by Matt Duckor, Condé Nast Traveler
We all know New York, Charleston, and New Orleans are destinations for food lovers-but in these U.S. cities, each with a population under 8,000, dining out is an event.
1. DRIFTWOOD, TEXAS (POP. 2,467)
Twenty-five miles southwest of Austin, Driftwood is best known for the Salt Lick, one of the state's iconic barbecue institutions. Recently, it's begun attracting visitors for something other than brisket: a thriving wine scene. Three major vineyards--Duchman Family Winery, Driftwood Vineyards, and Fall Creek Vineyards--operate within the town limits, and all three make damn good wine (aglianicos, viogniers, vermentinos) exclusively from Texas-grown grapes.
2. GREAT BARRINGTON, MASSACHUSETTS (POP. 7,527)
Roughly equidistant from New York and Boston, Great Barrington has all the things you'd expect in the Berkshires--hiking trails, ski runs, a whole lot of trees--and there's also roughly one restaurant for every 150 residents. Standouts include Prairie Whale, opened by Brooklyn restaurant vet Mark Firth, whose farm supplies the pork, chicken, eggs, and fresh produce. A mile down Route 7 is the Meat Market, a whole-animal butchery selling house-cured meats and grass-fed beef. For lunch, order a half-pound burger with Vermont cheddar, house-made mayo, and pickles.
3. SPRUCE PINE, NORTH CAROLINA (POP. 2,123)
Urban refugees who once set their sights on Asheville are now heading 50 miles northeast to Spruce Pine, a mining town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains that's gaining national attention for its restaurants. The buzz is largely thanks to Knife and Fork, a modern farm-to-table spot, and Spoon, an upmarket cocktail bar; both are owned by Nate Allen, who spent a decade cooking in acclaimed L.A. restaurants such as A.O.C.
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