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Unexpected Towns for Crave-Worthy Cuisine

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New York, LA, Napa, Atlanta, Charleston, and Austin all get plenty of credit for being on foodie bucket lists… and rightfully so. But there are select destinations across the country that are exciting culinary hot spots just waiting to be discovered. Here are a few of our favorites:

Birmingham, Alabama

Quaint historic charm meets cosmopolitan sophistication in this beautiful Southern city. Even though the local BBQ establishments (like the famous Saw’s BBQ) are expected favorites, the sophisticated Italian offerings, wood-fired grill, and wine selection at Frank Sitt’s Bottega are not to be missed.

Also by Sitt, Chez FonFon in the fashionable Five Points South district serves up masterful French cuisine made even more tasty and accessible through the use of fresh local ingredients.

Memphis, Tennessee

You won’t be singing the blues about cuisine in this legendary music city, with it’s deep BBQ base notes, zesty soul food rhythms, and rock-star local delicacies.

  • BBQ: One & Only BBQ is an aptly-named spot for succulent ribs, chicken, smoked sausages, brisket and unique dishes like BBQ quesadillas and BBQ bologna.
  • Comfort Food: With BBQ out of the way, make sure to check out Felicia Suzanne’s for authentic down-home comfort foods with an upscale vibe. Gulf shrimp and oysters, Carolina quail, and the duck and mushroom lasagna are all one-of-a-kind flavors you won’t find anywhere else.
  • Sweet Treats: When you’re ready for dessert (or a little treat between live music acts) head to The Pie Folks for made-in-house specialties that taste like they came out of grandma’s oven.

Asheville, North Carolina

What used to be a quaint little mountain village just 20 years ago has quickly risen to be the suburban hot spot in the Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains. But don’t let it’s small-town vibe fool you – this is an international food scene that rivals cities like Miami and LA.

Authentic African American traditions go into every dish at Benne on Eagle, while Chai Pani takes your taste buds right to the street vendors of India with fragrant and richly-flavored daals, chaats, tikkas, and more.

Still not convinced? Head to Cúrate for Spanish tapas and hand selected wines that rival those lining the streets of Barcelona. From low-country favorites to high-end fine dining, Asheville is sure to surprise – and do so with a spectacular scenery that’s second to none.

Key West, Florida

Of course, when you think of this tiny little southernmost island in the U.S., you’re sure to think of Key Lime pie – and yes, you can find some of the country’s best here (inside tip – authentic key lime pie is never green, but rather a creamy pale yellow and full of tart zing).

But if you think that’s the only thing worth eating in Key West, you’re simply not trying. This is where fresh seafood rules. Dozens of restaurant literally serve multiple “catches of the day” fresh from whatever the day’s fishermen bring in. The Eaton Street Seafood Market is as close to the ocean as you can get.

Looking for a hidden-away neighborhood gem? Head to the east side of the island to Little Pearl or its sister establishment Thirsty Mermaid for an inventive menu and charming intimate setting.  

Of course, everyone likes to call Miami the capital of Cuban Food, and Tampa likes to lay claim to the birthplace of the Cuban Sandwich, but the reality is Cuban food first came to the U.S. through Key West and then started moving north.

If you really want to try Cuban food that’s real deal, try El Siboney’s Masas de Puerco (pork chunks), Ropa Vieja (stewed shredded beef) and a side of crisp Tostones (fried plantains) with garlicky mojo to dip them in.

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