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Spring 2022

Lonely Planet: Eat your way through these 8 unexpected US foodie destinations

Eat your way through these 8 unexpected US foodie destinations
IRINA GONZALEZ  | Lonely Planet Writer

When you look at the most popular foodie destinations across the US, the usual city names come to mind — New YorkLos AngelesMiamiChicago. But if you’re traveling in search of great eats in 2022, you’ll be better off heading to other parts of the country to check out one of these 8 underrated foodie destinations instead. 

From surprising places to find some of the country’s best food made by immigrants to the growing farm-to-table movement as it mixes with traditional cuisine, these cities have it all. Whether you’re munching on chocolate from celeb-fave DeBrand Fine Chocolates in quickly growing Fort Wayne, Indiana, or discovering why the Pueblo chile makes Pueblo, Colorado, you’re sure to get a taste of something new and unexpected. So pack up your suitcase, save this list and head out to discover the foodie destinations you never thought you’d love. 

Tacos at El Barrio restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama

Tacos at El Barrio restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama © Kaitlyn Owings / El Barrio

1. Birmingham, Alabama

The one thing not to miss: You can’t head down South without trying some barbecue, and you certainly can’t visit Alabama without trying their unique take on BBQ. Head to SAW’s Soul Kitchen — considered the best barbecue in America by some. The Sweet Tea Fried Chicken Sandwich is something to write home about. Try it or The Colonel (which also includes pimento cheese and red tomato), and you won’t be sorry. 

This southern city not only has a classic ‘Bama take on BBQ but recent growth and an influx of diverse talent have led to Birmingham becoming one of the top foodie destinations below the Mason-Dixon line. Talented chefs have access to ingredients from fertile farmlands, the Appalachian foothills and the nearby Gulf of Mexico. Here you can find Highlands Bar & Grill — temporarily closed but reopening in 2022 — for a delectable seasonally-inspired menu that changes daily. Meanwhile, go to Hot & Hot Fish Club for tasty Gulf seafood and El Barrio for must-have Mexican tostadas. If you’re craving a fancy night out, then Chez Fonfon is the place to go for the best French fare outside of New Orleans. 

Expert tip: Don’t miss out on ordering dessert at Highlands Bar & Grill. Dolester Miles, who has worked there for over 30 years, was named Outstanding Pastry Chef by the James Beard Foundation in 2018.