Americans today apply the term “foodie” to anyone who loves gourmet dining. But foodie culture isn’t limited to restaurants. More importantly, far fewer than the many who claim to be foodies truly deserve the label. “Authentic” foodies, according to experts, not only crave new and different flavors but also savor the exploratory experience of eating, learning and discovering food.

Naturally, the foodie lifestyle can be quite expensive, considering that restaurant prices rose 5.4% just between July 2020 and July 2021. Even cooking your own gourmet meals can be pricy, as grocery store prices rose 3.5% between 2019 and 2020. Overall food spending decreased by $100 billion in 2020, though, in part due to financial difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fortunately, culinary hotspots across the U.S. offer plenty of affordable options for cash-strapped foodies. These wallet-friendly cities cater to diners who prefer to cook at home, explore the local flavors or both. To determine the best and cheapest foodie scenes, WalletHub compared more than 180 U.S. cities across 29 key indicators of foodie-friendliness. Our data set ranges from cost of groceries to affordability and accessibility of high-quality restaurants to food festivals per capita.

Top 20 Foodie Cities in America
1. Portland, OR11. Los Angeles, CA 
2. Orlando, FL12. San Diego, CA 
3. Miami, FL13. Portland, ME 
4. San Francisco, CA14. Oakland, CA 
5. Austin, TX15. Washington, DC 
6. Sacramento, CA16. St. Louis, MO 
7. Denver, CO17. Grand Rapids, MI 
8. Las Vegas, NV18. Chicago, IL 
9. Seattle, WA19. Atlanta, GA 
10. Tampa, FL20. Houston, TX 
Best vs. Worst
  • Orlando, Florida, has the most gourmet specialty-food stores (per square root of population), 0.4529, which is 19.4 times more than in Pearl City, Hawaii, the city with the fewest at 0.0234.
  • Orlando, Florida, has the most restaurants (per square root of population), 7.23, which is 18.1 times more than in Pearl City, Hawaii, the city with the fewest at 0.40.
  • Orlando, Florida, has the most ice cream and frozen yogurt shops (per square root of population), 0.3566, which is 49.5 times more than in South Burlington, Vermont, the city with the fewest at 0.0072.
  • Santa Rosa, California, has the highest ratio of full-service restaurants to fast-food establishments, 1.72, which is 3.2 times higher than in Jackson, Mississippi, the city with the lowest at 0.54.
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