The term 'foodie' technically originated in the 1980s, but with the rise of the online world, and especially social media, foodies are taking their jobs more seriously than ever. Defined as 'a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages'; people who love food are taking over, making restaurants and food-focused cities more important than ever as part of a movement within food tourism. And while some food lovers are lucky enough to live in cities like New York, where Michelin restaurants, top chefs and hidden gems abound, not everyone is so lucky. Some have to work a little harder to seek out their next amazing meal. Even those who live in culinary meccas are venturing further out of their home neighborhood for new experiences. After all, a true foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger.
Enter the age of food tourism. Particularly popular with the millennial generation of Instagram and Anthony Bourdain, food enthusiasts have no boundaries when looking for that perfect meal. They are traveling farther, and indeed basing whole vacations around trips to cities like Portland, Detroit or Austin. Travel agents are slowly being replaced by Instagram inspiration and food tourism-specific websites helping travelers pick their best meal. The fork is now mightier than the sword when it comes to planning the next big trip. Those vacations are also now being planned around locations which were previously not on the radar of either avid travelers or food lovers. Yet recently, certain US cities have seen the true benefits of food tourism. Take Detroit, Michigan. Many know it as an automotive town, down on its luck thanks to layoffs by the car companies who had been its backbone for much of the 20th Century. Today, it has begun to reinvent itself, with the culinary community leading the way. Less citizens are moving away, more tourists are coming to visit, and much of this is thanks to the uptick in local bars, restaurants and chefs who are working to give their city a new name. Spots like Rose's Fine Food have, in a matter of a few short years, gone from raising capital on Kickstarter to becoming a community staple that was a catalyst in the creation of a two-week, food-focused festival: Dine Drink Detroit .
Another city receiving a ton of culinary press is Portland, OR. Publications including The Washington Post as well as Food and Wine Magazine are all hailing this West Coast city as one of the top food destinations in the country. And traveling foodies are listening. This food city is all about family and community, with large chain restaurants being replaced by local chefs, food trucks and quirky cocktails. Chefs help each other out, featuring each other’s recipes at their establishments and raising money for families when a member of their chef family passes away. Come for the well-known wineries and breweries, but stay for the food trucks like Wolf & Bears or Guero as well as local favorites like Toro Bravo and Clyde Common .
For those who want to venture outside American borders, there are food tourism opportunities abroad as well. Smaller European cities like Prague have day-long food tours to help promote their burgeoning new chef communities, while others like Madrid are using tapas tours and sangria crawls to help educate tourists on the origins of their now famous cuisine. If you’re not ready for an international venture, though, there are other cities not to miss on an upcoming US food tour. New Orleans has soul food and Cajun classics with a spicy kick while Kansas City, KC and Austin, TX are both BBQ capitals in their own style. Charlotte, NC is full of seafood served unadulterated in fresh flavors. Or stop by Chicago for a comfort food extravaganza of deep dish pizza, Italian beef and more!