Where is the typical eating the best?

by on November 10, 2017 at 12:20 am in Food and Drink, Uncategorized | Permalink

Andrea Matranga emails me:

“You have to drop a pin somewhere. Thereafter, at each meal time, a random person living within 30km of that pin will be selected, and you will eat an exact copy of what he is eating. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, for the rest of your life, a different random person, but always within 30km of that pin. Where do you drop it?”

I go for the three s’s: Singapore, Seoul, and Sicily.  You wish to avoid junk food, while also making sure that cheap food can hit some of the peaks.  Seoul is especially good for vegetables, Singapore for variety, Sicily for yummy!

What is your pick?

1 Jeff L November 10, 2017 at 12:34 am

Tokyo. I might be worried by some of the stranger meal options. But in general it has to be a developed world country to avoid food sickness. And it needs to be a large city that has the capability of doing foreign food decently.

2 Hoosier November 10, 2017 at 5:16 am

But breakfast in Japan sucks.

3 Todd K November 10, 2017 at 5:41 am

Many Japanese wonder why Americans need 2000 calories of chocolate chip pancakes drenched in maple syrup for breakfast when toast with an egg and a slice of ham on top seems to be enough. With miso soup, of course.

4 Alistair November 10, 2017 at 6:46 am

Given it another 40 years and we’ll have their toilets and they’ll have our breakfasts.

5 Scott Mauldin November 10, 2017 at 3:36 pm

I wish Japanese breakfast were toast with an egg and ham; but you seem to be overlooking the extremely common “natto and raw egg stirred into a putrid breakfast slop”.

6 JB November 10, 2017 at 2:40 pm

Right country, good city; but Kyoto, I think.

7 Careless November 10, 2017 at 12:42 am

I don’t know the other two, but lol@the idea that the average citizen in Singapore isn’t eating junk food with some regularity

8 Careless November 10, 2017 at 12:43 am

and because I know you don’t always read everything, Tyler, let me explain: he didn’t ask what you would eat if you lived there, but whose diet you would pick

9 cjared November 10, 2017 at 4:06 pm


10 cjared November 10, 2017 at 4:10 pm

hang out with a pregnant Singaporean. You will notice two Tupperware containers. One containing fresh cut veggies, the other fruit. Locals eat too much greasy noodles, and too much meat.

11 A November 11, 2017 at 4:35 am

Los Angeles rates highly in this hypothetical. The problem with LA is that those 30 km are a logistical hassle, but you can find excellent depth and breadth of cuisine.

12 GoneWithTheWind November 11, 2017 at 11:24 am

Boston. Favorite restaurant; La Famiglia Giorgio’s.

13 carlospln November 10, 2017 at 12:54 am



Try the food court @ Malayan Banking Berhad. There are ~ 100 stalls; Malay, CHI, Indian on offer. To call it inexpensive is to do it an injustice.


Where better for an economist to get lunch?

14 Bakabon November 10, 2017 at 7:58 am

I’d agree Kuala Lumpur is a better choice than Singapore, especially in terms of value. It also has Kin Kin Chili Pan Mee – probably the ultimate combination of ingredients ever discovered. Tyler, if you haven’t already, please visit the original Kin Kin in Chowkit (and definitely don’t try the one in Singapore). Besides the heavenly food, it will have an ambiance to your liking.

Although it is a boring answer, Tokyo has to be on top, though, for overall variety, quality, and innovation. Seoul has (only?) superior Korean food, but Tokyo still does both its Korean and Japanese variants well. Tokyo only is sub-optimal for Chinese. The standards like French and Italian are better than than the average places in those respective countries. They even do McDonald’s well!

15 Christian Hansen November 10, 2017 at 1:10 am

Santa Rosa, CA is probably a safe bet.

16 clockwork_prior November 10, 2017 at 4:29 am

Actually, not a bad suggestion – covers a lot of variety, particularly considering how much of what is eaten in California is eaten fairly fresh in California, as California is where it was grown, often year round.

(Not sure if Petaluma wouldn’t be better, simply from the 30 km perspective)

17 Greg November 10, 2017 at 12:42 pm


18 Moo cow November 10, 2017 at 1:12 am


19 David Wright November 10, 2017 at 2:09 am

It’s a good attempt at diversity, but I couldn’t take the risk of getting Vegemite.

20 Matt November 10, 2017 at 7:19 am

Absolutely not. Having moved to Melbourne about 6 months ago, I’ve bee surprised at the low _average_ quality of the food. The Asian food is pretty good, but most other restaurants are worse than restaurants in a similar sized US city, the food in grocery stores (whether typical or “fancy” ones, or markets) is of worse quality and variety than in a similar city in the US, and it’s all more expensive. There are some good things (even beyond the Asian food, which is good) , but I’d put the over-all quality at about 80%, at best (and at a higher price) than a similar sized city in the US (or Canada – its obviously much worse than, say, Vancouver or Montreal.) This is without getting started on the generally bad and over-priced beer and the industrial style wine, since, I think, Tyler much. There are some good things here, but the food isn’t one of them.

21 Sean November 10, 2017 at 8:51 am

Matt, I agree with a lot of what you write about Melbourne, but disagree to some extent with your conclusion. Yes, grocery stores (really) suck and are expensive. But Queen Vic market is extraordinary and cheaper. The raw ingredients available in Melbourne are amazing, they just don’t make their way to grocery stores. And people in Melbourne eat out more than anywhere I’ve ever been (which is crazy given how expensive it is to eat out and how awesome and cheap the meat/produce/cheese is at Queen Vic), so the random sampling exercise is impacted less by grocery stores in Melbourne than in other places.

Regarding restaurant food, I agree the Asian food is good. Which may be close to half of the restaurants, fast food included (well over half in CBD). My experience with other cuisines in Melbourne has also been good (all of the lamb and seafood I’ve eaten in Melbourne has been exceptional). I haven’t lived in Melbourne, though, only an extended stay, so you have a much better feel than me for a random sample.

Alcohol is expensive, but the thought exercise doesn’t factor in a budget, and people consume liberally, so there’s as a solid chance your random dinner will have some beer or wine with it. As an aside, there are wine producers in the Yara Valley from whom you can buy unlabeled wine for $2-5/bottle (there’s a word for this that escapes me, my friend is an oenophile who lives in the YV and works in Melbourne and this is how he gets a lot of his wine); it’s hit-or-miss, but the hits present ridiculous value, enough to throw the misses away un-drank.

Finally, coffee in Melbourne is very good and prevalently consumed, so if you’re someone who can’t start their day without a cup of coffee, that would certainly factor into the thought exercise.

22 Matt November 10, 2017 at 6:45 pm

The Queen Victoria market is actually a nice example of what I have in mind. (I might go there today – I need some groceries.) It’s okay. The produce isn’t bad, but it’s also really boring – lots and lots of almost exactly the same stuff, even in the sizes offered. The cheese is similar – okay, but not a lot of variety (having 14 types of cheddar is okay, but not as good as having more interesting things!) Mostly, it’s on okay selection of very main-stream stuff. It’s a lot worse than you’d get at a similar market in a similar sized city in the US or Canada, especially in terms of variety – not bad, but dull. In the US, you’d go to a place like that and have 5-6 artisanal cheese makers making really really interesting and tasty stuff, not just mass produced (even if pretty okay) stuff. That mostly sums up Australian food so far for me.
(The coffee is okay, but again, somewhat dull. Some stuff sold in the coffee shops is okay, some good. Average people drinking at home drink a lot of crap coffee as far as I can see, but probably not more than elsewhere.)

One more thing about restaurants/cafes – the hours are much worse than in many other parts of the world. They often are closed in the middle of the day, open late, close early. I assume it’s partly because of the much higher labor costs, but don’t know for sure. If, like me, you tend to have somewhat unusual hours (I’d like to have lunch at 3pm a lot, for example) this is a problem.

(as to the point below, there are a fair number of beggars in central Melbourne – not as many as in San Francisco or Vancouver, but as many as I’d see in center city Philadelphia.)

23 Moo cow November 10, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Right, but you have to eat what a random person is eating, not what a random restaurant is serving.

I think the ppl in Melbourne look pretty good. Prosperous. Healthy. Not many beggars on the streets…

So I’m going for average. Not highs (and lows).

24 Wylie November 10, 2017 at 5:42 pm

That just shows that standards are contextual and a product of habituation. I’m in Sydney, not Melbourne, but virtually everything you say comes across to me as insanely false. I found the quality of food in NYC, for example, to be stunningly and surprisingly mediocre (including Michelin-starred restaurants) and I remember the extensive searching in Chicago to find fresh groceries. Overall food is not a reason to go to the US, but that might just reflect different ideas of what quality is (which renders this whole discussion problematic). Alcohol is definitely more expensive due to the relative lack of economies of scale. There are plenty of decent beers that aren’t mass-market brands, but then again who outside the US is going to put it high on the list of world beer destinations? Food-wise, I like Sydney for the variety available. European destinations have amazing food, but I lack the innate parochialism to be able to live with the same cuisine day in and day out. If I had to do that I’d opt for somewhere in South-East Asia, such as KL.

25 Matt November 10, 2017 at 7:42 pm

I can’t say anything about Sydney at all, and I’ve never been to a Micheline Starred restaurant in the US (one once in Paris – it was good!), but I’ll say that for _this_ task, I also wouldn’t pick NY City, as there is just too much variation. If you know what you are doing, it’s really easy to have fantastic food all of the time. (It’s not cheap, of course, – very little there is – but you don’t have to be rich, by big city standards, either.) But, there is a really large amount of fair to bad food to be had, and it’s easy to “find” that, too – lots of people eat very poorly there, though they could easily do better, and there are lots of people without enough money and options there, too, who get worse food than they might for those reasons. (They could do better, but it would take a lot more work.) So, too much variation, and too much chance to go wrong in NY City for it to be a good choice for this exercise, even if it’s also possible to eat at a world-class top level their fairly easily.

26 P November 10, 2017 at 1:30 am


27 JD November 10, 2017 at 8:26 am


28 David Wright November 10, 2017 at 2:03 am

If your tastes aren’t asian, I can’t imagine picking anyplace outside of Italy.

29 whahae November 10, 2017 at 2:14 am

If your tastes aren’t italian, I can’t imagine picking anyplace outside of Asia.

30 John L Gibson November 10, 2017 at 2:16 am

For a dismal science, I get a lot of nuggets reading your posts, so I’m not going to dump you, but you really need to follow more closely. YOU DON’T HAVE THREE PINS! You get but one solitary pin. Now answer the question. That’s what your readers above managed to do. Sorry I shouted, but I get upset easily.

31 dan1111 November 10, 2017 at 5:22 am


32 JCC November 10, 2017 at 2:38 am

Lisbon, Tokyo, Singapore

33 Jan November 10, 2017 at 7:12 am

All of these except Lisbon and Tokyo.

34 Ali Choudhury November 10, 2017 at 2:42 am

Didn’t Tyler say Scarborough, Ontario was the best eating destination in the world in a prior post?

35 dan1111 November 10, 2017 at 5:23 am

Yeah, but “best restaurants” is not the same as “best average meal eaten by a random person”.

That said, how much of Tyler’s view of those three cities is also driven by restaurants?

36 Ezequiel November 10, 2017 at 3:01 am

San Sebastián, or anywhere in the Basque Country. Everyone a serious foodie.

37 clockwork_prior November 10, 2017 at 4:34 am

Another excellent selection, though with less Asian possibilities than Petaluma covering the Bay Area, and possibly a bit less year round fresh produce. Better fish though, broadly speaking.

(When driving from France, basically all the traffic signs say ‘Donostia,’ not San Sebastian.)

38 mkt42 November 10, 2017 at 3:13 am

It’s an interesting question but how well do any of us know what our 30km neighbors are eating, much less the people eating in say Seoul or Singapore? We typically only see the touristed restaurants and shopping areas, and not the residential areas where locals really buy their groceries. Maybe in Sicily we can project what the average person is eating, if most of them are living a similar rural lifestyle.

Which brings up the other big problem of the puzzle: in order to eat like a Sicilian, unless one hires someone to do the cooking, one would also have to cook like a Sicilian. And a lot of traditional cuisines (I don’t know about Sicily’s in particular) are slow food to the max, with recipes that are both labor-intensive and time-intensive. Think e.g. of homemade tortillas, cous-cous, etc.

So realistically we are not only adopting the dishes that they are eating, but the associated cooking requirements. And in many places that slow food lifestyle would interfere with a faster paced more urban lifestyle.

I’d need to know more about what people are really doing in Seoul, Singapore, Sicily, etc. before being able to make an informed choice. Absent that I’d be risk averse and opt for a large American city where I have at least a sense of what people are probably eating — but 30km is a large radius, taking us out of most cities and even their suburbs.

39 clockwork_prior November 10, 2017 at 4:44 am

‘We typically only see the touristed restaurants and shopping areas, and not the residential areas where locals really buy their groceries.’

It is quite possible, particularly when spending a week or two somewhere, to use public transit, then simply walk around for hours, particularly after spending your first night asking people what might be interesting parts of a city (you are definitely in luck if they know the subway/bus routes already).

Admittedly, travelling like that way means having days on your hands and then talking to people – but going into local stores is always one of the things that is really enjoyable when visiting somewhere different city. (Not that you cannot do the same thing where you live already, of course, at least if you live somewhere like around DC, NYC, the Bay Area, etc. – not that many people seem to have a few days on their hands to just discover more about where they live.)

40 Deek November 10, 2017 at 5:28 am

My aim when visiting any city large enough to have a subway is to stay a decent way from the centre. The sights are a short ride away, the hotels are cheaper and you get to stay in a neighbourhood. Perhaps my best culinary experience was in Turin. I stayed at the penultimate metro stop and had three huge courses for €10 at a local bar showing the Euros.

Other than the north Mediterranean choices I’d consider somewhere in Central Asia or Iran. The quality of cheap, mass market lunches in Xinjiang for example (to tie in with another post) is very high.

41 dbltap November 10, 2017 at 3:34 am

Madrid and Tokyo

42 Joël November 10, 2017 at 3:39 am

A greek Island, in the dodecanese.

43 Andrea Matranga November 10, 2017 at 3:46 am

It would also be interesting to see how the pin location changes as you vary the size. FYI people in urban centers in Sicily eat pretty similar to the rural areas, for the most part.

44 Art Deco November 10, 2017 at 3:54 am

And what, pray tell, would a good person do on Fridays during Lent? I don’t believe proper catholic observances are strongly held in Singapore. If we could do it temporally and not just spatially, 1950s Cork County would be my pick.

45 Sebastião Thomaz November 10, 2017 at 4:01 am

Lisbon, Bordeaux, Singapore, Barcelona

46 londenio November 10, 2017 at 5:58 am

My guess the *random* person in Bordeaux (30km radius) eats a lot of spartan baguette fromage for lunch and frozen dinners from Picard.

47 Andrew M November 10, 2017 at 9:20 am

The average person all over the world eats a lot of fast food. There are loads of fast food restaurants in Tokyo and Singapore just as elsewhere.

48 Sam Haysom November 10, 2017 at 11:05 am

Hey it’s always lol worthy how a certain species of white person seems to think that only the white race has proles.

49 Jonny B November 10, 2017 at 4:11 am

John Rawls gets lunch

50 Alistair November 10, 2017 at 8:20 am


51 RPLong November 10, 2017 at 9:59 am


52 ChacoKevy November 10, 2017 at 10:21 am


53 Just Another MR Commentor November 10, 2017 at 4:42 am

“I go for the three s’s: Singapore, Seoul…”

Pick Seoul Tyler imagines he’d be eating alot of kimchi jigae, manduguk, or stir-fried rice cakes for lunch but what he’d REALLY be getting 90% of the time are paper bowls of instant ramen noodles.

54 dan1111 November 10, 2017 at 5:27 am

I’d pick a 30km radius circle with a small number of rich people in it, not a big city. A point a little over 29km out to sea in front of a coastal enclave of mansions would probably be ideal.

55 Just Another MR Commentor November 10, 2017 at 5:48 am

I don’t know…. the rich these days are complete weirdos, especially if you’re thinking somewhere in the SV/Bay Area. You might end up living off Soylent and quinoa salads. Maybe you’re into that, I don’t know.

56 dan1111 November 10, 2017 at 6:06 am

Hmmm…that is a concern. Would have to do some research to find the right rich people.

57 Alistair November 10, 2017 at 6:40 am

I thought of this strategy too. The trouble is you might get the serving staff’s meal, so you don’t want a high servant ratio. Could you pick a luxury cruise ship?

58 clockwork_prior November 10, 2017 at 7:06 am

‘a luxury cruise ship’

Where somewhere around 80-90% of the food is processed/pre-prepared – tasty, and high quality in its way, of course, but also not exactly earth shattering.

59 Alistair November 10, 2017 at 8:16 am

“tasty, and high quality in its way, of course, but also not exactly earth shattering ”

Yeah, I know. Agree with you on this one. It’s a safe pick for risk aversion. I’d argue there’s a lot of risk to be averse from in this game.

A LOT of people can’t cook at all well. Even now in Tyler’s preferred urban clusters. We think of restaurants and dining-out food and plunge straight into an availability bias. Think of all your relatives. How many of them would you trust to cook you a meal? And your relatives are probably better wealth/status/skill than most….

60 Sean November 10, 2017 at 8:59 am

Good point, the exercise might be better re-defined as a contiguous land area of pi*30^2 km^2, with appropriate restrictions on gerrymandering to maintain the “spirit” of a circle.

61 Viking November 10, 2017 at 10:48 am

I would gain lots of weight if I went back to starchy food, finding some wealthy place where they don’t need to save the meat or veggies would make the most sense. I do think the commenter warning Cowen about cup noodles had a great point.

62 Larry Siegel November 11, 2017 at 3:49 am

Somewhere west or southwest of London would do well by this criterion. British food, at least the expensive kind, has gotten spectacularly good lately. And “diverse.”

63 Restaurant in Bangkok November 10, 2017 at 5:28 am

Bangkok, Thailand is the best place for food lovers. If you are found of different dishes with great taste then u must try Restaurant in Sukhumvit

64 Alistair November 10, 2017 at 6:22 am

Tyler’s secret foodie diary Day #217

Breakfast. It’s cornflakes again. Which would be fine except I’m pretty sure those bits in the milk are not fat from an artisanal Sicilian dairy. God, it’s actually rancid. Which means it’s an old person living on their own. I forgot how many old people live in the med. The coffee is definitely instant but delightfully cold in a Straussian reading. Given the taste they may have been using it for their cat litter too. Eurgh.

I suppose it was my own fault for wishing an end to the cereal bars I’ve been getting all week. All those beautiful women who hang out in over-signalled restaurants don’t stay that slim by eating mozzarella on toast for breakfast. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had hand-leavened artisanal bread with local honey and nuts. Mmm. Nuts. Must stop looking at Whole Foods online catalogue.

Lunch. Who has frozen pizza and coke for lunch? I’ll tell you, British tourists. I can see on street view that the wonderfully deregulated European airfares market has got the streets packed with sunburnt Brits, (none of whom have read my book on dining choices). All the locals have cleared out up country so there isn’t a sun-dried tomato within 30 km of Palermo. Why can’t they regulate the damn thing again so only clever people like me can afford to go on holiday?

At least my counterpart ate early at 1145 as the so-called restaurant wasn’t distracted enough to burn this monstrosity of cardboard with cheese. I pour the coke into a goblet. If anyone sees me I’ll tell them its a craft beer. Don’t gulp it all at once, Tyler. It’s so sweet. Bliss.

I can see Whole Foods have a new line in BBQ ribs. They mature the sauce for so long they have to insure the oak-sherry barrels against the political stability of the host country. Urgh. Damn that cheap cheese. Must get an antacid.

Dinner. Average is over. Globalisation and downwards pressure on local beef production have profoundly disrupted social structures and led to a new time-sensitive signalling in workers and families. The Culture which is Sicily has given me food in a plastic package which I can also wear as a hat or use as a contraceptive.

Yes, it’s “trimester pounder con formaggio”. Again. They got the bumper fries though, that’s nice. Wait, what’s this? It comes in a discreet organic brown wrap and carries a unique aroma. Well, that’s weird. Notes of acrylic and apples, vaguely chemical. There’s nothing on the bottle. Is this cider? Or cleaning fluid? Have I got a derelict again? Can I afford to drink this? Who are you kidding, Tyler, that orange juice you fermented behind the radiator tastes better than the Nero d’Avola swill the locals drink.

Can I blog about this? Best not; Bryan would kill me, Alex would piss himself laughing. Doesn’t send the right signals on mood affiliation/globalisation. I’ll just try to enjoy it in a Straussian sense. Why did I agree to this stupid thing? I found myself stroking the vegetables in Whole Foods earlier. Stroking. I’ve got to stop coming back that way through the hipster neighbourhood despite the signalling opportunities I forgo, or I’m going to stuff a bunch of aubergines down my pants and walk out, I swear.

65 Steve S November 10, 2017 at 8:36 am

A+++ would read again

66 mkt42 November 11, 2017 at 2:35 pm

“A+++ would read again”

I did read it again, just to enjoy it twice!

67 dan1111 November 10, 2017 at 8:43 am

Hahahaha, great post.

I also thought Sicily was probably a poor choice.

68 rtd November 10, 2017 at 10:52 am

Today’s winner in the econosphere.

69 *applause* November 10, 2017 at 11:11 am

Hilarious stuff!

70 msgkings November 10, 2017 at 11:46 am

Outstanding. Lotta free time on your hands, but well used. +100

71 Blaise November 10, 2017 at 6:26 am

Marseille, London (for diversity but it depend on your risk aversion), somewhere in Tuscany.

72 Kevin November 10, 2017 at 6:30 am


73 Alistair November 10, 2017 at 6:37 am

It occurs to me this is the safest choice, ever.

“Scott-Amundson base, Antarctica”

Quality American food being consumed by fairly high status people with little to do for 6 months of the year but cook. Good portions guaranteed given the climate.

74 Just Another MR Commentor November 10, 2017 at 7:07 am

Yeah you might be right – I don’t think they (the scientists, etc.) cook there though. It’s probably all cafeteria food, might be alright cafeteria food though.

75 Alistair November 10, 2017 at 7:13 am

You lose the fresh vegetables but presumably get excellent quality otherwise and people with good diets. What about the wine list?

I’m pretty sure they will have a dedicated chef on site (like all large military bases or research stations, no one will cook their own). So it’s “restaurant quality” food all year round.

76 Just Another MR Commentor November 10, 2017 at 7:42 am

Why do you assume the quality is excellent? Ever eaten at a university dining hall? Its not that great and professors often eat at those too. I think it would be similar. Not the worst but still – it’s a safe choice though.

77 Alistair November 10, 2017 at 8:07 am

I guess it depends on what your expectation for “cafeteria” food are. I’ve eaten at plenty of military bases where the food is uniformly decent, if not exceptional, and competently prepared and presented. It would pass as the output of a mid-range gastro pub.

Let’s be a bit more specific. A website tells me that Amundson-Scott has 5 chefs on staff (1 head, 2 sous, 1 production, 1 baker) plus serving staff in summer and 3 chefs (1 head, 2 sous) over winter. Cooking for 40 persons in the latter case. That’s a good staff-cover ratio and a small sitting. There’s also 2 bars, (drinking is apparently common there), plus a greenhouse for occasional fresh “lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, and herbs”.

It doesn’t sound too bad.

The really, really, big advantage of this pick is it removes nearly all the variation in the game. Consistent, decent food all the time and no poisonous poor sanitation home cooking or beans-on-toast disasters.

78 Just Another MR Commentor November 10, 2017 at 7:43 am

It’s cafeteria quality food year round, there’s a difference.

79 carlospln November 10, 2017 at 2:58 pm

“What about the wine list?”

You can bring your own herb to Antarctica and light up discreetly, but no grog is allowed [Australian bases]


80 Alistair November 10, 2017 at 7:21 am


There is a Chef and a bar and a greenhouse for occasional vegetables!


I think this is a winner!

81 mkt42 November 11, 2017 at 2:42 pm

This is probably the best or at least the safest answer. It’s possible that lack of variety in terms of ingredients could lead to monotony in the menus.

I’m too lazy to check but there must be dozens of blogs or online diaries written by the researchers and staff who spend the winter at the South Pole. What do they say about their food?

82 RPLong November 10, 2017 at 10:02 am

I think I’m going to vote for Beirut.

83 rayward November 10, 2017 at 10:14 am

Not surprisingly, I don’t see any pins in the U.S. I have a home in a small town in the South, so our options are limited (mostly to fast food, casual dining chains, and expensive gourmet restaurants), but we do have several locally-owned and operated ethnic restaurants. The one I frequent the most is a Vietnamese restaurant (it’s Asian not French). The food is excellent (lots of vegetables, very little fat), the service is friendly (mostly the family that owns the restaurant), the prices are very reasonable, the place is exceptionally clean (not surprising), and it’s seldom crowded even though small. Seldom crowded even though small is telling. The two most popular local restaurants (not including the expensive gourmet restaurants) are a BBQ place and a place with lots of fried foods and canned vegetables loaded up with grease. As for the BBQ place, it’s very good as far as BBQ goes (it’s been on the cooking channels several times). The other place I don’t quite understand, other than that the food is served in large portions on large plates. My observation is that eating in the U.S. is very much a class phenomenon, with the upper class eating in the expensive gourmet restaurants, the middle class eating in casual dining chains, and the lower class eating fast food. The kind of ethnic restaurants Cowen prefers (and I prefer) that are found in many cities around the world don’t have much of a following in the U.S.; hence, there’s few if any locations to place a pin.

84 peri November 10, 2017 at 10:16 am

What, nobody wants to eat lunch for the rest of their lives in one of those places where they dine on Norman Borlaug’s wizardry?

85 nsk November 12, 2017 at 11:39 pm

+1 lol

86 Michael November 10, 2017 at 10:33 am

Quebec City.

87 NG November 10, 2017 at 10:48 am

Isn’t the obvious answer to this New York City, just for the variety? The Italian food in Sicily might be marginally better than the Italian food in New York, but that comes at the expense of basically never having Thai, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Russian, or a host of other foods ever again (at least not with any frequency). Having visited Seoul, yeah, the local food is great, but after a couple weeks, I really want something else. Let alone facing 40 years of the same thing. Singapore is a good choice, good variety there (though I don’t think there any good tacos there). But even then, not quite on par with New York.

88 rtd November 10, 2017 at 10:55 am

I’m not so sure… I’d almost rather starve than be subjected to the marginal probability of eating the same thing as whatever it is the crowd of bums I just passed getting off of the metro at Union Square are devouring. I’m inclined to believe they’ve captured pizza rat…

89 Just Another MR Commentor November 10, 2017 at 11:57 am

The Italian food is Italy blows most Italian food in the US out of the water. I wouldn’t have believed it before my first time there but it’s true. Before visiting I never thought Italian food was anything special.

90 clockwork_prior November 10, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Quality ingredients can make a real difference. It isn’t that the culinary skills in the Republic of Ireland are all that high, but the ingredients used are simply notably higher in quality than what one typically finds in the UK. It makes a real difference, apart from anything else.

91 Massimo Heitor November 10, 2017 at 6:09 pm

Imagine a hypothetical “New York” restaurant in another country. It might feature some famous dishes, it might do them really well, but it can’t possibly capture the complexity and diversity of exploring the food in New York. Or consider Chinatown in Queens; there are entire sub-genres that most Americans wouldn’t recognize as Chinese. You can get a Chinese restaurant in most parts of the US, and some are really good, but they really don’t come close to replicating the experience of dining in Chinatown Queens. Italy and everywhere is like that. Also, Italy has tons of international food; lots of Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Mexican, etc restaurants in Italy, especially in the big cities, which are highly globalized places. NYC obviously has its own amazing hyper competitive pizza scene. Italy also has some really terrible food, especially in touristy areas. Right outside the Leaning Tower of Pisa, was probably the most disgusting food I’ve ever seen; imagine the dirtiest neighborhood of NYC.

92 Alex November 10, 2017 at 10:53 am

For those who said Tokyo, substitute Osaka. As a Japanese friend once told me – “Japan is like Europe, Tokyo is like Germany and Osaka is like Italy, the food is better and the people more friendly!”

Okonomiyaki mmmmmm.

93 Aretino November 10, 2017 at 11:12 am

Austin enjoys first rate Tex-Mex, barbecue and chili.

Miami has all the Caribbean and Latin American cuisines, plus good seafood. And New York Jewish cuisine. Even the bar food is great in Miami.

Internationally, I’m going to propose Belo Horizonte, Brasil which is the center of Mineiro cuisine (there are Mineiro restaurants all over Brasil). This cuisine seems to be so far undiscovered outside of Brasil.

94 Rob November 10, 2017 at 11:15 am

I spent three weeks in Morocco in 1996 and I didn’t have a single mediocre meal that was less than excellent. Eating in nice restaurants, humble cafes, in wealthy homes with a kitchen staff, in dirt-floored huts in the Atlas Mountains. The most humble meal consisted of three courses – salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, herbs), a main (lamb stew, roast chicken, grilled fish) and dessert, which almost always consisted of fresh fruit and nuts.

95 clockwork_prior November 10, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Moroccan cuisine is more than occasionally considered to be the only worthy competitor to French and Chinese cuisine for its quality (admittedly, I think India, at least in a broad sense, is in the running).

96 Niroscience November 10, 2017 at 11:36 am


Probabilistically speaking its diverse enough to get a decent authenetic ethnic meal for cheap or home-cooked; a good mix of hipsters, urbanites and students and; when I’m really lucky – I’ll get to eat some fried bologna or some greasy diner food.

97 cjared November 10, 2017 at 4:12 pm

ditto. except on the bologna thing.

98 extramsg November 10, 2017 at 11:39 am

The three Bs: Bangkok, Bologna, and bonita Mexico City.

Bangkok and Mexico City are the best street food cities I’ve ever eaten in. They also have a range of great food with good midscale and even upscale restaurants. And they have terrific markets. They’re also two of my three favorite cuisines (the third being Indian).

Bologna, of course, has all the great ingredients of Emilia-Romagna — prosciutto, parmiggiano, balsamico, etc. — plus a great mix of more northern style dishes and more southern style dishes. Lots of great markets. It’s also a college town with strong commitment to quality. On my last trip to Italy, I ate at 35 or so gelaterias in less than two weeks, and none aimed at just tourists. Only places that were using top quality ingredients. There were great places throughout Italy, but Bologna was one great gelateria after another.

99 DD00 November 10, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Tyler is severely underrating food diversity. Fatigue would set in quick in any of the places he chose, save maybe Singapore.

My pick is Los Angeles:

California has the highest quality raw ingredients in the world, despite what Europhiles may think.

Better Korean food than Seoul.

Great Chinese food.

Amazing Mexican food.

Fantastic New American.

Lots of diversity + extremely high quality make it an easy choice.

100 clockwork_prior November 10, 2017 at 3:20 pm

”California has the highest quality raw ingredients in the world, despite what Europhiles may think.’

To be honest, though SF sourdough bread is certainly respectable, the idea that California can compete on the level of baked products, cheese, or various meat products (think acorn fed Spanish pig) is not really defensible.

101 WB November 10, 2017 at 1:51 pm

I’d pick a West Coast city. Like San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, or Vancouver. Lots of seafood, considerable variety, and usually very healthy. Could easily remain trim and fit.

If I knew more about Australia, I could imagine one or many of its cities offering similar options.

102 Moishe Pipik November 10, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Tel Aviv! The food there is wonderful.

103 Scott Mauldin November 10, 2017 at 3:38 pm

Andalucia – staples are usually some combination of tomato, potato, olive, garlic, pasta, almond, maybe spinach and seafood. Hard to go wrong. Probably pretty similar to Sicily on the whole.

104 Barkley Rosser November 10, 2017 at 4:56 pm

Singapore, Kyoto, and a tossup in Europe between Bologna and Lyon.

105 GW November 10, 2017 at 9:00 pm

Los Angeles (centered so as to include more of the San Gabriel Valley and less of the San Fernando Valley), Yogyakarta, Dijon.

106 Ty November 11, 2017 at 12:23 am

Penang, Malaysia…an island off the coast of Malaysia with a long history as a trading post for the British. They brought in Indians to work the fields, which along with the proximity to Thailand and a large Chinese population means that meals from at least 5 cultures are easily available at all times. Best of all, the mix of cultures has created the best Indian style food, the best Chinese style food and a locally unique style that relies on the abundance of fresh seafood, fruit and veggies.

107 Pearl Y November 11, 2017 at 5:04 am

The question is really perceptive. Most food is home-prepared, even in Singapore. So it’s ultimately a question about how the bottom 80% actually eat (at home). It’s a tough call – places with more home-cooked meals tend to have less day-to-day variation.

108 Marc November 11, 2017 at 6:40 pm

I’m surprised Hong Kong didn’t make anyone’s votes above (at least, if it did I missed the mention). As much as I love the hawker centers of Singapore, I may like eating in Hong Kong a little bit better with the dim sum, under the bridge crab, noodle soups, and roast goose. And those are the affordable, every day kinds of foods. Yum!

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