London is a lovely place to visit. Watch the changing of the guards. Take a selfie in front of St. Paul’s famous dome. Maybe they drive on the wrong side of the road, but you won’t have to fight with learning a foreign language. On the other hand, no one says they are visiting London for its amazing food. Sometimes to try the best in global cuisine you have to search a little further afield, and maybe outside your comfort zone. If you’re a foodie and love to travel on your stomach, here are five global destinations with some of the best local foods.
1. Panama City, Panama
If you’re a man with a plan, a Panama Canal cruise might be number one on your bucket list. Make sure you stop in Panama City, at the Pacific Ocean entrance to the canal, for some world-class cuisine. Restaurante Maito is regularly on the list of the 50 best restaurants in Latin America compiled by Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy. Stop in for a bowl of seafood gaucho, a traditional Panamanian dish of rice and local seafood. It most closely resembles a gumbo or risotto dish. A more relaxed option is patacones. These green plantains are mashed and double fried. They make the perfect base on which to pile cheese, meat and a variety of sauces.
2. New Orleans, United States
When you’re looking for something closer to home, head to New Orleans. More than Southern food, the food of Louisiana finds its roots in the French, African, Spanish settlers who mingled with local Native American tribes. Try some deep-fried alligator or a po’boy for a simple, low-cost lunch. Settle in for an evening with local soft shell crab, jambalaya and etouffee for flavors you won’t find anywhere else. New York might have more global options but no place beats the Big Easy for cuisine that’s truly tied to location.
3. San Sebastian, Spain
If you’re looking for upscale cuisine, San Sebastian is the place to be. It’s home to more Michelin-starred restaurants per square meter than anyplace else in the world. On the Bay of Biscay, near the border of France, this traditionally Basque city is influenced by the cuisines of all three cultures and benefits from its easy access to some of the best seafood in the world. Try their regional take on tapas, pintxos. When you don’t want to eat out, you have access to fresh food in amazing local markets, San Martín and La Bretxa.
4. Istanbul, Turkey
For a mix of Europe and points further east try Istanbul. Istanbul is a literal connecting point of Europe and Asia. Its culture is an amalgam of its traditional Middle Eastern and Ottoman heritage. At its height, the empire stretched through Central Europe, Northern Africa and into the Asian subcontinent and all those flavors can be found there today. If you love tapas, try the Turkish version, meze. Share stuffed grape leaves, kebabs and spinach pies. Istanbul is also a great foodie city for vegetarians.
5. Bangkok, Thailand
Like Istanbul, Bangkok, Thailand is a melting pot of cultures that lead to some of the world’s most interesting cuisine. Here the focus is on street food, with over 300,000 shops, stalls and corners to choose from. Thai food is popular all over the world. Try traditional pad thai or one of the many colorful curries based in coconut milk. However, Bangkok was a traditional trading post for many Asian countries and you’ll find an amalgam of food from all over the region with a Thai twist. Check out the city’s Chinatown for a blend of Chinese and Thai.
When you step off the beaten path, down the alley or out of the tourist zone, there’s really no bad place to try the local food. Of course the classics, like Paris and Tuscany, always offer amazing food options, but they’ve been so exported that you can find excellent options around the world. In these five cities, you’ll hit hidden culinary treasures you won’t find anywhere else.