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Best Cities for Foodies

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Foodies are a unique group of culinary hobbyists that have a passion for high-end dining and exploring new food scenes. The term “foodie” was first coined in the 1980s and has grown in cultural prominence ever since.

Many foodies like to travel and are willing to spend large sums of money to experience the full range of culinary options available in the United States. Between 2014 and 2016, the specialty food industry grew by 15% to more than $127 billion, according to the 2017 State of the Specialty Food Industry report.

So where should these foodies start their culinary journeys? To help answer that question, we decided to find out which cities were best for foodies.

To do this, we ranked the 60 largest U.S. cities by their number of restaurants, variety of food and affordability while dining. The final rankings were calculated by averaging the scores from all three metrics.

Key findings

  • The best U.S. city for foodies is Los Angeles, California. Unsurprisingly, this city ranked No. 1 due to its large number of restaurants and vast food variety. The city boasts more than 10,000 full-service restaurants, including more than 1,100 with 3.5 or more stars. The average meal cost is $84, and more than 900 of its restaurants with 3.5 stars or more are affordable.
  • The worst city for foodies is Corpus Christi, Texas. This city had the lowest number of restaurants, at just 361 full-service restaurants and 63 restaurants with 3.5 or more stars. There’s also very low food variety and unremarkable restaurant affordability.

Why some of the results might surprise you

It might surprise some people that Los Angeles beat New York City as our best city for foodies. New York City has more than 20,000 full-service restaurants and more than 3,000 restaurants with 3.5 stars or higher — besting Los Angeles. It is also famous for its wide range of food options and ethnic cuisine. However, New York City is also famously expensive. The average meal cost at a full-service restaurant in NYC is $118, the most costly of any city. This is what caused NYC to be ranked No. 2 instead of No. 1.


The methodology for this study was simple and straightforward.

For each of the largest 60 U.S. cities by population, we assigned a ranked score on a scale from 60 (best) to 1 (worst) for six different metrics in three categories. Those metrics are:

Number of Restaurants

  • Number of full-service restaurants
  • Number of restaurants with 3.5 or more stars

Food Variety

  • Number of gastropubs
  • Number of specialty food stores

Restaurant Affordability

  • Average meal cost
  • Number of affordable, high-quality restaurants with 3.5 or more stars

The score for each city was then averaged, and the cities were ranked based upon their average scores. All metrics were ranked equally. The city with the highest score was ranked No. 1 (best), and the city with the lowest score was ranked No. 60.

The data for this study was obtained from three sources: the U.S. Census Bureau, Yelp and Expatistan. Full-service restaurant and specialty food store numbers came from the Census Bureau, accurate as of 2016. The restaurant star data, pricing and gastropub listings came from Yelp. Average meal cost came from Expatistan.


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