One of the best parts of travelling is eating your way through a new city. Better yet is discovering the city’s must-try delicacies, ideally with a bona fide local at your side. After all, some dishes sum up a city’s identity in a single plate.
But identifying those icons isn’t always straightforward, as we found out when we polled 38,000 people on the one dish that represents their city.
To track down the most beloved dishes around the globe, we went straight to the source and surveyed city-dwellers worldwide through our annual Time Out Index survey. That means that every entry on this list – from Los Angeles to Lisbon and Rome to Rio de Janeiro – has been selected by locals as the single most representative thing you can eat in their city.
The choices throw up the tricky nature of the word ‘iconic’. Many of the dishes picked by locals are virtually unheard of outside their city or country. Others are surprises that throw up the fascinating ways that food pervades and crosses cultures: who would have thought that pizza would be so beloved in Brazil, or shawarma in Russia?
Of course, you don’t just need to know what to eat – you need to know where. So we’ve made sure to consult a global panel of local experts: our own Time Out editors plus clued-up food influencers. They’ve each given us the lowdown on their city’s top dish, plus a shortlist of the very best local, independent places to try it.
You’ll walk away feeling like you just attended a barbecue in Johannesburg and slurped a half-dozen rock oysters in Sydney. And next time you see patatas bravas on a menu, you’ll be able to gush about the dish’s contentious origins in Spain.
Ready to dig in? Take a (delicious) spin around the planet with this ultimate guide to the world’s most iconic dishes. And get involved: we want you to shout about your city’s delicacy and tell us where to find the best version using the #LoveLocal hashtag.