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My Top 30 Meals Around the World, Part I

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Budapest, Hungary*

Food and culture go hand in hand. In my quest to discover the cultures of the world, I have found the greatest hints to be scattered across plates, kneaded into dough, and embedded in a smile and a heavily accented word. Across my travels, I have fallen in love with food - from the delicate grace of a plate handcrafted by a Michelin Star chef to the hearty love of a simple and generous pasta whipped up by a grandfatherly Italian. The following list details the first ten restaurants in my list of the top 30 meals that I have encountered.

30. Skopski Merak
Skopje, Macedonia

This restaurant emanates an inimitable warmth - from the crackling open-fire oven to the hearty dipping sauces, soft roasted breads, and delicate vegetable plates. On a tree-lined side street of Skopje, Skopski Merak buzzes with its open patio and pleasant lights.

29. Greenwoods
Amsterdam, Netherlands

With their delicious all day breakfast, Greenwoods serves up fantastic options from their Eggs Greenwoods (with or without chicken), which is a flavorful combination of tender poached egg, creamy cottage cheese, and slivered avocado, to their Portobello Mushroom - beautifully paired with goat cheese and honey, to the savory goat cheese croquettes and crumbling apple cake.

If you are headed to Amsterdam, check out my article "What to Do With 36 Hours in Amsterdam!"

28. The Plant Cafe Organic
San Francisco, California

Two words: veggie burger. The "Plant Burger" is in all possibility the best veggie burger I have ever eaten - it deviates from the standard black-bean-and-corn offering with its vivid fuchsia color, courtesy of the beet shavings within, and flavorful lentil base. This is a must-try should you find yourself wandering the piers of San Francisco.

Set near Schindler's Factory, Bal is located in a warehouse amidst a hotspot for Krakow's new entrepreneurial ventures. It features fabulous sandwiches and innovative salads - all produced quickly from a small kitchen.

26. Cypress
Charleston, South Carolina

Thanksgiving as a vegetarian is often challenging; the best - and most unconventional - Thanksgiving meal in recent memory was at Cypress where we enjoyed a fabulous Grilled Portobello Flatbread, a savory and sweet almond-fried Brie salad, and smoky Brussels Sprouts.

Amidst "The Rocks" sector of Sydney, this trendy restaurant features a lovely lunch menu that mixes standard fair with gourmet flair. For the vegetarian, there is a buffalo mozzarella toastie, a falafel and hummus toasted tortilla, a goats cheese and leek tartlet, and a vegetable frittata.

24. Napfényes Étterem
Budapest, Hungary

Completely vegetarian restaurants are a rare and lovely find in Budapest and Napfényes does not cease to please - from the crisp falafel served with smooth hummus and soft pita bread to the "Vegan Skewers" of assorted alternative proteins beautifully grilled and marinated. The spicy Ginger Lemonade perfectly complements the flavors.

23. 13 - A Baker's Dozen
Paris, France

Laurel, an American expatriate from Charleston, runs her kitchen with a bright voice and firm hand, doling baskets of fluffy biscuits to each table, creating pies with light flaky crusts overflowing with vegetable goodness, and dishing up salads dressed tenderly with bursts of fruit.

For other Parisian vegetarian options, check out my article "Paris Restaurants: Vegetarian Edition:"

22. Plant
Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville's hip food scene is manifested in this vegan restaurant. The delightful entrees showcase myriad mingling cultural influences, livened with spices and combined with vegan staples: cashew cheeses, tofu, seitan, and every vegetable imaginable.

21. Sur Lie
Portland, Oregon

A classy tapas restaurant in the center of Portland, Sur Lie provided a warm respite from the whipping winter winds. The arugula with halloumi is crisp and tender, the sweet pea hummus is an interesting take on the traditional treat, and the donuts with succulent blueberry filling are exquisite.

Look out for Part II in the next few days!

*Photo courtesy of author