These Are America’s Favorite Cities for Food

Photo: Bryce Duffy

Whether you’re hankering for crispy French fries, fresh fish, or the perfect slice of pizza, cities all across the United States are proving they can compete with international culinary powerhouses. Major metropolises like San Francisco and New York City have long been known as epicurean capitals — but this year, much smaller cities joined the ranks. According to locals, these are some of the best places in the nation to eat. In our annual America's Favorite Places survey, we ask Travel + Leisure readers to open up about about their hometowns — the place they grew up or have lived in and know better than anywhere else on Earth. Unlike the World's Best Awards, which encourages readers to weigh in on travel experiences across the globe, the America's Favorite Places survey is a way for locals to share what their hometowns do best. Readers ranked their hometowns and cities across a range of categories, from the friendliness of the locals to the quality of the cheeseburgers. This year’s top city for food was New Orleans, which earned a collective high score from all the major food and drink categories, including coffee and brunch. Here, locals and visitors can satisfy an appetite for powdery beignets, Po’ boys, and hearty shrimp and grits (just a few of the regional specialties). With its mix of flavorful Creole and classic French influences, this vibrant city wins over everyone with its big flavor. “There is no other city like New Orleans,” one resident wrote, calling it “An awesome city to enjoy wonderful food, attractions, festivals, world class cruise ships, and good music all the time.” Norfolk, Virginia took the silver spot for its rapidly growing food and craft beer scene. And Buffalo, New York, home to — you guessed it — Buffalo wings, landed in third place. The city is also known for its unique pizza (a blend of Chicago and New York City-style crusts). “No one knows pizza like we do. And wings. We don't call them 'Buffalo wings' [here], just wings. Our worst wings are better than any other city,” raved one reader. From green chile cheeseburgers to Michelin-stared dining rooms, these are 20 of the best-loved places to eat and drink in the United States.

01 of 20

20. Dallas, Texas

Pecan Lodge Restaurant, Texas
Jorge Garrido / Alamy Stock Photo

Dallas has some of the best Tex-Mex and barbecue in the country. Ask locals (like T+L associate digital photo editor, Mariah Tyler), and they'll point you in the direction of Matt's Rancho Martinez and family-run Herrera's Cafe for authentic Tex-Mex.

02 of 20

19. Houston, Texas

Irma's restaurant in Houston Texas
Dennis Cox / Alamy Stock Photo

“You can eat at a different restaurant two times a day for one year and never see half of the restaurants in this city and surrounding areas,” said one T+L survey taker.

03 of 20

18. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Wiskerke / Alamy Stock Photo

The Twin Cities — best known for their Midwestern hospitality — are also starting to earn a reputation for something else: their craft beer. Dozens of taprooms have cropped up after a law change seven years ago allowed breweries to serve pints of their own suds.

04 of 20

17. Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina
Peter Frank Edwards

Travel + Leisure readers voted Charleston the number one city in the U.S. for the fifth year running in the World's Best Awards. It's a favorite with locals, too.

05 of 20

16. Rochester, New York

Rochester, New York
Randy Duchaine / Alamy Stock Photo

Locals described this New York city as a well-kept secret, hailing the underrated Rochester for its craft beer, comfort food, and coffee roasters.

06 of 20

15. Nashville, Tennessee

Fried chicken in Nashville
Andrew Hetherington

“The restaurant scene is expanding and the food caliber increases every day. It is definitely an exciting time to be a Nashvillian," explained one pleased local.

07 of 20

14. Washington, D.C.

Washington D.C Food
Marcus Nilsson

From Georgetown to Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C. is filled with exciting, world-class restaurants. Some award-winning food can even be found in the city’s museums, such as the Sweet Home Café at the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

08 of 20

13. Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis, Indiana
Getty Images/iStockphoto

“We have great people, many things to see and do...and great places to eat. I have lived in many states and even Europe and I chose to come back to Indy to live and raise my family,” wrote one reader.

09 of 20

12. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia Food
Jason Varney

“The food scene in Philadelphia is one of the best in the country. Philly is so much more than the cheesesteak (which, honestly, only tourists eat). Just look at the James Beard Awards this year,” said a local Philadelphian.

10 of 20

11. Greenville, South Carolina

Greenville, South Carolina
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Locals recommend the Lazy Goat Mediterranean restaurant, calling it a particularly romantic location for dinner in Greenville.

11 of 20

10. Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville, Kentucky
Stephen Saks Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

“Louisville has more gourmet-class restaurants than many cities twice or three times its size,” wrote one proponent of Louisville's cuisine.

12 of 20

9. Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale, Arizona
Courtesy of Experience Scottsdale

Local residents praised the high quality of life in a city with everything from fluffy pancakes to authentic Mexican food.

13 of 20

8. Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon
Shawn Records

One T+L reader put it simply: “Oh, the restaurants. If you're a foodie, this is the place for you!”

14 of 20

7. New York City, New York

Harlem, New York
David Alexander Arnold

From Manhattan to Brooklyn to lesser-appreciated boroughs like Staten Island, New York City is teeming with some of the best food in the world. Locals recommend dim sum at Jing Fong in Chinatown, frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity, oysters at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal, and vegetarian burgers at Superiority Burger.

15 of 20

6. Chicago, Illinois

Chicago Food
Tara Donne

The home of some of the best hot dogs in the world, Chicago also has a thriving restaurant scene that rivals New York City and Los Angeles, with favorites such as Elizabeth for fine dining, Fat Rice for Macanese, and the theatrical dinner service at Next.

16 of 20

5. Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico
Brian Finke

Come here for unique, regional dishes (like the green chile cheeseburger) — and an entire festival dedicated to wine and chiles.

17 of 20

4. San Francisco, California

San Francisco Food
Alanna Hale

Head to the Mission neighborhood for some of the city's best Mexican food, or stop by one of San Francisco's dozens of Michelin-starred restaurants.

18 of 20

3. Buffalo, New York

Downtown Buffalo
Getty Images/iStockphoto

If Buffalo wings weren’t your favorite food before coming to this New York hub, they will be after. Check out Anchor Bar, where the Buffalo chicken wing was reportedly born — but don’t count out new newcomers to the scene like Craving and Marble and Rye.

19 of 20

2. Norfolk, Virgina

Norfolk, Virginia
Courtesy of Norfolk Tourism

Order the brisket at Belmont House of Smoke, and continue your evening at one of the city's many breweries. Locals are especially fond of O'Connor Brewing Company and Smartmouth Brewing Co.

20 of 20

1. New Orleans, Louisiana

Bryce Duffy

Want to experience the No. 1 city in the nation for food? Travelers can check out classic standbys like Café du Monde for beignets, or try more trendy options such as Sylvain, in the French quarter.

“If you know our city, you know the souls of its people are what fuels that spirit and provides its unique magnificence. That food and that music is powered by that spirit and these people,” wrote one incredibly proud reader.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles