The Best City for Foodies in Every State

People enjoying lunch in Little Italy, New York City.

The United States has no shortage of premier culinary destinations and small-town food hotspots. As American foodies look forward to fall harvests and perfect outdoor dining weather, they should consider checking out these top food cities in each state. 

Although the term “foodie” might spark thoughts of Michelin-star restaurants, being a true food lover is about so much more than fine dining. Being a foodie means seeking out new food experiences, engaging with different cuisines, and ultimately, taking a deep pleasure in the simple act of eating. As such, good food can take various forms for food lovers: a rich entrée in a cozy French bistro, a plate of authentic Mexican tacos, a fresh farm-to-table salad, or even a warm home-cooked meal.

A city with an inviting and exciting food scene should therefore offer not only diverse or upscale restaurant options, but also a great variety of specialty food establishments: bakeries and cheese shops, grocery stores with fresh produce and cooking staples, and exciting street food options like food trucks or farmers markets. Plus, a true foodie city must have affordable food and dining choices, so all food lovers are included. 

Every city in the U.S. has something unique to offer restaurant-goers and food-focused shoppers alike. Certain metropolitan areas, however, provide a plethora of ways to engage with their local cuisine that are sure to attract almost any food lover. With this in mind, data scientists at Insurify crunched the numbers to identify the best city for foodies in every state. 

Icon map showing the city in each state with the most appeal to foodies.

Composite Score Breakdown

Across the 490 U.S. cities evaluated, the average Foodie Score was 41 out of 100. Insurify’s data science team rated cities using a proprietary scoring algorithm on factors including the number of full-service restaurants per 100,000 residents, the number of mobile food establishments per 100,000 residents, the number of grocery stores per 100,000 residents, the number of specialty food stores per 100,000 residents, and the overall cost of food and dining out. Select cities received bonus points for their unique food traditions and exceptional top-end restaurants. A higher score indicates a greater prevalence of favorable factors, such as abundant full-service restaurants, a high number of specialty food stores, or relatively low grocery and dining costs.

Infographic showing the cities with the most and fewest restaurants per capita in the U.S.

Full-Service Restaurants

Perhaps unsurprisingly, popular vacation destinations boast some of the busiest restaurant scenes of all U.S. metropolitan areas. Ocean City, New Jersey has the highest density of full-service restaurants of any U.S. city at 350 per 100,000 residents, a prevalence almost 5 times greater than the national average. Key West, Florida and Branson, Missouri, a popular leisure retreat in the Ozarks, round out the top three dining scenes in the country. On the other hand, Opelousas, Louisiana has 64 percent fewer eateries per 100,000 residents than the national average, with only 27 restaurants per 100,000 residents.

Infographic showing the U.S. cities with the most and fewest specialty food stores per capita.

Specialty Food Stores

The average city in the United States has 6.8 specialty food stores for every 100,000 residents. Ocean City, New Jersey, however, is once again a hotspot. In fact, the city’s ratio of 54.3 specialty food stores per 100,000 residents is nearly 8 times greater than the national average, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Meanwhile, with only 0.2 specialty food stores per 100,000 residents, Richmond, Virginia has a 97 percent lower ratio than the national average.

Infographic depicting the U.S. cities with the highest and lowest food and dining out costs.

Food and Dining Price Index

According to the most recent data, purchasing food at a restaurant or grocery store in Kapaa, Hawaii is 65 percent more expensive than in the average American city. This makes Kapaa the city with the most expensive food in the country. This cost can be attributed to the fact that many groceries and other household items must be shipped to Hawaii from the mainland. El Paso, Texas, with a food and dining price index of 49.8, has the lowest food costs considered in this study, at 36 percent less expensive than the average city. Fun fact: New York City has a food and dining price index of 100.0, which means that Brooklyn diners are paying more than twice as much as their El Paso counterparts for the same meal.

Methodology

Data scientists at Insurify, a site to compare homeowners insurance, referred to publicly accessible data to identify the best metropolitan area for foodies in each state. Cities were ranked based on a composite score of factors including the number of full-service restaurants per 100,000 residents, the number of mobile food establishments per 100,000 residents, the number of grocery stores per 100,000 residents, the number of specialty food stores per 100,000 residents, and the overall cost of food and dining. Bonus points were awarded to select cities with exceptional food culture and creative top-end restaurants.

Data on each city’s number of full-service restaurants, mobile food establishments, grocery stores, and specialty food stores per 100,000 residents were gathered from the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent economic census. Each metropolitan area’s total number of establishments in each category was compared against the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent estimate of that area’s population.

Food and dining price data come from Numbeo’s U.S. City Cost of Living Index. For each city for which data was available, the Insurify data science team averaged Numbeo’s Grocery Index and Restaurant Price Index to create a single index for food and dining costs. For cities not included in Numbeo’s data, Insurify data scientists approximated food and dining costs using AdvisorSmith’s City Cost of Living Index, which accounts for the cost of food, among other factors, in American cities. Both indices were weighted to the same scale for comparability. 

Lastly, 21 cities, including San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago, and Philadelphia, received bonus points for having both particularly creative restaurant fare and exceptionally delicious local food traditions. Cities earned this bonus if Cozymeal included them in their list of the best foodie cities to travel to in 2021. 

The Best Cities for Foodies, 2021

Alabama: Daphne

      • Foodie Score: 61.1 (83% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 117.8
      • Food and dining price index: 75.5

Alaska: Fairbanks

      • Foodie Score: 21.0 (1% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 76.4
      • Food and dining price index: 84.3

Arizona: Flagstaff

      • Foodie Score: 52.5 (53% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 123.4
      • Food and dining price index: 84.8

Arkansas: Hot Springs

      • Foodie Score: 68.7 (79% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 118.7
      • Food and dining price index: 68.2

California: Ukiah

      • Foodie Score: 79.5 (117% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 123.6
      • Food and dining price index: 100.0

Colorado: Fort Collins

      • Foodie Score: 51.1 (23% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 83.8
      • Food and dining price index: 85.3

Connecticut: Torrington

      • Foodie Score: 47.4 (3% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 112.0
      • Food and dining price index: 82.2

Delaware: Dover

      • Foodie Score: 20.4 (1% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 59.7
      • Food and dining price index: 79.1

Florida: Key West

      • Foodie Score: 161.5 (254% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 305.8
      • Food and dining price index: 109.4

Georgia: Savannah

      • Foodie Score: 62.1 (103% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 101.2
      • Food and dining price index: 76.0

Hawaii: Kahului 

      • Foodie Score: 24.5 (41% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 109.3
      • Food and dining price index: 123.8

Idaho: Twin Falls

      • Foodie Score: 40.8 (26% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 70.3
      • Food and dining price index: 71.3

Illinois: Ottawa

      • Foodie Score: 64.6 (41% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 112.2
      • Food and dining price index: 67.7

Indiana: South Bend

      • Foodie Score: 49.8 (30% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 70.8
      • Food and dining price index: 68.1

Iowa: Davenport

      • Foodie Score: 47.6 (26% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 81.0
      • Food and dining price index: 68.1

Kansas: Wichita

      • Foodie Score: 60.1 (57% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 70.4
      • Food and dining price index: 56.4

Kentucky: Paducah

      • Foodie Score: 51.8 (53% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 93.5
      • Food and dining price index: 67.0

Louisiana: New Orleans

      • Foodie Score: 55.7 (35% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 92.1
      • Food and dining price index: 71.4

Maine: Portland

      • Foodie Score: 81.7 (77% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 133.0
      • Food and dining price index: 88.3

Maryland: Salisbury

      • Foodie Score: 76.6 (81% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 135.4
      • Food and dining price index: 80.6

Massachusetts: Barnstable Town

      • Foodie Score: 100.0 (75% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 203.3
      • Food and dining price index: 95.6

Michigan: Traverse City

      • Foodie Score: 76.5 (71% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 104.2
      • Food and dining price index: 77.8

Minnesota: Brainerd

      • Foodie Score: 62.5 (50% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 119.2
      • Food and dining price index: 76.5

Mississippi: Tupelo

      • Foodie Score: 40.3 (26% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 68.0
      • Food and dining price index: 68.1

Missouri: Branson

      • Foodie Score: 98.8 (106% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 223.5
      • Food and dining price index: 69.9

Montana: Great Falls

      • Foodie Score: 46.1 (29% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 78.7
      • Food and dining price index: 71.2

Nebraska: Omaha

      • Foodie Score: 42.2 (48% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 67.4
      • Food and dining price index: 68.2

Nevada: Carson City

      • Foodie Score: 52.1 (12% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 118.0
      • Food and dining price index: 80.5

New Hampshire: Keene

      • Foodie Score: 29.4 (19% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 78.9
      • Food and dining price index: 79.8

New Jersey: Ocean City

      • Foodie Score: 328.6 (168% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 349.9
      • Food and dining price index: 85.5

New Mexico: Santa Fe

      • Foodie Score: 35.4 (27% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 114.4
      • Food and dining price index: 82.1

New York: New York

      • Foodie Score: 83.2 (44% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 108.3
      • Food and dining price index: 100.0

North Carolina: Wilmington

      • Foodie Score: 62.4 (63% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 112.3
      • Food and dining price index: 77.3

North Dakota: Minot

      • Foodie Score: 56.1 (68% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 70.0
      • Food and dining price index: 70.9

Ohio: Sandusky

      • Foodie Score: 55.4 (36% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 114.5
      • Food and dining price index: 70.9

Oklahoma: Enid

      • Foodie Score: 53.4 (20% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 62.2
      • Food and dining price index: 64.8

Oregon: Eugene

      • Foodie Score: 67.3 (49% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 88.2
      • Food and dining price index: 70.1

Pennsylvania: Lancaster

      • Foodie Score: 64.3 (38% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 65.1
      • Food and dining price index: 77.7

Rhode Island: Providence

      • Foodie Score: 45.6 (1% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 98.7
      • Food and dining price index: 87.1

South Carolina: Myrtle Beach

      • Foodie Score: 61.7 (45% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 136.4
      • Food and dining price index: 74.0

South Dakota: Sioux Falls

      • Foodie Score: 33.8 (1% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 64.9
      • Food and dining price index: 72.5

Tennessee: Sevierville

      • Foodie Score: 95.7 (145% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 160.8
      • Food and dining price index: 80.9

Texas: Austin

      • Foodie Score: 66.5 (106% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 68.1
      • Food and dining price index: 66.6

Utah: Ogden

      • Foodie Score: 17.5 (15% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 39.9
      • Food and dining price index: 78.0

Vermont: Burlington

      • Foodie Score: 63.8 (1% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 52.6
      • Food and dining price index: 91.3

Virginia: Charlottesville

      • Foodie Score: 55.4 (33% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 104.8
      • Food and dining price index: 79.8

Washington: Aberdeen

      • Foodie Score: 84.1 (93% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 87.9
      • Food and dining price index: 76.3

West Virginia: Weirton

      • Foodie Score: 50.4 (37% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 65.5
      • Food and dining price index: 64.5

Wisconsin: Milwaukee

      • Foodie Score: 58.2 (29% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 73.0
      • Food and dining price index: 72.4

Wyoming: Casper

      • Foodie Score: 37.3 (29% higher than state average)
      • Restaurants per 100,000 residents: 87.7
      • Food and dining price index: 73.6

        If you have any questions or comments about this article or would like to request the data, please contact insights@insurify.com.

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