If you’re the person friends turn to for restaurant or wine recommendations, chances are you understand that good food is about so much more than flavor. For you, every bite tells a story and every aroma unlocks a memory, even as new memories are being made around the table. If you’ve been vigorously nodding in agreement, you’ve likely already checked the obvious foodie havens — Rome, Tokyo, Mexico City — off your bucket list. Luckily, the world has plenty of under-appreciated places with chefs, bakers and purveyors eager to share their city’s story through homegrown ingredients and delectable cuisine. Be the first of your friends to taste your way through these 5 under-the-radar food destinations.
Romania is famously one of King Charles’ favorite destinations, thanks to its bucolic charm and deep-rooted connection between land and people. Those farming traditions, combined with culinary influences from Austria, Turkey and the Balkans, translate into a cornucopia of flavorful fare and some of Europe’s best wine. But it’s not all rustic farm food; Bucharest boasts plenty of restaurants fit for a king. The award-winning Kaiamo was opened by two London hospitality pros who wanted to bring something unique and elevated to their hometown, while Blank at the Marmorosch hotel features contemporary fine dining in an atmosphere inspired by Bucharest’s gilded-age glory days. Romanian wine can be hard to come by outside of Europe, so you’d be remiss not to try (and take home) a bottle or two from the Great Hill or Tasting Room. Experts will know just what to pair with local favorites like zacusca (roasted bell pepper spread) and salata de vinete (smoky eggplant dip).
Tasmania has fertile soil, pure water and fresh Antarctic air, all of which combine to produce an unmatched abundance of food and flavors. Almost any ingredient you could dream of is within reach — from whiskey to wagyu, olive oil to oysters. The best way to experience each delightful morsel is along Tassie’s coastal Tasting Trail, which stretches from Smithton to Launceston (a newly crowned UNESCO City of Gastronomy). Along the way, you’ll encounter vintners, chocolatiers, picklers, cheese makers, mushroom foragers and truffle hunters, along with plenty of breathtaking ocean views. Launceston is home to award-winning eatery Stillwater, which sits on the banks of the Tamar River and has one of the island’s best selections of Tassie wine. Farther south in New Norfolk, the Agrarian Kitchen serves housemade seasonal fare like pasta, cheese, wood-fired sourdough, ice cream and more.
There’s more to this Pacific Northwest city than just fly-fishing, though there’s plenty of amazing seafood on offer (like at fan-favorite Little Pearl Oyster Bar by acclaimed chef Cal Elliott). Few people know that Boise is home to the largest Basque community in the United States, making it the perfect spot to savor some authentic Spanish cuisine. One block has even evolved its onetime boarding houses for Spanish immigrants into a series of impressive eateries offering samples of paella and pintxos (small plates) to passersby. No matter what community you belong to, dining out here feels like eating with family. That’s the whole idea at KIN, where chef/co-owner Kris Komori orchestrates a communal five-course meal designed to connect diners through storytelling. Other standouts like Amano, Ansots (both recent James Beard Award semifinalists) and the Lively from Michelin-starred chef Edward Higgins are proof that Boise’s burgeoning food scene is one to watch — and taste.
Yes, you’ll surely find buttery waffles, tasty beer and divine chocolate here. It is Belgium, after all. But what makes Ghent stand out from its neighbors is the city’s recent evolution into one of Europe’s vegetarian and sustainable dining capitals. While meat is still available, veggie-focused hits like Lokaal and Madonna ensure you won’t miss it. Ghent also observes citywide Veggie Thursdays, during which most eateries go meat-free. The destination’s official earth-friendly food plan launched in 2021 and has since spurred a proliferation of farmers’ markets supplying chefs, residents and, increasingly, culinary tourists. Still, staying sustainable means getting creative, and restaurants across town are rising to the challenge. Eco-friendly dishes make innovative use of local and seasonal ingredients, like those on offer at Green Michelin–starred Souvenir.
A once-humble fishing village just up the coast from bustling Punta del Este, José Ignacio is today known as the Hamptons of South America for its exclusive yet low-key vibe. The Argentine jet-set has long flocked here for the beach shacks serving superb seafood, sceney restaurants like Anthony Bourdain–approved La Huella and feet-in-the-sand beach clubs like Bahia Vik. The last of these is part of a suite of upscale establishments by Norwegian billionaire Alex Vik, who’s been credited with seducing a global clientele to this coastal region. While the Atlantic supplies succulent frutos del mar, the rolling green hills to the north are home to stunning wineries and, of course, countless cattle (Uruguay famously has four cows for every human). That means juicy, grass-fed steaks are always on the menu, as are delicious local wines to help you wash it all down.