One of the only things you're guaranteed to do on vacation -- besides sleep -- is eat. Eating is the great constant of travel. Why not eat well and often, we say. Turn an afternoon walking tour into a noshing tour. Have five light meals a day instead of three larger ones. Cross a few museums off the list and spend the afternoon studying the art and culture you'll find in the local restaurants.
The following towns allow you to do just that. We've selected places that make us excited about food and that offer consistently good eats, towns where you can pop into a random restaurant and have a high chance of scoring a winning meal.
We've weighed the quality of the local ingredients, so San Francisco's organic produce and Tokyo's mouthwatering sushi make the cut. We've also awarded cities that offer a bit of gastronomic adventure, so we list street carts in Bangkok and tripe (yes, tripe) in Florence. A city's food-lovin' attitude helps as well. Meals are so celebratory in New Orleans that you can't help but indulge in more fried and creamy foods than you would elsewhere; by contrast, we've had a few creamy dishes in Eastern Europe that made us feel we were on a factory workshift break.
Our selections are personal so you'll find a few editors' hometowns on the list. This of course underscores the sentimental connection we all have with food -- another reason why good food creates memorable trips -- but it also just means we've chowed down a lot of food in these cities and know it's tasty.
So bring a healthy appetite along with your passport, and bon appetite. And feel free to share your own eating town suggestions on the message boards.
You could do worse than get stuck hungry in Austin, Texas. Whether eating a Tex-Mex breakfast in an old-time diner, a BBQ lunch at a wooden picnic table, or a swanky Italian dinner in a sleek South Congress spot, you're bound to be satisfied after strapping on the feedbag in Austin.
For breakfast, drop in to Las Manitas for a heap of spicy chilaquiles verdes. Or swing by Maudie's, 2608 W. 7th St. (tel. 512/473-3740; www.maudies.com) for a plate of heavenly migas con queso. If you're not in a Mex-breakfast state of mind, head to Magnolia Café, 2304 Lake Austin Blvd. and 1920 S. Congress Ave. (tel. 512/ 478-8645 and 512/445-0000; www.cafemagnolia.com) for omelettes or a towering stack of gingerbread pancakes. The Upper Crust Bakery, 4508 Burnet Rd. (tel. 512/467-0102; www.theuppercrustbakery.com) has sensational sweet rolls, brioche, pastries, and the like.
For lunch, swing over to PoK-e-Jo's Smokehouse, 1603 W. 5th St. (tel. 512/320-1541; www.pokejos.com) for a mouth-watering plate of ribs, brisket, sausage, and all the sides (slaw, potato salad, and pickles, of course). Iron Works BBQ,100 Red River (tel. 512/478-4855; www.ironworksbbq.com) serves up a fine chopped beef sandwich and smoked turkey plate.
If you're looking for a something more upscale for dinner, Austin boasts an abundance of contemporary restaurants with fine cuisine. Try Vespaio (1610 S. Congress Ave.; tel. 512/441-6100), a trendy Italian spot, for fantastic pastas, pizzas, and excellent meat and seafood dishes. Uchi is the place for innovative and fresh Japanese food served family-style. If you're looking for out-of-the-ordinary continental cuisine, try Castle Hill Café, where the entrees range from roasted pork tenderloin with cashew curry to garlic jumbo shrimp with mole poblano verde. -- Cate Latting
You think Baltimore, you think "crabs." Well, I think: "I am allergic to crabs, and I come from Baltimore." I spent most of my college years in Charm City watching my luckier peers pull apart steamed crabs, use their engraved mallets on the claws, and wash it all down with beer. Fortunately, there are compensations to be found. There is still plenty of hands-on, common people, everyday eatin' food to be found in the town where waitresses call you "hon" when you sit at the counter. For one, I give you Polock Johnny's, 400 W. Lexington St., Lexington Market (tel. 410/539-8385; www.polockjohnnys.com), a mainstay since 1921, where the main attraction is large Polish sausages, served on potato rolls and topped with sauerkraut, with thick-cut "Ocean City style" fries. And when I was a copydesk intern at the (late) News-American, I would treat myself to the delis of "Corned Beef Row." The last of them still stands: Attmans Deli, 1019 E. Lombard St. (tel. 410/563-2666; www.attmansdeli.com), opened in 1915 and is run by a third generation of the family. At $5.99 for a corned beef (or brisket) sandwich, it's still a bargain.
For more, pick up Frommer's Maryland & Delaware and follow author Mary K. Tilghman's advice. Mary and I shared many a cheap, delicious dinner back when we were in college, and she still fills me in on what's up at such classic joints as the Double T Diner, 4140 E Joppa Rd. (tel. 410/248-0160), Fells Point stalwart Bertha's Mussels, the newer Café Hon, and other things Baltimore-food-related. And, while I was born in Philadelphia, I will commit blasphemy and admit that I prefer the Baltimore-style cheesesteak (with provolone, not Cheese Whiz). Yes, I have strayed. -- Kathleen Warnock
As mainland Southeast Asia's most populous city, Bangkok has an astoundingly diverse dining scene, ranging from fine French restaurants to traditional Thai eateries to street vendors serving up all manner of goodies, including chile-covered mangos and deep-fried crickets. Though I wasn't brave enough to chow down on insects, some of my most satisfying meals in Thailand came from Bangkok's sidewalk vendors.
Walk along any number of crowded streets or markets here, and you will be sure to see and smell exquisitely prepared noodle dishes, savory ducks, and a seemingly infinite variety of steaming soups. I've made many a meal foraging from stall to stall, trying a bit of this salad, a bit of that meat dish, eventually finishing off with a fresh coconut or mango slices covered in ground chile pepper. On a day filled with sightseeing and people-watching, these vendors and stalls offer visitors an ideal place to enjoy some quality fast food. When it comes to watching the city's street life unfold before your eyes, these places have the best seats in town. -- Marc Nadeau
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Move over New York and Paris. Buenos Aires is emerging as a culinary destination to beat, and that statement doesn't just apply to carnivores. That said, this city is justly renowned for its steak -- I went to quite a few steakhouses during my last visit, and was amazed at not only the quality of the meat but the prices. You can easily get a full meal, including good wine, for about US$20, especially if you dine at one of the city's budget parrillas. At my favorite, La Vieja Rotiseria (Defensa 963; tel. 11/4362-5660), I selected a US$10 tenderloin so enormous that I easily could have shared it with one or two others. I left stuffed and happy, and I'm sure you will, too.
Then there are Buenos Aires' cafes, which rival anything that Paris has to offer in terms of beautiful people watching and tasty espressos. One standout was La Biela, which boasts a sophisticated yet bustling outdoor space that overlooks Recoleta Cemetery. What surprised me most about Buenos Aires' culinary scene, though, was the number of Italian restaurants on hand. I stumbled into one around the Congresso called La Americana that served up food as good as anything I've eaten in Italy. Almost as surprising was the discovery that Buenos Aires boasts one of the world's finest French restaurants, La Bourgogne. Though more formal and expensive than any other restaurant I visited in town, this spot was so good, I can't do it justice in just a few words. Fortunately, you can read full reviews of all these restaurants on this site, or visit www.buenosaires.gov.ar for tourist links and news on the city. -- Jennifer Reilly
Eating, and eating heartily, is always a highlight of my trips to Chicago. In the summertime, I like to head to Wrigley Field -- home of the Cubs -- where I always order a hot dog slathered with mustard and ketchup. Sure, it's not the city's best dog, but it's hard to beat the ambience of the Friendly Confines on, say, a Friday afternoon, especially when there's a cool, pleasant breeze blowing off Lake Michigan. (A frothy beer often helps, too.)
Just around the corner from Wrigley -- though not a good choice on game day -- is Salt and Pepper Diner, 3537 Clark St. (tel. 773/883-9800). You can't go wrong with a burger here, and their thick chocolate malt is one of the best I've ever had. But I usually order one of Salt and Pepper's ample breakfasts.
Breakfast, in fact, is my favorite meal in Chi-town. And Pauline's, 1754 W. Balmoral (tel. 773/561-8573), with its five-egg omelet and its daunting stack of pancakes, does one of the best breakfasts in the city. Located in Andersonville and frequented almost entirely by locals, Pauline's is the place to go not only for delicious food but for a glimpse of one of Chicago's great neighborhoods -- one usually not seen by tourists. Come during the week to linger in the red vinyl booths; you're likely to hear conversations about anything from the Cubbies pitching rotation to the latest antics in Mayor Daley's office.
Another spot known for its hearty fare is Ann Sather, a Swedish restaurant famous for its steamy, sweet cinnamon rolls. Eggs Benedict is a popular choice here, as is the Reuben sandwich. This place is no secret to breakfast-lovers, though, so expect a wait for a table. It'll be worth it. -- Matthew Brown
Ah, Florence: Would any list of great food towns be complete without it. Florence, the focal point of artisanal wine and cheese from the bounty of Tuscany. Florence, cradle for the most delectable gelato in all of Italy. Florence, purveyor of the gigantic (and almost completely raw) cut of beef la bistecca alla fiorentina. Florence, home of tripe.
Lampredotto, Italian for tripe, is a Florentine specialty, and supposedly Dante's favorite dish. Much of Tuscan food is derived from the creativity of the farmers working with few ingredients, and lampredotto is no different. Following the age old-adage of "when life hands you the intestines and stomach of a cow, make lampredotto," this dish incites pride among Florentines of an older generation, although it is regaining popularity with the younger crowd.
Proof of this is the presence of trippai, or tripe stands, posted outside the megaclubs on the Cascine (a favorite market of mine) on Friday and Saturday nights. You can also easily find vendors catering to the lunchtime crowd throughout Florence. Lampredotto is continuously boiled for hours in a broth with spices and tomatoes and served straight from a smoldering cauldron into a panini (of course). Vendors can be found in nearly all of the traditional markets, including the market at Sant'Ambrogio, the Mercato Nuovo, and in the Tuesday market on the Cascine.
There's also a trippai stationed one tiny block north of the Piazza della Signoria. Even if you don't drop your euros on a tripe sandwich, you can always buy a glass of Chianti from the vendors and enjoy your wine on the medieval streets.
One last bit of food for thought: Geneticists believe that the bovine breeds of Tuscany are descended from the cattle herds of the Etruscans. Now that's a strong stomach -- Melinda Quintero
Los Angeles, California
It's very easy to have one of the worst and most expensive meals of your life in Los Angeles. Go to a place like Koi, a favorite destination of actresses with well-established eating disorders, and you'll leave wondering why your wallet, stomach and mind are so empty. But when you rule out establishments mentioned in Us magazine or on TMZ.com, you'll find one of the broadest and richest selections of restaurants in the country. L.A. has the U.S.'s best selection of Asian food, and other cuisine types make strong showings too, such as the classic American steaks at Taylor's, 3361 W8th St. (tel. 213/382-8449; www.taylorssteakhouse.com), and Mexican food in East L.A. and food trucks lined up in front of work sites.
Koreatown has a bit of a language barrier that can be daunting for first-timers, but the payoff is tremendous: DIY outdoor barbecues of marinated meats, stone pots brimming with sticky rice, and a thousand variations on kimchee. Discover Korean restaurants here by following this guide by critic Jonathan Gold, online here. Browse his columns on www.laweekly.com for Chinese food recommendations as well, making sure you skip Chinatown and drive along Valley Boulevard in Alhambra for a Sunday dim sum; look for a full strip mall parking lot and you'll have your spot.
Sushi places like Urasawa in Beverly Hills, R-23 in the city, Todai, 8612 Beverly Blvd., West Hollywood (tel. 310/659-1375), and Tama, 11920 Ventura Blvd. (tel. 818/760-4585), offer some of the best sushi outside of Japan, and you'll also find noodle and curry houses in Little Tokyo downtown and a dozen places on Sawtelle Blvd. At Matsuhisa in La Cienega (moving soon to a different location down the street), you can tuck into the original versions of the oft-copied rock shrimp tempura and miso cod. -- Jason Clampet
Mexico City, Mexico
Set aside stories you've heard about the smog and the crime. Every time I visit Mexico City, I'm enchanted by how this teeming, vibrant city of 19 million embraces history as it moves into the future -- from the whimsical street names (Aristotle, Voltaire, Jules Verne) that dot the Polanco neighborhood to the fierce murals that blanket walls all over town (Diego Rivera's unflinching La Conquista at the Palacio Nacional, and David Siquieros's The New Democracy inside the Palacio de Bellas Artes are my favorites).
Nowhere is the embrace of tradition more apparent than in Mexico City's suddenly sparkling restaurant scene. Once upon a time, the best Mexican food in Mexico was prepared by ageless abuelas at family gatherings. But over the last several years, traditional Mexican cuisine has catapulted into the city's hottest restaurants, with a nueva twist that's both surprising and irresistible. The revolution owes much to a handful of all-star female chefs who at once respect and deconstruct their culinary heritage. At Izote, Patricia Quintana overhauls such classic regional dishes as enchiladas (now filled with lobster and pumpkin seeds), and tamales (here, stuffed with squash blossoms or the truffle-like huitlacoche). Chef and culinary historian Martha Ortiz Chapa breaks it down further at Aguila y Sol, 127 Emilio Castelar, Polanco (tel. +55/5281-8354), where pre-Columbian ingredients such as masa, chiles, and the exotic, yam-like mamey are isolated, then remixed, to alchemic effect -- foie gras spiked with fiery habanero, anyone? But my favorite spot is Bistro M/P, Andres Bello 10, Polanco (tel. 55/5280-2506), where celebrity TV chef Mónica Patiño's Mexican/Asian fusion menu shows remarkable creativity -- oysters with chipotle béarnaise, corn soup spiked with curry, even tangy tamarind margaritas. Sample this alta cocina, and you'll never look at tacos the same way again. -- Kelly Regan
New Orleans, Louisiana
Next to New York City, New Orleans is arguably the top food city in the United States. French Provincial, Spanish, Italian, Caribbean, African, and Southern -- they all come together here to create a cultural and culinary melting pot.
Though exciting food combinations abound, it's the city's signature Cajun and Creole cuisine that is simply not to be missed. Cajun takes traditional French recipes and adapts them to local ingredients. Etouffee is a classic example (pork, sausage, duck, and seafood, prepared in a rich roux and served over rice). Creole, on the other hand, blends classic French and Spanish techniques, using more delicate sauces to enhance the bountiful local seafood. Gumbo and shrimp remoulade are at the top of my list.
And if you love seafood, you come to the right town. Maybe it's the water, but crawfish and oysters prepared a dozen different ways simply melt in your mouth. And let's not forget another essential treat -- nothing satisfies hunger more than a muffuletta sandwich. Italian sausage, deli meats, cheese, pickled olives, celery, carrots, capers are piled into a round loaf of Italian bread. Wash it down with a cold bottle of local Abita beer, and you're ready for the afternoon.
You can find this fantastic culinary array at restaurants throughout the city, but here are my favorites: For Creole, I like Bourbon House Seafood. Another must-visit is Herbsaint. For Cajun, K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen does it the best. For freshly shucked oysters, look no further than Acme Oyster House. A visit to New Orleans would not be complete without stopping at Napoleon House for, in my opinion, the best muffuletta in town.
I've traveled to New Orleans many times, and no other city is able to replicate the city's unique flavors. It's a palette-pleasing experience. -- William Travis
New York, New York
New York is Frommer's home town (or at least the town we stare at longingly from our offices in Hoboken), and we could each write our own personal dining memoir. So I offered to pool our staff's collective thoughts via an informal poll. I found that we like to brag about our food as much as we like to trash it.
A snapshot of what we love: the monumental variety of cuisines, from Afghan to Zambian; takeout and delivery options, 24/7; restaurant week; Japanese restaurant week; farmers markets; dessert-only restaurants; Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, 401 Bleecker St. (tel. 212/462-2572); bagels, our pizza's "divine simplicity"; Italian food; Americanized French food; the unrivaled availability of Kosher food; ethnic food pockets such as Jackson Heights (South Asian) and Brighton Beach (Russian); Queens; "high-end gourmet splurges"; Mario Batali; Al Di La Trattoria, 248 5th Ave., Brooklyn (tel. 718/636-8888; www.aldilatrattoria.com); www.eater.com; www.sushinyc.com; the Shake Shack, Madison Square Park at 23rd St. (www.shakeshacknyc.com); and the taco stand on 96th and Broadway.
We're not as keen on: almost all other tacos; "snotty attitudes" and "scenes;" impenetrable restaurants with long waiting lists; overpriced food; bad Thai food; Japanese steakhouses "where they throw food at you"; tourist traps that edge out quality mom and pop restaurants; "deli salad with day-old oxidation crust under Saran wrap"; and the disproportionate enthusiasm over, er, Shake Shack burgers and Magnolia cupcakes. (Clearly we have some dissent amongst the staff.)
I also posed an annoying question to our editors: "Is New York the food capital of America and possibly of the world?" We vote "yes" to the first question by a slim margin, though we agree that you can get better versions of most cuisines elsewhere, especially southern food. The second question got near-unanimous "no's" and one "God, no."
So let that be a message to travelphobic New Yorkers: Get out and sample the world's cuisines on their home turfs, if only for a taste comparison. -- Stephen Bassman
Phoenix & Scottsdale, Arizona
No, Arizona cuisine is not rattlesnake meat and prickly pear cactus juice (though you can certainly find both of those). Throughout this state -- and especially in Phoenix and Scottsdale -- you'll find everything from Italian-style thin crust pizza at Pizzeria Bianco or La Grande Orange Pizzeria to superb sushi rolls at Sapporo, 14344 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale (tel. 480/607-1114; www.sapporo-restaurant.com), or Sea Saw (whose chef, Nobuo Fukuda, was a contender for the James Beard Foundation's "Best Chef of the Southwest 2006").
Award-winning cuisine is no stranger in these parts of town. Mary Elaine's chef Bradford Thompson (who took home the just-mentioned award) and master sommelier Greg Tresner (who was nominated for outstanding wine service) combine classic French fare and wine with a gorgeous view, while Mosaic's Deborah Knight has earned national acclaim for her skills with New American cuisine. Dessert may be the last thing you eat, but it's certainly at the top of the list at Tammie Coe Cakes, 4410 N. 40th St. and 610 E. Roosevelt, #145, Phoenix (tel. 602/840-3644 and 602/253-0829; www.tammiecoecakes.com), where the namesake chef is known for her artfully designed confections, and at restaurants such as Cowboy Ciao, Kazimierz World Wine Bar, E. Stetson Dr. (tel. 480/946-3004; www.kazbar.net), Star Spangled Tavern, Market Street at DC Ranch, 20751 N. Pima Rd. (tel. 480/419-USAZ; www.starspangledtavern.us), and Baroque, Market Street at DC Ranch, 20751 N. Pima Rd. (tel. 480/563-LUXE; www.baroqueluxelounge.com), where pastry chef Tracy Dempsey puts her own twist on the big finish (red chili/pepita brittle ice cream, Mandarin orange/pistachio cake, and sweet and savory chevre cheesecake). -- Anuja Madar
I grew up with a healthy disdain for lobster. "It's for tourists," my mother would sniff. "They used to feed it to prisoners in the 19th Century." But if you're traveling to Maine, even to a sophisticated dining city like Portland, you're probably going to want to strap on a bib and break out the nutcrackers at least once. Try Dimillo's Floating Restaurant, 25 Long Wharf (tel. 207/772-2216; www.dimillos.com/restaurant) a converted car ferry (and, admittedly, a tourist trap) that serves good lobster rolls ($16) surrounded by some of the best harbor views in town. For a more authentic Maine experience, go to nearby J's Oyster, 5 Portland Pier (tel. 207/772-4828) and order a microbrew to wash down your lobster or bucket of steamers. Speaking of microbrews, don't miss the more than 50 beers on tap at the Great Lost Bear, 540 Forest Ave. (tel. 207/772-0300; www.greatlostbear.com), which also serves burgers, salads, and vegetarian dishes in a low-key atmosphere.
More sophisticated diners should head to Fore Street, where the menu changes daily, but the atmosphere is always warm and welcoming; the preparations are simple and based on available fresh ingredients. Order the wood-oven roasted mussels, the hangar steak, or anything with lobster.
My parents swear by Italian/seafood preparations at The Roma Café, 769 Congress St. (tel. 207/773-9873; www.theromacafe.com) and I agree, though the food -- and the old-fashioned Victorian townhouse atmosphere -- can be a bit heavy for lunch. Come for a quiet, romantic dinner and try the chicken parmesan or the seafood lasagna. It's the kind of place that calls out for a martini or a Manhattan to start off your meal. In summer, ice cream at Beals, 12 Moulton St. (tel. 207/883-1160; www.bealsicecream.com) is an absolute must. I love the maple walnut, the almond butter crunch, and the blueberry. -- Margot Weiss
It's fairly difficult to go wrong when dining in Rome. A café where you can get your morning cappuccino while people watching is always a stone's throw away. Some cafés have tables, but take your morning breakfast (which may also include a pastry) standing up, like most of the Romans -- that is, at the bar and chatting with the wait staff. Of course there's always Roman pizza, an insalata mista (simple salad of mixed greens), and a glass of wine for an inexpensive sit-down lunch; while panini, hot roasted chestnuts, and gelato make for perfect snacks on the go. I always vow to have a gelato a day when in Rome, but often fall short of my self-imposed goal: my favorites for staying on track, however, are fragolini di bosco (wild strawberry), nocciolo (hazelnut), pistacchi (pistachio), or the delicate fior di latte (based on a type of mozzarella). One of my hands-down favorite dishes (and one of the city's greatest culinary gifts to the world) is carciofi alla romana, artichokes grilled Roman-style with mint and olive oil.
Recipe for a perfect Roman evening: Grab a table on the roof of the Grand Hotel de la Minerve, Piazza della Minerva 69, Rome 00186 (tel. +39/0669-5201; www.grandhoteldelaminerve.it), among the canvas umbrellas just before sunset. Sip a Cynar (a bitter artichoke liqueur that tastes a bit like Campari) and soda with an orange twist, and watch the panorama of the buildings glow in the fading sunlight until the lights of the city slowly twinkle into being. Be sure to walk through the Piazza della Rotunda to see the Pantheon lit up on your stroll toward your artichokes -- er, I mean, dinner at '34'. Mix well among friends and enjoy. -- Alexia Travaglini
San Francisco, California
Having lived here just over two years, it goes without saying that I've only been able to scratch the surface of San Francisco's rich culinary roots -- but this much I've learned: the city (and the whole Bay Area for that matter) appreciate great meals and fresh ingredients. After all, this is the birthplace of nouvelle American cuisine courtesy of Alice Water's demand for locally grown, seasonal produce to shape her menus at Chez Panisse. Growers in the region responded in kind; it's proven out weekly at the Ferry Building's sublime farmer's market and its outstanding restaurants and food shops. -- David Lytle
For down-home southern cooking and fresh seafood, it's hard to beat Savannah. Here's my personal recipe for eating your way through the city.
Start off at Clary's Café, a family-owned business that's been around since 1903 (featured in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil). You can't go wrong with the freshly-made corned beef hash or the Hoppel Poppel -- scrambled eggs with salami, potatoes, onions, and green peppers. Don't forget the grits.
For lunch, join the line outside Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room, where southern classics are served up family-style at long communal tables. Loosen your belt and fill up on fried chicken, beef stew, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, candied yams, pickled beets, and more.
Work a stroll along River Street into your afternoon sightseeing plans, and pay visits to rival confectionaries River Street Sweets and Savannah's Candy Kitchen. Sample the pralines -- rich, creamy confections made of butter, cream, sugar, and pecan halves.
At dinner, some seafood is definitely in order. Make your way to The Olde Pink House Restaurant for rich, creamy Savannah she-crab soup and crispy scored flounder drenched with apricot sauce.
Still hungry. Head to The Lady & Sons, owned by cookbook author and Food Network host Paula Dean, for southern favorites. If you're feeling flush, try elegant, upscale Elizabeth on 37th for modern twists on southern classics (think roast quail with apricot-pecan chutney). For the best barbecue in Savannah, stop in at ultra-casual Wall's. -- Christine Ryan
The best food I've ever tasted has been in Tokyo. The freshness, variety of options, and unique atmosphere all combine to make it a worthwhile destination for the food alone.
The first stop on your Tokyo food tour is Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest seafood market in the world. Get there first thing in the morning for a sushi breakfast that will have you in the throes of ecstasy. The tuna is insanely good -- practically right off the hook and so tender that it melts in your mouth. Once you've started your day with a sushi high, you can witness the fast-paced auctions and check out the exotic food offered in each stall.
Next, head to the main Ginza shopping district and go to the basement of one of the department stores. The basements have a colossal selection of food for sale -- and free samples, too. The Japanese love their sweets, and the abundance of exquisite-looking desserts is a sight to see. As food is often given as a gift in Japan, your purchase is gorgeously wrapped, and prices can be stratospheric. (I have a photo of a cantaloupe with a $2,000 price tag.)
For dinner, go to frenetic Shinjuku and find the hidden-away Omoide Yokocho ("Welcome Alley," though it's more commonly called "Piss Alley"). The narrow alley is jammed with tiny restaurants, filled with salary men enjoying a beer and eating chicken fingers with chopsticks. It was here that I had my favorite Tokyo culinary experience: raw horse meat (basashi). If you can block out the fact that you're devouring Mr. Ed, you'll find that this is an unprecedented treat -- sliced thinly like prosciutto and (contrary to my preconceptions) extremely tender and sweet. A trip to Tokyo requires that you open yourself to new discoveries. Once you do so, you'll be rewarded with a life-altering experience. -- Jamie Ehrlich
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