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5 Underrated Food Cities in the U.S.
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December 2, 2019
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Travel Trivia Editorial
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It's no secret that New York City and San Francisco, two of America's most expensive cities, offer unmatched culinary delights. These metropolitan centers are revered by foodies everywhere, offering everything from classic American fare to diverse types of ethnic cuisine.

But, what if you're craving stick-to-your-ribs barbecue with all the fixings? Then, your best bet might be Memphis. And, if you're pining for Cajun-inspired seafood, you'll want to take the next flight to New Orleans. Yet, apart from these well-known food meccas, there are several little-known dining destinations just waiting to be discovered. Take a look at our shortlist of the five most underrated food cities in the United States.

Detroit, Michigan

Caribbean stewed chicken, plantain, and rice in Detroit, Michigan
Credit: Zoran Kolundzija/ iStock

One of the most surprising up-and-coming food cities on our list is Detroit, Michigan. Despite the city's recent economic woes, it boasts a burgeoning food scene with a variety of quirky and amazing eateries.

Take your taste buds on an incredible culinary journey at Norma G's. Located in Detroit's popular East Side neighborhood, the cafe features bright Caribbean style decor superimposed over wood and corrugated iron. The menu features an eclectic mix of traditional Caribbean and American fusion. Be sure to try the delicious chicken curry, served with chickpeas, Yukon Gold potatoes, and French green beans over jasmine rice. Pair your heavenly meal with Jamaican beef patties and fried plantains. We can almost smell the tantalizing curry spices from over here.

The dessert menu is not to be missed, as well, with a variety of frozen custards blended with unique Caribbean flavors. Try the "Trini Trifecta," a type of frozen vanilla custard blended with cinnamon and Trinidad rum.

Meanwhile, vegans need not despair. Since 2012, Detroit Vegan Soul has been offering an appealing selection of high-quality vegan comfort food to the Detroit masses. All of the dishes here are prepared without refined sugars, GMOs, dairy products, additives, preservatives, refined flours, eggs or animal byproducts. The owners pride themselves on serving healthy, universally appealing dishes that promote health and well-being.

So, what's on the menu here? Be sure to try the loaded "Soul Platter," which comes with mac-and-cheese, black-eyed peas, maple glazed yams, and smoked collards. For a cozy option, don't miss the "Smothered Tempeh," covered in brown mushroom sauce and served with green beans, mashed potatoes, green onions, and sliced almonds.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Grilled salmon taco lunch with tomato salsa and salad in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Credit: CampPhoto/ iStock

Nestled in the northeastern mountains of New Mexico, Santa Fe is one of the oldest cities in the United States. It's also a hidden gem of eclectic cuisines with a distinctive Southwestern flair. If you haven't sampled the food at this culinary oasis, below are just a few of the amazing establishments that await you.

Start your Santa Fe food adventure at the unique Tune-Up Cafe, where you'll find standard breakfast, lunch, and dinner fare with a twist. Be sure to try the "Huevos El Salvadorenos" (banana-leafed wrapped tamales) or grilled salmon tacos. You won't be disappointed. The tamales can be ordered in two versions. The first comes with rice and beans, chicken, jack cheese, and tomato salsa. Meanwhile, the second is geared towards vegans and comes with zucchini, potatoes, cheese, and tomato salsa.

Sazón is another restaurant that provides a unique dining experience for foodies. When you step inside, you'll see eye-catching artwork and a contemporary menu infused with traditional Old Mexican flavors. The menu features locally sourced products in unique dishes you won't find anywhere else. If you're feeling particularly adventurous, try the "Oaxaqueños," olive oil and citrus-infused baby grasshoppers served with avocados on a corn tortilla.

If your tastes are a little more conventional, stick with dishes like the "Popocatepetl," which consists of black-pepper encrusted Angus beef tenderloin, snow peas, red cabbage, and jasmine rice.

Finally, take a journey into the ancient world of chocolate at the Kakawa Chocolate House. This chocolatier offers a range of chocolate elixirs created from recipes dating as far back as 1,000 B.C. Besides its signature dark chocolates and European-style truffles, Kakawa also offers dairy-free and vegan delights such as cherry-chili and acai, hibiscus, and pomegranate chocolates.

Indianapolis, Indiana

Traditional Middle Eastern dishes in Indianapolis, Indiana
Credit: zarzamora/ Shutterstock

With a wide variety of restaurants, Indianapolis offers diverse culinary adventures for the discerning foodie.

For a taste of the Indianapolis Jewish tradition, stop in at Shapiro's Delicatessen. Opened in 1905, Shapiro's has perfected the art of sourcing high-quality ingredients for amazing kosher fare. Its high-quality corned beef, Reuben, and brisket sandwiches are guaranteed hits. And here's our recommendation: don't leave without an order of one of the restaurant's signature cheesecakes. Try the strawberry, Oreo, or devil's food varieties.

Finally, you haven't sampled the best of Indianapolis until you've had dinner at Bluebeard. With a wine selection curated by an in-house sommelier and an artisanal farm-to-table menu, Bluebeard offers an unforgettable dining experience. The menu features an assortment of flavors from a lamb loin entree with Israeli couscous, shiitake mushrooms, and muhammara (a hot pepper dip) to grilled octopus. With its fascinating fusion of flavors, every meal at Bluebeard is a treat.

Rockland, Maine

Maine lobster roll, coleslaw, and French fries on a platter
Credit: gmnicholas/ iStock

If you're taking a jaunt up the East Coast, don't stop before you reach Rockland, Maine. Perched on the edge of picturesque Rockland Harbor, this quaint town is known for its charming lighthouses and unrivaled ocean views; however, it's also a little-known restaurant powerhouse. Despite its size, Rockland offers a number of excellent dining establishments that make it one of the most underrated food cities in America.

For a true taste of Maine, look no further than The Brass Compass Cafe. In keeping with Rockland's historic fishing traditions, The Brass Compass opens early each morning with a wide assortment of freshly baked goods for fishermen heading out to sea. You're sure to savor the unparalleled quality of Maine seafood here, with a variety of incredible dishes on offer, such as the "Compass Seafood Platter." This local favorite features fried clams, scallops, shrimp, haddock, and French fries. Whatever you do, don't leave town without trying the lobster roll!

Located in an old Victorian home, Primo's intimate setting is ideal with a conversation over farm-to-table Italian fare. The menu changes frequently and is populated by such dishes as tamarind pork belly and linguine pasta with crab, lemon, chilies, and peas.

Birmingham, Alabama

Grilled red snapper with potatoes and salad in Birmingham, Alabama
Credit: malanis/ Shutterstock

You may know Birmingham as a dynamic center for America's steel and iron industries. However, you may not know that the city also hosts one of the most vibrant restaurant food scenes in the United States.

The Hot & Hot Fish Club provides a true culinary adventure with unbelievable Southern-style dishes that will tantalize your palate. Start your meal with grouper jowl served with fennel, baby carrots, fresh herbs, and lemon oil, or opt for the uniquely named "62°C Farm Egg with Pain Perdu," a combination of Alabama caviar and fried country ham. Other tempting choices include grilled red snapper, grilled prime New York Strip, and the sautéed red-fish (which comes with baby okra, barley risotto, arugula pesto, and oyster mushrooms).

Your visit to Birmingham's food scene won't be complete without a stop at Bottega. This Italian fusion restaurant seamlessly blends Italian tradition with Southern ingredients for a unique dining experience. Be sure to sample the Parmesan souffle appetizer with prosciutto and mushrooms. For your main entree, try the duck breast, scallops, or "fritto misto," a combination of shrimp, calamari, snapper, and lemon aioli. Pair your meal with sides like polenta, rapini, and farrotto (also known as emmer wheat). Before you go, be sure to try the impeccable tiramisu or butterscotch tart.