Best U.S. Cities for Chefs
So you love to cook and you love dining on delectable meals? Does this mean you need to head to Paris or New York to hone your skills or tickle your tastebuds? Not according to a recent review of cities by Rent.com.
The review not only found U.S. cities closest to agriculturally rich areas to ensure the freshest ingredients, but it also looked at each city based on the cost of groceries and the number of specialty stores for chefs to find high-quality ingredients that don't cost an arm or a leg.
What's more: These are 15 places we bet you didn't think of when considering the best cities for chefs. The number of restaurants in these foodie hotspots will give you ample opportunities to be inspired by chefs — or perhaps even become one.
We even gave you a head start by listing the No. 1 restaurant in each city, according to TripAdvisor.
15. Portland, Maine
New England's coastal towns have long been admired by foodies who cannot get enough fresh seafood, but Portland, Maine, has become a rising star in recent years. Located just two shorts hours from Boston and its classically trained chefs, Portland has a laid-back vibe that's attracting chefs who want to ditch the city traffic and tourism found on the Cape and Rhode Island's waterfronts.
It feels like Old New England with restaurants that could beat the pants off of Boston any day of the week.
Portland by the Numbers
Cost of Grocery Items: $101.90
Specialty Grocers Rank: 50
Food Markets Rank: 100
Number of Restaurants: Nearly 400
No. 1 Restaurant, According to TripAdvisor: Back Bay Grill
* Stats were sourced from the Rent.com study.
14. Olympia, Washington
Seattle had its day when hipsters and foodies made way to the Pacific Northwest in droves. But when too many people are onto a good thing, it pushes the innovators further afield to break away from the same-ole same-old, as is the case with Olympia.
Located an hour from Seattle and 30 minutes from Tacoma, Olympia has all of the benefits of a waterfront city — i.e., seafood galore — in a more relaxed setting. And chefs are sneaking away to come up with some mouthwatering recipes.
Olympia by the Numbers
Cost of Grocery Items: $117.50
Specialty Grocers Rank: 2
Food Markets Rank: 8
Number of Restaurants: 263
No. 1 Restaurant, According to TripAdvisor: Gardner's Restaurant
13. Lenexa, Kansas
Where is Lenexa, you may ask? This up-and-coming town located within the Greater Kansas City Metro area was recently ranked by Money magazine as the place to live in all of Kansas!
Yes, downtown Kansas City may offer plenty of great restaurants (and obviously BBQ), but you'll find it cheaper and just as appetizing in the more relaxed Lenexa.
Lenexa by the Numbers
Cost of Grocery Items: $92.50
Specialty Grocers Rank: 9
Food Markets Rank: 105
Number of Restaurants: 573
No. 1 Restaurant, According to TripAdvisor: Minsky's Pizza
12. Bakersfield, California
California's big cities get much of the foodie glory, especially when it comes to celebrity chefs and Michelin reviews (the state has twice as many Michelin-starred restaurants than any other in the U.S.), but the more remote Bakersfield is surrounded by the state's leading agricultural area.
This self-proclaimed foodie town is packed with unique restaurants, and you'll have a better chance speaking to food-loving chefs here than in jampacked places like Los Angeles.
Bakersfield by the Numbers
Cost of Grocery Items: $101.10
Specialty Grocers Rank: 53
Food Markets Rank: 23
Number of Restaurants: 916
No. 1 Restaurant, According to TripAdvisor: Luigi's
11. Redding, California
You could also head to Northern California where the sun shines on the landscape 300 days per year. This means fantastic produce. Seemingly remote, it is within driving distance of Napa's vineyards and mountains for winter skiing, which draws in plenty of people looking for a quiet destination.
Its number of specialty markets per capita is something to write home about for would-be chefs as well.
Redding by the Numbers
Cost of Grocery Items: $103
Specialty Grocers Rank: 12
Food Markets Rank: 4
Number of Restaurants: 246
No. 1 Restaurant, According to TripAdvisor: Deja Vu
10. Grand Rapids, Michigan
Mere minutes from Lake Michigan and already booming as a craft brew destination, Grand Rapids is quickly transforming into a food-lover's paradise. Not only can chefs get fresh fish from the lake, but G.R. is surrounded by farms with fantastic seasonal produce to improve the tastiness of any dish.
Plus, you can bet it's cheaper than Detroit or Chicago.
Grand Rapids by the Numbers
Cost of Grocery Items: $89.10
Specialty Grocers Rank: 183
Food Markets Rank: 39
Number of Restaurants: 745
No. 1 Restaurant, According to TripAdvisor: Real Food Cafe
9. Santa Fe, New Mexico
The desert is a unique environment that works well for cattle and growing spices with some kick, such as the Hatch green chiles that grow in abundance in New Mexico.
Then, take Native American and Mexican influences and combine them for recipes and dishes that are not often featured in the northern states, and you'll easily see why Santa Fe belongs on this list.
Santa Fe by the Numbers
Cost of Grocery Items: $96.80
Specialty Grocers Rank: 86
Food Markets Rank: 31
Number of Restaurants: 376
No. 1 Restaurant, According to TripAdvisor: Sazon
8. Napa, California
Not only is Napa home to some of California's best wine, but its soil is also ripe for growing more than grapes. The area is beloved by chefs, and even Michelin has bestowed its coveted stars to several restaurants in the area.
You know it's a good place to dine if Michelin has come to call!
Napa by the Numbers
Cost of Grocery Items: $103
Specialty Grocers Rank: 25
Food Markets Rank: 2
Number of Restaurants: 239
No. 1 Restaurant, According to TripAdvisor: Cordeiro's Steakhouse
7. Conroe, Texas
Ever heard of Conroe? It's found just outside of Houston, which already had a fantastic food scene.
Escaping the city for a more relaxed atmosphere, visitors and residents love lakeside living, Southern hospitality and a great selection of specialty markets to help chefs find typically hard-to-find ingredients — especially for Mexican and barbecue dishes for which Texas is known.
Conroe by the Numbers
Cost of Grocery Items: $90.50
Specialty Grocers Rank: 3
Food Markets Rank: 111
Number of Restaurants: 231
No. 1 Restaurant, According to TripAdvisor: Joe's Italian Restaurant
6. Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati experienced a boom following 2020 when those wanting to escape bigger cities like New York and Chicago chose less-expensive cities like Cincinnati to relocate. Cheaper rent equals larger places in which to be confined, not to mention cheaper groceries.
The city's plethora of grocers and markets — some of the strongest per capita across the country — means your meats and produce are plentiful for creations in the kitchen.
Cincinnati by the Numbers
Cost of Grocery Items: $94.10
Specialty Grocers Rank: 109
Food Markets Rank: 42
Number of Restaurants: Nearly 2,000
No. 1 Restaurant, According to TripAdvisor: The Melting Pot
5. Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is a popular hipster city nestled into the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, and is there anyone who loves great food and experimentation more than a hipster?
The city was first all about its independent breweries, but when you drink, you have to eat, so the chefs are following suit. And because it's a hipster paradise, you'll find fewer chain restaurants and more independents trying new things.
Asheville by the Numbers
Cost of Grocery Items: $97.60
Specialty Grocers Rank: 46
Food Markets Rank: 85
Number of Restaurants: 550
No. 1 Restaurant, According to TripAdvisor: Old Europe Pastries
4. Pensacola, Florida
Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando cannot keep the attention of everyone living or visiting Florida forever. That is why the Panhandle has been growing steadily with people escaping big cities for a more relaxed life on sleepy beaches.
However, former city-goers still want the same great ingredients and dining to which they are accustomed, and Pensacola is happy to provide it. The fact that its beaches front the Gulf means fresh seafood daily.
Pensacola by the Numbers
Cost of Grocery Items: $94.30
Specialty Grocers Rank: 134
Food Markets Rank: 9
Number of Restaurants: 550
No. 1 Restaurant, According to TripAdvisor: Another Broken Egg Cafe
3. West Des Moines, Iowa
Are you surprised to see West Des Moines at the top of the list? You may have been missing the area growing in popularity as a beautiful but less-costly place to live as the country becomes more remote-work-friendly.
Plus, it is surrounded by farmland where agriculture reigns. (Think beef grazing in acres upon acres of untouched land.) The combination makes it a rising foodie city.
West Des Moines by the Numbers
Cost of Grocery Items: $94.30
Specialty Grocers Rank: 1
Food Markets Rank: 17
Number of Restaurants: 433
No. 1 Restaurant, According to TripAdvisor: Mi Patricia
2. Marietta, Georgia
Just "outside the perimeter" to the north of Atlanta is a little town with a big heart. Located within its historic square is a variety of restaurants with outdoor seating.
But you don't have to dine in just a 10-block radius in a town filled with more than 600 restaurants that feature Atlanta chefs who grew tired of the traffic and enjoy the more intimate suburb.
Marietta by the Numbers
Cost of Grocery Items: $101.60
Specialty Grocers Rank: 31
Food Markets Rank: 3
Number of Restaurants: 650
No. 1 Restaurant, According to TripAdvisor: Kiosco Restaurant
1. Greenville, South Carolina
Greenville has quietly been climbing the ranks as a charming little town with much potential, and it is being rewarded as a growing city welcoming businesses and new residents — and everyone needs to eat, right? That's easy to do in a town with more than 700 restaurants.
While Greenville may be off the tourist path, it is a city that mouths everywhere will appreciate.
Greenville by the Numbers
Cost of Grocery Items: $101
Specialty Grocers Rank: 18
Food Markets Rank: 1
Number of Restaurants: 700+
No. 1 Restaurant, According to TripAdvisor: Luna Rosa
Rent.com looked at cities with at least 50,000 residents, narrowing its selection to 386 cities. Then it ranked each city for:
- The average cost of groceries, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research;
- Per capita specialty markets, including ethnic, organic and health foods;
- Per capita food markets, including farmers markets and butchers; and
- Local restaurants per capita that are not chain restaurants.
Our number of restaurants includes chains and comes from TripAdvisor. The No. 1 restaurant in each city is based on real diner reviews.