Buenos Aires, Argentina
Here’s a pub fact for you: Argentinians apparently consume 70kg of meat per head per year. Nope, we’re not exaggerating. You’ll want to witness this in person, of course, and for that you need to head to the city of Buenos Aires, home to thousands of parrillas – traditional steak restaurants with charcoal grills. One of the best in the city is La Cabrera, where your plate will be heaped with pink-on-the-inside, dark-on-the-outside hunks of meat, with dozens of sides including buttery, salty, whipped potato.
The following night try La Brigada – a football-themed parrilla where waiters cut your steak with a spoon (don’t try that at home). For dessert head to the supermarket and buy a tub of dulce de leche – a thick, rich caramel spread-sauce that’s fantastic with bread or ice cream. Or just a spoon.
MUST EAT: Empanadas are the go-to snack. These pasty-esque pies are stuffed with spiced egg and beef, or cheese and onion. Best enjoyed dribbled with hot sauce.
If easygoing bars are as high on your agenda as cheap plates of delicious food, head to Greece’s gourmet capital of Thessaloniki. The university city is crammed with traditional ouzeries where you can go big on the orders (we mean BIG), even bigger on the wine and you still won’t spend more than £12 per person on your meal. Mental. Try Tsinari, a colourful wooden-chaired option, or Gourounakia, in a cool part of town that’s heaving with little bars. Check them all out – but be sure to leave time for ΣΤΗ ΣΤΟΑ (Soul Bar), with its reggae soundtrack and strong cocktails. You’ll need to eat souvlaki, natch – get the best at Derlicatessan Souvlaki, where you’ll queue for a few minutes trying to work out the Greek menu before emerging with plates heaving with chicken wraps, halloumi, potatoes topped with cream, and chips sprinkled with cheese. And pints of Mythos, obviously.
MUST EAT: The bougatsa at Estrella has become an Instagram sensation – it’s a cross between the traditional Greek custard pastry and a croissant. Order with chocolate cream and prepare for thousands of #likes.
If you were to guess where the oldest grape vine in the world is located, you probably wouldn’t put Slovenia at number one. Well, it is – and there are tons of vineyards to visit, too (hire a bike and cycle around, they love you popping in for tours). The locals in Maribor – a city set in the wine region’s hills – are extremely proud of their produce, the majority of which comes from farms in the area. Expect rustic platters of cheese and charcuterie, but also high-end dining – ultramodern restaurant Rožmarin strikes the balance between fine and casual dining, with a café and wine cellar onsite, too.
MUST EAT: Get to Restavracija Mak – a slow-food restaurant with an impressive wine cellar and tasting menu that’ll knock your socks off – think several rounds of amuse bouches followed by sous-vide veal chops.
Big cities don’t have to be overwhelming if you know where to get your grub. Start your evening in the Navigli area, where the canals are, for aperitivo – essentially a pre-dinner ritual when your Aperol spritz will come with a selection of tasty snacks. It’s a cheap way of eating and a cool part of town to hang out in. You’ll find amazing gelato everywhere, but the shop on Via Cesare Lombroso is our fave. Whatever you do, get to Luini for panzerotti. An institution since 1888, it’s a bakery churning out secret-recipe versions of these doughy parcels, packed with mozzarella and tomato (if you’re going for the timeless classic) or mozzarella, tomato, anchovies and black olives. Find it near the Duomo and expect to queue. For something entirely different, log on to gnammo.com. This social eating site (think Airbnb for dining) will give you a really local dinner party experience for a maximum of €30 each.
MUST EAT: Saffron risotto – go to Masuelli Trattoria for the original recipe.
Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean
If you’re looking for idyllic Caribbean beaches but some banging street food too, then the sister islands of Trinidad and Tobago will deliver. Start in Trinidad, which sits just off the coast of Venezuela. Trinis are famed for their love of food, and at night you’ll find them chillaxing next to their souped-up cars at the Queen’s Park Savannah – a giant grassy roundabout that’s filled with street stalls come dusk. Tuck into doubles – squidgy pancake-esque discs that are heaped with curried chickpeas, chutney and chilli, then move onto some pholourie – a savoury donut that’s served with tamarind and mango chutneys. After a few days liming in Port of Spain hop across the water to Tobago, a sleepy Caribbean island where you’ll find empty stretches of beach and locals keen to get you sampling the local Carib beer.
MUST EAT: Head to Maracas Bay in Trinidad for the bake and shark shacks, which serve dough stuffed with deep-fried shark, topped with salad and sauces. Richard’s Stall, sat right on the beach, is a good choice for the freshest and most authentic bake and shark.
Malmö is a city of artisans with a vibrant start-up culture, so you’ll find innovative food producers and restaurants all over the city. For a casual bite, Scandwich – a low-key joint set up by ex-restaurant chefs in a mall food court in the multicultural Möllevången neighbourhood – serves open-faced Scandi sandwiches (hence the name) loaded up with pickled veg, meats and sauces. It’s like a kebab, but prettier and less guilt-inducing.
There’s a thriving restaurant culture, too – more casual than Michelin, but with plenty of chefs taking traditional Swedish food and giving it a shake-up in approachable
restaurants and cafés around the city. For coffee, Lilla Kafferosteriat has you covered – owner Filip Akerblom, a big player in Sweden’s up-and-coming coffee culture and a judge at its Barista Championships, is all about farm-to-cup coffee, working with producers and sourcing diverse beans.
MUST EAT: Far i Hatten, a courtyard hangout and restaurant in the centre of the city’s Folkets Park, is a must-visit destination for food lovers. If you’ve got time, book yourself in for chef Simon Lennblad’s New Nordic-style tasting menu.
San Antonio/Houston, Texas, US
Houston may conjure up images of space centres and shuttle launches, but we’re more excited about the city’s other claim to fame. Yep, Houston, Texas is where the first fajita was invented. Try them today at Ninfa’s, which boasts the slogan “The best Mexican food in Texas since Texas was in Mexico” – and the drinks, especially the margaritas, are great, too. Twin Houston with the city of San Antonio, where you’ll pick up some classic Texas BBQ. The emerging Pearl District is home to warehouse-style joints and cocktail bars. Get to Granary ’Cue and Brew for slow-cooked beef brisket and ribs.
MUST EAT: Houston is America’s pho capital. Try Thien An Sandwiches for excellent beef pho and the best banh mi in town.
How: Hayes and Jarvis offers trips taking in both cities from £1,199pp including flights and accommodation, hayesandjarvis.co.uk
Paris and Lyon can move over: for traditional French fare with a touch of grit, try Marseille. The unglamourous Toinou, near the old port, is a haven for cheap but delicious platters of oysters, lobsters, crabs and virtually every other seafood going (expect to pay around €10 for 20 or so oysters). Bouillabaisse is the dish of the day here – ask locals for their favourite. Georges Bistro is a great locals’ lunch spot, where 1960s-style interiors are paired with big-portioned salads, meat and coffee. For something entirely different, check out the restaurant at the Unité d’habitation; perhaps one of the most important examples of Brutalist architecture, the quirky concrete block is the work of the celebrated Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, and the restaurant serves food as good as the views.
MUST EAT: Coogee is an eclectic coffee shop with bikes hanging from the ceiling, and coffees you’ll want to flood Instagram with.
For proper, straight-up grub without the fancy flourishes, head up north to Glasgow. First, check out Old Salty’s, where you’ll find huge portions of fried-to-order fish, homemade pies and sauces. Proper chip-shop chips come as standard – crunchy bite and almost roast potatoey inside. Carnivores should head to Meat Bar. Pork, beef, chicken and chorizo are stuffed inside warm brioche buns (not together!) with pickles, slaws and sauces. The express menu is just a tenner for two courses. Good, because you’ll want to save your cash for your big beer tour: Blackfriars serves ales from Scottish craft breweries, while Drygate is a huge space with 24 draught beers and 200 bottles. It tags itself as an experiential brewery – so you can be tutored on brewing sessions, create your own beer and attend meet-the-brewer and beer appreciation events. Although we don’t necessarily need a specific evening for the latter.
MUST EAT: The locals may not eat it, but it’s your touristy obligation to try a deep-fried Mars bar. Or better yet, a Galaxy Caramel.
Skopje and Ohrid, Macedonia
Macedonia may not be the most obvious choice for a food-focused trip, but the Balkans are the next big thing in food. Sometimes it helps to be guided, and with Intrepid Travels’ new Real Food Adventure through Macedonia and Montenegro, you’ll munch through the best of the country on a food-packed ten-day itinerary. There’ll be eating, obviously – think burek (puff pastry stuffed with spinach, feta or minced meat), tavche gravche (a slow-cooked creamy bean stew) and kachcamak (a polenta-like cornmeal dish which is particularly addictive with sour cream and cheese). Then there’s drinking – boza (a fermented liquid), rajkija and wine (it’s also one of the newest players on the wine scene).
You’ll meet local experts in ham, cheese and wine, make regional pastries, and also enjoy a side-serving of epic scenery – breakfast on the banks of the Treska Riva, waterfalls, church-filled villages and national parks.
MUST EAT: Ajvar is easy to find – it’s a bright-orange relish of bell peppers, eggplant, garlic and chilli. Slather it on everything.
How: Intrepid Travel offers ten-night trips from £1,260pp including all meals and accommodation, intrepidtravel.com
Hanoi can be an overwhelming city to visit – crossing the road is a dice with death thanks to the countless mopeds that pack the roads. Helpfully, you can find plenty of comfort in the food. Pho is the nation’s signature dish, and some of the best in town is at Pho Gia Truyen at 49 Bat Dan. Even at 7am there’ll be a line down the street, but stick it out. Beef is weighed in front of you and chucked into a bowl with soft noodles and stock – and the result is fragrant and heart-warming. If the street food scene is a bit overwhelming, try a food tour with blogger Mark Lowerson. Try bang tom (shrimp-fried pancakes) and banh mi (baguettes with pate, cucumber, herbs and chilli) from the best stalls in the city.
MUST EAT: Iced coffee with condensed milk. You’ll find it absolutely everywhere.
Margaret River, Western Australia
Pristine beaches and cheap-but-excellent wine? Yes, it’s true, and it’s worth schlepping across the world for. Three hours south of Perth you’ll find Margaret River – a town, a river and one of Australia’s most successful wine making regions (cab sauv and chardonnay are particularly prevalent). When you’re not surfing in the Indian Ocean, a round of vineyard tours in the 100km-long area here is a must. Try Si Vintners, with vines planted in 1978 that are now farmed along organic and biodynamic lines, and Ashbrook Estate, with its husband-and-wife reisling-producing duo. After a day strolling around the vines and sampling the area’s best, drop into Swings – the taproom of a local vineyard (with a huge selection of wine on tap).
MUST drink: Continue the booze theme at Morries – the Bunny Boiler cocktail is American-style whiskey, honey liqueur, rhubarb bitters and beer. Oof. That’ll do it.
Foodies may think to head further up the coast to Barcelona or Girona, but for a different food scene try Alicante. We’re not the only ones championing this coastal city – El Bulli’s Ferran Adria has also stated that the region is the best place to eat in Spain. There’s an interesting movement going on here, too. Of the 174 Michelin-star restaurants in the country, only 22 are run by women.
In Alicante there’s not only a strong female presence in the kitchen, but grandmas are running the behind-the-scenes show as opposed to young feisty male chefs. In Ondara, one hour north east of the city, you’ll find Casa Pepe – a bright, unpretentious, garden-view restaurant with one Michelin star and seventysomething granny Pepa Romans at the helm. In the city you’ll find Monastrell, a Michelin-starred waterside restaurant flooded with natural light, and the brainchild of grandma María José San Román (one of her daughters also runs a sister tapas restaurant – Taberna del Gourmet – in the city). Cuisine in the Alicante region is big on the reinvented mama’s classics, and light, too – expect vegetables, fish and rice as opposed to rich meaty dishes.
MUST EAT: Try El Rebujito for crispy but sticky fried aubergines in honey and mega-cheap tapas with beer.
If you think London’s street food scene is decent, we’re put to shame by Vancouver. Here, food trucks line the streets not for social reasons but functional – at lunch time you’ll see office workers queueing for tacos, toasties and hotdogs while limp supermarket salads don’t get a look-in. There’s an app detailing locations, but our faves are Mom’s Grilled Cheese, Japadog (for unusual Asian twists on hotdogs) and Soho Road for naan kebabs. If all that’s making you thirsty (and you’re into beer), then head to emerging neighbourhood East Van. Formerly a grey industrial area, cheap rents mean lots of budding local craft breweries are opening there. Better yet, about eight are within stumbling distance of each other. Try Storm Brewing for its quirky staff and brews (pineapple pilsner anyone?).
MUST EAT: Get to Floata – it’s on the upper floor of an unassuming mall and looks like a giant conference room full of dim sum trolleys. Cheap, filling and delicious.
Many people will extoll the virtues of Brussels as a food destination, but neighbour Bruges isn’t just pretty canals and lonely monks – it boasts some great food and drink, too. In fact, it’s known as ‘Belgium’s capital of fine dining’, and not for nothing: if you’re a die-hard food lover, you should know that it has one of the highest concentrations of Michelin-starred restaurants per capita anywhere in the world. That means a). you’ve got loads of options and b). you won’t have to book years in advance. For something a bit more approachable, there are cosy cafés with canal views all over the city, where you can graze on moules marinières while watching the world go by (likely a little slower than you’re used to). Or, after a night on the trappist beers, swing by the little green trucks parked in the main square for the ultimate Belgian snack – frites with a huge dollop of mayonnaise, and burst your hangover before it’s even started.
MUST EAT: If you’re going for the top end, try Hertog Jan, one of Bruges’ two restaurants with three Michelin stars, set up by chef Gert De Mangeleer and super sommelier Joachim Boudens. It won its third star in 2011.