Your appetite’s about to be on easy street.
There are street foods, and then there are food streets—streets lined with restaurants, bars, epicurean shops, bakeries, and other tempting culinary purveyors, where a short stroll offers a veritable edible feast. Here are some of the world’s best places to take a gastronomic promenade.
INSIDER TIPGo hungry.
WHERE: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Since two hurricanes ripped through the island a couple years ago, Calle Loíza has come back with a vengeance, featuring an ever-growing roster of amazing little restaurants, cafés, and bars. Among them are Tresbé, where it all started—growing from a food truck to a bustling picnic-bench-furnished café featuring such unexpected items as sushi and poke bowls made with local fish; Cocabana, leading the way in the vegan movement; and, one block away on Calle McLeary, Kasalta, the “it” Puerto-Rican-style diner. Locals view the street as a revolution, one that’s supporting Puerto Rico’s independent establishments and agricultural heritage.
INSIDER TIPLet an expert take you to the best tastings—and explain exactly what you’re eating—with the Calle Loíza Food Tour offered by Spoon Food Tours.
Once solely the domain of Italian trattorias and pizzerias, historic Taylor Street recently has seen the arrival of a slew of stylish spots, among them: Sweet Maple Café, offering the best sweet-milk biscuits around; Chilango Mexican Street Food for fun-loving Mexican; and County for amazing BBQ. Meantime, many of the old-time Italian favorites, including Francesca’s on Taylor and Davanti Enoteca, happily are still going strong.
Rue des Martyrs
In this most famous capital city of gourmet delicacies, the Rue des Martyrs sits off the beaten tourist track, offering one remarkable food shop after the next: fromageries, boulangeries, charcuteries, artisan grocers, etc. Let’s see, for award-winning butter croissants, stake out Sebastien Gaudard, while Mesdemoiselles Madeleines is the place to go for gourmet madeleines (the tapenade-carrot-cumin are otherworldly). There are white and black truffles at the Artisan de la Truffe, fine tea at Collection T, ice cream and tea at Sucré Glace, French-made jams, honey, and chocolates at La Chambre aux Confitures… you get the idea. Collect picnic fixings, or sit down for a feast at one of the many hot-right-now brasseries and concept cafés.
Van Kiep Street
Your challenge is to sort through at least 50 different dishes in more than 100 different eateries, in one of the city’s best places for Vietnamese bites. Shall it be bun bon am bo (vermicelli, beef, beansprouts and nuts), bach tuoc nuong (spicy grilled octopus), or something crazier—or a simple bowl of pho? This 1-kilometer-long gathering of casual eateries is the place to experiment—or play it safe. Just pull up a plastic stool at one of the small tables, order, and eat away. You’ll be in good company among Saigon’s hip young crowd.
INSIDER TIPQuan 104 at #230 is the go-to for bach tuoc nuong; while 63 Van Kiep is a good bet for banh canh cua (a noodley fish dish).
Tooting High Street
Those-in-the-know have long been frequenting Tooting High Street for its inexpensive curry houses. But the word is getting out: This multicultural realm is harboring a constellation of go-now restaurants and bars, including the marinated chicken from Chicken Shop, burgers served with British cheddar and Stilton at Honest Burgers; Tota, focusing specifically on south-London-sourced produce; and so much more. That said, mainstays remain Spice Village with to-die-for fish tikki; and Pooja, an ever-popular Asian sweet shop.
Houston is one of the country’s most diverse cities, and nowhere is this more evident than along funky, fun Montrose Street. Here, a retinue of offbeat and award-winning restaurants and bars celebrate different cultures of the world, all in the space of a mile: Khun Kay Thai Café, Pronto Cucinino for casual Italian, Les Noo’dle for Vietnamese pho, and La Mexicana, for starters. Oh, and then there’s Niko Niko’s for Greek, BB’s for Tex-Orleans (apparently that’s a thing), Uchi for Japanese, Black Labrador for British… and the list goes on. Passport, not required.
Balestier Road may best be known for its abundance of lighting stores and budget hotels, but tucked in between the commercial facades (between Whampoa Drive and Thompson Road) a foodie’s paradise awaits. Founder Bak Kut Teh serves up famous bak kut teh (Singapore’s yummy pork rib dish)—and if you can’t find a table there, you can’t go wrong with nearby Balestier Bak Kut Teh, established in 1966. Boon Tong Kee, which started as a small stall in Chinatown, has to-die-for chicken rice, while Loong Fatt, a few blocks farther east, is the perfect ending to your wandering feast; try the yummy tau sar plah (crunchy, flaky biscuits filled with bean paste). And if you’re still hungry, well, then, you have no choice but to head to nearby Whampoa Makan Place, abuzz with more than 100 food hawkers.
INSIDER TIPYou’ll be sated here any time of day, though the street comes alive in the wee hours of the night with the young and beautiful savoring late-night supper.
WHERE: San Francisco
Talk about a moveable feast. Jackson Street extends from the Embarcadero to the Presidio, marching past a diversity of restaurants, cafés, and food markets, one after the next. The best plan is to tackle just one small segment, depending on your mood. Jackson Square’s eastern end provides a good sampler: Trestle’s New American fare; Roka Akor’s refined dining room serving up sushi and robata-grilled meats; and Z & Y’s famous dim sum (visited by Obama). And that’s just a tiny taste.
WHERE: New York City
“Restaurant Row”—46th Street between Broadway and 9th—has wowed restaurant-goers, pre-theater diners, and Broadway actors with global flavors for more than a century. Indeed, way back in 1973 Mayor John Lindsay stated: “Where else in the world, except possibly Paris, could you get 16 of the best restaurants collected in such a short strip of land?” Things haven’t changed—well, there are 20-plus options now, but you get what we mean. Among the tantalizing choices: Barbetta, run by the same Italian family since 1906; Sushi Seki, including a sake sommelier; gastro-celeb Lidia Bastianich’s Becco; the South American La Pulperia; and so much more. Luckily, there’s a website to help you plan your attack.
Bologna’s ancient market—a compact labyrinth of tiny pedestrian lanes dating back to the Middle Ages—is a feast for the senses. Little market shops and stalls overflow with pasta, cheese, ham, fish, fruits and vegetables, while locals and visitors alike perch at happening plein-air cafés and restaurants. Don’t miss pastries from Paolo Atti & Figli; cheese at La Baita Vecchia Malga; and everything at Tamburini, a longtime favorite artisan shop filled with local goods. Though just wandering around, you’re sure to find your own favorites.