Which 20 cities in America made it into 2022’s Best Foodie Cities?

With Oct. 16 being World Food Day and restaurant prices rising 8.3% between August 2021 and August 2022, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2022’s Best Foodie Cities in America.

To determine the best and cheapest local foodie scenes, WalletHub compared more than 180 of the largest U.S. cities across 29 key metrics. The data set ranges from affordability and accessibility of high-quality restaurants to food festivals per capita to craft breweries and wineries per capita.

Americans today apply the term “foodie” to anyone who loves gourmet dining, writes Adam McCann of WalletHub. But foodie culture isn’t limited to restaurants. Foodies enjoy discovering new and unique flavors wherever they can find them, including in their own kitchens and less prominent establishments like street food stalls. For these people, the experience of eating is elevated to a hobby or even a lifestyle.

Naturally, being a foodie can be quite expensive, especially during the heavy inflation of 2022. Restaurant prices rose 8% just between August 2021 and August 2022. Even cooking your own gourmet meals can be pricy, as grocery store prices rose 8.3% between August 2021 and August 2022.

California is home to five of the top 20.

Top 20 Foodie Cities in America
1. Portland, OR
2. Orlando, FL
3. Miami, FL
4. San Francisco, CA
5. Austin, TX
6. Sacramento, CA
7. Seattle, WA
8. Tampa, FL
9. Las Vegas, NV
10. San Diego, CA
11. Denver, CO
12. Chicago, IL
13. Washington, DC
14. Atlanta, GA
15. Los Angeles, CA
16. Pittsburgh, PA
17. Portland, ME
18. New York, NY
19. Charleston, SC
20. Oakland, CA

Best vs. Worst

  • Orlando, Florida, has the most gourmet specialty-food stores (per square root of population), 0.4497, which is 19.1 times more than in Pearl City, Hawaii, the city with the fewest at 0.0235.
  • Orlando, Florida, has the most restaurants (per square root of population), 7.2815, which is 18 times more than in Pearl City, Hawaii, the city with the fewest at 0.4047.
  • Cape Coral, Florida, has the highest ratio of full-service restaurants to fast-food establishments, 1.62, which is 2.9 times higher than in Jackson, Mississippi, the city with the lowest at 0.55.
  • Orlando, Florida, has the most ice cream and frozen yogurt shops (per square root of population), 0.3504, which is 48.7 times more than in South Burlington, Vermont, the city with the fewest at 0.0072.

Expert Commentary

What tips can you provide to foodies on a tight budget? 

“Many places catering specifically to tourists are generally in neighborhoods with higher rents and therefore have higher food prices. Using proper safety, do not be afraid to deviate from the beaten path and find smaller neighborhood establishments that market to locals or find food trucks that can deliver some of the same flavors you are looking for but with a lower sticker price. However, some foods are just naturally expensive due to ingredients used, seasonality, or captive market locations such as festivals.”
— Darryl L. Holliday, Ph.D., CRC – Associate Professor & Director of Food Science Program. University of Holy Cross

“When dining in a restaurant, consider ordering an appetizer as your meal and try going during happy hour or slower times when discounts are often offered. For general food trends, go on social media and learn how to make some of these trendy foods yourself. TikTok, Instagram, and Pinterest are great resources for hacks and how to recreate the latest food items. When traveling to another city, ask the locals where they go, they will know where to get the best value for your dollar. Go to places during the off-peak season, if possible, prices can be lower during slower times, just like hotel rates and plane tickets. Go meatless once in a while and look for satisfying entrées that are less expensive than the same meal containing meat. Drink water instead of ordering a cocktail or iced tea and spend the bulk of your budget on the main course. Lastly, join loyalty clubs if the restaurant has one. You can often get freebies from doing what you already do anyway.”
— Andrea Graves – Business Planning and Marketing Specialist, Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center, Oklahoma State University

What role, if any, can local authorities play in improving the food scene in their city? 

“I think one of the key aspects is improving the lives of those who work in the food business. One of the biggest challenges facing food businesses and hospitality more broadly right now is the availability of skilled labor. Many who left the hospitality industry during COVID may not come back. And one of the challenges that have led to this exodus in cities is workers’ inability to make a living wage and have a good quality of life while living in the city itself. This ties into issues of affordable housing, minimum wage, and, more generally, resources (such as access to healthcare) available to workers in the food business (and other service businesses). If we want a thriving food scene in a city, those creating the scene should be thriving themselves.”
— Makarand Mody, Ph.D. – Associate Professor; Director of Research; Chair of Undergraduate Programs (Interim), Boston University School of Hospitality Administration

“Provide infrastructure such as market hubs that link local agriculture to the metropolitan area (think Pike Place Market). Develop zoning that encourages neighborhood markets and restaurants. Include space for food trucks in urban areas, parks, and commercial zones. Give recognition to restaurants and wholesalers that develop the local market. Development authorities and visitor bureaus can organize and promote ‘restaurant weeks’.”
— Wayne Smith, CEC CCE – Associate Technical Professor, Western Colorado Community College

What are the dining out trends for 2022 and how is inflation affecting Americans’ eating out habits? 
“Some developments that came out of the pandemic are here to stay. QR code menus, for instance, are economical for the restaurant and fine with most of the public. Printing menus and having staff distribute them is now an unnecessary expense. Groceries are terribly expensive now so that is affecting home meals as well. Restaurants have adapted by either raising prices or cutting portion sizes. Staffing is a struggle, so some venues are limiting their hours and seating capacities.”
— Claire Stewart – Associate Professor, New York City College of Technology, The City University of New York

“After a big jump in take-out food and delivery due to the pandemic, people are starting to go out again, but the development of take-out options may be here to stay. Those restaurants that were able to accommodate a business in a world of social distancing, were able to survive and even thrive during the pandemic, and may continue to do so in the future. Easy-to-use ordering apps, simplified menus, healthy options, and any option that allows the customer to have the power to easily chose how they want to eat their food will continue to thrive.”
— Martin Talavera, Ph.D. – Assistant Professor, Kansas State University

To view the full report and your city’s rank, click here.  







Image Sources

  • Gourmet food: Pexels