Top 10 Foodie Cities 2013: A Second Helping
About This List
To pick our second batch of the best food cities in the U.S., we sniffed out places 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.”
Limiting our search to cities with populations less than 250,000, we calculated the ratio of top-rated local restaurants to residents, then looked for noted chefs, signature indigenous foods that help define the culinary scene and the availability of fresh, quality ingredients.
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. What we found were invigorating restaurant scenes, chefs adapting traditional dishes into edible art, and communities supporting local farmers and food producers. 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."
We asked Harris for his definition of a foodie, which he joked was a term that's overused and a tad cutesy, but he obliged.
“It’s someone who is fascinated by food and frequently intent on finding or creating the most satisfying meal possible,” Harris says. “It can apply to restaurant enthusiasts of all varieties, be it a lover of diners, a burger blogger, or someone who keeps tabs on every new restaurant in the area. It extends well beyond a love of restaurants, with innovative home cooks, gardeners, and expert barbecuers. Or it can merely be someone interested in all of the above who enjoys thinking and writing about the subject. The only unifying tie is a passion for food and the willingness to go great lengths for a memorable dining experience.”
So whether you consider yourself a true foodie or not, grab a fork and dig into our second helping of the best food cities in America.