The term “foodie” emerged on the Internet to refer to people with gourmet sensibilities. A foodie is a person whose hobby is food—not just eating it, but also learning about its origins and preparation. Snobbery is not inherent to foodies: being a foodie is about appreciating culinary technique, including mother’s home-cooking.
View the slide show on CNBC – Americas Top Foodie Cities
What are the best cities for foodies? Sperling’s BestPlaces (www.bestplaces.net) decided to answer the question by researching what foodies enjoy and treasure most. Bert Sperling and his team worked to make sure smaller cities would stay in the running for best foodie cities. Great food can be found in any large city, but these ten also offer foodie-friendly amenities such as microbreweries and farmers markets. An essential part of foodie culture is a do-it-yourself attitude towards food and admiration for diverse culinary traditions. Sperling’s analysis considered the nuances of being a foodie to discover the best foodie cities in America.
“In this study, we looked at the food culture of each place, not just restaurant ratings,” says Bert Sperling, lead researcher for the project. “By measuring the ratio number of local restaurants to chain outlets, we can highlight the cities where residents support regional dining. The number of community farms and markets indicate a preference by residents for fresh and healthy groceries. We analyzed the number of wine bars and shops, but acknowledging that wine isn’t everyone’s beverage preference, we also included 3,000 brewpubs and microbreweries nationwide.”
“By considering these criteria and more, it gives an excellent insight into the areas of the United States where locals care about the food they eat, prepare, and share with their friends and family.”
To determine the best cities for foodies, Sperling’s BestPlaces began by analyzing several measures that align with foodie interests. First, we looked at the ratio of local restaurants to chain restaurants. Local eateries tend to showcase the best a city has to offer in terms of food. A community with a larger amount of independent restaurants will tend to have more variety in its cuisine, which is important for the adventurous foodie palate.
Secondly, Sperling found out the number of local and accessible CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and farmers markets per capita in a city. Part of being a foodie is building a community with fellow gastronomes and the farmers who make it possible. Farmers markets are an ideal place to socialize and sample some of the freshest fare in a city. CSAs are like subscriptions to local farms—after paying a certain amount, you receive a regular delivery of fresh produce from the farm. People who love to cook and be surprised would be delighted to be CSA members.
As another measure, we looked at the per-capita number of Whole Foods stores. Whole Foods is famous for its broad produce section and extensive meat, artisan cheese, and seafood selections. In addition, most Whole Foods stores offer local options and emphasize in-season produce. Fruits and vegetables are often more flavorful when in season. A store that values produce that is in-season is definitely a pick for foodies.
In addition to Whole Foods, we also compared the per capita number of cookware stores, like Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table. These stores not only sell the latest gadgets for food preparation, but also advertise cooking classes for customers. Because foodie communities also enjoy learning about good culinary technique and the chemistry of cooking, these stores can enrich a city’s foodie population.
While the tools for foodies are necessary, so are the right places for foodie hangouts. We found the per capita number of craft breweries, brew pubs, wine shops, and wine bars. The foodie community embraces microbreweries and fine wines that complement their dishes. Having a large selection of artisan beers and wines are essential for a foodie city.
Using these criteria, Sperling’s Best Place concluded that the ten best cities for foodies are:
- Santa Rosa/Napa, CA
- Portland, OR
- Burlington, VT
- Portland, ME
- San Francisco, CA
- Providence, RI
- Boston, MA
- Seattle, WA
- Santa Fe, NM
- Santa Barbara, CA
Portland has gained increasing recognition for its innovative food scene. With diverse restaurants that range from novo-Peruvian to the famously quirky doughnut shops, Portland is not lacking for unique cuisine. Portland’s green-friendly city also has the largest number of vegetarian and vegan options for diners.
Stats: 79.6% of restaurants are local, 46.6 breweries per million, 44.7 CSAs per million.