It can be often tough for true food lovers to enjoy the freshest, best tasting and most healthy foods out there, especially if you live in a smaller city. It can be difficult to get fresh food out to smaller locales, and for restaurant owners, it is often more profitable to plant fast-and-easy food restaurants rather than invest in pricey establishments which may have difficulty getting great-tasting ingredients at low cost.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible – great eating can happen outside the big metros, so to see who was doing it best, MyLife.com underwent a study to determine which mid-sized cities were best for food lovers to reside. We found that not only was great eating possible in mid-sized cities, it was also sometimes abundant – especially in our top ten.
Here is the ranking, in inverse order:
Eugene did not rank higher than tenth in any category, but also was not lower than 27th; that consistency gave it a good enough score to crack the top ten. Such restaurants as the Oregon Electric Station are one of the many factors that earned it a ranking of 16th in the number of highly rated restaurants category.
Photo from oesrestaurant.com.
Located just south of Disneyland and only a few minutes west of the Anaheim Angels stadium, Garden Grove ranked fourth in number of restaurants serving international cuisine. As with a couple other cities in the top ten, one category kept it from ranking higher; it came in at number 48 in number of farmers markets.
Photo via anaheimoc.org
8. Tacoma, WA
Tacoma joins Richmond as the only two cities with a population greater than 200,000 people in the top ten. It ranked 14th in both the number of top rated restaurants, as evidenced by Bob’s Java Jive, a truly one-of-a-kind establishment. Photo via ilwu19.com
7. Salt Lake City, UT
The only city with a professional sports team on this list, Salt Lake City made the number seven spot by ranking third or better – including its number one ranking in number of top rated restaurants – in three categories. The only thing that kept from ranking higher on this list was its ranking of 59th in number of CSA farms. Photo from theslcfoodie.com
6. Torrance, CA
Located along the beachfront of Los Angeles County, Torrance had the most top rated restaurants that serve international cuisine. The certified farmers market also offers a wide range of options for fresh food and drink, which helped it reach a number 12 ranking in that category. Photo via discovertorrance.com
5. Vancouver, WA
Nestled along the banks of the Columbia River, Vancouver is the fourth largest city in Washington, and is home to some pretty great food options. They ranked in the top 20 in all four categories, and came in at number one in the number of CSA farms in the area, as shown above by the Northwest Organic Farms.
Photo from csafarms.com
4. Santa Rosa, CA
The Imwalle Gardens are a big reason why Santa Rosa ended up ranking second in the number of farmers markets category. It also ranked no lower than 15th in every other category.
Photo from herviewfromhome.com
3. Richmond, VA
The capitol of Virginia did not disappoint as well; Richmond ranked in the top five in three of the categories, coming in at number two with the number of top rated restaurants it has in the area. And the historic 17th Street Farmers Market, which has been held for nearly 280 years, helped propel it to the fourth spot in the number of farmers markets category.
Photo from hillsandheights.org
2. Alexandria, VA
Located just across the river from Washington, D.C., Alexandria’s population has increased nearly ten percent since 2010 according to Census estimates; and with these numbers it is easy to see why. The Fish Market Restaurant downtown helped it rank eighth or better in every category, including third in number of CSA farms in the area. Photo via visitalexandria.com
1. Pasadena, CA
Site of the Rose Bowl and mere minutes from Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena ranked third or better in three of the categories, despite ranking 180th in population. The city boasts a great diversity of highly-ranked restaurants, both international and domestic, and also had the largest number of farmers markets in our study. One highlight is the weekly Old Pasadena Farmers Market, pictured here, which features more than 40 food vendors from around the area. Photo by David Karp
Here’s How They Ranked Them:
“We started with a list of 100 mid-sized cities, which we determined as those ranking 101 through 200 in population based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 estimates. We then applied a ranking of 1 through 100 in each of the following categories:
- Number of top rated restaurants in the area – Fast food and those like it did not count. These restaurants, according to Yelp, had to have a rating of three-and-a-half stars or higher, with at least ten reviews.
- Number of top rated restaurants in the area that serve international cuisine – American food is great, but a true food lover enjoys sampling the many delicacies of other countries. Again, they had to have a three-and-a-half star rating or higher along with at least ten reviews according to Yelp.
- Number of farmers markets in the area – We can’t afford to eat out all the time, so we food lovers often want to cook at home using fresh ingredients. The more farmers markets there are in a certain town, the more opportunities to eat well. We defined farmers markets as any store described as such by its customers on Yelp, with the belief that even non-traditional markets would be valuable to the cooking community.
- Community Supported Agriculture Farms in the area – CSA farms allow local residents to invest in a farm’s production, giving them access to fresh, locally grown produce at reasonable prices. This gives the home cook the ability to conveniently get the best ingredients for their food. We used LocalHarvest.com to find these figures.
We decided not to use per capita numbers for this study because most of these variables could be enjoyed independent of population size – as long as they were reachable by their residents. Since each of these cities were relatively close in population size, the per capita impact did not seem like a number that would add to the value of the study.
Each city was given a score based on their rankings in each category. Scores from each category were combined and divided to find an average. The lower the average number was, the better the city ranked.
A big reason why all these cities made the top ten were the number of farmers markets they had in the area; all of them except Garden Grove ranked in the top 12 in that category. More farmers markets seemed to be paired with more top-ranked restaurants too. This may be the case because having markets nearby allows restaurants to purchase better ingredients, and in turn cook better food.”
Copyright © 2014 MyLife.com, Inc | U.S. Patent No. 6,701,348 and 6,694,353