Best Places to Live

2015 10 Best Foodie Cities

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.

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
    courtesy of Walnut Creek Magazine

    While its innovative and eclectic mix of restaurants played a factor in Walnut Creek, Calif., making our list of the Top 10 Best Foodie Cities, the city’s residents were the icing on the cake. The percentage of people living in Walnut Creek who prefer independent and locally owned restaurants over fast-food and chains exceeds the national average. Walnut Creek residents strongly support regional farmers and have managed to keep their obesity rate lower than similar sized cities.

    See where Walnut Creek ranked as one of the Top 10 Foodie Cities in 2012

    The Art and Wine Festival in Walnut Creek draws thousands of visitors in for a two-day celebration that includes unique wines and microbrewed beers. One of the nation’s best known home-cooking advocates, writer and chef Marion Cunningham, who passed away in 2012, spent her last years in Walnut Creek. The city contains a batch of up-and-coming chefs who continue to elevate Walnut Creek’s status as a restaurant destination. Stroll down Locust Street for a quick sampling of the restaurants you’ll find in Walnut Creek. Within just a few blocks, you’ll see the Walnut Creek Farmers Market, 310 Eatery, which specializes in “L.A. street food,” an Italian restaurant named 54 Mint, and Lettuce Restaurant and Catering, a family-friendly establishment serving sandwiches, salads, soups and pasta.

    Residents from around the Bay Area give high marks to Walnut Creek Yacht Club, a seafood restaurant and bar that also sells ingredients to at-home cooks. You’ll also find a variety of ethnic restaurants ranging from Latin American cafes like Sabores del Sur to Indian gastropubs like Kanishka’s Gastropub.

    Don’t Miss: ice cream at Lottie’s Creamery, Sichuan Fortune House, sandwiches at Morucci’s Si Mangia Bene

    See where Walnut Creek ranked on our Top 10 Foodie Cities 2012 list.