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Top U.S. Cities for Foodies

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Everyone knows that New York, San Francisco and Chicago are mega magnets for those who love a good meal, but the price tag of visiting, let alone dining, in any one of those cities can easily make that magnet lose its pull on you in an instant. Fortunately, there are several other cities in the USA that have up-and-coming restaurant scenes that may not rival the big boys in terms of quantity, but can compete surprisingly well when it comes to quality.

These smaller cities also have regional food traditions that larger cities just don't have, meaning that, all things considered, the options are more well rounded. They also have the advantage of having lower hotel rates, leaving you with more pocket money to spend on things that are important, like eating out and getting Allianz Travel insurance.

Here are the top four most underrated U.S. cities for foodies, each of which will wow your palate without wiping out your budget.

Portland, Oregon

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If you are looking for a city that takes full advantage of the abundant bounty of the nation's most fertile region, look no further than Portland, Oregon. From fresh mushrooms hand-picked in the outlying rain-forests, to wild salmon from the crystal clean rivers that flow through them, Portland has it made in terms of a strategic location for access to good food. Portland is also big on organic and heirloom farming, meaning markets and grocery stores burst with high quality kitchen ingredients.

Just outside of the city, in the Willamette Valley, lies one of the country's most highly regarded new wine regions, where pinot noirs and their white counterpart, pinot gris, are produced. Portland's top dining establishments tap into all this to create what is probably the most locally sourced restaurant scene in the entire country. In September, the city hosts the annual Feast Portland food festival, a true sensory overload of Pacific Northwest tastes. When you are ready to try healthy hand-crafted creations that burst with local flavor, yet are meticulously prepared using classic techniques, give Portland a visit.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

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Although you have probably heard the rave reviews from nature lovers and art buffs about Santa Fe, the main attraction in New Mexico for food lovers is actually the state's capital, Albuquerque. It is the authentic center of the blue corn and green chile based New Mexican cuisine that comes from hundreds of years of blending three different cultures — native pueblo people, Mexican immigrants and European Americans — into one spicy and colorful culinary tradition.

Beyond that, the city has experienced rapid development lately and several neighborhoods, including downtown and the historic adobe old town, sport fine dining establishments that specialize in international dishes with a local twist. In order to preserve the ancient food traditions of this truly unique but rapidly expanding U.S. city, Albuquerque has also recently purchased a half dozen historic farms that lie within city limits. Here you can check out the old school agriculture practices that lie behind the city's highly specialized cuisine.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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While Italian immigrants arrived en masse at Ellis Island in the late 19th and early 20th century, not all of them stayed in the Big Apple afterwards. In fact, a huge number of them moved straight to Philadelphia, where an already established Italian community had already been set up in the south side of the city since colonial days. Now the "City of Brotherly Love" is probably the best city in the U.S. for enjoying real old world style Italian dishes, as scores of restaurants that go back generations and are known for their high quality eats are found here.

But the mighty meatballs and juicy veal cuts won't be the only thing that impresses you with Philly's food. The city is also home to a fine dining scene that is on par with any major metropolis in the world. From steak houses to sushi joints, finely prepared French to the latest in trendy fusion cuisine, Philadelphia is a city that has been keeping pace with the winds of change in the global foodie movement. It hosts a variety of annual food festivals, including Uncorked, which features eats and cocktails from a variety of downtown digs. In short, you can have the time of your life exploring and eating out in a truly cosmopolitan city that also has its own distinct Italian cuisine for considerably less money than you would spend in Manhattan, just a few hours to the north.

New Orleans, Louisiana

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New Orleans has a cuisine that you have definitely already heard about. It's spicy Creole dishes like jambalaya and po' boy sandwiches have conquered the taste buds of almost everyone who have encountered them. But what many foodies don't know is that there is much more to the Crescent City than soul food, no matter how delicious.

New Orleans also has a French inspired fine dining scene that was not imported in from a larger city, but in fact predates the more famous continental-derived cuisines of the northeast coast by hundreds of years. Founded by France, which makes it a one-of-a-kind city in the continent (at least outside of Canada's Quebec province), New Orleans is the kind of place where everything from the fine flakiness of the croissants to the rich cream sauces used on meat dishes exude a French flair. Foodies should mark out the second weekend in June on their calenders, it's when the annual New Orleans Wine and Food Experience takes the town by storm. New Orleans also has a very strong local culture of dining out, meaning that you can eat truly meticulously prepared meals in small chef-run establishments that do not have their prices inflated for tourism.

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Jan 19, 2016