Sure, everyone wants to go to New York to eat at the hot spots that are all over restaurant review blogs right now, or cozy up to celebrities on the patio of L.A.’s priciest sushi joints. But the truth is, these days many of us are struggling to just to pay the bills, so fine dining isn’t really top priority.
However, that doesn’t mean that great food is out of reach. There are many hidden gems in America, off-the-eaten-path restaurants that are every bit (or should we say bite!) as appetizing as their high-profile, big-city counterparts.
To help find those gems, we decided to round up the best food cities in America for epicures on a budget. You won’t find San Francisco or even Washington, D.C. on this list because those cities, while full of delicious choices, aren’t exactly for the cost-conscious.
But first, what constitutes a food city?
Number of restaurants is a pretty good indicator. All of these cities have an extraordinarily high restaurant-to-citizen ratio, so you’re guaranteed to have a lot of delicious choices.
Next,, we searched for cities that serve up a wide range of cuisines. Some of these towns rank among the most culturally diverse in the nation, with long histories of food traditions. In most of the cities on our list, you can find top-notch seafood right around the corner from first-rate Asian fusion, with many foods from around the world along the way.
To judge wallet-friendliness, we looked at the price of restaurant meals in these cities, ranking them based on the cost of one average meal — we’re talking local pub and not high-end dining — and we also took into consideration the median cost of a moderately priced three-course meal for two. In order to assemble our rankings, then, we first looked at the cost of one average meal, then looked at the cost of moderately priced three-course meal for two.
If you’re looking for a tasty vacation on a budget, click through our slideshow to find your next favorite food town.
#10 Providence, R.I.
Who knew this small East Coast city had such good eats? Providence has 24 restaurants for every 10,000 citizens, ranking the city among the top 10 most restaurant-dense towns in the nation. From New York System restaurants (the local term for hot dog joints) to purveyors of clam cakes, Providence is full of places serving delicious, unpretentious fare. What’s more, a meal at moderately priced restaurant will only set you back, on average, about 15 bucks a person where as a mid-range, three-course meal for two will cost you about $60.
#9 Madison, Wis.
Believe it or not, Madison, Wisconsin, is becoming a major food-lover hot spot. That’s probably because this small city sits smack in the middle of America’s heartland, and farm-to-table dining here was a way of life before the trend hit the coasts. You won’t have to pay San Francisco prices for Madison’s local fare. The average meal price per person runs about $15 here, and a three-course meal for two at a mid-level restaurant will only cost about $55.