The World's Best Cities for Street Food
Chicago's street food is only semi-legal, since cooking isn't allowed on carts and trucks, but that hasn't deterred operations like Gaztro-Wagon (naan-wich), The Meatyballs Mobile (meatballs) and The Southern Mac (mac and cheese) from launching trucks that assemble cooked ingredients. Although some 30 trucks have entered the race, operators still foster a positive competitive spirit with weekly meet-up events.
Turkish doner kebabs can be found in nearly every city in Europe. But Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, offers many more quick foods, with specialty kiosks scattered throughout the city hawking börek (flaky pastry), simit (ring-shaped sesame bread that recalls a pretzel) and kumpir (baked potatoes stuffed with anything from ketchup and pickles to olives and sausage).
Mexico City, Mexico
There's no denying the appeal of a good taco, but the Mexican capital has plenty of other great antojitos (street snacks), such as roasted elotes (corn on the cob), fried corn masa huaraches and cornmeal cakes known as tlacoyos. Food stalls can be found throughout the city, or centrally located in the bustling markets of Mercado San Juan, in the Cuauhtémoc borough, and La Merced, in the La Merced neighborhood.
Filled with tapestries, hookahs and ceramic tagines, the centuries-old markets of Marrakech have long been the global destination for chefs seeking specialty spices, grains and flavorful meats. The main square, Djemaa el Fna, is packed with food stalls selling ladles of escargots, skewers of seasoned meats and harira (lentil and chickpea soup), plus bulk bags of dried fruits and nuts.
New York City, New York
The thousands of hot dog, pretzel and kebab stands in New York City have always been a local tradition. But the recent wave of fancy food trucks has solidified street food as a tourist attraction. There are now tours and apps to help you track down vendors.
While South by Southwest put Austin on the map for its indie music scene, the city is gaining just as much recognition for its street food. Innovations include fried-chicken-and-waffle tacos (wrapped in a waffle shell) and kimchi fries. As is the custom, vendors broadcast their whereabouts on Twitter.
The ultimate tourist destination for any street-food obsessive, Bangkok boasts thriving markets throughout the city, with some of the most robustly flavored street snacks coming from neon-lit Yaowarat Road in the city's Chinatown. Here, makeshift stands offer pork skewered on sugar canes; fragrant fish curries; sweet bananas deep-fried in rice-flour batter; and durian, the notoriously stinky fruit.
Beer flows quickly in Berlin, so there's almost always a street-food vendor (known as imbisse) within stumbling distance. The best offerings take influence from outsiders, like Turkish doner kebabs and Currywurst—fried sausage covered in a gloppy sauce of ketchup and curry powder (ingredients sourced from British soldiers in the 1940s). The boho Kreuzberg neighborhood is home to some of the city's best-known vendors.
Los Angeles, California
Credit Los Angeles for kickstarting the US food-truck craze, which followed the success of F&W Best New Chef 2010, Roy Choi's Kogi Truck and its Korean tacos. You can now find almost any kind of casual food on wheels: dim sum, grilled cheese and even Top Chef Masters alum Ludo Lefebvre's fried chicken and honey-lavender biscuits from his truck Ludo Bites. Diners can locate vendors on various sites too.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
Saigon's street foods range from the savory soup known as pho and the French colonial—influenced banh mi (pâté sandwiches on French bread) to regional southern specialties like banh xeo (stuffed pancakes) and canh chua (fish soup). A trip to the megasize Ben Thanh Market could yield spring rolls, spices and a knockoff handbag.
Hong Kong, People's Republic of China
Visitors flock to the jam-packed night market on Temple Street in the Kowloon neighborhood to feast on cheap hot pots, curried fish balls and fried seafood like squid, prawns and oysters. This is also the city for adventurous finds such as skewers of stinky tofu and organ meats.
Melbourne's thriving marketplaces offer a culinary mash-up of Eurasian street food. Two top locations are the South Melbourne Market and Queen Victoria Market, home to dozens of specialty grocers and takeaway restaurants serving everything from Teppanyaki-grilled seafood and paella to Sicilian doughnuts and Dutch pancakes.
Street food is a way of life in Mumbai, where aromatic spices waft from thousands of street-food stalls selling meat rolls, bhelpurri (a puffed rice dish) and vada pav (fried potatoes) in bustling, crowded markets. Vendors concentrate along the shores of Chowpatty Beach or in the Fort business district.
It's the land of cheese, wine and discerning Michelin inspectors, but there's nothing quite like a fresh crêpe piled with melted Gruyère cheese and ham. Crêpe stands are scattered throughout the city in neighborhoods like the Latin Quarter and Montmartre, but many will argue that Josselin on rue du Montparnasse has some of the best. Falafel is the star street food of rue des Rosiers, where you'll find the enduring favorite L'As du Fallafel.
Considered the street-food capital of Malaysia, Penang has dozens of the culinary megaplexes known as hawker centers. Gurney Drive and New Lane are two of the more notable destinations where, for mere pennies, you'll find countless stands serving thick, brothy noodles (ipoh hor fun), coconut-soaked rice wrapped in banana leaves (nasi Lemak) and other pan-Asian dishes well into the night.
There are now more than 200 food carts roaming the streets of Portland, often jumbled into semi-permanent lots called "pods." You can find virtually any kind of cuisine on the go, from sushi to Norwegian-inspired wraps made with lefse (potato flatbread) from the Viking Soul Food stand.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Known for its rodizios serving buffets and unlimited servings of meat, Rio's unique fusion of Portuguese, Brazilian and Japanese cuisines also comes in reasonable, portable sizes. Stands hawking churrasquinhos (skewered meats), pão de queijo (cheese bread) and pastels (deep-fried meat pockets that some believe were inspired by wontons) are scattered along the boardwalks of Ipanema and Copacabana beaches.
San Francisco, CA
Vendors peddling everything from waffles and crême brulée to Koritos (Korean burritos) on these steep streets are easily trackable through user-driven sites like the SF Cart Project. Annual celebrations include the San Francisco Street Food Festival and nearby Oakland's Eat Real Festival.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Roadside carts throughout the city sell pinchos (skewered meats), fried plantains and the savory sandwich trifecta known as tico tripleta, filled with grilled chicken, ham and beef.
Seoul, South Korea
Seoul is quickly gaining steam as a global destination for street food. Pojangmachas (street carts) can be found lining the Jongno thoroughfare of the Dongdaemun neighborhood or Hak-dong intersection selling snacks such as dukbokki (spicy rice cakes), the deceptively named sundae (blood sausage) and even soju rice liquor.
The birthplace of the now-ubiquitous hawker centers, Singapore remains one of the world's most fascinating food destinations. Here, you'll find a pan-Asian influence with Chinese, Indian and Malay flavors. One of the most renowned open-air markets is the Old Airport Road Food Centre, which features thousands of stalls pushing everything from roti and satays to steamed pork buns and curried noodles.
Bustling night markets such as Shilin, Ximending and Huaxi Street host hundreds of vendors who sell xiaochi ("small bites") like stinky tofu, oyster omelets, baozi buns and "coffin cakes" (toasted bread filled with savory meats) until the early hours of the morning.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Falafel, hummus and shawarma are the best-known Middle Eastern staples, but in Tel Aviv, locals head to Dizengoff Street for bourekas (fried stuffed phyllo dough) and bagel "toast" (open-face sandwiches).
In a country that has the highest vending machine—to—person ratio in the world, pretty much everything is available to go. If the idea of getting fresh lobster or eggs from a robot doesn't whet your appetite, wander through the depachika: underground food halls in Tokyo where you'll find everything from coffee-flavored Paris Brest desserts to hot yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) and onigiri (rice balls), all served by human-operated vendors.
From epic pizza strips to delicious arancini (fried rice balls), now is the best time to eat street food in Rome.
Seoul, South Korea
Rice cakes, squid lollipops, fish bread, churros and the Tornado Potato are just a few of the amazing street foods in Seoul.
Sold from a corner takeout window, these Japanese crepes are some of the best bites in town. Both locals and tourists line up for the pancakes, stuffed with ingredients like karage (Japanese-style fried chicken), tonkatsu pork, or ham and eggs, along with watercress, cabbage and green onions.