20 Hot Food Neighborhoods in 12 U.S. Cities

By Zagat Staff  |  August 20, 2013

No matter what city you're from, there's always a handful of neighborhoods/streets where all the hot new restaurants seem to be cropping up. While you're traveling around the country this fall, keep this handy guide to hip neighborhoods in mind if you cruise through any of these 12 big-ticket foodie towns.

  • NYC: West Greenpoint

    The prime hub of Greenpoint is Manhattan and Nassau, but if you want to see the culinary offerings that have turned this once frumpy neighborhood into the toast of NYC's food world, head west. Sure, you've had Paulie Gee's pizzas before, but once you venture north of Greenpoint Avenue, you'll run into some exciting openings. There's Andrew Tarlow's (Marlow & Sons) new bar Achilles Heel that offers coffee during the morning along with beer, wine and grub. There's also River Styx, which uses its decor to pay homage to the area's nautical past; similarly sea-themed The Bounty; and Alameda, which serves a small menu of decadent snacks in a stylish wood-paneled room. Finally, there's the gorgeous Glasserie, which is housed in the sprawling building that used to be the home of the Greenpoint Glass Works. A combo of culinary inventiveness, accessible prices and stylish spaces make this off-the-beaten-path area NYC's hottest culinary 'hood. 

  • Credit: Bestia/Ryan Tanaka

    Los Angeles: The Arts District, Downtown

    It still feels pretty industrial in this part of Downtown LA, but artists moved in to work and live in the area as early as the '70s, and today, it's full of big warehouse lofts and brimming with new restaurants, cafes and more.

    On one side, you have Angel City Brewery for open-air beer drinking, Wurstkuche for sausages and fries, The Pie Hole for sweet and savory pies, and Villains Tavern for live music and punch bowls, among other spots.

    On the other, the new Urban Radish gourmet marketplace is great for grab-and-go, Bestia for Ori Menashe's charcuterie and pastas, and Church & State, Little Bear, Tony's Saloon and PizzanistaBread LoungeUrth Cafe and Handsome Coffee Roasters for coffee. Stumptown Coffee will open its first Southern California roastery, cafe and retail space on Santa Fe near Seventh soon.

  • Chicago: Logan Square

    The rapidly evolving neighborhood is quickly becoming home to Chicago’s hottest dining destinations including Fat Rice, Billy Sunday and Longman + Eagle. Be on the lookout for The Radler and D.A.S., a new bar from the team behind Scofflaw and a distillery to pop up before next year.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Philadelphia: East Passyunk

    The South Philly strip is an undisputed darling of the national food press right now, and with good reason. Joncarl Lachman’s Noord is the latest gem to sprout on the street, joining Christopher Kearse’s Will as the newcomers joining a plethora of hot spots with more-embedded roots.

    Fond and Le Virtu are two of the restaurants that helped give the stretch its current good name, not to mention inimitable markets and cafes like Green Aisle Grocery, Artisan Boulanger Patissier and Capogiro. We could go on all day, so make time for a leisurely stroll or three, and come hungry.

  • Credit: Flickr/NadiaBoBadia

    Bay Area: San Mateo

    The sleepy Peninsula town has long been a draw for excellent mom-and-pop sushi spots, but is now also known as a hot spot for ramen that draws people in from all over the Bay Area. Practice the virtue of patience while in line for a bowl at Ramen Dojo, Santa Ramen or Ramen Parlor, and you'll be handsomely rewarded.

  • Austin: South First

    Will South First Street explode if one more restaurant moves in? We’re not sure, but we’re loving all the treasures on this very walkable street that has become a microcosm of Austin. There are Texas treats like La Barbecue, new-school Vietnamese-French at Elizabeth Street Café, new-school Thai at Sway, innovative “hot-weather” cuisine at Lenoir and all the green juice you can drink at Juicebox. Old-timer vegetarian restaurant Bouldin Creek Café consistently keeps us coming back, as does the espresso at Once Over Coffee Bar. And for Mexican, both Polvo’s and El Chile turn out some mean meals.

  • Boston: The Seaport

    One upon a time, the Seaport felt like a no-man’s-land for food lovers. Now it’s a bona fide destination for locals and out-of-towners who make a night of it: maybe grabbing dinner amid the rooftop singles scene at Legal Harborside, Boston’s biggest restaurant, or on the patio at 75 on Liberty Wharf, an intimate entry to the sprawling ‘Seaport. Then it’s drinks at Harpoon Beer Hall, the brewery’s new German-style spot to swill steins, or Empire Restaurant & Lounge, where the pan-Asian dining room turns in to a swank, DJ-dominated hot spot. Fort Point, adjacent to the Seaport and linking it to South Boston, supplements the Seaport’s selection with long-standing stalwarts like Menton and Sportello (from chef powerhouse Barbara Lynch) and new spots like Tavern Road and chef Ming Tsai's Blue Dragon.

  • Credit: Jody Brady

    Washington, DC: Penn Quarter Near the Verizon Center

    Prime locations are hard to come by at this hub for museums, theaters, the Verizon Center, hotels and businesses. Recent additions snapping up vacated properties include Victor Albisu’s handsome South American grill Del Campo and the casually sophisticated New American Nopa Kitchen +Bar (pictured), as well as a Shake Shack located next door to the Spy Museum. Meanwhile behind the Verizon Center, Daikaya brings Japanese ramen and bar culture to two floors of a townhouse.

  • Credit: Monzo/Lesley Balla

    Los Angeles: Little Tokyo, Downtown

    You'll find a bit of the old and new in LA's Japanese cultural center. Mikawaya, the originator of mochi ice cream, has been a hub for more than 100 years, and sushi stalwarts like Sushi Gen still has one of the best sashimi lunch deals in town. The noodle proliferation has taken hold, with constant lines at places like Daikokuya and Shin Sen Gumi for ramen, and the fabulous hand-pulled udon noodles at the new Monzo. The best yakitori can be found at Honda-ya and Kokekokko.

    For something different, get to The Spice Table while you can; eventually Bryant Ng will have to take his lamb belly skewers elsewhere. The Lazy Ox Canteen has seasonally inspired small plates and a great burger. Speaking of burgers, seek out The Escondite for gut-bombs like this.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Philadelphia: Fishtown

    Once considered a trek, this rapidly gentrifying hood now seems a stone’s throw from Center City, thanks to all the food and drink. No matter what kind of cuisine you’re craving, you’ve got options: Pizza Brian and Pizzeria Beddia, for example, or Fette Sau and Bubba’s Texas BBQ.

    On the beer front you can choose from Frankford Hall, Johnny Brenda’s or Kraftwork and have no chance of being disappointed, and same goes for coffee at Steep and Grind or ReAnimator. After all that, hit Loco Pez for tacos and Barcade for video games - it’s a never-ending party on Frankford Avenue.

  • Chicago: Lincoln Square/Ravenswood

    The young families and quiet couples who occupy these adjacent North Side neighborhoods have something to cheer about with the recent addition of noteworthy restaurants helmed by some of Chicago’s finest chefs, including Gather, Half Acre and Fountainhead.

  • Austin: South Lamar

    South Lamar used to be the underappreciated cousin of South Congress, but these days it's hipper than hip. Chef Tyson Cole’s sushi restaurant Uchi takes some of the credit, as does chef Bryce Gilmore’s award-winning gastropub Barley Swine. But there are also the sandwiches and salads at Henri’s Cheese and Wine, banh mi at Lulu B’s and the unstoppable ice cream at Lick. Plus there’s modern French food at Olivia, beer and burgers at Black Sheep Lodge, old-Austin Tex-Mex at Matt’s El Rancho and, of course, donut burgers at Gourdough’s Public House.

  • Credit: Jody Brady

    Washington, DC: 14th Street N.W. from Logan Circle to V Street N.W.

    From the sophisticated bar atop the Donovan House Hotel off Logan Circle to of-the-moment drinks and snacks from Asian restaurant Zentan, and Mike Isabella’s latest hot spots - the Greek Kapnos and G, his sandwich shop - this stretch of real estate is booming. Roughly halfway between them is the town’s toughest reservation - Le Diplomate French brasserie (pictured). Along the way are Belgian B Too, Peter Pastan’s latest Italian spot Etto, perpetually packed seafooder Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, Latin/Asian fusion spot Masa 14, New American Bar Pilar and perennial faves like the community coffeehouse/American destination Busboys and Poets.

  • Boston: Union Square

    Somerville's undiscovered little secret is being discovered. High-concept farm-to-table spot Journeyman and mixology den Backbar began attracting curious visitors to the underrated 'hood. Now new spots like Bronwyn, the ambitious German and Central Europe restaurant from T.W. Food's esteemed Tim Weichmann, "urban agriculture" market and education center Relish, and butcher MF Dulock, which focuses on whole animals from local farms, are enhancing Union's reputation as one of the more adventurous neighborhoods.  

  • NYC: Bowery and Elizabeth Streets South of Houston

    Bowery below Houston is on a hot streak, with recent openings like The General and Pearl and Ash cementing the strip's status as a food destination. Of course there's Pulino's on the North end if you're feeling like pizza, The Bowery Diner if you want an easy late-night bite and Cata, a sexy tapas joint that should be getting more attention than it does (pictured). We propose that this food 'hood be extended a block West to Elizabeth Street. This quiet stretch is a world apart from the calamitous main thoroughfare, and if you venture over, you'll find more refined offerings ranging from old-favorite Public, the elegant New Zealand-inspired Musket Room, standby taco joint Tacombi and upscale Thai at super hip Uncle Boons (which you'll find as you walk over on Spring Street).

  • Credit: Tamara Palmer

    Bay Area: Daly City and South San Francisco

    If these two neighboring towns have a commonality, it's an abundance of Pinoy culinary specialties. While the rest of the Bay Area is still turning on to staples like sisig, adobo and lumpia, this is everyday food in Daly City and South San Francisco. Ongpin is named after one of the great leaders of the Philippines, but offers an environment that's practically as comfortable as a family room and the feel of home-cooked food. House of Silvanas is a hidden bakery worth hunting down for a Pinoy take on the French macaron, made with cashews instead of almonds. Or try one of the few Stateside outposts of Filipino fast-food titan Jollibee at any hour - the drive-through window is open 24 hours a day.

  • Credit: Pok Pok

    Portland: SE Division

    Portland's SE Division Street has been the hottest food area in town for years and continues to add new eateries to its roster. Home to pioneers like Pok Pok, Jenn Louis' Sunshine Tavern and the original Stumptown, the area also recently acquired newcomers like Block and Tackle and Andy Ricker's Sen Yai.

  • Miami: West South Beach/Alton Road

    The West side of South Beach (on Alton Road and west) is an area that's been steadily heating up with hot restaurants over the last few years. Most recently, additions like Macchialina (from the Pubbelly folks, also on the West Side) have been making a splash away from the craziness of Collins Avenue and Lincoln Road. A newly opened Umami Burger nearby also signals that the food scene on Alton Road is about to get a lot more interesting.

  • Louisville: NuLu

    NuLu, or the East Market District, is undoubtedly Louisville's hottest neighborhood for restaurants right now, particularly East Market Street, which is stacked with eateries and cafes like Rye on Market, Harvest, La Coop Bistro à Vins, Taco Punk, Garage Bar, Please and Thank You, Decca and Wiltshire on Market

  • Credit: Booty's Street Food

    New Orleans: Bywater

    Locals are starting to refer to this 'hood as the Williamsburg of NOLA (Bywater-Burg) because of its large hipster contingent, and, non-shocker, this means it's also a hot spot for great restaurants. Spots like Maurepas Foods, Pizza Delicious, Mariza and newcomer Booty's Street Food are what make this neighborhood one to circle during your next trip down to the Big Easy.