FOOD AND DRINK

10 Best Foodie Cities

Discover the best cities for foodies when it comes to restaurants, farmers markets and residents who prefer local restaurants to fast food. See which cities have the best food scenes.

As foodie culture continues to marinate in cities across the U.S., and its various cousins the farm-to-table and craft-beer movements reach a slow boil, it's almost become harder to find a place that isn't a foodie city. That makes picking the top 10 foodie cities all the more challenging, even with our focus on small- to mid-sized cities. Cities have certainly seen the benefits of encouraging restaurant districts and boutique eating. Having great places to eat adds vibrancy to a downtown and can provide a foundation for a nighttime economy and entertainment district. But let's face it, the economic advantages are nice and all, but this list is really about the food itself and the talented chefs who prepare it day in and day out.

As always, we start with a data-driven approach to creating our rankings. First, there have to be places to eat, drink and be merry, so we analyzed Census data to find cities with high concentrations of restaurants and bars. Using data from Esri, we then looked for cities whose residents spend money eating out and do so at independent restaurants, not chains or fast-food establishments. Cooking at home is another aspect of foodie culture, so we also looked at access to healthy food and farmers markets. Finally, just because these cities have great food doesn't mean they should be eating it to excess, so we also factored in the adult obesity rate. You can have your flourless chocolate cake, but you should have some Chard salad with roasted Shiitakes, too. 

Of course, palates are a subjective thing. So Livability's editors also layered in some other factors like James Beard Award winners, Michelin stars and even Yelp reviews. Finally, we used our experience and judgment to narrow the list into the final top 10.

Now, let's stick a fork in this introduction, and dig into the list.

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CLICK ON THE PHOTOS BELOW TO READ MORE ABOUT WHY THE CITY MADE THE LIST 

Ranking Criteria

critically acclaimed restaurants • residents who prefer independent restaurants • access to healthy food and farmers markets • low obesity rate • James Beard Award winners

10. Walnut Creek, CA Population 66,799
9. Tempe, AZ Population 169,816
8. Burlington, VT Population 42,570
7. Bellevue, WA Population 134,630
6. Stamford, CT Population 126,592
5. Duluth, MN Population 86,178
4. Rockville, MD Population 64,331
3. Pittsburgh, PA Population 305,928
2. Omaha, NE Population 440,034
1. Coral Gables, FL Population 50,059
FOOD AND DRINK

10 Best Beer Cities

Beer enhances livability of cities.

How did we rank the best cities for craft beer lovers? Maybe a better starter question is why did we rate the top 10 best beer cities? Can good brews and breweries really make a city more livable?

Without question.

For starters, we wouldn’t have cities at all if it weren’t for beer because beer is the root of all civilization. For thousands of years, humans have been creating batches big and small of this wonderful combination of water, malt, hops and yeast. In recent decades, breweries have sprung up all over America - in towns big and small – evolving the art and science of brewing into a craft.

It’s a growing business and source of entrepreneurship. The Brewers Association estimates that in 2013 overall beer consumption slipped slightly, but craft beer sales grew more than 17 percent and now make up nearly 15 percent of all beer revenue in the U.S. The world is taking notice, too. Exports of craft beer rose 49 percent in 2013. More importantly, the craft beer movement has spread. Just 30 years ago there were 100 breweries in the U.S. Today, there are more than 2,800. That’s a lot of beer.

Microbreweries tend to be attached to restaurants, so a good foodie and beer culture in a city often go hand in hand and well, feed off each other. These kinds of amenities can help cities both attract and retain residents, foster new businesses, keep downtowns thriving and, frankly, make cities more fun to live in.

“[Beer] generates its own tourism,” said Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell in an interview last year. “People come to try craft beers and spend a few days in Grand Rapids enjoying our local breweries.” 

That’s the why. Let’s get back to the how. We wanted to look at both sides of the beer equation: production and consumption. On the production side, we looked at the number of award-winning breweries and beers the town has crafted in recent years according to the Great American Beer Festival. On the consumption side, we used data from Esri to find cities where people were drinking more craft and high-end beers than average, and less macro-brews than average. We also considered the number of liquor stores per capita. Finally, we weighed in the city’s reputation as a beer town, its overall livability, and a shot of our editor’s own experiences with the towns and their ales.

As always, we try to focus on the small and mid-sized cities that often get overlooked on lists like these. But a couple of larger cities like Denver and San Diego were hard to ignore so we included them, too.

Each of these cities is a fine place to live and have a beer. We at Livability raise a pint to their success. 

Ranking Criteria

beer consumption • beer preference • award-winning breweries • breweries per capita

10. Billings, MT Population 108,134
9. Hershey, PA Population 14,469
8. Bellingham, WA Population 82,944
7. St. Louis, MO Population 317,850
6. Grand Rapids, MI Population 192,416
5. Tampa, FL Population 355,603
4. Albuquerque, NM Population 556,092
3. San Diego, CA Population 1,359,791
2. Denver, CO Population 649,654
1. Bend, OR Population 81,780
FOOD AND DRINK

10 Best Foodie Cities

Dig in to our list of the best food cities in America of 2014. We set the table with places that contain diverse collections of independent restaurants and residents who strongly support local farmers, and where healthy foods are easily accessible. Take a look, but don't look hungry.

Most people compare school systems, parks and shopping centers when choosing the best place to live. Foodies, on the other hand, follow their taste buds. Food lovers are more interested in the caliber of a community's restaurants, culinary skills of local chefs and whether they'll be able to find the ingredients needed to assemble a gourmet meal at home. Our third iteration of the Top 10 Foodie Cities puts those qualities on the front burner, identifying places where eating is about much more than just filling bellies. The best cities for food lovers strongly support local farmers, showcase regional cuisine and provide residents with bountiful opportunities to discover new flavors, textures, cooking techniques and healthy foods.

To determine our latest list of the best food cities in America, we started from a data-driven perspective and then added in some qualitative flavor. We also expanded our horizons. On our previous foodie cities lists (Top 10 Foodie Cities and Top 10 Food Cities 2013), we limited the pickings to small and mid-size cities. On the data side, we analyzed data from Esri about how frequently families eat at locally owned restaurants and how much the average resident spends eating out. A true foodie city also has options for eating in. So we also examined the accessibility residents of each city have to healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and quality meat with data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. We looked for cities with established farmers markets and restaurants that use locally grown ingredients. On the qualitative side, we looked at cities with critically acclaimed restaurants, successful chefs and winners of James Beard Foundation Awards.

What we found were cities where residents embrace restaurants and take pride in knowing where their food comes from. The cities on our list contain highly skilled chefs who continue to refine traditional menus with inventive approaches to classic dishes. These places draw Epicurean tourists who come more for the meals than the attractions, but still offer residents a high quality of life. Take a look at our picks for the best foodie cities.

Ranking Criteria

Frequency that residents eat at local restaurants • Amount that residents spend on food • Access to healthy food options • Number of farmers markets • Number of restaurants • James Beard Foundation Award winners

10. Washington, DC Population 647,484
9. Omaha, NE Population 440,034
8. Burlington, VT Population 42,570
7. Boulder, CO Population 103,919
6. Berkeley, CA Population 117,384
5. Traverse City, MI Population 15,168
4. Asheville, NC Population 86,789
3. Boston, MA Population 650,281
2. Scottsdale, AZ Population 227,471
1. New Haven, CT Population 130,612
FOOD AND DRINK

10 Best Foodie Cities

See which cities made the list in our second batch of the best food cities in America.

To pick our second batch of the best food cities in America, we sniffed out places with less than 250,000 people and with a high ratio of acclaimed restaurants, innovative chefs and strong regional culinary styles to their population size.

Following the lead of our first Top 10 Foodie Cities list, we veered away from well-known food-lovers' cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco and New Orleans, instead focusing on smaller towns with unexpected epicurean delights.

We consulted with experts at LocalEats, a website devoted to uncovering the best local restaurants, who recommended that we consider cities with traditions of good food and restaurants, which include a few beloved standard bearers, as well as nationally recognized chefs, food festivals, cooking schools and farmers markets. 

“Don't overlook craft breweries and wine culture either,” says Charlie Harris, editor at LocalEats. “Wine-friendly cities and places that have an unusual number of small breweries are usually food-friendly places, as well.”

Our sources included the James Beard Foundation, Yelp, Urbanspoon, Zagat and TripAdvisor, as well as publications like the The New York Times, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine and Southern Living.  In addition, we considered that the best food towns offer a high quality of life, in which restaurants are just one of the amenities that help residents thrive.

“Most foodies tie their quality of life to access to great food,” Harris says. “A lot of these smaller cities are trying to revitalize their downtowns and redefine themselves. With new businesses and an influx of artists, musicians and culture, good food often follows."

Grab a fork and dig into our second helping of the best food cities in America.

Ranking Criteria

Excluded known food-lovers’ cities • Populations less than 250,000 • Number of food festivals, farmers markets and cooking schools • Ratio of top-rated restaurants to residents • Number of nationally recognized chefs • Number of craft breweries and wineries

10. Burlington, VT Population 42,570
9. Alexandria, VA Population 149,315
8. Santa Fe, NM Population 83,008
7. Chapel Hill, NC Population 58,766
6. Lafayette, LA Population 124,982
5. Madison, WI Population 243,122
4. Berkeley, CA Population 117,384
3. Bloomington, IN Population 82,813
2. Hoboken, NJ Population 52,452
1. Decatur, GA Population 20,605
FOOD AND DRINK

10 Best BBQ Cities

Spend any time looking for the best barbecue cities in America and there's no doubt you'll come across the usual suspects. Much has been written about the smoking, saucing and rubbing going on in places like Memphis, Austin, Chicago and Kansas City, but the search for the best 'cue is an endless one. So consider our list of barbecue cities as an addendum, or maybe it's just excuse to keep on eat'n.

Few foods are as scrutinized as barbecue. If you know your way around a pit, or even know what a pit is for that matter, then you already know the cities by which all other barbecue is measured. So we strayed from the herd. In compiling our list of the best places for barbecue, we decided the lesser known barbecue cities should be better known. After all, does the quest for the best barbecue ever end?

To get started we asked Brian Pearcy, The BBQ Guy, to give us a primer on 'cue. In doing so, he pretty much listed the places that barbecue lovers already know about.

"When I think of a barbecue city, I think of towns in the Midwest like Kansas City and St. Louis; towns in Tennessee like Nashville and Memphis; towns in South Carolina like Charleston, Spartanburg and Greenville; and towns in Texas like Austin and Dallas," Pearcy says. "I do not naturally think of towns in New England, Florida, California or Washington. That's not saying there aren't barbecue cities in those locations, but I don't think people think of these geographic areas when they think of towns known for barbecue."

To make our picks, we counted the number of barbecue restaurants a city had, looked at the quality of these restaurants by examining customer reviews, and in some cases, conducted our own taste tests. We know our picks are bound to get things stirred up. Looking through thousands of reviews on hundreds of barbecue joints, it's evident that people disagree on who has good barbecue. To us, it all comes down to taste. What we hope is to offer food for thought. Let the judging begin.

Ranking Criteria

Lesser known BBQ city • Number of BBQ restaurants • Favorable customer reviews

10. Cumming, GA Population 5,588
9. Gainesville, FL Population 127,559
8. Fayetteville, AR Population 79,037
7. Bethesda, MD Population 62,102
6. Springfield, MO Population 163,763
5. Tyler, TX Population 100,806
4. Hattiesburg, MS Population 46,762
3. Greenville, SC Population 61,734
2. Tuscaloosa, AL Population 94,865
1. Lexington, NC Population 19,129
FOOD AND DRINK

10 Best Farmers Markets

We've gone a pick'n and came back with a healthy list of 10 Best Farmers Markets. Take a gander at some of the best places to get homegrown goodness and have a bit of fun.

Farmers markets are coming back in a big way. Maybe it's the popularity of cooking shows or a growing trend toward sustainability, but more and more people are seeking out the fresh fruits, vegetables and other produce that can be found in local farmers markets. Sustainability and the availability of local food are some of the key factors in the livability of a region. That's why our editors have dug in to unearth some of the best farmers markets from around the country.

Whether you're a locavore who already knows the importance and environmental impact of buying locally or just someone who loves fresh food, it's time to satiate your appetite for info about farmers markets.

Ranking Criteria

Large offering of food • Community supported agriculture • Organic choices

10. Tucson, AZ Population 528,374
9. Santa Cruz, CA Population 62,752
8. Santa Fe, NM Population 83,008
7. Greensboro, NC Population 279,427
6. Boulder, CO Population 103,919
5. Burlington, VT Population 42,570
4. Portland, OR Population 612,206
3. Ocala, FL Population 57,209
2. Chattanooga, TN Population 174,483
1. Kansas City, MO Population 467,990
FOOD AND DRINK

10 Best Beer Cities

If you're a beer lover then chances are you already know about the big brewing cities. But here's a look at beer cities you might have missed. Find out who made it on our list of the Best Unexpected Beer Cities.

Most beer lovers already know about the big beer cities. The keg has been tapped on places like Portland OR, Asheville NC, Fort Collins CO, NYC, and Chicago. What we've been brewing is a list of places beer nuts might miss. These are cities where great beer is being made and more importantly it's being enjoyed, even celebrated. We looked for top notch breweries. We wanted places that brew good beer, but also have personality, 'cause there's nothing worse than drinking with a stuffy bunch of folks. So in less time than it takes to pour a pint of Guiness you can check out our list of the Best Unexpected Beer Cities. 

Make sure you check out Top 99 Best Beers in 99 Best Beer Cities.

Ranking Criteria

Excluded known beer cities • Number of breweries • Well defined city identity

10. Chattanooga, TN Population 174,483
9. , Population 0
8. Charlottesville, VA Population 45,084
7. Boise, ID Population 214,196
6. Lincoln, NE Population 269,726
5. Missoula, MT Population 69,190
4. Kalamazoo, MI Population 75,499
3. Akron, OH Population 198,329
2. Burlington, VT Population 42,570
1. Albuquerque, NM Population 556,092
FOOD AND DRINK

10 Best Foodie Cities

We sniffed out and found 10 of the best food cities in America between the great food meccas of New York and L.A. Take a look at what we consider to be the best foodie cities in the country, and get ready to be hungry.

Foodies worth their sea salt know metropolitan cities like Paris, New York City and San Francisco are considered food meccas. But diverse dining offerings and a deep-rooted food culture can be uncovered in smaller towns and cities, too. Livability.com searched 200 of the most livable cities in America to find the 10 most surprisingly vibrant cities for foodies to flex their taste buds.

These are cities and towns where gourmands can find some undiscovered gems. From farmers markets and independent restaurants to quality of life and cost of living, these aren't just some of the best food cities in America – they're great communities for everyone. For more in-depth info about these great food cities, just click through the list. Bon appetit!

Ranking Criteria

Excluded known food-lovers’ cities • Number of farmers markets • Number of independent restaurants • Overall quality of life • Cost of living

10. Pueblo, CO Population 108,073
9. Logan, UT Population 49,400
8. Wichita, KS Population 387,147
7. Albuquerque, NM Population 556,092
6. Eugene, OR Population 159,615
5. Walnut Creek, CA Population 66,799
4. Kansas City, MO Population 467,990
3. Boulder, CO Population 103,919
2. Asheville, NC Population 86,789
1. Traverse City, MI Population 15,168