Our community of discerning food writers spent most of 2018 scouring the globe for the best gastronomic experiences. To inspire you for the year ahead, we've compiled the following destinations to add to your bucket list—each one will ensure that your journey will be a delicious one.
Why go: The Finnish capital is buzzing with restaurants that mix daring cooking with on-trend design, and this is creating delicious results.
Don't miss: Yes Yes Yes, a highly Instagrammable restaurant serving modern vegetarian and vegan food matched with a great selection of wines.
2. Mexico City
Why go: Mexico City has become a hot spot amongst travelers over the past few years, and frequent peregrinations can be boiled down to two elements: food and culture.
Don't miss: The freshest seafood in Mexico City can be found at the ever-so-popular Contramar, a buzzy and vibrant restaurant from chef and restaurateur Gabriela Cámara. There are few better spots to enjoy the Mexican tradition of sobremesa (lingering over beverages and chitchat after a meal).
Why go: From northern-style pho (not as sweet or fishy as Saigon pho) to bun cha (grilled pork), the food of Hanoi has long been celebrated around the world, with chefs such as the late Anthony Bourdain praising it as one of their favourite food cities in the world.
Don't miss: Remnants of French colonialism can be found at Bánh Mỳ Sốt Vang Hàng Bông, where crispy loaves of baguette-esque banh mi is served with a thin beef stew that’s similar to boeuf au vin or boeuf bourguignon but adapted for the Vietnamese palate.
Why go: As much as Italians are proud of their own regional cuisines, Sicily is a place every Italian chef is proud to source from. The blistering sun ripens some of the nation’s—and probably the world’s—best tomatoes, and the seafood from coastal cities like Palermo, the island’s capital, is second to none.
Don't miss: The vintage Enoteca Picone is hugely popular with the locals, and it's not hard to see why—family-owned and now helmed by the enthusiastic Vera Bonnano, the fourth generation, there are thousands of wines from all over the world, but the main draw is the extensive range of Sicilian wines from niche, artisanal producers. Stop in for an apero, or stay for light dinner—there’s a full kitchen that serves light local plates, such as Sicily’s famous bottarga, and tenerumi (zucchini leaf) soup.
Why go: Korea’s food obsession comes with high standards and loud opinions from everyone on the street about what’s the best way to cook or season a dish. International chefs have taken notice and started to take up shop in Seoul, adding to its already teeming and dynamic food scene. Now is the time to explore Seoul’s food, but forget the barbecue and fried chicken – there’s so much more to discover in this sprawling, food-loving city.
Don't miss: Jungshim in Itaewon is one of those hidden gems that you reluctantly share with other people because you’re worried you’ll never be able to get a seat there again. This is a wonderful place to spend an evening with friends over Hallasan soju from Jeju island and their battered bajirak clams, steamed pork belly or, really, anything that chef Lee brings out for you.
Why go: It might be the home of a certain global chain of coffee shops, but the independent spirit Seattle is known for is still alive and well. From oysters and negronis on tap, to wine and pizza, there’s enough excellent food and drink to be experienced here to render you sleepless.
Don't miss: Head to Manolin for bright, fresh plates of local seafood ceviche, crudo and oysters. The wood-fired grill, which takes pride of place in the open kitchen for all to see, is constantly fed logs throughout the night and masterfully tended to, producing beautifully charred meats, fish and even rice. There are no reservations, so come early to nab one of the coveted kitchen counter seats, or be prepared to wait in a seat on the terrace with a cocktail which, in clement weather, isn’t a bad idea anyway.
Why go: “Kuidaore”—to ruin oneself by the extravagance of food. This is a term often used to describe Osaka’s food scene, one where mysterious alleys house unexpected culinary wonders, where hearty bowls of ramen demand shameless slurping, and where even the egg sandwiches from convenience stores will blow your mind.
Don't miss: Osaka has no shortage of drinking holes, but one that truly stands out is Bar Nayuta, a one stop shop for a great speakeasy-like atmosphere, tasty drinks and a good time. One obstacle you’ll have to overcome is figuring out how to get into the tiny 20-seater joint; located on one of Osaka’s many unnamed streets, the bar sits 5 floors up in an unassuming building and through a three-foot-door.
8. Los Angeles
Why go: Year-round sunshine and a prime location in a vast agricultural region yields healthy produce, and “farm-to-table” is a term commonly used to describe every notable restaurant opening. The highest quality of ingredients combined with a growing pool of a new generation of young chefs from a mosaic of cultural backgrounds creates an environment for unconventional dining.
Don't miss: Botanica in LA’s hip Silverlake neighborhood has become a favourite for produce-forward fare in a highly curated casual setting filled with natural light. The cuisine skews vegetarian with healthfulness in mind, with a menu abundant of beautiful “herbaceous” salads, bright mezze plates and light proteins like lamb kofta.
Why go: Under the tropical sun, Bangkok may look like nothing but a chaotic mess of bumper-to-bumper traffic, tangled power wires, and cracked pavements. Yet amid all the clutter, one will find a multitude of smiling faces, genuine hospitality, delectable smells, and an enthralling blend of tradition and modernity. Above all its quirks and charm lies its incredible food, and if there’s one reason for people to return to the city time and time again, it’s that an outstanding meal is never far away.
Don't miss: Petchaburi Soi 5 is famous for housing the tastiest food in Bangkok, and P’aor comes out on top as the kind of no-frills restaurant that you visit if you want your expectations to be exceeded. The restaurant’s claim-to-fame is its creamy broth, made rich by the combination of condensed milk and stewed giant shrimp heads. At P’aor, there is no such thing as a shortcut—the broth is cooked for hours, the seafood is incredibly fresh and the ingredients are top notch.
Why go: Weather may not be on Scotland’s side if you are looking for a balmy spot in which to vacation, but its fresh blustery air, rugged green pastures and cold clear waters are ripe for rearing some of the world’s finest meats and fish—fuel to a fiery culinary scene in the nation’s capital. Scotland’s chefs are making the most of these ingredients to the delight of visitors keen to savour more than shortbread, oatcakes and whisky.
Don't miss: Oysters grown in the clear waters of Argyllshire, scallops from the Isle of Mull, venison from The Cairngorms, duck from Gartmorn and beetroot from Arran, not to mention that Scottish classic, haggis—they all appear on the menu at The Witchery.
Why go: While the more populous Auckland is often the go-to city of choice when visiting New Zealand, its capital shouldn't be overlooked. Whether you're looking for international contemporary fine dines or artisanal hole-in-the-walls, you're likely to find something to your taste in the breezy seaside city.
Don't miss: The Crab Shack is a casual eatery perched on sunny Queen's Wharf that serves up tortillas, burgers, pastas, and a variety of sharing plates, but it's focus, as its name would suggest, is on seafood—particularly its namesake crab.
Why go: Not only is the District of Columbia the United States’ centre of power, its dining scene has gained significant recognition in recent years too. Bon Appetit crowned Washington restaurant city of the year in 2016, and its eateries and chefs are nominated almost every year for the James Beards Awards.
Don't miss: A little off the tourist trail in Adams Morgan is Tail Up Goat, a sunny neighbourhood bistro that has become one of D.C.’s hottest tables, thanks to its incredibly creative, elevated take on comfort food.
13. Faroe Islands
Why go: A visit to the Faroe Islands means bracing yourself for some extreme gastronomic experiences. Not just delicious and distinctive, food in the Faroes opens a window into the culture of these islands, both current and of days gone by. Its cuisine showcases how the islanders once lived, foraging, hunting and gathering from land and sea and preserving and fermenting for the cold winter months.
Don't miss: Almost all produce served at KOKS, save for a handful of fruits and vegetables, has been sourced locally, much of it that day, and the dish introductions by knowledgeable staff tell their tales. Each outstanding dish can be expertly paired with impressive alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages, rounding out an unforgettable dining experience totally unique to the stunning location—an old farmhouse in a remote valley by Leynavatn, just 20-minutes from Tórshavn.
Why go: You don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to fall head over heels in love with Napa Valley (though it does help if you enjoy a glass or two). Napa has its very own unique culture—one that pays homage to foods that are grown, gathered and soon after served delightfully on a plate, and even the ingredients for cocktails are ethically sourced. Illustrious estates and remarkable wineries lined up one after another along a two-lane road make for stellar scenery, making it the perfect environment to wake up, wine, eat, wine and repeat.
Don't miss: In an area known for tasting menus by chefs who turn food into high art, The Fremont Diner stands out as a reminder of how just as enjoyable a pared down meal can be. Located on Highway 12 between Napa and Sonoma, the homey diner evokes quirky nostalgia from the moment you walk through its swinging doors, with its rusty pickup truck parked outside, rusty memorabilia, vintage road signs, and mismatched tables and chairs.