakland (specifically seeking Dungeness crab and Mexican/Mexicali food when I visit) or Montreal would be my picks. You can speak English without a problem in most Montreal restaurants (especially the ones mentioned on CH).

                12 Replies
                1. re: phoenikia

                  Tsk - you wouldn't recommend your own home city of Toronto? I sure would! Great food at about half the price you'd pay in NYC, and much better Asian than any city in North America except possibly Vancouver.

                  And Vegas? My experience in Vegas is you can get lots of mediocre food for cheap prices, and lots of so-so high end food at highly inflated prices. Vegas is fun, but I'd never go for the food

                  1. re: KevinB

                    cgervais45, BillHunt, and other Vegas fans, I hope you're going to respond to this challenge!
                    I'm going to Vegas in a couple months (see my post on SW board, please) and am looking for affordable good food. I'm hoping you will prove KevinB wrong (don't take it personally) and make some specific recommendations.

                    1. re: saacnmama

                      My brother lives in Vegas. We Will visit in On V Day. We go to hike, family, the sun & warmth (a cabin fever break) and then the food. Not too shabby compared to Northern Maine in February. It is -15 outside right now. Is my car going to start? :0{

                      1. re: lcool

                        It's still 12 out!
                        My wife's '88 900 starts right my 9 5 has been GM-domized and is hard starting in the cold. Gimme back my "Sideways" 900 convertable!

                        Not yet mentioned, but I would also consider Austin, Tx. A very diverse and funky area.

                      2. re: saacnmama

                        Most of my dining there is at, or very near, the upper end of the spectrum. I can rec. some of those, that have impressed me. Most have been reviewed on the SW board. However, there are a lot of sharp folk from LV, who can definitely help you. If you have an auto, and do not mind a short drive to Henderson - two words: Todd's Unique. Moderately priced and well worth the drive. To me, it's a CH haven!

                        Safe trip,


                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          Thanks, BH, but my brother lives In LV and is an upper end hound. One daughter of his is a lawyer and another in hospital medical equipment sales the six of them (spouses included) are all wine "vinophiles". A good time for all. We can't wait.

                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                            I need to find a way to get onto THEIR "A-List!"

                            LV offers a great deal of higher-end dining and the wines are very nice. Now, the price-points are a bit stiff, but we also live in a "resort area," and travel to many more. Maybe that tempers the "sticker shock" for me.


                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              Bouchon, Rosemary's, Table 34, Alize and Todd's are the restaurants my bro and wife frequent.

                          2. re: Bill Hunt

                            You're right, that's not our end of the food chain.
                            But perhaps you can tell me if there are good places to go river rafting with the boy (he's 6) out Henderson way?

                            1. re: saacnmama

                              Sorry, but we're only there on business - I golf, and my wife conducts business. We dine, maybe catch a Cirque de _____, and then head home to pack for another trip. I can't help, sorry.


                              1. re: saacnmama

                                I asked my brother and he mentioned Black Canyon Tours and said to google them, there are lots.

                          3. re: KevinB

                            I like the food in TO, but I can't think of anything in TO that wows me.

                            While I like Asian food, I react badly to MSG/too much salt, and avoid farmed shellfish and fish, so I haven't been eating much Asian food lately. If you're not looking for Asian food, I don't feel TO has that much too offer that's would be worth the cost of travel.

                            Since I love Mexican food, Cajun food, and crab, New Orleans and SF are natural picks for me. And for whatever reason, I've never been disappointed by French/French Canadian, continental or Greek food I've ordered in Montreal (although my 2 experiences with Asian food in Mtl were disappointing).

                        2. It's been mentioned already, but I have to put in another plug for New Orleans. If I were going on a vacation with a culinary focus, I would go to a city with a culinary focus- and New Orleans is probably the most food-focused city in North America (not that other cities don't have offerings just as good! They do!). New Orleans has the benefit of a culture that really revolves around quality eating, and it has its own highly developed regional cuisines- both Creole and Cajun foods. You can eat splendidly in every price range, in every neighborhood.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: happybellynh

                            When I first moved to Denver (back in '80), I typified the difference thusly: in New Orleans, the people live to eat. In Denver, the people eat to live.


                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              I did two foodies trips in two years--New Orleans, then San Francisco. I put NO clearly ahead, the difference being that in NO the food is great; in SF the food is trying to be great. It's kind of a Zen thing.

                              BTW, I live in NYC. I still put NO ahead. The concentration of good is just so much better.

                              1. re: Angela Roberta

                                Sorry, you are way off the mark by stating that SF is trying to be great. You must have missed the really good spots.

                          2. Ah, I have to put in a plug for Vancouver. Great Asian food scene for obscenely dirt cheap (think Japanese sushi and izakaya, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Indian). Excellent craft beers and local Okanagan wines. Seafood is top notch, can't miss out on sockeye salmon (think it's quite similar to Copper River salmon). A revelation compared to pink, chum, farmed Atlantic salmons. Makes me drool thinking about it. Plus the bonus that the climate is quite pleasant (not too hot and not too cold) so perfect for lots of outdoor activities to walk off the meals (watch out for the rain though!)
                            Check out the Western Canada board if you're interested. Two posters have great recs for Vancouver, greyelf and fmed.
                            *sniffle*...getting nostalgic....

                            1. San Francisco. This city is progressive in its fine and casual dining. The other advantage to exploring SF for food is that you can use mass transit to zip from neighborhood to neighborhood. If you check out SF's chowhound board, you will find that there are several distinct areas, each with its own type of cuisine.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: woodandfine

                                San Francisco with a day or two in Napa! You could eat well for months without repeats in the bay area.....so much good food and good food experiences. There are multiple great restaurants serving every type of food. Great Dim Sum, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, great farmers markets with local cheeses, many of the best restaurants in the country doing tasting menus, good bakeries and so very very many excellent moderately priced restaurants serving California cuisine with fresh local ingredients.

                                Plus the bay area chowhound board is very helpful in recommending great places.

                                1. re: megmosa

                                  Ah, thank you! I was thinking about San Francisco too, I'll definitely check out that board.

                                  1. re: megmosa

                                    The SF board is great. They have always come through for me, when I wanted something that we have not tried. I set the general parameters and the board members weigh-in with great recs. Cannot praise them enough from my perspective.


                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      Nor can I,my experience mirrors yours

                                  2. re: woodandfine

                                    I also find it to be a great walking city and usually launch out before breakfast, just walking it, until I find "likely suspects" for my meals. Have yet to be disappointed, and then I'm always ready for a great dinner!


                                  3. Live across the bay from San Francisco, been to NY many times. There is absolutely no question in my mind, I'd go to New Orleans.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                      We have had wonderful "culinary vacations" in New Orleans, San Francisco/Napa/Monterey, New York, Chicago, Santa Fe, Charleston/Savannah and Washington. Our favorite, however, is St. Barth. Fabulous meals in the most unexpected places!

                                    2. Toronto is one of my favorites, Paris France for the flare and unique couisine and Italy and I wish I would tell you the name of the town. Northern Italy. Sorry about the labs in memory. Too much wine, lol. I love northern cuisine. I think any small town would give you a similar experience. Also Ireland. Not so much for the food, but for the experience and style of food. It is unique and different which I enjoy.

                                      1. After reading some of the other replies, I have to agree... You should try NEW ORLEANS.
                                        We are about to celebrate Mardi Gras. But thats just the beginning. The French Quarter festival is the best time to visit. Picture about 20 stages around the Quarter. Mixed in with all that music is hundreds of restaurant sponsored food booths. Ya'll have fun na. Here?,

                                        1. SF, NO, Vancouver, Montreal (English OK), Hong Kong, Singapore.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. New Orleans has so much to offer in the culinary world.

                                            1. What about looking into a cooking "vacation"? When my daughter was married in Mexico 2 years ago, she & her Mexican/German hubby toured Mexico for 3 weeks on their honeymoon. Our wedding gift to them was a cooking weekend in Qaxaca. Room at a B&B, with a full day food shopping/food cooking experience.

                                              1. I would choose Oaxaca.

                                                It doesn't really meet your criterion but I find that the Mexicans don't really care if you speak Spanish. They are tolerant.

                                                I've lived in New Orleans, and have visited Chicago several times (good food town). I loved Seattle; I'd love to go back there and eat in a different season.

                                                1. There are lots of great trips you can take overseas that will probably work out to be cheaper than a trip to NYC and 10 times more interesting. I guess it depends on your capacity to enjoy and interest in some place totally different.

                                                  I suggested Phuket in another thread, and I'll also support the rec for Singapore.

                                                  A food trip to any Western city is all about waiting till your next restaurant reservation. A food trip to Asia is an orgy of food that assaults you from every street corner you pass every hour of the day.

                                                  1. Maybe find a city with a Restaurant Week during the week that you'll be traveling?

                                                    Didn't see Miami on this list, and I just spent a great long weekend eating and drinking my way through that city, so I'd add that, though it is slightly embarassing to lay out on the beach bloated from the previous night's meal

                                                    1. We just went to NOLA last month for a culinary tour and having been to NYC last summer and SF the summer before (only to eat and drink), I have to cast both of our votes for NOLA. I promised Bill Hunt we would post our reviews! Life sorta got in the way in the interim. Went to Cochon, Emeril's, K Pauls, Felix's, Mothers and a few others that I cannot recall. Really not a bad meal in the bunch. We travelled from Western Canada all day each way and the only thing we regret is having to leave.

                                                      1. i can't believe that Mexico City hasn't been suggested yet. flights are cheap (less than $300 r/t from LA or SF) and once you get there everything is SUPER cheap. i've only been once, but i had the impression that most of the touristy-type areas were pretty accomodating to english speakers.

                                                        i would also like to put in a plug for LA. there is good thai, mexican, chinese, korean etc ethnic food. but now that i think of it, most of the really good ethnic places i've been to here don't cater to english speakers. so mexico city it is!!

                                                        i personally wouldn't go to SF. there are a lot of very good fine restaurants in SF, but most of them tend to be variations upon the same california-centric cuisine, with a splash of asian fusion or italian thrown in. LA has way more variety.

                                                        1. Vientiane, Saigon, Hanoi, Hue, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Mexico & Puebla, Rome, Singapore, Savannakhet, Lahore, Calcutta, Mandalay, Hong Kong, NYC, Vancouver, San Francisco, Toronto, Portland, ...

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                            Both Portlands, the real one and "new" one.

                                                          2. SINGAPORE is a runaway #1,Las Vegas,New York,New Orleans,Hong Kong,San F-Napa all by a nose #2 if english is required.Must have missed something obvious

                                                            1. I've said this before. Queens, New York. Stay in Manhattan and the number 7 subway line is a ticket to a world of great ethnic eating. And in NY, English is not always a problem.