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.