What defines a great food scene?
Is it a cluster of big name chefs and world-class restaurateurs? A distinct regional cuisine? The diverse offerings of authentic ethnic enclaves?
The definition is changing.
We still have our celebrated food meccas like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco with countless options and Michelin stars, but America’s towns and small cities are proving that you don’t need vast offerings and high-end restaurants. Instead, what they have is communities of concerned farmers and talented food artisans, passionate and discerning food lovers, and a deep-rooted, indigenous food culture that adds authenticity and meaning to the experience.
These communities give rise to clusters of second tier restaurants. The cooking can be just as refined and inventive as anything you’ll find in their better-known, big-city counterparts, but they’re the kind of restaurants that are opened by independent chef-owners rather than investor consortiums. There’s no publicist garnering national press and pushing these restaurants onto top 10 lists. You don’t go there to add a notch to your foodie belt; you go there to eat well.
Sperling’s BestPlaces, a research firm that produces city rankings, crunched the numbers to come up with a list of America’s Top Cities for Foodies.
The list ignores the ratings and emphasizes the food culture by counting up specialty food markets, cookware shops, wine bars, craft breweries, and farm markets, and the ratio of local ownership to chain franchised food outlets. It leveled the playing field for small cities by leaning heavily on density data rather than sheer volume. By Sperling’s measure the ten best ‘foodie’ cultures are found in:
1.Santa Rosa/Napa, California
5.San Francisco, California
6.Providence, Rhode Island
9.Santa Fe, New Mexico
10.Santa Barbara, California