9 Red-Hot Food Destinations to Hit This Summer

By Zagat Staff  |  May 20, 2014
Credit: Bestia

When planning your summer vacation, think with your stomach first and check out one of these food-centric destinations. We've rounded up nine destinations for all types of food-obsessed travelers, whether you're a wine geek, an oyster fiend or just interested in chilling out at a beautiful Smoky Mountains resort while sampling one of the biggest wine cellars in the country. Some of our destinations are for specific new restaurants that are worth a pilgrimage, while others are towns where you can spend a few days. To help you plan your trip, we've suggested hotels and other activities to do - when you're not eating or drinking. 

  • Credit: Shed

    Healdsburg, California

    Why you should go now: This undiscovered gem of California wine country now has more tasting rooms on its central square than any other town in Sonoma County. Stay on the plaza and you can walk to 38 wine labels. No need to find a designated driver or hire a taxi, which can be pricey in these parts.

    Where to stay: Reserve at Hotel Healdsburg (from $385/night), which has mod-luxe rooms and an above-average brunch buffet - complete with a waffle bar - included with your stay. Or book a room at its kid sister h2hotel (from $281/night), an eco-chic resting place where you can start your weekend with yoga and finish it off with amazing garden-to-glass cocktails at Spoonbar, on the ground level. Both hotels have a sizeable lap pool with room to sun, on-site.

    While you’re there: Peruse the wares for home and garden in the expansive airy retail areas at SHED, which just won a James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant Design. While you're there, refuel at the "fermentation bar" where you can sip on housemade kefir water, kombucha or locally made beer and wine. Afterwards, take your bike for a spin around Healdsburg backroads. Both of the hotels above offer free rentals with your room.

    Insider tip: If you're having trouble with dinner reservations at some of Healdsburg's most sought-after spots - like Scopa, Chalkboard or Madrona Manor - sidle up to the bar at Bravas. They've just released a slew of new sherry-based cocktails, perfect for washing down slices of Iberico ham and creamy, crunchy chicken croquetas. - Carolyn Alburger

  • Credit: visitalbuquerque.org

    Albuquerque, New Mexico

    Why you should go now: The food and drink scene in Albuquerque has always been exciting (two word: green chiles!), but these days it's definitely on the up-and-up. The brand-new, officially designated Brewery District is proof that the craft beer scene's star is rising fast, thanks to breweries like Nexus, La Cumbre, and Left Turn Distilling. In 2014, two ABQ chefs got a nod from the James Beard Foundation - Jennifer James of Jennifer James 101 and Jonathan Perno of La Merienda at Los Poblanos Inn (see below) were both nominated for the Best Chef: Southwest category.

    Where to stay:
    Los Poblanos ($180-$330), a lovely, historic, hacienda-style inn - formerly the private home of a rancher-congressman and his family - has an organic farm on-site, where shady cottonwood trees and abundant lavender make the grounds a pleasant place for a wander. The under-the-radar La Merienda restaurant (open Wednesdays through Saturdays only; reservations required for nonguests) is using ingredients grown on the grounds to pioneer a style they call Rio Grande River Valley cuisine - try the fritto misto with spring garlic, shallots, mushrooms, lemon, green chile mustard aïoli and New Mexico-produced feta.

    While you’re there: Go for a ride: Albuquerque boast miles of excellent bike trails. Rent your wheels at Routes, which also offers a number of tours, including a winery or brewery option - and a new-this-year chile tour. If you're in town on the weekend, consider hitting Bike-In Coffee at Old Town Farm, every Saturday and Sunday from 9 AM to 2 PM.

    Insider tip: You can find Albuquerque's famous spicy green chiles on menus year-round, but if you visit between mid-August and mid-October, you can taste the stuff at its best - freshly roasted. New-Mex classic restaurants like Sadie's and El Pinto set up grills out front for charring peppers - you'll also see, and smell, the same thing being done in parking lots all over town. - Jenny Miller

  • Nashville

    Why you should go now: In the last five or so years, the Southern city has become so much more than just Music City. It still has plenty bars where you can spot any number of musicians (Taylor Swift, Kings of Leon and the Black Keys all call Nashville home), but now the food scene draws rabid crowds as well. The experimental spot Catbird Seat features just 20 stools around a U-shaped counter; dinner is an ever-shifting tasting menu for $100 a head. Celebrated Charleston chef Sean Brock chose Nashville as the location for the second oupost of his Husk Restaurant, and he serves mindblowing shrimp 'n' grits along with a truly messy and sloppy cheeseburger. At Rolf & Daughters, the food draws from the Mediterranean, though most everything has a local twist - like the chicken liver pâté served with green-tomato jam. 

    Where to stay: ​Built in a former filling station in Nashville's up and coming Gulch neighborhood, the 404 Hotel and on-site restaurant (404 Kitchen) have the look and feel of everything that's right with Nashville these days. Chic, ​boutique and making the most of what they've got​,​  ​t​he chef sources as much as he can locally, and the five loftlike rooms of various size and rates start at $275 per night.

    While you're there: You can't go to Nashville without having biscuits, pie or fried chicken. For the first two, hit up the Loveless Cafe. For fried chicken, Prince's Hot Chicken Shack is a local legend.

    Insider tip: Pinewood Social is like a rec room for adults, with karaoke, bowling, a full bar/menu and, coming soon, an outdoor pool.  -Cindy Augustine

  • Oysters hunting in Point Reyes

    Why you should go now: Ninety minutes north of San Francisco, Point Reyes National Seashore is a foggy peninsula with miles of stunning coastline and forest. The area's organic dairy farms, grass-fed cattle ranches and oyster farms make it a foodie destination whose fans include Michael Pollan and Alice Waters.

    With a new wave of oyster bars opening around the country, the bivalves have never been more popular. Point Reyes is a perfect places to eat some of America's best oysters in the freshest state possible. It's an especially important time to support the local oyster economy since Drakes Bay Oyster Company, a family-owned farm in the area that produces 40% of California’s oysters, might not be open for much longer. The National Park Service ordered the farm to close in 2012 with the intention of making it a federally designated wilderness area. The case is a hot topic in environmental circles and is going to the Supreme Court, but the farm has an injunction allowing them to stay open until they hear back from the Court, which likely won’t be until this fall.

    Where to stay: The Tomales Bay Resort sits on the shores of the Tomales Bay in Point Reyes and has 35 rooms ranging from $125 to $275.The Point Reyes Vineyard Inn and Winery is a Mediterranean-style bed-and-breakfast with its own vineyard on Highway 1. Summer room rates range from $145 to $250 per night.

    While you’re there: Hike (or drive) up to the Point Reyes Lighthouse and take in ocean views from one of the foggiest points in North America. Or head east from Drakes Bay to Tomales Bay, another oyster hotbed and popular kayaking spot. Try and book at table at the Sir and Star in Olema; it's an intimate restaurant run by the couple behind the beloved Manka's Inveness Lodge. 

    Insider tip: Drakes Farm provides the oysters and picnic tables, but bring your own shuckers and condiments. Tuesday through Saturday, visitors can view oyster-farming activities from 8:30 to 4:30.  - Elaheh Nozari

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Volvér in Philadelphia

    Why you should go now: Jose Garces now has 16 restaurants across the U.S., but it’s at this atelier in Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center where the Iron Chef really gets to show off. Like the Philadelphia Orchestra concerts that take place just across the atrium, each multicourse tasting meal is a performance in its own right, from the prepaid tickets required for a table to the open-kitchen format that puts Garces and his team of toques on the main stage.

    Where to stay: Just a couple blocks across Broad Street in Midtown Village, the Independent Hotel houses 24 boutique rooms and suites that start at $180 per night. Five blocks away in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar offers chic, swanky rooms in a landmark 1929 art deco building at rates that range from $245-$360.

    While you’re there: In addition to orchestra shows, the Kimmel Center hosts performances by contemporary musicians, and Broad Street’s moniker of “Avenue of the Arts” is no misnomer - there are three other major theaters within two blocks of the restaurant. Antiques lovers will enjoy strolling down Pine Street (aka “Antique Row”), while fashion fiends can walk up Walnut Street to find Philadelphia’s upscale shopping mecca.

    Insider tip: Leave time for a pre-dinner drink at the Bar at Volvér, the separate lounge that fronts the main dining room. Cocktails like the Smoked Marcona Old Fashioned and Thai Basil Chile Smash will whet your appetite without putting too much of a drain on your extra spending cash. - Danya Henninger

    300 S. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA; 215-670-2303

  • The Dogfish Inn in Lewes, Deleware

    Why you should go now: Set to open in June, the Dogfish Inn is instantly going to become the top beer destination for any East Coast beer geek. Created by the mad geniuses behind Dogfish Head beer, the 16-room hotel is located on the harbor in historic Lewes, right between the town of Milton (where the main brewery stands) and Rehoboth (home to Dogfish Brewpub). The hotel will have beer-related decor, bikes on hand to visit local beaches and an in-house library curated by the famous City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. 

    Where to stay: The Dogfish Inn, of course; rates are still TBD.

    While you're there: Take advantage of the local biking/hiking trails; it's a nice ride from the Inn out to the water in Rehoboth Beach. 

    Insider tip: The Dogfish Brewpub always has a few exclusive kegs on tap that aren't available anywhere else in the world.  - Michael Endelman

    105 Savannah Rd., Lewes, DE

  • Downtown Los Angeles

    Why you should go now: A renaissance over the last decade has brought trendsetting restaurants, beer bars, swank lounges, hotels, retail and more throughout all of the Downtown zone, including the Arts, Historic and Fashion Districts; Little Tokyo; Chinatown; and South Park near L.A. Live and the Nokia Theatre.

    Where to eat and drink: Bestia, Alma, The Factory Kitchen, Rivera, Q Sushi, and Josef Centeno’s three restaurants, Baco Mercat, Bar Ama and Orsa & Winston, are all tops on the scene. Don’t miss historic Grand Central Market, which has recently been renovated and features new stalls like G&B Coffee, Egglsut for messy egg sandwiches, Belcampo Meat Co. butcher and lunch counter, Olio Pizzeria, Wexler’s Deli and DTLA Cheese. Cedd Moses and his 213 Nightlife rules the cocktail scene with Seven Grand, Cole’s and Honeycut - which also has a disco - among others.

    Where to stay: The new Ace Hotel took over the 1927 United Artists building and theater in the Fashion District, adding 182 boho-chic rooms, a restaurant (LA Chapter) and rooftop bar and lounge (Upstairs). (Rooms range $161-$459 per night.) One of the first boutique hotels in the area, The Standard, is still a draw (rooms from $187 a night). And the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton anchor the L.A. Live complex, near the convention center (from $339 and $459, respectively).

    While you’re there: The cultural hub of LA is Downtown, including the Frank Gehry landmark Disney Concert Hall, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Museum of Contemporary Art. There’s always something happening in Grand Park, a new 12-acre park that spans four blocks in the civic center, including farmer's markets, yoga, live music and more. Get lost in one of the best bookstores on the planet, The Last Bookstore, a two-story labyrinth of books, art and curiosities.

    Insider tip: Yes, there is actually worthy public transportation in LA. Union Station is the hub for all Metro Lines, which shoot in from all directions. The Red Line has stops throughout Downtown and the Gold Line hits Little Tokyo and Chinatown. -Lesley Balla

  • Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee

    Why you should go now: While the spring and fall are always popular at this luxury resort nestled on a 4,200-acre estate in the Smoky Mountains, August is their garden month, a time when harvests are bountiful and evident on dinner menus and plates. Additionally, the garden is utilizing the bounty in the new on-site wellness center, the Wellhouse, where cooking classes are offered using what’s grown nearby.

    Where to stay: Single rooms are available, but experiencing Blackberry Farm with a group is worth it, and they offer cottages (their most popular option) and homes. Room rates begin at $795 and includes all three meals; a two-night minimum is required for all stays.

    While you’re there: While a farm suggests a slightly rustic experience - and to be sure, fishing, hiking, canoeing and kayaking are all popular activities -  but there’s a lot going on indoors. The recently relaunched Blackberry Farm Brewery is keeping up with the demand of guests who want to learn the brewing process and farm’s resident cheese maker, Ryan Burger, is soon releasing his spring and summer cheeses, including the Downer Brown (which is washed with their own beer).

    Insider tip: Blackberry’s 8,000-sq.-ft. wine cellar is well-stocked with Rhone varietals from around the world. - Cindy Augustine

    1471 W. Millers Cove Rd., Walland, TN; 865-984-8166

  • Bedford Post Inn in Bedford, NY

    Why you should go now: Richard Gere, Carey Lowell, and Russell Hernandez’s already trendy Bedford Post Inn gets a culinary update with the help of Michael White and Altamarea Group’s Italian cuisine. The group has taken over food and drink operations for the charming upstate inn, and Altamarea chef PJ Calapa is at the helm at two restaurants on the premises, The Barn and Campagna. The former is a more casual breakfast and lunch spot (now open) featuring the famous White Label burger, homemade pastas, and salads. Campagna, the more formal dining destination, will be opening in mid-June.

    Where to stay: Rooms at the inn run between $395-$650 a night. Summer weekends are already mostly booked as there are only eight rooms, but weekdays remain a possibility. The rooms range from standard queen to king with a terrace overlooking the property, and all have working fireplaces.

    While you’re there: The nearby Katonah Museum of Art always has interesting exhibitions, like the Jasper Johns show on display until mid-June. Check out upcoming exhibitions here.

    Insider tip: The Inn is also a destination for yoga lovers and hosts daily classes, workshops and events. - Kelly Dobkin

    954 Old Post Rd., Bedford, NY; 914-234-7800