- Charleston, S.C. – Sean Brock is king here with his dynamic duo of McCrady’s and Husk, but he is no one man show. McCrady’s put him on the map, but the relatively new Husk is turning that map into a southern version of the old New Yorker cartoon showing New York City in relation to the rest of the country. This is the only one of the five cities I have personally visited and eaten in, although my pre-Husk visit was far too brief. Brock is the first one to recommend the other restaurants that add to making Charleston such a special food destination. He recommends Fig, Two Burroughs Larder, Wild Olive, Lucca, Butcher and Bee, Martha Lou’s, The Glass Onion and Bowen’s Island as places for really good food..
- Houston, TX – I never thought of visiting Houston as a food town or otherwise until recently. With the help of Misha and his blog Tasty Bits and a few others, a growing cadre of dedicated chefs like Randy Rucker and Justin Yu and variety of culinary traditions have caught my eye. Rucker, who is currently in between restaurants is excited about the food scene in Houston and points out a list of worthy destinations including Yu’s Oxheart, Kata Robata, Uchi (with Chef Paul Qui , the new winner of Top Chef Texas), Pho Binh, Tony’s for pasta, Inn at Dos Brisas (45 min away), Revival Market, Triniti for dessert and Paulies for coffee. Rucker is particularly enthusiastic about the recently announced project Pass and Provisions from Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrance Gallivan.
- Kansas City, MO – My friend Bonjwing Lee aka The Ulterior Epicure is a world traveling gourmet/writer/photographer second to none. He hails from KC and is the city’s biggest booster. He has me convinced with restaurants like Colby Garrelts’ Blue Stem, Debbie Gold’s The American Restaurant, its great BBQ tradition and much more. Watch for Bonjwing and Kansas City on the upcoming season of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.
- Nashville, TN – Nashville hadn’t been on my food radar until I first heard about The Patterson House Cocktail Bar and then The Catbird Seat, which coincidentally just won an award for Best New Chefs from food and Wine Magazine for their two chefs, Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson. A recent chance to try their cooking at the James Beard House, only made the embers of my interest in visiting them and Nashville burn hotter. Habiger and Anderson are also big fans of their city’s food scene. Habiger suggests also trying City House (rustic Italian), Monells (family style soul food) Arnold’s (“meat & 3”), Marche Artisan Foods (brunch), Mitchell Delicatessen and an espresso at Crema.
- Miami, FL – Miami has always had a bit of a flair for food, but it seems that of late, that flair has burned even brighter. I turned to my friend, “Frodnesor,” whose food blog, Food for Thought, keeps a knowing finger on the pulse of the Miami food scene to see what is capturing his attention at the moment. These are his “go to places” of the moment in Miami: Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink – just had its 5-year anniversary and on the top of its game. Fresh, unfussy, and full of local flavor; Michy’s – looks like a Barbie Dream House; eats like a long list of the chef’s personal favorites, all done with real finesse; Naoe – it’s currently in between locations (due to reopen this month), it’s omakase only, it’s only 8 seatings at a time; it’s also superbly fresh Japanese cuisine that can hold its own with the best in the U.S; Sustain – a place that strikes a great balance between local (“50 Mile Salad”), exotic (marrow bones with pineapple rosemary jam, Broken Arrows Ranch antelope) and homey (duck poutine, excellent fried chicken); Pubbelly / Pubbelly Sushi / Barceloneta – I know that’s 3 restaurants; but they’re all the same owners and they’re all on the same block. The flagship is a pork-centric Asian gastropub with Spanish tendencies, while Pubbelly Sushi veers even further toward Japan as Barceloneta circles back more firmly to Spain. Somehow most of it works, and hitting all three makes for a great food crawl and Eating House – an extended-run pop-up (will be open for a few more months) by young chef Giorgio Rapicavoli that’s creative and adventurous (heirloom tomatoes with Thai flavors and frozen coconut milk, Peking pig ears with Dr. Pepper hoisin), laid-back and fun (Cap’n Crunch mousse with milk panna cotta and coffee salt).
So many places to visit and eat and not enough time (or money)! What are the hot cities on your list?