Going on spring break is an American right of passage, and even though drunken debauchery is often part of the equation, a huge part of the excitement for these early spring travelers is getting to taste their way through a destination. Whether you’re looking to go big time or are trying to stay on a budget for your big trip, each of these five places offers a variety of options for you and your squad to escape the ever-rotating menu at your campus cafeteria. Here are the best-of-the-best locations for spring breakers looking to eat well this year:
One of the U.S.’s—and the world’s—most popular spot for spring breakers, MIA’s food scene has exploded in the last few years, making it a must-visit not only for its idyllic weather and beaches, but for the grub. The Latin American and Caribbean influence is obvious here, but that doesn’t mean spring breakers will feel limited to regional cuisine, regardless of taste buds or budgets. There’s southern food (and boozy brunch) done right at Yardbird, elevated Thai street food at trendy hot spot NaiYaRa, and enough mini pie to keep your sweet tooth content at Pink Pie (bonus: It’s a literal step from popular Instagram spot Wynwood Walls). Brad Kilgore’s brand new Kaido cocktail den in the Design District just opened and has sick-ening Asian bites and a hidden bar in the back called AMA that offers “AMA-kase” (aka omakase) every Thursday and Friday. For fancier, save-up-those-college-pennies fare—or if you’re simply using Daddy’s credit card—Matador Room and The Bazaar by Jose Andres never disappoint, and both have a chic hotel restaurant vibe that’s surprisingly not lame. For cheap eats, try the famous croquetas and Cuban sandwich at Versailles in Little Havana, or the no-frills (but delicious) empanadas at Las Olas on the beach. Basically, you will not go hungry in this town.
Where to stay and taste: Loew’s Miami Beach Hotel, where the Flavor Miami food and drinks program is an enticing enough reason to stay (it doesn’t hurt that the hotel has one of the best spots on South Beach and the best pool, too). Current partners of Flavor Miami give you access—right at the hotel—to local favorites like Zac the Baker and Panther Coffee from Wynwood, Azucar Ice Cream from Little Havana, Miami Club Rum from Doral, Funky Buddha Brewery in neighboring Ft. Lauderdale, and honey from Coral Gables, amongst many others. The hotel also runs a daily happy hour at Lure Fishbar, where you can sample their signature cocktails for $8 and feast on oysters for just a buck. We’re there.
New York City
Would this list be complete without the U.S.’s most important food town? Wethinksnot. Sure, New York may not have that 70+ degree weather you’re jonesing for after a long winter walking across campus, but what it lacks for in Fahrenheit it makes up for in cozy restaurants and a variety of nightlife options that will keep your blood pumping. Recent New York faves (and they rotate weekly) include Shoo Shoo, a Middle Eastern spot where hummus lamb ragu and falafel latkes reign supreme. Plus, you won’t go totally broke when the check comes. Also not breaking the bank are Jin-Men Ramen Bar’s ramen broths, served up in a super tiny blink-and-you’d-miss-it spot. Two Asian spots—the fancier Phillipe Chow where you *must* try the orange chicken with peanut sauce, and Pho Bar, a budget-friendly Vietnamese noodle shop—both opened their second locations recently, just in time for your spring break visit. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, check out the trendy Snowdays’ shaved cream; waffles with Nutella and other types of crazy goodness at Waffles and Dinges; those insane milkshakes you’ve been double tapping on Instagram at Black Tap; and the raw cookie dough that’s safe to eat at DŌ (get ready to queue for the latter two though).
Where to stay and taste: A Midtown rooftop hotel lounge in NYC is nothing new, but the one at the Aliz Hotel with its 1960s James Bond vibes sure is. Step inside Dear Irving on Hudson, the uptown sister to the famed downtown cocktail joint which just opened there. The 40th and 41st-floor cocktail bar’s rich wood paneling, mid-century modern and art deco decor and 360 degree skyline views make this spot a stunner even before you’ve sipped the cocktails. Downstairs at the Aliz, Farm to Burger is serving up some seriously affordable (for New York, anyway) burgers and fries, all with incredible setups and names to match, like the “Millennial”—pasture-raised beef patty, tahini, griddled tomato, lettuce, and red pickled onions all on a multigrain bun.
Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
The Mexican state north of Puerto Vallarta is easy to get to and full of coastal Mexican towns that are slightly under-the-radar but full of flavor. A seafood lover’s paradise, some highlights of Nayarit include Don Pedro’s, an institution in the bohemian surf town of Sayulita, for its to-die-for fish tacos; Si Senor’s sizzling queso fundido you’ll never forget; the Mexican-influenced sushi at Nicksan in Nuevo Vallarta; and lots of fresh fish seafood and ceviche pretty much everywhere you turn your head. For breakfast, the Blue Corn Mama Cafe gets high marks for its bright, casual atmosphere and Mexican staples like chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, and blue corn tortillas—and even pancakes, too.
Where to stay and taste: There are lots of great resort-like Airbnb options that offer incredible value, especially if you’re traveling and bunking with friends. When it comes to hotels, the W Punta de Mita is one of our favorites in the area due to its location on one of the best surf breaks of the region, and the hotel’s funky decor that pays homage to the area’s native Huichol tribe. The property is also the location of Chevicheria, which is housed in a ‘50s Chevy truck covered with a thatched roof that’s been converted into the ultimate casual bar and beachside snack joint serving up delicious ceviches. Whether you’re staying there or not, Carolina—a fine dining restaurant located at the St. Regis Punta Mita—is a splurge that’s well worth it.
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Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel Aviv offers spring breakers a one-of-a-kind cultural experience that is highlighted through its incredible food; it may be the furthest place to get to on this list, but once you’re there, eating good is relatively cheap compared to the States, and 1,000,000 percent yummy all the time. Our first stop in Tel Aviv is Levinsky Market, where you’ll find everything from colorful spices and fruits to mixed olives, teas, sandwiches, and the must-not-be-missed halva. Pick up a sandwich from Yom Tov Deli, and sip on an artisanal soda from Levinsky 41. Or, visit Jaffa to sit and fall in love with the bohemian cafe culture of Tel Aviv at Puaa or Shaffa Bar, two local favorites. When you’re not indulging in the local specialties, like hummus, couscous, falafel, and the breakfast shakshouka—which we highly advise ordering each and every morning—there’s also Asian fusion to be found at Taizu; an exclusive multi-course tasting menu at Burek (which is exclusive because it’s only open *one* night per week); and the trendy Cafe Popular, a hotspot with tons of shared plates, located at the boutique Jacob-Samuel Hotel.
Where to stay and taste: Tal by the Beach Tel Aviv Hotel offers contemporary accomodations in a beachside setting, with a killer rooftop happy hour that boasts sunset views over the city you need to see to believe. It’s also within walking distance of one of Tel Aviv’s finest group dinner spots, Yulia, which serves up an unreal crispy cauliflower dish, a focaccia and tahini combo that will make your mouth water, yummy kebabs, and beautifully presented seafood.
One of Honolulu’s buzziest neighborhoods, Ward Village, has more than 40 distinct dining options alone, including everything from the farm-to-table Merriman’s, which highlights local Hawaiian flavors, to innovative newcomers like Piggy Smalls. The latter serves a gloriously innovative dish called “Pho-Strami Banh Mi” and has a “slushie program.” This live/work/eat ‘hood is also home to Scratch Kitchen & Meatery, which serves up a Cuban-influenced version of eggs benedict in the a.m., and cheesesteak empanadas and a creme brulee french toast dessert by night. For super cheap eats, check out Marukame Udon Waikiki, where the curry udon is just $6. You’ll appreciate the pricing since food in Hawaii is already a bit on the spendier side. That said, if you’re looking to go extra flossy, Honolulu gives you the great opportunity to ball out at Sushi Sho, acclaimed chef Keiji Nakazawa’s first U.S. outpost, with just 10 seats for omakase-style sushi, located at the Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach.
Where to stay and taste: The best part about Waikiki Beach is that no matter where you stay, you’ll be within walking distance to loads of great restaurants, tiki bars, and beaches. With a stay at The Modern Honolulu (which has two primo-located pools, might we add), you can also take advantage of the happy hour which happens each day at The Study, a hidden “library” bar gem where cocktails include fun spins on the classics and the menu includes Confit Smoked Ahi Dip, Mini Wagyu Hamburgers, and even a Beet Poke.
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