3 Up-and-Coming Culinary Destinations to Visit in the West

Avoid the heavy crowds of San Francisco and Seattle, and head to these unexpected foodie cities.

U.S. News & World Report

3 Up-and-Coming Culinary Destinations to Visit in the West

A steaming bowl of pho, Vietnamese noodle soup, Portland

Discover dynamic and innovative food scenes, from superlative Vietnamese restaurants in Portland, Oregon to authentic paella and tapas outposts in Boise, Idaho's Basque Block.(Getty Images).

Active outdoor adventures, awe-inspiring scenery and vibrant cityscapes are just a few highlights of emerging culinary destinations in the West. Often overshadowed by larger cities, such as Seattle, San Francisco and Denver, these spots each offer a unique vibe and sense of place, and are worth visiting not only for their major attractions and beautiful natural surroundings, but also for their notable food, wine and craft beer scenes. Spend the day hiking or biking in the mountains, go whitewater rafting or fly-fishing in pristine rivers, tour vibrant local neighborhoods or spend afternoons tasting regional wines and beers. And in the evenings, enjoy acclaimed regional and international cuisine, followed by handcrafted cocktails in city hot spots.

Read on to discover surprising, next-generation foodie enclaves out West.

Portland, Oregon

Portland has been on the food lover's radar for its thriving culinary scene, but it's on the move again. Older sections of the city, like Slabtown in Northwest Portland, are now revitalized with trendy walking districts featuring restaurants, shopping and art galleries. Slabtown is also home to the newest location of the city's popular Breakside Brewery and fourth outpost of the Vietnamese cuisine of Andy Ricker's PokPok. A city that's been known for its food carts, Portland has taken the concept indoors with the opening of several food halls, serving casual bites, from ice cream to barbecue to burgers and noodle bowls. Visit the two newest food halls, Pine Street Market in Old Town and the Portland Food Market in downtown. Also keep in mind, Portland is recognized as one of the country's top beer cities, so make sure to check out the city's ever-expanding list of local craft breweries.

International flavors are abundant with both casual and upscale dining options. During your visit, don't miss a few favorites: Peruvian food at Andina, modern French cuisine at the well-established Le Pigeon or, for a special evening out, cocktails at Expatriate in the Alberta Arts District, followed by a communal dining experience with Naomi Pomeroy's French-inspired six-course prix fixe menu at Beast. To experience the city's nightlife, stay in one of Portland's new lifestyle hotels, like the Hi-Lo Hotel, a 120-room boutique property that's part of Marriott's Autograph Collection Hotels and is located in the former Oregon Pioneer Building.

After embarking on a culinary tour through this eclectic Pacific Northwest city, check out other nearby attractions. Portland is a short drive from majestic Mount Hood, the Oregon Coast, the Willamette Valley and the spectacular 620-foot Multnomah Falls along the Columbia River Gorge. And in Portland, a not-to-be-missed attraction is the newly reopened Japanese Garden redesigned by world-renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. Take a stroll through 12 acres of tranquil gardens with colorful blooms and trickling waters, before navigating the city's 15 distinct districts.

Bend, Oregon

Known as the outdoor recreation capital of Oregon, this central Oregon town, while smaller than Portland, is not short on places to eat and drink, especially when it comes to beer. A hip and cosmopolitan destination encircled by the Cascade Mountains, Bend is known for its wealth of year-round outdoor activities, which, depending on the season, include mountain biking or skiing on Mt. Bachelor, paragliding over the High Desert at 6,407 feet on Pine Mountain and stand-up paddleboarding with views of the city on the Deschutes River. Since Bend has more breweries per capita than any other city in Oregon, locals believe in combining their outdoor adventures with beer, so you can bike around the largest beer trail in the West, the Bend Ale Trail or even paddle your way from one tasting to the next on the Cascade River with a Brews & Views Canoe Tour with outfitter Wanderlust Tours.

Breakfast spots are popular in many mountain destinations and the same holds true in Bend. Sit down, relax and settle into the morning at one of two Jackson's Corner locations or head to Chow. If you're on the go and prefer a quick treat, navigate your way to The Sparrow Bakery for a signature ocean roll. Made with buttery croissant dough and then rolled with a layer of cardamom, sugar and vanilla, this decadent pastry is a cult classic. Coffee spots are also plentiful, so don't miss trying a locally roasted cup of joe from Lone Pine Coffee Roasters.

Bend residents have an inspired list of favorite eateries, which include The Brown Owl, South Bend Bistro and Spork. For an upscale dining experience, make reservations at Blacksmith Restaurant, a stylish steakhouse, 900 Wall, which features fresh seafood and locally sourced meats, or Ariana Restaurant, where innovative classic dishes are served in an intimate setting. After dinner, sip your favorite whiskey at The Stihl Whiskey Bar or have cocktails at The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin. Plan to stay at the newest hotel in town, the Springhill Suites Bend. Located across from the revitalized Old Mill District and Les Schwab Ampitheater, the hotel offers a coveted perch near shops, restaurants, wine tasting rooms and breweries.

Boise, Idaho

The funky Bohemian vibe of Boise, combined with its surprising enclave of Basque immigrants, makes this active and outdoorsy mountain destination on the dessert plateau a unique place to explore. Boise is one of America's fastest-growing cities and with that, there's an exciting culinary emergence along with craft breweries and a burgeoning wine industry with a number of wineries producing excellent vintages with grapes sourced from the Yakima, Snake River and Columbia valleys.

With the largest concentration of Basque immigrants in the U.S., Boise's Spanish population has heavily contributed to the city's culinary and cultural landscape. The Basque Block in downtown is home to several restaurants, with some specializing in dishes that made the Basque region of northeast Spain famous. Don't miss the lively Bar Gernika and the cozy Leku Ona, where you can experience open-air views of the city. Then, take some time to drive to neighboring Meridian, where you'll discover Epi's Basque Restaurant. For over 16 years, Grandma Epi's treasured recipes have been lovingly prepared by her family, continuing the Basque tradition.

Other notable dining experiences include delighting in a hearty breakfast at the busy Goldy's Breakfast Bistro, savoring artisan pastries at JanJou Pâtisserie, created by the Israeli-born owner and pastry chef, Moshit Mizrachi-Gabbitas and enjoying a leisurely lunch at Bleubird, where the fresh and local menu changes daily. Also make sure to sample the regionally sourced spirits and dishes at Fork and, for a special evening, make a reservation to enjoy the prix fixe menu and contemporary cuisine at State & Lemp, which features creative dishes made with Pacific Northwest ingredients.

For an afternoon of wine tasting, head over to Garden City and sample the many award-winning wines created by winemaker Melanie Krause at Cinder. Enjoy views of the Boise River and the Greenbelt while sipping Telaya Wine Co.'s impressive wines by winemaker Earl Sullivan. And when it's time to retire, head back to the city's newest boutique hotel that's within walking distance to most of the restaurants and bars, the Inn at 500 Capitol.


15 Best Foodie Destinations in the USA

15 Best Foodie Destinations in the USA

Friends eating pizza at a restaurant.

Gwen Pratesi, Contributor

Gwen Pratesi's love for food, travel and culture have taken her around the world to explore ...  Read more

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Edited by Liz Weiss.

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