Food Lover's Cities
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The Best Cities in America for People Who Love Food

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Food Lover's Cities
Maica/istockphoto

The Cream of the Crop

If you're passionate about great food, you know the pursuit of that next delicious bite can get expensive. Besides eating out at restaurants, those who love exploring new cuisines often want to cook with hard-to-find ingredients, seek out new experiences such as food tours and cooking classes, and some will even plan travel around food. Some cities in the U.S., however, are more affordable for food lovers than others, according to the 2019 WalletHub Best Foodie Cities in America study

To determine which cities are cheapest for exploring new flavors and cuisines, WalletHub compared 182 U.S. cities based on two criteria. The first was affordability, taking a look at how much things like groceries, wine, and restaurant meals cost, as well as various taxes. The second criteria — diversity, accessibility, and quality — examined 23 other factors, among them restaurants, food festivals, and food trucks per capita; the presence of Michelin-starred restaurants; Yelp rankings; and access to healthy food options. Here are the 30 urban areas that came out on top as the best food cities in America. (Looking for more can't-miss culinary destinations? Be sure to check out 60 Iconic U.S. Restaurants to Try Before You Die.)

West Side Market
West Side Market/Facebook

30. Cleveland

Affordability: 45
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 34
This Great Lakes city's food scene is rooted in tradition — you'll find pierogies on many menus — and filled with modern experimentation, all without pretension. Neighborhoods are distinct and unique, like Tremont's strip of bars and nightlife spots, and the city embraces historic restaurants like the nearby Sokolowski's University Inn. The West Side Market is housed in a beautiful building, is a hub for butchers and a spot where the hungry can find gyro sandwiches, international grocers, and Cambodian food. Want to explore more places like West Side Market? Check out 25 Food Halls and Markets That Offer a Taste of Something for Everyone.

Nick Tahous Garbage Plate
Dan D./Yelp

29. Rochester, New York

Affordability: 70
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 24
The upstate New York town of Rochester was named one of Travel + Leisure's "America's favorite cities for food" for its comfort food, craft beer scene, and coffee roasters. It's got a thriving Public Market that's been operating since 1905, and has over 300 vendor stalls selling produce, meat, and international foods. For a quirky regional specialty, try a "garbage plate," a pile of delicious carbs topped with your choice of meat and toppings like onions and hot sauce.

Related: The Garbage Plate and Other Strange But Surprisingly Tasty Local Foods to Try

Primanti Bros.' sandwiches
Primanti Bros. (Strip District)/Facebook

28. Pittsburgh

Affordability: 74
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 21
Pittsburgh was recently named the 2019 Food City of the Year by a San Francisco-based consulting firm for a number of reasons, including innovation and approachability in dining and access to farms for locally sourced products. Residents and visitors alike love pierogies and Primanti Bros.' sandwiches, but there's plenty of variety, from Vietnamese pho to French food and superb cocktail options.

Nepalese dumpling shop
Throwing S./Yelp

27. Columbus, Ohio

Affordability: 8
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 42
Columbus has an emerging food scene that has been called "vibrant and exciting" and just as interesting as those in cities twice its size. For example, young up-and-coming chefs are starting their own restaurants, leading to plenty of experimentation and playfulness, but another place getting a lot of attention is a simple Nepalese dumpling shop inside an international supermarket. Another spot to keep an eye on is The Budd Dairy Food Hall, expected to open in early 2020, which will be the city's first restaurant incubator, featuring a diverse range of cuisines from rising star chefs. Columbus' craft beer industry is booming, too, with more than 45 breweries.

Related: The Most Overlooked Travel Cities in the U.S.

DanDan
DanDan/Yelp

26. Milwaukee

Affordability: 9
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 43
This laid-back Midwestern city might be best known for its beer, cheese, and bratwurst, but there is a whole lot of exciting stuff going on with immigrant-run restaurants, community gardens, distilleries, and James Beard Award winners. There's "never been a better time to eat or drink (in) Milwaukee," declared Food & Wine earlier this year, with new restaurants popping up every month. Drinking is cheap and easy, too, with more bars than grocery stores, and the second-lowest average beer and wine prices in the WalletHub study.

Related: 17 Cheap American Beers That Locals Love

Founders Brewing
Founders Brewing Co./Facebook

25. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Affordability: 5
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 40
Thrillist recently named the usually overlooked Grand Rapids the best food city in Michigan, beating out its big sister Detroit. It's a very easy place to live, eat, and navigate, and staying mostly under the radar keeps things inexpensive, earning it a top-five affordability rank. It's also well-known for its craft beer scene, with Founders Brewing and Grand Rapids Brewing two popular destinations. It's cheap to drink here, too — WalletHub assigned it the fifth-lowest average beer and wine price in the study.

Skyline Chili
Skyline Chili/Facebook

24. Cincinnati

Affordability: 14
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 30
Cincinnati has respectable affordability and diversity scores. The city's dining scene has been described as vibrant, hopeful, and energetic, with many young, talented chefs coming here to experiment, then never leaving. One neighborhood in particular, the Over-the-Rhine district, has gotten a lot of attention as a food lover's dream, full of public markets, cafes, and specialty shops selling cheese and candy. Whatever Cincy diners choose to eat, they should always save room for a cheese coney at the iconic Skyline, and some Graeter's ice cream.

Related: 25 Specialty Candymakers Worth Seeking Out

Tacos El Regio
Tacos El Regio/Facebook

23. San Antonio

Affordability: 1
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 44
San Antonio holds the coveted No. 1 rank in the affordability category. It's one of only three U.S. cities to be named a Creative City of Gastronomy by UNESCO for its commitment to urban farming, connecting its culinary and historical assets, and its unique culinary and cultural heritage. There is a wide variety of amazing restaurants in this charming city, but you can't pass up the chance to eat tacos recommended by local chefs. San Antonio also tied for the top spot in WalletHub's ranking of cities with the most ice cream and frozen yogurt shops per capita, so get licking.

Sally Bell's Kitchen
Sally Bell's Kitchen/Facebook

22. Richmond, Virginia

Affordability: 30
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 22
Richmond might be the first true surprise on this list at No. 22, though it's not surprising to any locals that their food scene is booming. Bon Appetit recently called it the "next great restaurant-obsessed town," and it's got everything from chic tasting-menu restaurants to old-fashioned soda fountains. Its restaurants have been James Beard Award-nominated for 10 consecutive years, and it was named one of the South's best food towns for unique spots like Sally Bell's Kitchen and Sugar & Twine bakeshop.

Related: Classic Soda Fountains That Will Make You Feel Like a Kid Again

Tejas Chocolate & Barbecue
Tejas Chocolate & Barbecue/Facebook

21. Houston

Affordability: 21
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 25
Houston is the second Texas city on the list, and GQ recently called it the "new capital of Southern cool," in part for its "exploding immigrant communities, ambitious, sophisticated variations on upscale dining" and lax zoning laws, which allow for experimentation without much risk. Food & Wine agrees, calling Houston's dining scene "the most exciting it's ever been." The city is one of the more affordable ones in WalletHub's study when it comes to dining out, and it has kept grocery prices low, too, coming in at the fourth lowest in the nation. (Interestingly, four of the five cities with the lowest grocery prices are in Texas.) And yes, you can get barbecue, too.

Roses' Taproom
Roses' Taproom/Facebook

20. Oakland, California

Affordability: 155
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 16
Sitting in the shadow of San Francisco is Oakland, which recently has gotten a lot of attention as a culinary destination in its own right, and not just a little sister across the bay. It's been called the Bay Area's "most dynamic dining scene," where you can find Cambodian, Middle Eastern, and Jamaican food. Head to Bakesale Betty for a fried-chicken sandwich, and Roses' Taproom for a flight as you plan the "ultimate eating weekend" in Oakland. And be sure to track down Horn Barbecue, a rising star pop-up that serves show-stopping brisket and other smoked specialties, which will soon open a permanent location in West Oakland. San Francisco expenses are starting to creep across the bay, however, as Oakland has some of the nation's highest grocery prices, according to WalletHub.

Junior’s Beef and Pork
Junior’s Beef and Pork/Facebook

19. Philadelphia

Affordability: 88
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 20
Philadelphia, often overlooked because it's sandwiched between heavy hitters New York City and Washington, D.C., has been named possibly "the best food city on the East Coast," in part for its low prices and up-and-coming young chefs. Those in the know say it doesn't hurt that it can also draw on lots of nearby farms, has many BYOB restaurants, and is home to neighborhoods that support mom-and-pops with global cuisine. Sure, a Philly cheesesteak is a must-try, but have you tried a roast pork sandwich yet?

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
S S./Yelp

18. Honolulu

Affordability: 178
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 10
Though Honolulu food is expensive (think of the transportation costs for items not locally produced), a top 10 diversity, accessibility, and quality score moved the city up in the list. Chefs in Honolulu love drawing from the state's long culinary traditions, including heavy Asian influences. Dishes like poke, food-truck garlic shrimp, sweet, doughnut-like malasadas, and Spam musubi are all popular. In WalletHub's findings, Honolulu is fifth in the rankings for most gourmet specialty food stores per capita, but also tied for the highest cost of groceries.

The Inn at Little Washington
The Inn at Little Washington

17. Washington, D.C.

Affordability: 171
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 12
Washington, D.C., was named "Restaurant City of the Year" by Bon Appetit in 2016 and hasn't really showed any signs of slowing down since. The amount of money that flows through the capital city demands some top-tier restaurants, and D.C. is one of only a few cities in the world where restaurants can earn Michelin stars — here, 18 local restaurants have earned them. The city took fifth place in the most restaurants per capita metric but has one of the highest average beer and wine prices in the country.

Related: 24 Free or Cheap Things to Do in Washington, D.C.

The Glass Onion
Michelle K./Yelp

16. Charleston, South Carolina

Affordability: 61
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 19
Despite a couple of notable chefs leaving the city recently, Charleston's food scene is thriving, in part by tourists who demand a culinary destination. Both low country and haute cuisine are celebrated, making for a dynamic culinary landscape. You can eat everything from top-notch Sichuan to French bistro fare, soul food catfish, and everything in between.

Related: 19 Free or Cheap Things to Do in Charleston

Denver Beer Co
Carly P./Yelp

15. Denver

Affordability: 84
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 17
The restaurant and bar scene in Denver is hard to keep track of because it changes just about as fast as the weather here does, but there will always be plenty of delicious and award-winning food for those that appreciate it. Green chile is a must in the Mile High City, and craft beer in this "Napa Valley of beer" is a must drink — in fact, Denver ranked No. 6 in Cheapism's Top 25 U.S. Cities for Craft Beer, and, according to WalletHub's ranking, Denver tied for the top spot in the most craft breweries and wineries per capita metric.

Matthews Cafeteria
Jeff A./Yelp

14. Atlanta

Affordability: 78
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 18
Atlanta has a restaurant scene that is rich with tradition, with long-running restaurants serving classic meat-and-threes, but young chefs are also innovating and reimagining Southern foods, creating an interesting dichotomy in the culinary landscape. There are also large immigrant populations bringing Middle Eastern and Latin American food to the ATL, making for a massive, diverse culinary panorama that takes time to explore.

Cuban
T T./Yelp

13. Tampa, Florida

Affordability: 86
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 13
The first of three Florida cities on the list, Tampa takes the 13th spot. The city was recently named an up-and-coming culinary destination, and doesn't seem content to settle for second fiddle to the state's southern cities anymore. Food halls are popping up, chefs are being nominated for James Beard Awards, and craft cocktails are taking over drink menus. And don't forget — (some say) the Cuban sandwich was actually invented here.

Capitol Mall Farmers’ Market
Davy J./Yelp

12. Sacramento, California

Affordability: 77
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 14
Sacramento, often culinarily overshadowed by California's larger coastal cities to the south, is coming into its own, and was even predicted to "blow up as a food destination." The restaurants and chefs in the area are committed to farm-to-table cooking, in part because there's so many area farmers markets with locally grown goods. It also helps that the relatively low cost of living (and eating) compared to the rest of the state entices chefs and allows for innovation and risk-taking.

iFresh
Georgina G./Yelp

11. Orlando, Florida

Affordability: 48
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 11
Though mostly associated with theme parks, Orlando has been having a culinary moment in recent years, earning the city the 11th spot on this list. Tourists are increasingly savvy and demanding more from their dining, while immigrant communities like the Mills 50 neighborhood are filled with restaurants and grocers serving and selling international ingredients. Of course, Disney World does have some great food, too.

Franklin BBQ
Connie L./Yelp

10. Austin, Texas

Affordability: 17
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 15
Welcome to the top 10, where we start with Austin, an artsy, energetic, and "weird" city that has become a top restaurant destination in recent years — not surprising given that Travel + Leisure named it "America's next great food town" a few years back. Barbecue is big in ATX, of course. You can wait hours in line at Franklin Barbecue, or you can head to any of the other fantastic brisket spots in town. Tex-Mex is also a way of life here, and everyone has his or her favorite spots for tacos and chile-soaked enchiladas. Finally, food trucks are also booming in Austin, and many operators go on to open their own restaurants, like Odd Duck.

Amy's Ice Creams
Amy's Ice Creams/Facebook

Austin Highlights

Austin tied for the top spot in WalletHub's assessment of most ice cream and frozen yogurt shops per capita. It makes sense, considering how much ice cream can cool you off during the hottest parts of a Texas summer. This includes places with unique flavors and killer soft serve.

Pequod's
Jessica M./Yelp

9. Chicago

Affordability: 103
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 8
Midwestern metropolis Chicago comes next, with high diversity and relatively affordable prices. Despite playing second fiddle to coastal cities like New York and Los Angeles, some have argued that Chicago is a better food city than either of them. Though it's known for deep-dish pizza (try the best at Pequod's), thin crust is what the locals eat most often. The Windy City is also full of international enclaves with great grocery stores and restaurants, from Greektown to Little India on Devon Avenue. Round all that out with Italian beef sandwiches, Chicago-style hot dogs, Harold's fried chicken and mild sauce, and plenty of innovative, world-class restaurants, and it's pretty obvious how Chicago secured a top 10 spot.

MAD Social
MAD Social/Facebook

Chicago Highlights

Chicago tied for first in two metrics: most coffee shops per capita and most ice cream and frozen yogurt shops per capita. The coffee will keep you warm in the Windy City's frigid winters, while the ice cream does the same-but-different in the muggy summers — especially when you turn that ice cream into a sandwich with things like waffles and macarons.

Eggs and Plants
Alejandra V./Yelp

8. Seattle

Affordability: 168
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 6
Probably surprising to no one who's lived in or visited Seattle, it has a high diversity, accessibility, and quality rank coupled with a low affordability score. The soggy city has an abundance of fresh seafood (some of it flying through the air at the massive food-focused destination Pike Place Market) and heavy Asian and Hawaiian influences. Vegetarians, vegans, and those on special diets also have a lot of restaurants to choose from, and Seattle's tech boom has helped top-notch restaurants, like award-winning JuneBaby, flourish.

Victrola
Su Y./Yelp

Seattle Highlights

When you think of Seattle, coffee probably comes to mind. And indeed, Seattle tied for first on WalletHub's survey of the most coffee shops per capita, with plenty of options besides the obvious Starbucks, including some roast-their-own joints. The city also tied for first in the most craft breweries and wineries per capita. Unfortunately, that craft beer will cost you a lot, as it also has the highest average beer and wine prices of all the cities studied.

 Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill
Rubio's/Yelp

7. San Diego

Affordability: 47
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 9
Often overshadowed by larger cities to its north, San Diego makes a name for itself with a food scene that is, as ezCater put it, as "laid back as its beaches." That includes the ubiquitous fish tacos, but craft cocktails are also big in the city right now, with bars specializing in everything from retro tiki drinks to over-the-top bloody Marys. San Diego's Little Italy neighborhood is the largest of its kind in the U.S. and includes tons of restaurants, while Mexican cuisine is widespread, and Iraqi immigrants are opening restaurants and grocery stores.

North Park Beer Co
Mark R./Yelp

San Diego Highlights

San Diego ties for the top position in the most craft breweries and wineries metric. There are more than 150 operational breweries in the area, and many brew the hoppy West Coast IPA that the region is known for — a brew that, perhaps by design, goes great with a fried fish taco.

e by Jose Andres
Rebecca S./Yelp

6. Las Vegas

Affordability: 15
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 7
The glitz and glamor of Las Vegas translates into amazing options for food lovers, with a surprisingly high affordability rank of 15th. Though there are plenty of restaurants and bars to spend money with abandon — try the super exclusive é by José Andrés if you can get a reservation — it's likely the off-strip restaurant and grocery prices that bring the average down. Restaurateurs are attracted to a constant stream of potential customers along with a low cost of living, resulting in a huge amount of diverse food options. From an award-winning Thai restaurant in a strip mall to a "secret" pizzeria in a hotel, there's something for everyone. And don't forget the many amazing bars, like Atomic Liquors, the oldest free-standing bar in Vegas that's full of historic charm.

Lappert's Ice Cream
Lappert's Ice Cream Shop/Yelp

Las Vegas Highlights

Las Vegas tied for the most coffee shops per capita — a bit of a surprise, but then something has to keep sleepy gamblers awake — and most ice cream and frozen yogurt shops as well; not as surprising given the number of vacationers coupled with a desert climate. The city also has the fourth most restaurants per capita, because tourists love to eat.

Related: 36 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Las Vegas

Pink's
Brandon T./Yelp

5. Los Angeles

Affordability: 107
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 4
LA's relatively low affordability rank of 107th tempers a strong 4th place finish in diversity, accessibility, and quality in this west coast metropolis. Though most people think of Hollywood and traffic when they hear Los Angeles, food lovers think of taco stands, Nancy Silverton's Osteria Mozza, and a La La Land hot dog from Pink's. The restaurant scene is dynamic and large, but you can bet that you'll always be able to find Japanese omakase, tacos al pastor, and more avocado than you know what to do with.

Mitsuwa
Saori K./Yelp

Los Angeles Highlights

Los Angeles took third in WalletHub's most gourmet specialty food stores per capita metric. It's easy to see why, when you figure in Los Angeles' outposts of gourmet and specialty food stores like Italian-focused Eataly and Asian-focused Mitsuwa Marketplace, historic and eclectic Grand Central Market, plus plenty of food halls, produce stalls, and public markets. You'll also find a wide range of exceptional options from coveted food trucks to Michelin-starred restaurants, as well as places to try flavors from nearly every culinary corner of the globe.

Boudin
Boudin Bakery & Cafe/Yelp

4. San Francisco

Affordability: 172
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 2
San Francisco's high second-place rank in diversity, accessibility, and quality evened out its near-the-bottom rank in affordability. It's home to truly iconic restaurants, foods, and chefs, including the legendary Tadich Grill (the oldest restaurant in the state), sourdough bread at Boudin, and celebrity chef Tyler Florence's Wayfare Tavern. The city has the highest concentration of three-starred Michelin restaurants, in the nation, but you can also get humbler, more affordable eats like a Mission-style burrito from La Taqueria. Immigrants from the Philippines, China, and Vietnam have also contributed to the diverse cuisine San Francisco is known for.

Winery SF
Mary S./Yelp

San Francisco Highlights

Unsurprisingly, San Francisco tied for first place in two different metrics: most coffee shops per capita and most craft breweries and wineries per capita. (If there was a "most sourdough bakeries" category, San Fran would undoubtedly win that, too.) It also scored the No. 4 spot in most gourmet specialty food stores per capita, including deliciously indulgent spots like chocolatiers and cheese shops.

Related: 20 Free and Cheap Things to Do in San Francisco

Joe's Stone Crab
showmeyoung J./Yelp

3. Miami

Affordability: 123
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 3
Miami takes the third spot in the overall rankings with a very respectable diversity, accessibility, and quality rank. Miami is a bastion of Cuban and Haitian cuisine, and both contribute to the city's vibrant, energetic, and fresh restaurant scene. Iconic Magic City dishes include Cuban burgers called fritas, fried-plantain tostones with ceviche, and stone crab claws from the century-old Joe's Stone Crab in South Beach. Thanks to the city's chic aesthetic, you'll also find lots of swanky, pricey, celebrity chef-run restaurants, like L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

Vicky's House
Stephen L./Yelp

Miami Highlights

Miamians seem to love frozen desserts, perhaps due to the heat and humidity in south Florida. The city tied for the top spot in most ice cream and frozen yogurt shops per capita. It's also the third-highest ranked in most restaurants per capita, and second in most gourmet specialty food stores per capita.

Related: 30 Free or Cheap Things to Do in Miami

Liebman’s Deli
Lauren S./Yelp

2. New York

Affordability: 175
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 1
It's impossible to deny that the second-ranked city on the list is a world-class food lover's destination. It's also expensive, and that's reflected in its 175th rank in the affordability category. Thanks to its population density, a large number of immigrants, and many shopping options, it ranked first in diversity, accessibility, and quality. You can get almost anything you want to eat here, and chances are you can get it delivered, too. There are an overwhelming number of restaurant options that can break the bank, but also plenty that won't.

Murray's Cheese Shop
Murray's Cheese Shop/Yelp

New York Highlights

New York City took the top spot (or tied) in four different metrics: most restaurants per capita, most ice cream and frozen yogurt shops per capita, most coffee shops per capita, and most gourmet specialty food stores per capita. That's a lot of choices. In contrast, it also had the third highest average beer and wine prices, contributing to its super low affordability ranking.

Related: 55 Free or Cheap Things to Do in New York City

Pok Pok
Tracey N./Yelp

1. Portland, Oregon

Affordability: 13
Diversity, accessibility, and quality: 5
No. 1 Portland has long been known as a craft beer destination, but it also more than holds its own when it comes to food. It's a haven for foraging, nose-to-tail butchery and dining, and restaurants where you can get a front seat to all the kitchen action while you dine. There's also a huge diversity of cuisines represented as well as local iconic foods, from Vietnamese fish sauce wings at Pok Pok to maple bacon bars at Voodoo Doughnut. That helped the city earn a No. 5 diversity, accessibility, and quality ranking while a respectable affordability rank of 13 was enough to earn the top spot.

Portland Beer
andipantz/istockphoto

Portland Highlights

Beervana, aka Portland, is in a six-city tie for WalletHub's title of most breweries and wineries per capita. There are more than 75 breweries in Portland, and many of them are brewpubs serving food along with the beer. Not up for a beer? Portland also tied for first with the most coffee shops per capita.