Cities Journal
City Life

Eating Your Way Through A City

Photo credit: nadineheidrich / Flickr

Nothing is quite as variable from city to city than its food. Locals rave about family diners, visitors review their favorite bistros, and foodies write books about the latest trends. If you want to learn about a city, discover its cuisine. But how do you start on such a journey? With breakfast, of course!

Organize Your Culinary Adventure

You don’t really have to start with breakfast, but do grab a cup of coffee and take a little time to plan your efforts. There are many resources you can tap into to get you started thinking about how to approach your food safari.

You could research the typical visitor’s guides for a city. These are often written by committee and even the latest edition will have one or two year old information, by the time the guide was finally published.
There are guides written specially about the food in a city, such as Food Lovers’ Guide to Brooklyn.

These give you an idea of the local cuisine, some family favorites, recipes and sometimes interesting history and tips about the city. Again, this information could be a little old, but the establishments reviewed are typically ones that have been, and will be, around for a long time.

The travel sections of news services often have reviews of the city eats, such as this article in Fox News about San Francisco cuisine. This is very current information and it often highlights newly trending establishments in the city worth trying.

Another way to get ideas is by reading blog posts from others like you who have investigated the food choices in a city. This guest post in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch talks about a visitor’s experience dining in Chicago. This is also very up to date information, often with very frank reviews about a place.

These are usually entertaining with comments like “The corned-beef tasted like shoe leather!” and “The orange-pistachio glaze on the duck breast was to die for!” Food critics are a passionate bunch and their opinions express that.

Set Your Culinary Course

Now you get to decide how to tackle the city’s dining options. What about the food is important to you, and how do you want to experience it?

For example, you could simply head out on a quest for the best food in Minneapolis. Read some reviews, try a few places, and you’ll have a good time eating at some fun establishments. But you could also find a niche and get deeper into the city’s food culture.

If you love breakfast, you could search for the best breakfast spots. This will take you into hotels, motels, downtown urban favorites and suburban mom and pop diners. You could narrow this down even more and search for the best pancakes or omelettes; or the best pastry and coffee shop.

You can do the same with lunch and dinner places. Go on a search for the best Philly-cheese steak sandwich. Look for the best meatloaf dinner or the finest foie gras. There is an endless number of food specialties you could sample as you eat your way through a city.

Define Your Cuisine Preferences

There are the various ethnic varieties that you can research. Look for the best Mexican restaurants in the city. Or just the best chicken tacos.

The best Greek food in town or the best middle eastern shawarma might be your preference. Even finding the best of an American cuisine, such as the chili dog, will send you out on an entertaining quest. Stick with a cuisine you really enjoy, or make a real adventure of it and try something you’ve never eaten before.

Forget All The Planning And Just Eat

Finally, you may decide that you don’t want to do the legwork and just want to sample the best that a city has to offer. In that case, you can look up places such as Famous Fat Dave’s Food Tour of New York. Dave will drive you through the city, stopping for the best pizza, hot dogs and cannoli. Let Dave do the driving while you sample New York’s finest.

However you decide to eat through your city, you’ll develop a better appreciation of what makes particular foods popular. You’ll learn interesting things about the city, and the people too. When you’re done, you’ll have your own top 10 lists to write about.

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