While many food worshipers look to large-scale cities like New York and San Francisco when they’re searching for their delicious fix, others turn to quaint, small towns that have just as much culinary zeal. Many of these spots are teeming with local restaurant concepts focused on freshness and the highest-quality ingredients. Small towns across the country are now celebrated for their passion for food and their timeless mantra that food brings people together.
For the traveling food lover, finding small-town culinary hot spots has become a calling. Quick road trips to find the best lobster in Maine aren't out of reach, and certainly swinging by Tarrytown, N.Y., for a tour of Blue Hill at Stone Barns’ farm and winery isn’t a bad idea, either. California is flooded with small towns, mostly around wine country, which are overflowing with top-notch restaurants from up-and-coming chefs that boast incredibly inventive cuisine coupled with killer wine lists. San Mateo, Calif., is also now on food lovers' radar after being a 2012 Best for Food finalist in the Rand McNally Best of the Road contest.
Some lesser-known places like Hilton Head Island in South Carolina may surprise many, but the island has stepped up its game when it comes to its food selections. While it offers traditional island seafood, it also offers a mixture of local Gullah cuisine at restaurants like Roastfish and Cornbread, and for a higher-end dining experience, there's Vine Bistro & Wine Bar. Not to be outdone, towns like Traverse City, Mich., and Galesburg, Ill., each have their own charms.
The Daily Meal is updating its list from last year, and while many of the same small towns made the cut, there are a few new additions that have been making waves in the media over the last year. Towns that were included on the list have a variety of restaurants in the region with a focus on local, fresh, and seasonal ingredients as well as a flair for culinary creativity. They also have a population of fewer than 300,000 residents.
To see all of our 11 favorite small towns for dining, click trough the slideshow.