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.

[Read: 4 Unexpected Foodie Cities to Visit This Summer.]

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.

[See: 10 Top Hotels in Europe for Food and Wine Lovers.]

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.

[Read: How to Visit America's Best Foodie Cities on the Cheap.]

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


Photo Gallery
Friends eating pizza at a restaurant.
The Las Vegas strip at sunset.
Philly Steak Sandwich with Au Jus
Telescope overlooking the Seattle skyline.
USA, South Carolina, Charleston, Church Street, St. Philip's Church
Close-up of Burgers and Hot Dogs on the Barbecue, Houston, Texas, USA
Cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. during late March.
Foodie tour classic Chicago hot dog with french fries
San Francisco skyline and Bay Bridge at sunset.
New Orleans Beignet
Dramatic sky over Los Angeles.
|

What makes a great foodie destination?
More and more travelers are planning their vacations around the eateries they want to visit in any given destination. After all, a large part of a city's culture lies in its cuisine. But what makes a place worth visiting for the food alone? The answer depends on who you ask.

Some would say it's a distinct, authentic cuisine that the city does best, while others value a wealth of options that range from ethnic to innovative. Others say it's placing heightened importance on using only fresh, local ingredients. No matter the definition, the 15 cities that appear on U.S. News' first-ever Best Foodie Destinations in the USA ranking share one common factor: they offer unforgettable gastronomic experiences that travelers keep coming back for. 
(iStockPhoto)

15. Pittsburgh
Home to hearty Eastern European classics like Polish sausages and cabbage rolls, plus french fry-topped sandwiches and salads (which aren't going anywhere anytime soon), the Steel City is graduating to a more sophisticated culinary style. The gastronomic resurgence in recent years has caught the attention of publications like Zagat, Bon Appétit and Food & Wine Magazine. While critics are singing Pittsburgh's praises, locals are embracing the edible renaissance with open arms. 
(Getty Images)

14. Asheville, North Carolina
This small mountain town may be known for its laid-back, hippie vibe, but it still packs a palatable punch in its 45 square miles. While the Appalachian Trail may seem like a strange place for a culinary hot spot, chefs and curious eaters have started congregating in western North Carolina in pursuit of inventive, offbeat creations. Aside from its impressive restaurant lineup, Asheville boasts more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the country, meaning you'll have plenty of interesting suds to pair with your meal.  
(Getty Images)

13. Las Vegas
High rollers have to eat too, right? And in Vegas, they expect to eat well. Sin City has raised the stakes when it comes to dining, dazzling tourists with whimsical, over-the-top decor and celebrity chef-backed restaurants from the likes of Wolfgang Puck and Pierre Gagnaire, whose only U.S. restaurant is in the Mandarin Oriental. And if you lose in the casinos, don't worry: Sin City still boasts plenty of affordable options and cheap all-you-can-eat buffets to keep you going. 
(Getty Images)

12. Philadelphia
In 2015, Philadelphia was named the first World Heritage City in the United States. Though the City of Brotherly Love is certainly home to a fair amount of history, that doesn't mean its food scene is stuck in the past. While classics like cheesesteaks and soft pretzels still reign supreme, Philly balances those hallmark dishes with vegetarian and vegan eateries, as well as a wealth of genuine Italian and Jewish fare. Plus, the city originated the BYOB policy and now boasts more than 200 bring-your-own-bottle restaurants.
(Getty Images)

11. Seattle
No visitor to Seattle can pass up a trip to Pike Place Market, but there's more to the Emerald City than watching people throw and catch fish. The city's abundance of fresh seafood (namely salmon and oysters) along with its Asian culinary influences have shaped its gastronomy. Seattle's selection of sushi and rice bowls, along with its unique Seattle teriyaki, known for its thick, Korean-inspired sauce, have been recognized by critics and discerning food lovers as some of the best in the country. 
(Getty Images)

10. Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston put low country fare at the forefront of the foodie scene. The regional cuisine, known for relying heavily on seafood with a mix of Southern, Caribbean and African flavors, is what this quaint South Carolina city does better than anywhere else. Though the city is proud of its well-preserved history, its chefs have started reinventing staple dishes (like shrimp and grits and she-crab soup) to fit the needs of 21st-century palates.
(Getty Images)

9. Miami
Miami's vibrant nightlife and scantily clad beachgoers often overshadow the city's rich culinary scene. But its cuisine shouldn't be overlooked. The city whips up the best Cuban food outside of Havana, and the proximity to the Caribbean also brings a multitude of full-bodied island flavors. Plus, the restaurant scene is full of young chefs who continue to bring something new to the table.
(Getty Images)

8. Houston
Houston has the savory chops that only the largest city in the Lone Star State can claim. Business travelers from around the world are continually surprised by the culinary diversity here – from mom and pop takeout shops that locals line up for to fine dining pioneers that attract a more upscale clientele. The city is also home to a large Vietnamese and Chinese immigrant population, allowing Asian dishes like spring rolls and pho to intermingle with area classics like barbecue and Tex-Mex.
(Getty Images)

7. Washington, District of Columbia
A city that attracts everyone from small-town tourists to international diplomats has to provide ample options to satisfy them all – and the nation's capital measures up to the task. Boasting an all-encompassing restaurant scene that offers some of the best ethnic food (especially Indian and Ethiopian), as well as area staples like bottomless brunches and happy hour specials, D.C.'s food landscape is anything but boring. When you're touring the monuments, don't forget to stop and grab a half-smoke (the half-beef, half-pork cousin of the hot dog that's a D.C. specialty).
(iStockphoto)

6. Chicago
Deep-dish pizza. Distinctively dressed hot dogs. Italian beef. Cheese and caramel popcorn. Plantain encased sandwiches called jibaritos. Plus the Greek answer to grilled cheese, saganaki. The Windy City's calling card lies largely in its hearty, gooey and iconic dishes. But Chicago's culinary power extends from those staples into a toothsome and ever-evolving dining culture that's as big on innovation as it is on flavor. Plus, Chi-Town beckons talented chefs (40 James Beard Award winners call Chicago home) who ensure that this Midwestern authority presents a robust offerings, so no one goes hungry.
(Getty Images)

5. San Francisco
Regularly lauded by critics and visitors for its culinary chops, San Francisco is a hotbed for foodies of all kinds. The City by the Bay is also known for its knack of modernization and invention, meaning gourmands who flock here expect to be at the forefront of dining trends – and chefs here deliver. But with the influx of tech money and the constant rising of rental rates, the city isn't known for cheap eats.
(Getty Images)

4. Portland, Oregon
Portland might as well have invented the word "foodie." From its emphasis on ingredients (the fresher and more unusual the better) to its affinity for low-cost, high-quality food carts, Portland has emerged as the foodie capital of the Pacific Northwest. The city has become a favorite of industry experts for its eagerness to present unique yet affordable options, from doughnuts to craft beer.
(Getty Images)

3. New Orleans
The Big Easy has an identity all its own – a mix of Cajun, Creole and French – that has always made its food distinct. Now, 10 years after Hurricane Katrina, the city has retained its unmistakable character while pushing forward to become something entirely new. Aside from the mouthwatering dishes, the deeply rooted sense of community that's attached to the food here makes it a must for any self-declared epicurean.
(Getty Images)

2. Los Angeles
Los Angeles presents the ultimate in culinary mashups. The city that tailors to celebrities and wealthy patrons with fine dining establishments that boast big price tags also delivers some of the best street food in the country. And since the City of Angels is home to large immigrant populations – namely Hispanic and Asian communities – the opportunities to please your taste buds with globally inspired cuisine are endless. From food trucks to strip malls to trendy eateries, local establishments churn out creative dishes with high-quality ingredients, helping LA stay at the top of the gastronomic food chain.
(Getty Images)

1. New York City
A visit to New York City can include meals inspired by just about every continent, country and culture. Simply put, the Big Apple has it all. It's the premier stage for chefs looking to gain notoriety, and the restaurant scene progresses at breakneck speed, meaning the eateries that stick around have earned the stamp of approval from notoriously opinionated locals. Whether you're craving a pastrami sandwich from the corner deli or a meal on white tablecloths prepared by a celebrity chef, New York City has you covered.
Getty Images/Tetra images RF

Friends eating pizza at a restaurant.
The Las Vegas strip at sunset.
Philly Steak Sandwich with Au Jus
Telescope overlooking the Seattle skyline.
USA, South Carolina, Charleston, Church Street, St. Philip's Church
Close-up of Burgers and Hot Dogs on the Barbecue, Houston, Texas, USA
Cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. during late March.
Foodie tour classic Chicago hot dog with french fries
San Francisco skyline and Bay Bridge at sunset.
New Orleans Beignet
Dramatic sky over Los Angeles.
USA, New York State, New York City, Aerial view of city with Freedom tower at night

What makes a great foodie destination?
More and more travelers are planning their vacations around the eateries they want to visit in any given destination. After all, a large part of a city's culture lies in its cuisine. But what makes a place worth visiting for the food alone? The answer depends on who you ask.

Some would say it's a distinct, authentic cuisine that the city does best, while others value a wealth of options that range from ethnic to innovative. Others say it's placing heightened importance on using only fresh, local ingredients. No matter the definition, the 15 cities that appear on U.S. News' first-ever Best Foodie Destinations in the USA ranking share one common factor: they offer unforgettable gastronomic experiences that travelers keep coming back for. 
(iStockPhoto)

15. Pittsburgh
Home to hearty Eastern European classics like Polish sausages and cabbage rolls, plus french fry-topped sandwiches and salads (which aren't going anywhere anytime soon), the Steel City is graduating to a more sophisticated culinary style. The gastronomic resurgence in recent years has caught the attention of publications like Zagat, Bon Appétit and Food & Wine Magazine. While critics are singing Pittsburgh's praises, locals are embracing the edible renaissance with open arms. 
(Getty Images)

14. Asheville, North Carolina
This small mountain town may be known for its laid-back, hippie vibe, but it still packs a palatable punch in its 45 square miles. While the Appalachian Trail may seem like a strange place for a culinary hot spot, chefs and curious eaters have started congregating in western North Carolina in pursuit of inventive, offbeat creations. Aside from its impressive restaurant lineup, Asheville boasts more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the country, meaning you'll have plenty of interesting suds to pair with your meal.  
(Getty Images)

13. Las Vegas
High rollers have to eat too, right? And in Vegas, they expect to eat well. Sin City has raised the stakes when it comes to dining, dazzling tourists with whimsical, over-the-top decor and celebrity chef-backed restaurants from the likes of Wolfgang Puck and Pierre Gagnaire, whose only U.S. restaurant is in the Mandarin Oriental. And if you lose in the casinos, don't worry: Sin City still boasts plenty of affordable options and cheap all-you-can-eat buffets to keep you going. 
(Getty Images)

12. Philadelphia
In 2015, Philadelphia was named the first World Heritage City in the United States. Though the City of Brotherly Love is certainly home to a fair amount of history, that doesn't mean its food scene is stuck in the past. While classics like cheesesteaks and soft pretzels still reign supreme, Philly balances those hallmark dishes with vegetarian and vegan eateries, as well as a wealth of genuine Italian and Jewish fare. Plus, the city originated the BYOB policy and now boasts more than 200 bring-your-own-bottle restaurants.
(Getty Images)

11. Seattle
No visitor to Seattle can pass up a trip to Pike Place Market, but there's more to the Emerald City than watching people throw and catch fish. The city's abundance of fresh seafood (namely salmon and oysters) along with its Asian culinary influences have shaped its gastronomy. Seattle's selection of sushi and rice bowls, along with its unique Seattle teriyaki, known for its thick, Korean-inspired sauce, have been recognized by critics and discerning food lovers as some of the best in the country. 
(Getty Images)

10. Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston put low country fare at the forefront of the foodie scene. The regional cuisine, known for relying heavily on seafood with a mix of Southern, Caribbean and African flavors, is what this quaint South Carolina city does better than anywhere else. Though the city is proud of its well-preserved history, its chefs have started reinventing staple dishes (like shrimp and grits and she-crab soup) to fit the needs of 21st-century palates.
(Getty Images)

9. Miami
Miami's vibrant nightlife and scantily clad beachgoers often overshadow the city's rich culinary scene. But its cuisine shouldn't be overlooked. The city whips up the best Cuban food outside of Havana, and the proximity to the Caribbean also brings a multitude of full-bodied island flavors. Plus, the restaurant scene is full of young chefs who continue to bring something new to the table.
(Getty Images)

8. Houston
Houston has the savory chops that only the largest city in the Lone Star State can claim. Business travelers from around the world are continually surprised by the culinary diversity here – from mom and pop takeout shops that locals line up for to fine dining pioneers that attract a more upscale clientele. The city is also home to a large Vietnamese and Chinese immigrant population, allowing Asian dishes like spring rolls and pho to intermingle with area classics like barbecue and Tex-Mex.
(Getty Images)

7. Washington, District of Columbia
A city that attracts everyone from small-town tourists to international diplomats has to provide ample options to satisfy them all – and the nation's capital measures up to the task. Boasting an all-encompassing restaurant scene that offers some of the best ethnic food (especially Indian and Ethiopian), as well as area staples like bottomless brunches and happy hour specials, D.C.'s food landscape is anything but boring. When you're touring the monuments, don't forget to stop and grab a half-smoke (the half-beef, half-pork cousin of the hot dog that's a D.C. specialty).
(iStockphoto)

6. Chicago
Deep-dish pizza. Distinctively dressed hot dogs. Italian beef. Cheese and caramel popcorn. Plantain encased sandwiches called jibaritos. Plus the Greek answer to grilled cheese, saganaki. The Windy City's calling card lies largely in its hearty, gooey and iconic dishes. But Chicago's culinary power extends from those staples into a toothsome and ever-evolving dining culture that's as big on innovation as it is on flavor. Plus, Chi-Town beckons talented chefs (40 James Beard Award winners call Chicago home) who ensure that this Midwestern authority presents a robust offerings, so no one goes hungry.
(Getty Images)

5. San Francisco
Regularly lauded by critics and visitors for its culinary chops, San Francisco is a hotbed for foodies of all kinds. The City by the Bay is also known for its knack of modernization and invention, meaning gourmands who flock here expect to be at the forefront of dining trends – and chefs here deliver. But with the influx of tech money and the constant rising of rental rates, the city isn't known for cheap eats.
(Getty Images)

4. Portland, Oregon
Portland might as well have invented the word "foodie." From its emphasis on ingredients (the fresher and more unusual the better) to its affinity for low-cost, high-quality food carts, Portland has emerged as the foodie capital of the Pacific Northwest. The city has become a favorite of industry experts for its eagerness to present unique yet affordable options, from doughnuts to craft beer.
(Getty Images)

3. New Orleans
The Big Easy has an identity all its own – a mix of Cajun, Creole and French – that has always made its food distinct. Now, 10 years after Hurricane Katrina, the city has retained its unmistakable character while pushing forward to become something entirely new. Aside from the mouthwatering dishes, the deeply rooted sense of community that's attached to the food here makes it a must for any self-declared epicurean.
(Getty Images)

2. Los Angeles
Los Angeles presents the ultimate in culinary mashups. The city that tailors to celebrities and wealthy patrons with fine dining establishments that boast big price tags also delivers some of the best street food in the country. And since the City of Angels is home to large immigrant populations – namely Hispanic and Asian communities – the opportunities to please your taste buds with globally inspired cuisine are endless. From food trucks to strip malls to trendy eateries, local establishments churn out creative dishes with high-quality ingredients, helping LA stay at the top of the gastronomic food chain.
(Getty Images)

1. New York City
A visit to New York City can include meals inspired by just about every continent, country and culture. Simply put, the Big Apple has it all. It's the premier stage for chefs looking to gain notoriety, and the restaurant scene progresses at breakneck speed, meaning the eateries that stick around have earned the stamp of approval from notoriously opinionated locals. Whether you're craving a pastrami sandwich from the corner deli or a meal on white tablecloths prepared by a celebrity chef, New York City has you covered.
Getty Images/Tetra images RF

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Gwen Pratesi is a James Beard Finalist in Journalism, award-winning food and travel writer, and coauthor of PratesiLiving.com, where she shares the stories of her international food and travel experiences. She also freelances for other regional, U.S., and international publications. You can follow her at Twitter (@pratesiliving), Linkedin, Google+, Facebook, and Instagram.

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