CHICAGO — To be a foodie is to be someone who elevates the eating experience to the level of a hobby, if not a lifestyle, but it often comes with an elevated cost to one’s checking account. Fortunately a new list ranks the best cities in the U.S. for foodies based in-part on affordability.
WalletHub analysts compiled a list of 29 “key indicators of foodie-friendliness,” applied them to 182 cities and churned out a ranking that may just be a food-lover’s new travel bucket list.
While Chicago was ranked #150 for affordability, it’s #12 ranking for diversity, accessibility and quality helped it land the overall #12 ranking on the list. Take a look at the full list though and you’ll see those cities ranked higher are concentrated on the coasts. This makes the Windy City #1 in the region for all things tasty.
Here’s how some of Chicago’s Midwestern peers ranked on the overall list:
- #21 – Cincinnati, OH
- #22 – St. Louis, MO
- #24 – Milwaukee, WI
- #25 – Grand Rapids, MI
- #29 – Minneapolis, MN
- #44 – Columbus, OH
- #56 – Indianapolis, IN
- #60 – Des Moines, IA
- #67 – Madison, WI
- #69 – Cleveland, OH
Here are the top ten cities according to the analysis:
- Portland, OR
- Orlando, FL
- Miami, FL
- San Francisco, CA
- Austin, TX
- Sacramento, CA
- Seattle, WA
- Tampa, FL
- Las Vegas, NV
- San Diego, CA
So what exactly are the 29 indicators, how were they weighted, and where did the data come from? Here’s everything you need to know straight from the original write-up:
We evaluated … 29 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions and costs for foodies. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), we used the square root of the population to calculate the population size in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities.
Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order the cities in our sample. In determining our sample, we considered only the “city proper” in each case and excluded surrounding cities in the metro area.
Affordability – Total Points: 30
- Cost of Groceries: Double Weight (~7.50 Points)
- Accessibility & Affordability of High-Quality Restaurants: Full Weight (~3.75 Points)
Note: This metric measures the prevalence of affordable restaurants with ratings of at least 4.5 stars.
- Restaurant Meal Cost: Double Weight (~7.50 Points)
- Sales Tax: Full Weight (~3.75 Points)
- Food Tax: Full Weight (~3.75 Points)
- Average Beer & Wine Price: Full Weight (~3.75 Points)
Note: “Average Beer Price” refers to the average price, excluding any deposit, of a six-pack of 12-ounce Heineken containers, and “Average Wine Price” refers to the average price of a 1.5-liter bottle of Chablis or Chenin Blanc or any white table wine.
Diversity, Accessibility & Quality – Total Points: 70
- Restaurants per Capita*: Triple Weight (~7.50 Points)
- Ratio of Full-Service Restaurants to Fast-Food Establishments: Triple Weight (~7.50 Points)
- Growth in Number of Full Service Restaurants (2020 vs 2015): Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Restaurant Diversity: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Presence of Michelin-Starred Restaurants: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Average Ranking of Restaurants on Yelp’s “Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S.” List: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Food Trucks per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Access to Healthy Food Options: Double Weight (~5.00 Points)
- Percentage of Residents Who Are Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19: Double Weight (~5.00 Points)
- Farmers Markets & CSA Programs per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: “CSA” refers to community-supported agriculture.
- Food Freshness: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: The share of workers involved in agricultural activities was used as a proxy for this metric.
- Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt Shops per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Craft Breweries & Wine Bars per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Coffee & Tea Shops per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Gourmet Specialty-Food Stores per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: “Gourmet Specialty-Food Stores” includes, among others, candy stores, chocolatiers and cheese shops.
- Grocery Stores per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- International Grocery Stores per Capita*: Half Weight (~1.25 Points)
- Butcher Shops per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Herbs & Spices Stores per Capita*: Half Weight (~1.25 Points)
- Kitchen Supplies Stores per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Food Festivals per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Cooking Schools per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Food & Wine Tours per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Council for Community and Economic Research, Federation of Tax Administrators, Tax Foundation, County Health Rankings, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Sale-Tax.com, Numbeo, Wikipedia, TripAdvisor and Yelp.