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As the calendar year turns over, we’ve grown accustomed to the barrage of lists telling us where to travel during the next 12 months. Oftentimes these places are a country or even a whole region – you could spend an entire year exploring just one of the locations listed and still barely make a dent.

We like to travel on a smaller scale. Forget countries and cities, for us the neighborhood is the ideal unit of exploration. Celebrating neighborhood life and businesses is, of course, essential to what we do as Culinary Backstreets. Since our founding in 2012, we’ve been dedicated to publishing the stories of unsung local culinary heroes and visiting them on our food walks, particularly in neighborhoods that are off the beaten path.

But this year we are planning to dive even deeper into the cities we work in. Getting off the beaten path leads to fresh experiences, but more importantly, it’s a way for us to contribute to the economies of neighborhoods otherwise neglected by the tourism industry. Tourism is an important economic force in many cities, as it should be, but if it is not dispersed responsibly, it can devastate the urban ecosystem, one that’s based on the sound health of all of a city’s neighborhoods.

With that in mind, we are happy to declare 2018 as “The Year of the Neighborhood,” one in which our focus will be on lesser-visited neighborhoods and the people and places that keep them going. To get things started, below is a compilation of the less-visited areas that our correspondents are planning to explore this year:

Tbilisi: Plekhanov

Tbilisi’s Plekhanov district used to be a neighborhood of crumbly 19th-century buildings hiding behind the enormous eucalyptuses that had burst through broken sidewalks. The only thing it had that other rundown parts of town didn’t were Turkish restaurants. Today, though, the hood is hipster headquarters, thanks to the Fabrika complex, an old Soviet sewing factory that has become a trendy urban space of bars, restaurants, boutiques and a hostel. The reportedly $8 million project has encouraged others to open artsy cafes on surrounding streets, which are great to wander on.

The storefront antique shops on Tsinamdzgvrishvili are still there, and the Wine Gallery is a great spot to get wine on tap. The always excellent Shavi Lomi relocated a few blocks up, while a couple of our favorite places, Amber Bar and Aripana, are located on the tourist-heavy pedestrian section of Aghmashenebeli. The other end of the street, near the metro station, is still full of tasty Turkish joints, now joined by coffeehouses and the vanguard of local gentrification, Dunkin’ Donuts. But behind the metro are the same old hole-in-the-wall khachapuri bakeries, second hand clothing shops and little markets we recall from years past. – Paul Rimple

Click here to read the full neighborhood guide.

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