Local food and flavors are some of the greatest reasons to travel. And though the bistros of Paris and Tokyo’s izakayas always compel us to return, some of the most exciting foodie scenes are emerging in less-expected locations. From a nascent wine country in Brazil to the next great neighborhood for reimagined traditional plates in Bangkok, here are the global food destination you need to know about now.
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San José, Costa Rica
A group of chefs in the Costa Rican capital is celebrating the country’s rich ingredients while reappraising a hyper-local indigenous food culture. At Sikwa, a buzzy indoor-outdoor space in downtown Barrio Escalante, Pablo Bonilla doesn’t just serve pejibaye tamales and achiote chicken with pineapple while DJs drop nu-cumbia mixes. He works closely with the Bribri people in the Talamanca mountains, documenting recipes and connecting farmers with other restaurants. It’s part of a new foodie buzz, especially on Calle 33, with its sell-out falafels at Faqua’s, locally sourced aperitivos at Apotecario, and craft brews at Costa Rica Beer Factory. In Amón to the west, Santiago Fernández Benedetto is pioneering Costa Rican fine-dining under a vast chandelier at Silvestre, with modern takes on his grandmother’s cooking including fish baked in banana leaves. —Anna Prendergast
Most tourists wandering the birthplace of Jesus come for the biblical history. But throughout the Middle East it's known as a culinary capital, where Palestinian cooks, bakers, and producers proudly continue centuries-old traditions. At Elbabour, neighbors thumb earthy za'atar and tangy sumac, while at Almashedawi Bakery, regional staples like labneh and bitter greens are tucked into flatbread fresh from the taboon. And in an airy space overlooking Nazareth's red-tiled roofs, skilled home cooks help the chefs at Luna Arabic Bistro turn out maqluba, an elaborate Palestinian dish of meat and rice—perfectly capturing a city where community and tradition are always on the table. —Devra Ferst and Mozna Bishara
South Downs, U.K.
Wine tourism is on the up in England’s bucolic South Downs, just north of Brighton. Here small-scale vineyards are making increasingly respected wines on the back of the area’s chalky soil and fine climate. Take the much-loved Wiston Estate, which offers vineyard safaris and new restaurant Chalk in a barn-like space. Nearby, The Pig in the South Downs delivers the classic cozy-locavore Pig experience—except this restaurant with rooms is waiting to harvest 4,150 Chardonnay vines in the autumn. Further east, sparkling wine specialists Ridgeview (the Queen served Barack Obama its famous Fitzrovia Rosé) is in the process of opening a design-driven cuboid restaurant and tasting area amid lush gardens. Five minutes down the road, Artelium hired Dermot Sugrue, considered by many to be England’s best sparkling wine maker. —Amber Dalton
This glacial fantasyland has never registered as a foodie hot spot. But neither had the nearby Faroe Islands, until chef Poul Andrias Ziska took over the kitchen at KOKS, using traditional drying, fermenting, and smoking techniques to create hyperlocal menus with dishes like razorbill Wellington and wild-fermented lamb. Now, with the original restaurant closed, the team is headed to Greenland for a residency at Ilimanaq Lodge, a series of oceanfront A-frames in a tiny fishing village reachable only by boat. Ziska is plotting ambitious dishes highlighting the country's unique ingredients—think seal-blood tartlet and tenderized whale skin. Says Ziska, “If a catch is sustainable, and the animal is treated with respect, we'll consider it.” —Toby Skinner
Pampanga Province, Philippines
During occupation, the Spanish colonizers trained the locals in this region just outside Manila as chefs. The craft has been passed down for generations, making Pampanga one of country’s most exciting and consistent foodie scenes, famous for dishes like morcon, (a braised meat roll), tocino (a sweet cured pork), sisig (traditionally prepared with minced pork face), and buro (fermented rice prepared with sautéed shrimp). You can try variations of these and more in a mix of high-low spots throughout the region’s unassuming cities of Angeles City and San Fernando. Everybody’s Café and Ailing Lucing’s Sisig are can’t-miss, no-frills joints, which you’ll want to make reservations in advance for. All meals should end with traditional sweets like turrunos de casoy, a crunchy wafer-like treat prepared with cashew nuts, and the historian, Atching Lillian’s famous heirloom Pan de San Nicolas cookies. —Maryam Jilani
Valley of the Vineyards, Brazil
Settled by Italian immigrants who brought their vinicultural chops to the rolling fields of the Serra Gaúcha region, southern Brazil's Valley of the Vineyards is a ramble of vines and greenery that feels a world away from the deserts and jungles to the north. Its sparkling whites and earthy reds have been quietly gaining traction, with labels from places like Casa Valduga increasingly landing on top São Paulo wine lists. Stop in at the terra-cotta-roofed tasting room at Miolo to sip their delicate Pinot Noirs, or head down the valley's winding road for a rare Merlot, courtesy of Marco Luigi. —Jamie Ditaranto
Long famous for its rain forests and reefs, Belize is getting cred for sustainable food experiences that showcase its diverse cultures. On a tour of beach town Placencia, local company Taste Belize might offer guests a creamy seaweed smoothie, a drink linked to innovative farming initiatives, while hotels like Ka'ana Resort are partnering with Maya women chefs to offer traditional cooking classes around a fire hearth. Also, it's nice to know that in 2020 Belize outlawed violent gill-net fishing, which means that the catch of the day cooked into chef Jennie Staines's yellow curry at Elvi's Kitchen in San Pedro is always from reliable fisherfolk using sustainable methods. —Julia Eskins
Talad Noi, Bangkok
The pandemic may have cooled Bangkok's hottest foodie neighborhoods, but this district straddling the Chao Phraya River is sizzling again. Talad Noi has been racking up culinary cred since the mid-2010s, with the arrival of spots like locavore trailblazer 80/20 and nose-to-tail-touting 100 Mahaseth, but its second wave has finally rolled in. At Aksorn, Nahm veteran David Thompson's tasting menus are inspired by midcentury recipes, while at newcomer Small Dinner Club, Thai-born Sareen Rojanamatin pairs local ingredients with novel techniques—think frozen tom yum and dry-aged Muscovy duck with banana. Even cocktails have had an epicurean upgrade: At Mahaniyom Cocktail Bar, they come loaded with dried squid and coffee cherry husks from up north. —Chris Schalkx
Two hours north of the city, Kyoto by the Sea is a quiet swath of coast offering some of the best culinary products around. In the fishing village of Ine, sake master Kuniko Mukai brews her rare red Ine Mankai, which is served at Noma; brewer and chemist Yoshiki Yukimachi just created his own boutique batch of the rice wine for Kyoto's Four Seasons. He'll pour you some alongside bento boxes by his neighbor, chef Yukinori Yoshioka, who works wonders with local Matsuba crab at his reservations-only restaurant, Nawaya. Beyond Ine, 130-year-old distiller Iio Jozo creates vinegars from rice grown in its green paddies, which can be found in the kitchens of the world's top chefs, like Joël Robuchon. —Kate Crockett
When Sean Sherman, founder of the Native American food company The Sioux Chef, and his wife, Dana Thompson, opened Owamni, their first brick-and-mortar restaurant, in Minneapolis last July, the accolades flowed. The attention may be new, but the traditions are not: the Great Lakes have been home to Indigenous foods like manomin (wild rice) for thousands of years. Today, Native women are working to keep this heritage alive. In Wisconsin, Elena Terry's nonprofit Wild Bearies teaches communities traditional farming techniques, while Detroit-based Shiloh Kiona Maples's Spirit Plate podcast honors Indigenous peoples across the continent who are preserving—and revitalizing—ancestral practices. —Cinnamon Janzer
Southern Spain’s Costa de la Luz is known for its kitesurfing, but also its legendary red tuna, sustainably caught using an ancient Phoenician method during the almadraba fishing season each May. Now there’s another draw: José Pizarro. The chef—a pioneer of Spanish cooking in the U.K. since he opened his tapas bar in London’s Bermondsey in 2011—has decamped to the area. Iris Zahara is his sleek, pavilion-style contemporary home set into the cliffs of low-key beach town Zahara de los Atunes, with its long, kitesurf-friendly beaches. But the real pull is his three-day cookery and sherry-tasting tour. Guests get to visit Cádiz’s tapas bars, markets, and sherry triangle, including Osborne, Pizarro’s favorite producer; or El Campero restaurant in Barbate and elevated seafood haunt El Antonio, overlooking the Atlantic in Zahara, before heading back to make dishes from his new book, The Spanish Home Kitchen. They also hear stories about local ingredients, such as that red tuna, which was once butchered and salted in Cádiz’s Iglesia Del Carmen church. —Mark C. O'Flaherty
After surviving a pandemic and many hurricanes, the U.S. Virgin Islands is shifting from food imports to a locally sustainable scene, with restaurants using seasonal produce and proteins sourced from local fishermen and divers. In St. Croix, chef Tod Manley transformed his 40 Strand, to 40 Eats and Drinks, to include more take-out friendly options and a small outdoor patio, while notable Chef Digby Stridion launched a sustainable seafood restaurant on the North Shore, Ama at Cane Bay, as well as the tiki bar Breakers Roar, and Carolines breakfast spot. Amongst the European-style spots of St. John’s Cruz Bay, locals are starting to favor barefoot beach bar Heading East, offering fish in an open air atmosphere. On St Thomas, new concepts like chef David Benjamin’s refined Caribbean Indigo 4, is already one of the best restaurants around while the historic Market Square is getting a modern facelift courtesy of laid back Luciano’s, which does a mean Taco Tuesday. —Sucheta Rawal
Taitung county, a five-hour train ride south of Taipei, is one of the islands’ most remote regions, hemmed between the Central Mountain Range and sea. It’s in this unassuming, less explored corner that you will find of the country’s most dynamic dining spots, Sinasera 24, where chef Nick Yang applies techniques he picked up in France to aboriginal and Taiwanese ingredients, from local amaebi to mountain pepper leaf. Sinasera’s haute approach highlights the slow-food tradition of the region. You’ll need to drive up a narrow mountain road to reach Tamalakau, a hot pot restaurant specializing in foraged greens, perched 2,000 feet above Taitung City, and to the teahouse-like Yue Lu Moon House in Hualien county, for its bittermelon with sour plum and famous charcoal-roasted chicken stuffed with Chinese herbs. —Martha Cheng
A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazinehere.