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
  • 9

    Omaha, NE

    Population: 440,034
    Photo: Taita

    Omaha, NB is one the best food cities in America. Think you've been to a steakhouse? One visit to The Drover in Omaha will have you thinking again. This culinary landmark in the Midwest doesn't mess around with meat. A warm, rustic atmosphere enhances the experience customers get from sinking their teeth into thick cuts of beef that have been soaked in a whiskey-based marinade. Many guests come out claiming to have just tasted the best steak they've ever had. And while The Drover is a true Epicurean delight, it's not the only delicious experience in Omaha.

    Innovative chefs throughout the city are creating sensational menus that surprise many visitors. From high-end dishes that satisfy the most discerning palates to more comforting meals, restaurants in Omaha are worth standing in line for. Clayton Chapman, chef at The Grey Plume, and Jon Seymour at V. Mertz were both semi-finalists for the James Beard Award of “Best Chef: Midwest” in 2013, while Paul Kulik, chef at The Boiler Room, picked up the same honor in 2012. Considered one of the nation's most sustainable restaurants, The Grey Plume's menu is seasonally driven, utilizing locally grown produce and livestock to make dishes such as roasted trout, chicken roulade and rabbit. V. Mertz, located in the historic Old Market Passageway, provides elegant meals and an abundance of wine. Dinner items include grass-fed lamb shank, braised wagyu beef duet and pepper steak. Set up in what used to be the actual boiler room for a 120-year-old building, The Boiler Room's menu showcases the work of local growers with items like crispy pork belly, Atlantic king salmon and stuffed lamb loin. Great farmers markets equip stay-at-home chefs with all the necessary provisions. Residents here don't mind spending a bit above the national average when dining out and do so quite often. Though it's only been held once before, anticipation is building for what could become Omaha's best annual food event, August's Beer and Bacon Festival.

    Other places to sniff out: Dario's Brasserie, Taita, Lisa's Radial Cafe, Wilson & Washburn

    Don't miss: Brunch at Lot 2.