Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Top Ten Cities for Food

10) Baltimore You laugh, do you? I include it primarily out of familiarity, but there are some excellent little corridors with excellent little bistros at excellent prices. I'm thinking Towson with some very fine Asian joints (Thai One On, Saigon Remembered, Bangkok Place) and Pizza places (Pasta Mista!), Mt. Vernon with an assortment of great eateries (in particular Thai Landing, Kumari, Mughal Garden, The Helmand, The Viet Cafe), Federal Hill with some quirky bistros and at least one excellent sushi restaurant. There are also hidden delights like Thai Restaurant on Greenmount Ave. and Los Amigos and The Yaba Pot sprinkled all over town.

9) San Francisco The Thai and Chinese restaurants are simply excellent--walk around, find a place packed with locals, and you can't miss. The sushi? Best I've ever had!

8) Amsterdam Yeah, I was baked most of the time, and a bag of Cheetos would have seemed the greatest thing in the world, but the Indonesian joints in Amsterdam are off-the-hook. Again, great seafood.

7) Paris Avoid the high-tourist areas or you'll get raped! Cha paid $13 for a mug of lemonade...But if you get into the neighborhoods you'll find simply the greatest eats at reasonable prices. I'm not a huge fan of French cuisine, which is heavy on the meats and sauces, but there are a billion options to choose from. The breads and cheeses are of course superior to anywhere else in the world, and the table wine in a $2 carafe can best most $19 bottles available here. Recommended: build-your-own lunches! Get fresh bread at the boulangerie, get some fresh cheese at the fromagerie, get some meat or fish and some salad and fruit--cheaper and faster than table service and you can eat wherever the fuck you want.

6) Brussels Mussels and french fries and beers like nobody's business. I don't have to say anything else.

5) Manila Don't let the 3rd-world shit fool you--there are world-class restaurants in Manila, and you can eat at a five-star joint for 2-star prices. I found many great eateries around Manila Bay. Filipino cuisine is great but they also have excellent Malay/Indian/Spanish eateries scattered about town. Get some chicken adobo and pansit and guzzle with five or six San Miguels.

4) London England is known for shitty cuisine, but you never have to eat the home-grown stuff in this cosmopolitan capital. Two of the greatest meals I ever had were in London, one at an Indian restaurant, another at a French restaurant. And I love cheap and fresh fish and chips to boot.

3) New York I'm always tempted when I go to NYC simply to eat the entire time. Some of my favorite Korean/Indian/Afghani joints in the world were discovered while touring around Soho or Manhattan at random. The pizza? Oh my God.

2) Singapore I'm a huge fan of Indian food, and the Indian meals I had in Singapore were the best I've had anywhere. Also excellent Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese/Malaysian/Middle Eastern stuff--even the subterranean mall food court near Orchard lane was outstanding. One of the proprieters of an Indian restaurant in Singapore had a silk suit made for me while I ate, for like $60. Get yourself to the Quay and gnosh some seafood at the waterside. Please note: I was in Singapore for 3 weeks on a business trip and could expense everything, otherwise I couldn't have afforded a cup of coffee. This is the most expensive place I've been by far.

1) Rome There is no better food on the planet. I remember walking across the Tiber at random, sitting down at some crumbly outdoor cafe, and eating an amazing meal of salmon ravioli in cream sauce for like $1.80. I didn't have a bad (or even ok) meal the entire time we were there, and I think in 7 days we probably spent $50 total on food, eating at restaurants twice a day. Great seafood, pizza that will explode your head with deliciousness, wonderful table wines. And you can sit outside in front of the Pantheon while eating at night. Even the complimentary breakfast in our hotel was excellent. Coffee? Shazzam.

Special Mention: New Orleans I was fortunate enough to spend a week there before the catastrophe, and ate like a king. Some of the much-vaunted restaurants on Bourbon Street were glorified gumbified Applebee's, but if you avoided the tourist traps there were divine meals to be had. Here's hoping the Big Easy comes back strong!

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