Esteemed Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema set forth on a tireless (and filling) journey across our country this year in order to find the best food city in America. The series, which I followed throughout the year, was an intriguing mix of reporting, criticism and colorful storytelling.
Sietsema’s criteria included “creativity, community and tradition, among other criteria” in the respective city’s food scenes. He ended up naming Portland the #1 food city, and I would tend to agree. Pound-for-pound the Pacific Northwest city is as impressive as any I’ve visited. It has excellent French bistro food (Le Pigeon), cool cocktail bars with elevated snacks (Expatriate), great charcuterie (Olympic Provisions), a sushi-style cheese bar (Chizu), an amazing array of coffee and beer (Stumptown, Deschutes Brewery), a dazzling assortment of Asian cuisine (Pok Pok, Nong’s Khao Man Gai), and much much more.
Another place with an amazing Asian influence is Houston, which Sietsema ranked #5 on his list. He said that Houston surprised him more than any other city, and noted its strong Asian influences as one of the factors that set it apart.
Houston was the only Texas city to make the list, and I believe the only city Sietsema visited on his exhaustive trip. Not every city he visited made the list, however, as he points out with a wink top Seattle and Nashville.
I’ve had the good fortune in dining in six of the Top 10 in the past two years, and you can check out what I had to say about those place here: Chicago | Houston | Charleston | San Francisco | New Orleans.
What do you think? Did Sietsema get it right? Does Austin deserve a look from the critic next year? Or are we a little too proud of ourselves. I haven’t been to D.C. in a few years (but plan to go next year), but I’d put us slightly ahead of Charleston and D.C.