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.