There’s a reason they call America a melting pot. Sure, the phrase refers to the diversity of the population, but that variety of culture has led to an equally diverse food scene across the country. While certain locations have staked claims in particular cuisines (we’re looking at you, Texas brisket), many cities are in a constant battle to be the top food-lovers’ paradises.
To do this, cities can’t just be known for one type of cuisine anymore. Foodies demand ingenuity, creativity, and guaranteed deliciousness across a wide culinary spectrum. Sure, you can still find spectacular fried chicken in Nashville, but you can now also get tasty high-end Chinese cuisine and some of the best Italian food in the country there as well.
And with chefs at all levels of fame and success having a harder time opening restaurants in major hubs like New York and Los Angeles due to a variety of factors (competition and prices chief among them), many are moving to supposedly second-tier cities to open up new joints. That’s why previously overlooked destinations like Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Greenville, South Carolina, are becoming hotbeds for food tourism.
There are dozens of ways to judge a city for its food. The number of restaurants, for one, is certainly an important factor. But equally important is the diversity of restaurants, and the number of good restaurants (including those that are exceptional enough to earn Michelin stars, in the few U.S. cities the Michelin Guide covers). Also worth taking into consideration is the renown of a city’s native foods, how thriving its food scene is in general, how ahead-of-the-curve it is when it comes to culinary trends, and how many great chefs are drawn to it. In a great food city, a top-notch rendition of just about any dish or specific style of cuisine is never far away. These are America’s 20 best cities for food.