Meet and Eat: 5 Flavorful Cities to Host Your Next Event
As a meetings professional, you know there are two things that always bring people together: meetings and food. Put them together, and you have a recipe for high attendance.
With that in mind, below are five meeting destinations serving up a bustling culinary scene. Take a look at dishes and specialties in each city to see how they might pair with your next big event.
The Windy City is not only easily accessible and centrally located for Americans, it’s also got a lot to bite into. Let’s start with the obvious: deep dish pizza. Baked in a pan and resembling a pie, this thick pizza—layered with cheese, meat, veggies, and sauce—was invented in Chicago in 1943. Dish it up by the slice or as a personalized pizza pie. Other Chicago specialties include rib tips, steak, Italian beef sandwiches, and the Chicago-style hot dog, an all-beef dog topped with yellow mustard, sweet pickle relish, onions, dill pickles, peppers, and celery salt on a poppy seed bun. Before heading home, gift your guests with a bag of Chicago-style popcorn, a sweet and savory blend of cheese and caramel corn that’s sold at local franchises, including the famous Garrett Popcorn.
The flavors wafting out of this Southeast city will tip confirmation clicks in your favor. You can’t go wrong starting off a meal with single-serve cups of gumbo—chicken roux, sausage, seafood, and spices. Other Creole staples you’ll find across the city include red beans and rice, po’ boy sandwiches, and main courses such as jambalaya and etouffee that combine vegetables, rice, and seafood, including shrimp, crab, and alligator. To keep everyone focused throughout the day, plan to pour chicory coffee, a local favorite with a nutty flavor that’s best served café au lait-style. Pair chicory coffee with NOLA’s beloved sugary beignets and you won’t hear any complaints.
In Dubai, everything is grand, from its futuristic skyscrapers to its beaches and food. If your attendee base loves luxury dining, you’re in luck: There’s a lot of it here. For just one such experience, host a special outing atop the Burj Khalifa—the tallest building in the world—and enjoy international cuisine such as French blue lobster and wagyu beef. Dubai also delivers an incredible amount of local flavors that are not to be missed. Start with something truly unique: camel. Try a glass of camel’s milk (a little saltier than cow’s milk but also higher in protein) or camel’s milk ice cream. Other must-try regional eats include hummus, shawarma, luqaimat, which are hot dumplings served with date sauce and sesame seeds, and Arabic coffee paired with locally sourced dates. To let attendees sample a little bit of everything, host an excursion to 2nd December Street market, formerly known as Al Dhiyafa Street. (With all these offerings, it’s no wonder JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai hosted the Global Restaurant Leadership Conference in 2021, and will do so again in 2022.)
Ranked as the top city for street food by CEO World, Singapore is as appealing to the palate as it is to your planning needs. Singapore’s street food, also known as hawker food—affordable local favorites often cooked in food stalls across the city—is a fusion of Malay, Indian, Chinese, and Southeast Asian flavors. Throughout the city, find dishes such as chili crab (hard-shelled crabs fried in a tangy tomato-based sauce) and sambal stingray, which is lathered in a paste made from lime juice, shrimp, sugar, and ginger. Other local favorites you can dive into during or after your conference include laksa, a noodle dish made with chili paste, coconut milk, and fish stock that’s served with seafood, and Hainanese chicken rice, which is frequently referred to as one of Singapore’s national dishes. The key ingredient: The rice is cooked in chicken stock, making every bite burst with flavor. If it seems like there are a lot of options, that’s because there are. Your guests can easily sign up for a food tour to get a taste of everything before or after your event, or you can incorporate variations of hawker food into catered meals.
Did someone say taco? Yes! Mexico City is known for its tacos, but don’t let this simple dish fool you. Mexico City packs these corn tortillas with plenty of flavor. One must-try: tacos de barbacoa, which is lamb wrapped in agave leaves and slow-roasted underground, served inside a corn tortilla with salsa, lime, cilantro, and onions. Also big in the town’s taco scene: vegan tacos. Breakfast lovers should bite into pan dulce, a sweet bread sold in bakeries across the city. For a crunchy bite of a truly authentic snack, offer chapulines—salted, lime-soaked grasshoppers sold at street markets and high-end restaurants—as a midafternoon meeting snack. Or, bring in a mixologist from one of the city’s top cocktail bars, four of which are on the world’s top 50 list, for your event’s happy hour.