March 3, 2024

Adventure Awaits Journeyers

Discovering the World Anew

These 21 culinary gems are worth a trip in 2024

11 min read

Spiny lobster soup in Saint Lucia. Paella in Valencia, Spain. Dim sum in Hong Kong. These are tastes worth planning trips around. 

For our annual Best of the World list, National Geographic’s global community of explorers, photographers, writers, and editors picked 21 restaurants—many newly opened or revamped—that surprise, innovate, delight, and, most of all, convey a sense of place and community.

Whether a mom-and-pop passion project or a culinary star’s temple of gastronomy, these are the dining destinations to visit right now.

U.S. & Canada

Carriqui, San Antonio, Texas

At the edge of the buzzing, riverside Pearl District, an 1890s wooden saloon has been rehabbed, expanded, and moved 500 yards to create a restaurant devoted to south Texas cuisine. Named for a green jay, a native to the Tex-Mex border, Carriqui plumbs both cultures for dishes such as roasted cauliflower in mole sauce and kolaches (German-American yeast pastries) filled with barbecued brisket. Guests dine at outdoor tables shaded by oaks or inside surrounded by vintage photos and local art. “San Antonio has such a melting-pot food culture, and Carriqui is about people connecting over it,” says chef Jaime Gonzalez.

Ōkta, Willamette Valley, Oregon 

Two Michelin-star chef Matthew Lightner’s newest restaurant is located inside the Tributary Hotel, one of many beautifully restored Victorian buildings in historic downtown McMinnville. From here, Lightner dives into Oregon’s bountiful Willamette Valley wine country with artfully plated dishes that star locally foraged ingredients, regional fish and game, and produce grown on the restaurant’s 70-acre farm. The ever changing menu is deeply inventive—think custard with foraged mushrooms or duck with lichen-truffled fudge and barbecued porcini.

Market 57, New York City

Set in a converted 1954 historic dock house on Manhattan’s West Side, Pier 57’s new food hall embodies the city’s global culinary culture. Fifteen BIPOC- and women-owned vendors, handpicked by the James Beard Foundation, offer fare from Indian gulab jamun at Ammi to Thai duck larb at Zaab Zaab. One stall operates as an incubator highlighting a different up-and-coming chef or restaurant every six months. Take your meal to the roof deck, which offers respite from the urban thrum via a two-acre park with views of undulating Little Island, downtown, and New Jersey across the Hudson River.

Caribbean

Artisan, Saint Lucia

There are many reasons to swing by Artisan on your way off island—chief among them is its location opposite Hewanorra International Airport on the southern coast and amenities, such as hotel pickup and assisted airport check-in and security. But French chef Jacques Chretien’s cooking, marrying Gallic techniques with Caribbean ingredients, invites travelers to linger. Try spiny lobster soup and truffled scampi as you gaze at golden-hour views of planes on the runway.

Marina Cay Bar & Grill, British Virgin Islands

Located on an eight-acre private island off the southeastern coast of Great Camanoe, near Tortola, this new restaurant was built on the site of Pussers, the beloved spot knocked out by Hurricane Irma in 2017. Dining here is still as much about the lazy-day vibes as the rum punch and crispy fried sweet potato shrimp, best enjoyed in swaying hammocks at the water’s edge. Get there via charter boat, ferry, private yacht, or water taxi.

Mexico & Central and South America

Libre, Bogotá, Colombia

Zona G may be the Colombian capital’s best-known gastronomic hub, but Chapinero, its vibrant neighbor to the south, glows with its own culinary stars. High on the list is Libre, a “lab” inside well-regarded Salvo Patria, where Alejandra Cubillo finesses native ingredients like chontaduro (peach palm fruit) into stunning plates. The kitchen rallies around sustainability—scraps find innovative uses (think leftover bread fermented into miso) or are composted to fertilize the restaurant’s organic garden.

Foresta, Quito, Ecuador

Resembling a greenhouse in the artsy La Floresta neighborhood, chef Rodrigo Pacheco’s Foresta shows off the country’s immense biodiversity. Seasonal dishes on a changing menu are made with native produce like maracuyá (passion fruit) and gum fruit, much of it grown at decade-old Bocavaldivia—Pacheco’s rewilding project and restaurant—and cooked on a heated slab of volcanic rock from Tungurahua.

La Vida, Mendoza, Argentina

Argentine vintner Susana Balbo’s elegant hotel in the acclaimed Mendoza wine region is home to La Vida, where tasting menus take inspiration from the hotel’s signature art piece, Sergio Roggerone’s “The Tree of Life.” Creations, such as a tomato stew and an Argentine take on tiramisu, represent the arboreal parts from roots to crown. Beyond the kitchen, dive into the terroir with activities like wine blending or hot-air ballooning over the vineyards.

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Europe

Krone Säumerei am Inn, La Punt Chaumes-ch, Switzerland

When a restaurant with rooms receives a Michelin star only three months after opening, something special is going on. This spot in southeast Switzerland’s Upper Engadin valley is the brainchild of British chef James Baron and his Thai-Swiss wife, Natacha, who took over the historic property in 2022. They revamped it with 16 chic, pine-clad rooms and the La Chavallera restaurant. There, Baron weaves alpine traditions (and produce from the on-site garden) into dishes such as nettle soup, beets with caviar and white chocolate, or Schlorziflade (a rich, dried-pear tart) with Bergfichte cheese.

The Three Horseshoes, Somerset, England

In the bucolic Somerset village of Batcombe (about 45 minutes south of Bath), acclaimed London chef Margot Henderson showcases her robust take on British cuisine in a restored 17th-century pub with wood-beamed ceilings and stone walls. “I’ve spent many weekends over the years visiting the area,” she says, “and I’ve become inspired by the rich, quality produce available.” It shows up in dishes such as grilled plaice with cider butter and ox cheek pie studded with pickled walnuts. Upstairs, there are five cozy guest rooms decorated with vintage furniture and Moroccan rugs.

Mercado de la Imprenta, Valencia, Spain

This 1906 printing factory in Valencia’s San Vincente neighborhood has been reborn as a 19,000-square-foot food hall with 21 stalls that allow travelers to sample everything from Argentine empanadas to Japanese sushi. But Spanish fare is the highlight: crispy croquetas, salty slices of jamón, and—of course—a range of paellas from the city that invented the dish. Frequent live entertainment (guitarists, dancers) adds to the vibrancy.

Tertin Kartano (Tertti Manor), Saimaa region, Finland

In eastern Finland, the towns around Lake Saimaa are known for their spruce-lined trails, manor houses, and simple country cuisine. The last is why the Saimaa region was named the European Region of Gastronomy for 2024. Sample Finnish lakeland fare at the restaurant at Tertin Kartano (Tertti Manor), a house-turned-hotel located on 10 acres of fruit orchards and herb gardens. The menu spotlights dishes such as alder-smoked salmon, pheasant pâté, and cake flavored with meadowsweet flowers harvested on site.

Middle East & Africa

Orfali Bros Bistro, Dubai, UAE

This local favorite anchors a corner in Dubai’s buzzing food-centric Wasl 51 development in beachside Jumeira 1. Inside the light and airy space, a much-talked-about two-story kitchen sends out delectable riffs on pan-Middle Eastern cuisine, like Arabic sausage gyoza and umami éclairs. The mashup cooking reflects the brothers’ immigrant background, with flavors they grew up with in Syria and those they’ve come to love as adults.

Meza Malonga Musanze, Kigali, Rwanda

Rwanda’s rapidly modernizing capital backdrops chef Dieuveil Malonga’s upscale Meza Malonga, which champions local ingredients from cassava leaves to sorghum grown on the restaurant’s three-acre farm. In 2024, the Congo-born, Germany-raised chef plans to open a “restaurant within a restaurant” called Meza Malonga Musanze on-site. The “culinary innovation village,” as he calls it, will serve as a food lab, an experimental farm, and a dining stop focused on training a new generation of African chefs. “My goal is to promote the continent’s outstanding chefs and show people the diversity of cultural influences and unique ingredients in what they’re cooking,” Malonga says. “This is an important time for African gastronomy.”

Cole Street Guesthouse, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Billed as the country’s first gourmet restaurant for traditional sub-Saharan African cuisine, Cole Street Guesthouse is located in the seaside home where lawyer-turned-chef Miatta Latilewa Marke was born and raised by her grandmother. These days, the tiled courtyard’s java apple tree shades guests as they tuck into modern twists on her grandmother’s Krio (Creole) recipes (barracuda-topped cassava tortillas, lobster-filled huntu steamed cornmeal dumplings). “We started our business with a commitment to bring the flavors of our kitchens the recognition they deserve,” says Marke.

Asia

Udatsu Sushi, Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo’s serene Nakameguro residential neighborhood suits this Michelin-starred spot’s spare, artful dining room. Inside, chef Hisashi Udatsu presides from behind a 12-seat cypress wood bar, serving up an omakase menu with non-traditional ingredients and cooking methods. Think micro herbs instead of rice, hay-smoked tuna, or N25 caviar paired with sweet potato wafer cakes.

(Experience Tokyo’s ultimate omakase sushi with Lucas Sin.)

Swallow Tainan, Tainan, Taiwan

Operating out of a centuries-old shophouse in one of Taiwan’s oldest alleys, mixologists Mei Chiu and Dan Zhang pour inventive cocktails as early as 9 a.m. Settle in for popular tipples like the Espresso (coffee with vodka and homemade black sesame syrup) or Guava (tequila paired with fresh guava juice), along with traditional caffeinated brews made with beans from regional roaster, Rufous Coffee. Alcohol-free options ranging from mocktails to kombucha are on tap, too. “Our goal is to be the first coffee that hypes people up for the day and is the perfect nightcap to unwind before heading home,” says Chiu.

Lai Ching Heen, Hong Kong

The Regent Hotel’s glamorous Michelin two-starred restaurant may have reclaimed its original name, but it hasn’t changed its menu. From delicate dim sum to the signature crispy chicken with sesame in lemon sauce, the Cantonese dishes here are still the city’s best. But no one is resting on their laurels, says executive chef Lau Yiu Fai. “Cooking Chinese food,” he says, “requires discipline, hard work, and continuous practice.”

Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific 

Saint Peter, Sydney, Australia

This spring, Aussie chef Josh Niland—known for his “gill-to-tail” whole fish cuisine—moves his acclaimed sustainable seafood restaurant into the restored 1890s Grand National Hotel in Sydney’s Paddington neighborhood. An atrium kitchen will send out Niland’s innovative dishes (fish fillets wrapped in swordfish “bacon,” tuna “salami”); upstairs, a boutique hotel with 14 plush rooms and fireplaces in the bathrooms will open this summer. “It’s a fun way to develop our hospitality even further,” he says. “We’ll have fish fat soap in the showers and fish fat chocolates on the pillows.”

Dunedin Craft Distillers, Dunedin, New Zealand

On the South Island, Aotearoa’s boho university town sets the scene for creative local businesses such as Dunedin Craft Distillers, one of a handful in the world that incorporates bread into its spirit-making. On the Bread and Bottle tour, visitors learn how cofounders Jenny McDonald and Sue Stockwell turn surplus baked goods—croissants, bagels, and even pizza dough—into smooth, award-winning gin and vodka.

Surfhouse restaurant and Reeftop bar, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Newly refreshed KonTiki Hotel has quickly become a buzzy gathering spot on Papeete’s bustling waterfront. On the seventh floor, sand-hued Surfhouse restaurant dishes up quick bites like poisson cru and foie gras, while the Reeftop bar has guests grooving to live music against panoramic views of Papeete and Moorea. 

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Reporting by Heather Greenwood Davis and Connor McGovern.


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