Bright lights? Big eating! Get the latest on our top five coastal cities for food-lovers, plus the one classic dish you need to order.
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This Mid-Atlantic city nurtures a food-lover's dream with its small, chef-owned restaurants that take advantage of the Chesapeake Bay bounty. Setting the pace are chefs Spike Gjerde and Cindy Wolf, along with oyster impresario Dylan Salmon.
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Providence, Rhode Island
This hot little food city at the tip of Narragansett Bay has a chef community that is as collegial as it is creative. Standouts include Champe Speidel's Persimmon, Benjamin and Heidi Sukle's Oberlin, and James Mark's north.
DON'T-MISS DISH: Gnocchi with shellfish at Oberlin
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One of the country's most cosmopolitan cities has a food scene to match. Last year saw the arrival of all-stars including Argentina's Francis Mallmann and Austin's rock star Paul Qui (both helming restaurants at the Faena Hotel), not to mention a kingdom expansion from José Andrés (Bazaar Mar) and the launch of Bradley Kilgore's Alter.
DON'T-MISS DISH: Soft egg with sea scallop, espuma, truffle pearls, and caviar at Alter
Emerging from the shadow of international powerhouse San Francisco, this East Bay city is becoming a hot-house for envelope-pushing eateries, particularly along its new and vibrant waterfront. Stand-outs include Caribbean with a soul-food spin at Miss Ollie's (and straight-up soul food worth waiting in line for at Tanya Holland's Brown Sugar Kitchen), a heaven-sent pairing of Spanish cuisine and a deep sherry list at Paul Canales's Duende, and Kyle Itani's deft Japanese inflections on regional American cuisine at Hopscotch Restaurant & Bar.
America's beloved home of all great flavors on every level continues to innovate, creating a culinary zeitgeist that's every bit as fast-moving as its tighter-laced South Carolina sister, Charleston. From founding fathers Emeril Lagasse, Donald Link, and John Besh has arisen a new generation that includes Nina Compton, Alon Shaya, Michael Gulotta, and Justin Devillier. The latest thrill: N7, a tiny French stunner from filmmaker Aaron Walker and chef Yuki Yamaguchi.
DON'T-MISS DISH: Caribbean seafood pepper pot at Compton's Compère Lapin