The 10 Best Locavore Cities in America Right Now Slideshow
Asheville is the unofficial hippie capital of North Carolina, so it’s no wonder that this Southern gem is a hot spot for locally sourced food. It doesn’t hurt that the climate in North Carolina lends itself to nearly year-round farming, with a multitude of crops available to help chefs bring their creations to life. The local population is very food-focused, and the restaurants prove that, especially places like Early Girl Eatery. An all-day breakfast joint that is more Ina Garten than IHOP, Early Girl serves up comforting favorites like biscuits and gravy, shrimp and grits, and multigrain pancakes, all made with ingredients from local farms.
Early Girl Eatery
The Low Country’s great advantage, when it comes to local food, is a tremendous abundance of seafood. The Backyard capitalizes on this bounty, offering up Southern-inflected specialties like May River blue crab dip, fried green tomato stacks, shrimp and grits, and super-fresh daily catches. The island atmosphere will have you imagining yourself in the Caribbean, but the truly Southern food will remind you that you’re actually in a locavore’s paradise: the Deep South.
Not to be outdone, the Southwest provides plenty of fodder for local-minded food lovers, especially in artsy Santa Fe. Though the desert presents a unique challenge for chefs in search of year-round ingredients, Café Pasqual’s has cracked the code. How? By infusing its food with both Mexican and European inspirations. Pasqual’s is well-known for their fresh-baked breads, handmade salsas, and organic meats and dairy, and while you’ll find plenty of traditional north-of-the-border specialties like tamales, carne asada, and enchiladas, the menu also boasts international variety in the form of quinoa-spinach cakes, warm French Brie, and even a few curry dishes. There’s truly something for everyone.
Bar Harbor is a little-known enclave for local food, but if you find yourself in town, you should make sure not to miss Café This Way. With a worldly sensibility backed up by a devotion to local produce and the bountiful seafood of New England, This Way is most definitely the way to go. Their Maine seafood spring rolls are an updated take on the classic Chinese takeout favorite, and the tuna tartare with ginger-lime dressing is worthy of a splurge. For dinner, don’t skip the seafood slider trio with Maine lobster, shrimp, and crab. House-made desserts are a perfectly sweet end to a locavore’s dream meal here on Maine’s little island paradise.
Cafe This Way
Minneapolis has come into its own as a food city, and Corner Table restaurant epitomizes the town’s focus on fresh and friendly Midwestern cuisine. The owners bill Corner Table as a restaurant that "listens to the fields, farms, pastures, and seasons that surround us." If that description has you intrigued, come in for the daily tasting menu, which changes all the time but could feature such delicacies as duck ravioli with a pumpkin velouté, brown butter and sage, or dry-packed scallops with coconut basmati rice, curried lobster broth, and crispy ginger. It’s global cuisine composed entirely of local ingredients, and you’re unlikely to walk away from Corner Table hungry. Don’t miss the Wisconsin-sourced cheese plate at dessert. It gives a whole new meaning to the term "cheese head."
Though its Oregon counterpart gets more lip service, Portland, Maine, can more than hold its own when it comes to cooking up great food using local ingredients. Fore Street’s menu changes every day, since it’s based entirely on what’s fresh and in-season locally. Regular features include wood oven-roasted mussels, hanger steak, and a turnspit-roasted pork loin. The restaurant is committed to simple, rustic preparations that bring the ingredients’ natural flavors to the fore. While you’re in Maine, nearby Rockland also boasts the unparalleled dining experience of Primo, where you can wander the grounds of their small farm — where most of their ingredients are sourced — while sipping on an artisan cocktail and nibbling some local cheese.
If you’ve seen Portlandia, you probably won’t be surprised to see this hip city featured on a top-10 list for locavore joints. (Yes, the chickens have names.) Portland’s residents are dedicated food lovers, and their restaurant scene caters to locals’ taste for farm-fresh fare. Higgins describes their menu as "classic country," and credits the region’s temperate climate and rich farming heritage with providing the raw ingredients for such inspired creations as the focaccia with nettle-walnut pesto and feta, or the Mughal mushroom curry with black-eyed pea fritters, basmati rice, Medjool date chutney and yogurt.
Nashville’s The Silly Goose is anything but silly, though it’s fair to assume, judging by the cheeky menu items, that the proprietors have a healthy sense of humor. A popular lunch spot, The Silly Goose features such inventions as the "Darth Vapor," a porcini-encrusted grouper swimming in a lemongrass broth with vegetables and a cilantro rouille, or the Middle Eastern-inspired Hustler, which features a citrus- and Greek yogurt-marinated chicken with red lentils, kale, chile oil, spicy tamarind sauce, and local feta cheese. The Silly Goose is a perfect spot for business lunch or a fun date night, so if you find yourself in the music capital of the South, stop in for creative local cuisine that will leave you full and amused.
The Silly Goose
New Orleans is almost as famous for its food as it is for its epic Mardi Gras celebration. Coquette takes the city’s traditional fare to new heights, with updated twists on everything from seafood salad to butterscotch pudding. Situated in the heart of bustling Magazine Street, Coquette is a little temple to the locavore movement. They give a hearty nod to the nose-to-tail contingent, as well, in the form of slow-cooked lamb belly, chicken-fried sweetbreads, and pork cheeks. Those feeling less adventurous won’t go wrong with the NY strip, which comes accompanied by egg yolk and truffle ravioli and morel mushrooms.
Charming Charleston is an epicenter of the local-food revolution. With great weather and a strong farming tradition, there’s ample fresh produce to supply the many seasonally focused restaurants that have sprung up in this Southern metropolis. At Husk, James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock cooks up such "ingredient-driven cuisine" as Tennessee pork ribs, crispy fried chicken skins, and cornmeal-dusted North Carolina catfish. Husk was rated the Best New Restaurant in America by Bon Appétit in 2011 and will be opening a second location in Nashville, Tenn., this spring. If you find yourself in either Southern city, stop in for a fresh take on home cookin’.