Best Places to Live

2014 10 Best Foodie Cities

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
    Elizabeth Parker

    Washington, DC is one the best food cities in America. Our nation's capital has become a capital of food, one with a much higher approval rating than Congress could ever hope for. Led by a batch of talented chefs and entrepreneurs, Washington, D.C.'s food scene was recently transformed from a place known for its power lunches to a four-course foodie destination. In the shadows of tourist attractions like the Lincoln Memorial, Smithsonian museums and the White House are neighborhood eateries, small markets and dynamic restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs.

    Homemade doughnuts, fried chicken, fritters and craft beer draw a steady stream of diners to GBD, which stands for Golden Brown Delicious. The husband and wife team created a list of recommended beers to drink while eating doughnuts and buttermilk fried chicken. Just three blocks from the White House is Founding Farmers, a restaurant devoted to sustainable agriculture and environmental protection. The vast menu includes handmade pasta, wild-caught fish, fresh baked breads and slow-cooked stews. Rose's Luxury serves dinner in an open layout with multiple bars and a garden feel. Locals know to show up early or expect a long wait to be seated, but waiting means time to sample creatively crafted cocktails. Large parties can take advantage of the family-style menu, which offers baby back ribs, smoked brisket and hand-cut fries.

    Food history is explored at Food: Transforming the American Table, an ongoing exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History that showcases innovations, technologies and cultural shifts that changed the way we ate between 1950 and 2000. It includes Julia Child's kitchen.

    Washington, DC, residents frequently eat at locally owned restaurants and spend more than the average American on food. The DC area's farmers markets supply at-home cooks with fresh produce, quality meats and baked goods.

    Other places to sniff out: Rasika, El Chilango, Restaurant Nora
    Don't miss: Snacks and samples at Union Market, a collection of artisan cooks and bakers.