These cities are no secret, but they may not be the first places that come to mind when you think of great food and drink—until now. We shine a spotlight on five oft-overlooked locales and highlight the culinary bellwethers currently transforming the dining landscape of their hometowns.
Flanked by majestic mountains, this Arizona city was once a desert for great eats. Today, Tucson blooms with enough unique restaurants to justify a food-focused trip. Start with breakfast at hipster hangout 5 Points Market & Restaurant, or spring for fancy brunch at The Grill at Hacienda Del Sol. Quaint brasserie The Coronet, affordable 47 Scott or Tap & Bottle (with visiting food trucks) make excellent dinner choices.
Wisconsin’s capital city may be a college town, but its restaurants suddenly seem all grown up. Madison’s sophisticated eats rely heartily on regionally farmed ingredients despite its seriously harsh winters. Must-try meals can be found at Graze Madison, Harvest, Cento and award-winning chef Tory Miller’s newest post, Estrellón.
Charm City is an increasingly cosmopolitan hive for fine food without a whiff of pretension. Chef-owned gems like Arômes, Parts & Labor, Bottega and Puerto 511 share the spotlight. Check out Baltimore’s thriving bar-bites scene, too. The 1157 Bar + Kitchen serves PBR-steamed mussels and Corner Charcuterie Bar offers whole suckling pig and fried pickles.
Don’t let Dallas’s image-conscious reputation fool you: Food no longer comes in second place to décor. Try Blind Butcher (for its poutine and beer program), Filament (Matt McCallister’s latest foray into creative Texas cooking) and Rapscallion (plenty of bottles under $50, inventive cocktails and global-meets-Southern cuisine). For a nightcap, French-Mex eatery Madrina’s brandy, mezcal and Tequila lists are among the country’s largest.
While nearby Tampa is renowned as a chain-restaurant incubator, St. Pete’s food scene has an indie feel, with many eateries clustered around downtown’s Central Avenue. Bonus: the coastal city has 27 breweries and a thriving art scene. Don’t miss creative cocktails at The Mill, the 6,000-bottle wine tower at Sea Salt, Florida-sourced ingredients and wine cocktails at FarmTable Kitchen or handmade pasta at Il Ritorno. For dessert, grab a wine popsicle (in flavors like Champagne Mango) at The Hyppo.