My husband is turning 30 in the spring, and I'd love for us to go away someplace for the weekend where we can eat some great food and see some great sights. Budget is definitely a concern. We live outside of Boston, so ideally someplace we can get to without too much hassle. So far my top three are New Orleans, Charleston, and Chicago - any great ideas I'm overlooking? Or what would your vote be?
I loved the food in Charleston, but my vote would go to either New Orleans or Chicago. Since I live in Chicago, I can address what we have better than I can the other two and would only add that the weather in the spring can be a little iffy, probably not too far off from Boston weather.
Chicago has several of the top ranked restaurants in the country, Alinea being the one that consistently gets the highest marks. Have never eaten there myself but I know at one time it was nearly impossible to get a reservation without a lot of notice and you could easily drop a paycheck there. You can see the other Michelin ranked restaurants here, but if budget is a concern you should also check the Bib Gourmand section.
I tend to eat at more ethnic, lower price points restaurants, I can't think of a cuisine that Chicago doesn't have. Turkish, Russian, German, Chinese, Japanese, Peruvian, etc. I've got good recommendation for all of those.
And finally there's what Chicago seems to be known for-pizza, both stuffed and deep dish, Chicago style hotdogs, Italian beef.
Friends of ours who are serious foodies love New Orleans and also Portland which I've not visited.
Melissa, happy early birthday to your husband!
I know you said budget is a concern, but it may be worth watching flights to Portland. Long hailed as the foodie capital of the West Coast (and increasingly recognized as one of the top food-spots in the US), it's a great place for amazing food. If you can take the time off work to make flights happen, it's definitely worth it!
Another option that might be cheaper, depending on your air carrier, could be somewhere like Indianapolis. I lived there for three years (2009-2012), and in that time, there was an incredible influx of amazing, heartland-but-gourmet food. Hope this helps give you some more ideas! Have a great trip!
If you don't mind the cold then I highly recommend Chicago. I've had the chance to travel around the world this year and I have to admit that I was very surprised that Chicago was one of the best places to go as a foodie.
Food is great there, the scenery is beautiful and with all the walking around, you really do work up an appetite. I really love Chicago because I got a good mix of NYC meets Amsterdam here. The city is really really nice with tall unusual looking skyscrapers, cut through by the river from Michigan Lake. Unlike NYC though, where the city is a little dirty and food is overpriced and service is bad, Chicago is beautiful and has decently priced food with pretty good service. It's also a must if you like Museums and artsy places.
New Orleans has too much deep fried food, but if you want to try crocodile meat, that's the one place I've seen that serve it everywhere. NOLA is definitely a must-place visit if you like to party. The bars are restless here and the French Concession area is nice too, but I think 2 days max and you'll get tired of this place (at least I did).
Charleston is much like New Orleans too in that it has too much deep fried southern food. The city is beautiful, since it is an old historical town. You can spend the day at the beach, but I don't know how warm it'll get if you're going in the spring time. I think the best time to go is around May. This place is pretty small and I don't remember the food being all that great.
If you want to see some Chicago food pics, I have some on my blog... not a lot though.
I would put Chicago up there as one of the best dining towns in the country, if not the world. Definitely would recommend anything by the BOKA group - GT Fish & Oyster Boka Momotaro Girl & the Goat are all great! Also Brendan Sodikoff is quite talented Au Cheval Bavette's Bar and Boeuf are good bets too. Obviously if you are up for forking over the dough (puns for days!) then Alinea Grace or Next are worth the splurge.
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Hello Melissa! Wow, you have three great choices. New Orleans and Charleston are great, great food cities with a more intimate feel. Meaning, you won't have to go far to find fantastic food. Chicago is a fantastic culinary city as well, but not sure if are OK with the much more urban feel. The "El" and/or "L" makes getting around Chicago very easy, however. Tough choice, but in the spring, you will have the chance to see New Orleans and Charleston transition with trees and flowers blooming, and it is a thing of beauty. Have fun making a choice and safe travels!
I can't speak for the other two destinations, but my husband and I visit Chicago quite often and it is a haven for foodies! There are so many great restaurants to visit. Last time my husband booked a surprise getaway for our anniversary and we had dinner at Sable Kitchen & Bar. A few years back we also did a food tour that we really enjoyed (although we usually are not "tour" people). It was through Chicago Food Planet and was the Gold Coast and Old Town, which was a beautiful area to see.
Portland is great! And lots of answers have been great but you did say budget was a concern didn't you? lol! I was amazed with Asheville NC. It is probably my favorite food town in the USA! I would do savannah over charleston, but do a little research on asheville and you will be surprised how "farm to fork" that town is! And not as obvious as your top three, those places are so touristy that it's hard to weed out the good spots over the millions of rip off tourist places. It's very easy to get crap food in places like New Orleans and you will also have to doge piles of vomit, and annoying drunk people that aren't there for good food! Savannah and charleston can suffer from this as well. I wouldn't do Chicago either, not because of the food, it's great. But you have probably been to similar cities being from the north east. And new york and Chicago's fine dinning I find similar ( not the hot dogs and pizza please don't kill me New Yorkers or Chicagoans ) look into Asheville If you pick it I have a ton of more info to share!
I've been to all three (originally from Chicago) and I would go to New Orleans for sure. Its like Disneyland for foodies--their restaurant scene has exploded in the past couple years--and spring is the best time of year to go. But avoid Jazzfest weekends and all of Mardi Gras to have the best experience. You'll feel like you're in another country. Then visit Chicago in the summer. But you can't go wrong with any if those. Have fun!
I think you have some solid suggestions above. I've been to all three of the cities you mention (multiple times). I don't know about you, but by the time spring rolls around, I'm ready for warmth, so by that token, I'd eliminate Chicago as an option, even though it's a fantastic city. Save it for warmer months when the weather is more reliable. Charleston is a fantastic city (I've visited maybe 10x)- but would require about 3 days max. New Orleans is also a great option, and there is so much to do! If you want to spread your weekend out, say 4 days, you will have no problem filling your time. The food is unbelievable, there are beautiful historic areas (Garden District & cemeteries), tons of live music and even some museums should the weather not cooperate. I'm heading back to NOLA in March myself for the fourth time. Another great option is Nashville, for all the same reasons- FANTASTIC food, lots of things to do, and the flights are relatively inexpensive. Don't want to further complicate your choices, but it is also a good energy, fun city!
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A really great place to visit is Grand Rapids, MI, especially for a foodie and if you like beer. It is rated the number 1 beer city and they amazing food, including some great farm to table restaurants. They do have an airport you can fly right into as well.
IMHO, I would go with New York City or the Hudson Valley. Both are just bursting with great restaurants and foodie scenes. If you want to stay more central, I would definitely agree that New Orleans also has incredible food (especially Stella! which is hands down, one of the best meals of my life).
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I have tons of restaurant recommendations and reviews in my blog post recap about my NOLA trip!
Enjoy, best food EVER!