Are Food Cities the Best Places to Open a New Restaurant?
The term “foodie” soon followed by “foodie cities” first erupted on the scene in 1980, brought to life by Gael Greene, a restaurant critic for New York magazine. Popular TV shows followed, showcasing people with bigger-than-life personalities trekking across America and the world in search of the best food in the nation and on the Earth.
Here, we’ll explore some of the cities that earned the title of “Best Foodie Cities” in 2023, what makes them stand out from the crowd, and if one of these could be your growing restaurant’s new location.
Let’s get started.
What Makes a Great Food City?
To answer that, we must first explore those who seek the best food in the world, otherwise known as foodies or connoisseurs. These food lovers will go to great efforts to find the hidden gem amidst the hundreds of thousands of restaurants in America. A Food City is a place that calls these gastronomes, a spot on the map that offers some of the tastiest morsels and delicious drinks on the planet.
These hot spots appeal to this diverse crowd by catering to the many favored styles, flavors, and experiences. It offers highly-acclaimed destination restaurants, vibrant street food, traditional dining, and numerous establishments representing various ethnic cuisines. It leaves one surprised and delighted, feeling like they found their gastronomic heaven and wondering about the logistics of moving to their new favorite land of enchantment.
Here, you’ll find restaurants designed for every budget, the farm-to-table sustainably minded, and those that cater to the vegan crowd. From the big metropolises to smaller, unexpected finds, incredible food lies within their boundaries—food that’s unique to these destinations. And, while this list could go on indefinitely, we’ve selected only one from each state to spread the love around.
Asheville, North Carolina
Located in the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains, Ashville’s evolving culinary scene has placed it on the food map. In fact, it’s placed it at the top of the map. In 2022, Asheville was named the number one food destination city in the US by Yelp’s top cities for Foodies’ survey. It received the same incredible honor in 2020.
Part of the draw is its unique Appalachian fare blended with flavors from the American South. A few restaurants you’ll catch in the headlines include Curate, Chai Pani, Buxton Hall Barbecue, and Chestnut.
Austin has been luring prominent chefs from the West and East Coasts for about 10 years now, building up quite a reputation. They also made Tasting Table’s 20 Best US Restaurants to Open in 2023 list with the opening of Ramen Del Barrio, offering Japanese-Mexican ramen, and Ember Kitchen, a live-fire establishment serving Latin American dishes.
As much as we would have liked to bestow this accomplishment to some other city in the Midwest, it seems nearly impossible to beat Chicago’s impressive culinary achievements. Chicago is home to over 50 James Beard Award winners and over 20 Michelin-star-awarded restaurants. While Alinea has been a Chicago landmark since 2005, there are many new establishments joining the Windy City. These include the 24,000-square-foot Chicago Winery and the 17,000-square-foot Kindling.
New York City, New York
New York City seems to make this list just about every year. Why? It’s hard to compete with this melting pot of cultures. There is no type of food not represented, from the best in street fare to acclaimed James Beard Award-winning chefs and Michelin-starred restaurants. And while the fine dining establishments offer some of the best food on the planet, it’s the hidden gems you unexpectedly stumble upon that make foodies flock to the Big Apple.
Located beside the vast wilderness of the Atlantic Ocean provides restaurants with some of the freshest seafood, oysters, lobsters, and muscles. And this high-quality and responsibly sourced seafood is drawing some of the most innovative chefs to its shores, resulting in a growing number of restaurants. These ambitious chefs are building the city’s restaurant scene, securing Portland’s hard-won status as a food city.
In 2022, New York Times named two Portland restaurants among the 50 best in America—Twelve and Leeward. Twelve opened last year, and Leeward opened its doors the day after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
Another beachside retreat, Savannah is home to impressive magnolia trees, Victorian mansions, and some of the most interesting seafood flavors, along with regional specialties like okra, grits, peaches, and collard greens. Somehow, the talented chefs that call Savannah home have managed to turn this traditional fare into a sought-after cuisine. From the artsy Starland district to the historic district, you’ll find hidden gems and well-known, award-winning restaurants like The Grey.
A few of the other cities that were destined for this list and had time and space allowed were Denver, Honolulu, Oahu, Las Vegas, and New Orleans.
Are you considering expanding your restaurant’s footprint and heading to one of these growing hotspots? It’s a lot to consider. The location is a critical component determining a restaurant’s success, and it should be based on massive data, information that reduces the risks and enhances the possibility for long-term success.
And that’s where Emerging Concepts come in. We help leading restaurant and entertainment brands expand across the country. We think past demographics and dig deep into psychographics or how your VIP customer thinks. We explore menu pricing, labor, supply chain challenges, and competition. After our data scientists perform extensive research, we develop the recommended top spots for your concept, find a location, and negotiate with developers and landlords.
Are you ready to explore the possibilities? To learn more about our process or to schedule a consultation, contact Emerging Concepts today.