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New Culinary Hotspots

Put a popular restaurant in the middle of town, and you have a point of interest. Pack a variety of markets, bakeries and other eateries into a neighborhood, and you create a bona fide culinary hot spot.

Great food has been available in America’s cities for years, and travelers have always enjoyed stumbling upon distinctive restaurants on the road. But the nationwide effort to revitalize local downtowns, combined with the burgeoning interest in culinary culture, has helped to make some urban neighborhoods into foodie destinations in their own right.

Travel planners can take advantage of America’s food districts in a variety of ways. If you have epicureans in your group, a food tour through one of these neighborhoods might be the highlight of their trip. And giving all of your travelers a couple of free hours in these areas allows them the opportunity to taste and explore a new place at their own pace.

Here are some food districts that have earned their reputations as culinary hot spots, as well as some that are only beginning their ascents.



Mission District

San Francisco

A significant portion of the Mexican food enjoyed around the United States today can be attributed to the Mission District of San Francisco. Named for a mission founded there in 1776, the Mission District is the oldest neighborhood in San Francisco, and mom-and-pop restaurants throughout the area were the starting point of the popular hand-held burrito trend that has swept the nation.

There are still plenty of places for traditional burritos and other Mexican-inspired food in the Mission District, but its appeal goes far beyond that. The neighborhood is home to some of the city’s hottest restaurants, including places such as Flour and Water, a popular Italian restaurant that specializes in homemade pastas and thin-crust pizzas.

Visitors will also find a number of unconventional, experimental restaurant concepts in the Mission District.

“Urban Putt recently opened in the Mission,” said Katie Petrucci, media relations associate for San Francisco Travel. “It’s San Francisco’s first and only indoor mini-golf course and restaurant. And Foreign Cinema is the city’s first restaurant, bar and antiplex. It serves French bistro fare in an environment that shows foreign and independent films nightly in the outdoor courtyard.”

Groups can get a great overview of some of the Mission’s culinary highlights on an excursion with Avital Tours. The company’s Mission tours include visits to an artisan cheese cafe, a ham-and-oyster bar, a taco bar, a Mexican vegan restaurant, a neighborhood grocery and a local creamery.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.