This past summer, Asbury Park, New Jersey, was bustling. One never would have guessed that Hurricane Sandy—which hit one year ago this week—had wiped out the entire boardwalk and closed waterfront businesses for the better part of the year.
Downtown Asbury Park has organically sprouted into an urbanized pocket of culture buzzing with locals, foodies, and rockers. Its main thoroughfare, Cookman Avenue, is studded with gastropubs, mom and pop coffee shops, antique furniture stores, art galleries, quirky boutiques, and a newly minted independent movie theatre. A few blocks north lies the legendary rock 'n' roll music venue, The Stone Pony, and Asbury Lanes, a vintage bowling alley from the 1960s that was recently refurbished. Much of the current development momentum owes its success to the initial visionaries who began investing in the commercial district when it was still considered risky territory.
Compared to Shanghai—let along Hong Kong, Singapore, and that summit of culinary summits, Tokyo—Beijing’s fine dining scene still has a long way to go. There’s a lot of mediocrity swimming in a sea of pretense and new money. At the end of the day, Beijingers are a rough-and-ready lot who prefer Sichuan hotpot in a hole-in-the-wall. We recently ate at S.T.A.Y.(pictured), three Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alleno’s outpost at the Shangri-La Beijing. The service was good, the food above average, but the room was utterly dead—we were one of four tables.
But back to the Sichuan hotpot: Beijing has a pretty comprehensive array of restaurants serving regional cuisines. Ten years ago, most Chinese food fanatics would have told you Taipei and Hong Kong were the best places for Chinese food, Beijing being littered with restaurants that served greasy gristle. (Communism plus Cultural Revolution equals abysmal food.) Since we moved here, I’ve had some solid Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Cantonese, Nanjing, Xinjiang, and even Taiwanese meals here—in nice settings, surrounded mostly by Chinese people.
The U.S. Embassy in London is moving to Vauxhall—which is interesting, considering the south-of-the-Thames location. Currently, the area is known for its gay bar scene as well as its scattered but strong food offerings, such as the excellent Brunswick House Café.
The Ballymore Group is heading up a surrounding residential/retail development, complete with a 100-room waterside hotel, called Embassy Gardens. It’s part of the mayor’s Nine Elms South Bank regeneration project, aka London’s “Third City” (after the Square Mile to the east and Westminster to the west). Sir Terry Farrell is the architect, and will incorporate elements of New York’s meatpacking district as well as London’s Victorian and Edwardian mansion blocks. This is all pretty far off (dates pending), but in the meantime, this area is on the up.
Christine Ajudua is Travel + Leisure's London correspondent.
Prefer off-the-radar eateries to flashy, five-star affairs? That’s why Travel + Leisure and CNN teamed up for our series 100 Places to Eat Like a Local. For the next few months, we are combining iReports from you with chef and editor finds to give you tips on the best local food around.
Ever wonder where to get amazing Chinese food in Philadelphia? Chinatown might be a good guess, but how do you choose from the countless noodle houses lining the streets? Thankfully, we discovered Nan Zhou Noodle House (brought to our attention by cathybranch). Nan Zhou’s noodles are hand drawn and made to order, meaning you get to choose how you want them- broad or narrow, thick or thin. You can also pick from an array of proteins- from clam or shrimp to ox tail or lamb- to customize your dish.
Our iReporter suggests spicy pig ears to start while your noodles are being prepared. A few more insider tips- Nan Zhou Noodle House only accepts cash, so make sure to stop by an ATM on your way there. This joint is also BYOB, so while they do not sell wine or beer, you are welcome to bring your own to enjoy. Happy slurping!
Have your own suggestion for eating like a local? Share your iReport today!
Maria Pedone is a digital editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.
Once considered Nowheresville, the Portland’s West End is now a cool stopover.
Clyde Common: In this industrial restaurant beneath the Ace Hotel Portland (the undisputed heart of the neighborhood), almost everything is sourced from within a 100-mile radius, from the nettles in the cavatelli to the bacon, house-smoked over applewood. $$
Tanner Goods(pictured): Pick your preferred shade of English bridle leather and fittings (from brass to stainless steel)—and in just 10 minutes, you’ll walk out with a custom-made belt. 1308 W. Burnside St.
Think you know London? Think again. Most locals would struggle to place the under-the-radar Fitzrovia district on a map. Follow writer Mark Ellwood as he takes you around the artists' haven, which is featured in the January issue of Travel+Leisure.
Clark Mitchell is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure.
When I went to Budapest last week—that unduly beautiful capital on the Danube—I spent an afternoon checking-out some boutiques recommended in a June 7 New York Times article about the city’s budding design scene (just yesterday it also ran this piece). All the shops are located in Pest—the newer, commercial side of the river—in a triangle near the Hungarian National Museum (14-16 Múzeum korut, District IX); and the bar and restaurant strip of Raday utca. Let’s call the area, which is really just a small piece of District IX, Karolyi Kert, after the leafy park in the heart of the ‘hood.