Top 10 Underrated Foodie Cities in the U.S.

When you think of the best cities in the United States for food, you probably think of places like New York City, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. While these cities do have amazing food, the food scene in the U.S. has grown significantly, and new and great restaurants are popping up all over the country. As a result, there are many cities around the country that you may not expect to have great food and drink culture. Here is our list of the top 10 underrated foodie cities in the U.S.

10. Providence, Rhode Island

top foodie cities in the U.S.

Rhode Island may be the smallest state in the U.S., but the capital, Providence, has big flavors that make it a culinary destination. Providence has access to fresh seafood like lobster, oysters, clams, and calamari, which have a major presence in the city’s food culture. In addition to seafood and typical New England fare, Providence is home to many ethnic restaurants that give visitors some variety.

Notable Restaurants in Providence:

  • birch: Featuring a small and intimate dining space, birch is an ideal spot for a romantic or fine-dining experience.
  • Matunuck Oyster Bar: If you're looking to sample the day's catch, check out Matunuck Oyster Bar, just south of the city.
  • North: North takes local meats, seafood, and produce and gives them an Asian-inspired twist.

9. Portland, Maine

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Located on the coast of Maine, Portland has access to some of the best and freshest seafood in the United States, especially lobster and crab. Many Portland chefs are finding ways to take seafood and incorporate it in their menus and recipes, combining their New England heritage with other cultures and cuisines. The result is a unique food culture that is worth a visit.

Notable Restaurants in Portland:

  • Vinland: Vinland specializes in 100% local and organic food presented in beautiful and unique ways.
  • Duckfat: Making use of artisanal ingredients, Duckfat creates upscale sandwiches and lunch fare.
  • Fore Street: This establishment is one of the city's oldest restaurants, and they serve local and fresh seafood and produce.

8. Grand Rapids, Michigan

top underrated foodie cities

You may have heard that Grand Rapids is one of the leading producers of craft beer in the country, but did you know they also have a growing food scene? Many of the breweries offer top-tier food, and there are excellent restaurants scattered all over the city. Plus, Grand Rapids is surrounded by lush farms, leading to a dynamite farm-to-table scene.

Notable Restaurants in Grand Rapids:

  • Brewery Vivant: This brewpub is serving craft beers and Franco-Belgian food in a former funeral chapel.
  • Electric Cheetah: Serving local and organic food, Electric Cheetah is a gourmet diner that is the perfect place to go if you're craving comfort food.
  • Osteria Rossa: If you're looking for a traditional Italian dining experience, this is the place to go. Osteria Rossa uses local Michigan ingredients, and all of the pasta is homemade.

7. Boise, Idaho

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When you think of Boise, Idaho, the first thing you think of probably isn’t a booming food scene. While Idaho does have lots of potatoes, the capital city is home to a unique food culture. Boise is home to the largest Basque community in the United States, and they brought their Spanish and European flavors to the city.

Notable Restaurants in Boise:

  • State & Lemp: Starting out as a pop-up restaurant, State & Lemp has become Boise’s pre-eminent tasting menu restaurant.
  • Fork: Sourcing most of their ingredients from local Boise and Northwest suppliers, Fork serves familiar American cuisine that everyone can enjoy.
  • Epi's Basque Restaurant: Using recipes passed down from the owner’s grandmother, Epi’s has authentic and delicious Basque cuisine.

6. Honolulu, Hawaii

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The Hawaiian islands are in the process of a culinary revolution as chefs return to their roots to create traditional Hawaiian foods. For years, the dominant cuisine in Honolulu was Hawaiian fusion, which has since fallen out of favor for more rustic, simple, and traditional Hawaiian dishes. Honolulu also has the unique benefit of access to fresh, wild-caught fish and local produce, which has created a unique local food culture.

Notable Restaurants in Honolulu:

  • Senia: Opened in 2016, Senia has quickly become a favorite with both tourists and locals for its fresh and traditional dishes.
  • The Pig and the Lady: Serving a variety of Asian-inspired dishes, The Pig and the Lady has a fast-paced and exciting energy.
  • Alan Wong's: Alan Wong's has been creating experimental and unique twists on Hawaiian cuisine since 1995.

5. St. Louis, Missouri

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One of the biggest draws to the St. Louis food scene is the sheer variety. In one day, you can have Filipino street food, Bosnian cuisine, and upscale, cutting-edge American cuisine. Regardless of what you have in St. Louis, it's bound to be delicious, fresh, and unique.

Notable Restaurants in St. Louis:

  • Vicia: If you're looking for impeccable service and forward-thinking American cuisine at a reasonable rate, Vicia is the perfect spot.
  • Grace Meat + 3: This restaurant puts a spin on classic Southern dishes like ribs, fried chicken, and roasted beef.
  • Nudo House: This ramen shop serves some of the best noodles in the city out of an unassuming fast-casual storefront.

4. Indianapolis, Indiana

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Being surrounded by farmland has greatly benefitted the people of Indianapolis, Indiana, as they, and the chefs in the city, have access to fresh and delicious produce that can take their food to the next level. Plus, an influx of ethnic flavors and young and inventive chefs has brought more flavor to the Midwestern palate and cuisine. Indy is also home to several James Beard semi-finalists that appeal to hardcore foodies.

Notable Restaurants in Indianapolis:

  • Milktooth: Milktooth is known for its unique location inside a former garage and its seasonal menu.
  • Bluebeard: Named after a novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Bluebeard combines a rustic atmosphere with modern cuisine.
  • Public Greens: Public Greens specializes in healthy and nutritious foods raised on-site in a mini-farm. Additionally, all profits are donated to after-school programs that promote good nutrition among students.

3. Detroit, Michigan

top ten foodie cities

Once a Midwestern powerhouse, the Motor City Detroit has fallen on hard times in recent years. But, the city is rebounding, thanks partially to the city's thriving restaurant scene. Restaurants are springing up in vacated residential buildings, and young chefs are creating cutting-edge dishes that are bringing tourists back to the city.

Notable Restaurants in Detroit:

  • Grey Ghost Detroit: Grey Ghost is known for serving unique and intriguing dishes, like octopus corn dogs and fried bologna sandwiches, along with more traditional fare.
  • Sister Pie: A small corner bakery in the West Village, Sister Pie offers a variety of delicious freshly baked goods that got them listed on Bon Appetit's America's Best Restaurants list.
  • Al-Ameer Restaurant: A Detroit staple since 1989, Al-Ameer has a wide selection of authentic and mouth-watering Lebanese and Arabic dishes.

2. Kansas City, Missouri

top ten underrated foodie destinations

While Kansas City is most famous for their barbecue, a retinue of young and talented chefs are making the city a destination for ambitious modern American cuisine. The city is currently home to five James Beard award semi-finalists: Rye, Bluestem, Port Fonda, Manifesto, and 1900 Barker Bakery and Cafe. With so many talented chefs, Kansas City is on its way to becoming a Midwestern culinary destination that can compete with Denver and Chicago.

Notable Restaurants in Kansas City:

  • Corvino: Corvino features an upscale atmosphere with a separate supper club and tasting room and live jazz.
  • Bluestem: One of the restaurants that helped put Kansas City on the map, Bluestem serves modern American cuisine.
  • Port Fonda: This funky restaurant serves creative takes on classic Mexican cuisine.

1. Birmingham, Alabama

foodie travelers

The South is home to some of the biggest food cities in the U.S., like Nashville, Atlanta, and Austin. Until recently, Birmingham, Alabama wasn’t ranked among them. The city is home to a wide assortment of talented young chefs, like Brandon Cain, Brian Somershield, and John Hall. Plus, many Alabamian chefs who studied in major food cities are returning home to cook the foods they grew up with.

Notable Restaurants in Birmingham:

  • Highlands Bar and Grille: Run by Frank Stitt, Highlands was a James Beard finalist for nine years in a row before finally winning the award in 2018.
  • Post Office Pies: This establishment combines a contemporary decor style with some of the best pizza in Alabama.
  • El Barrio: This funky restaurant and bar features eclectic decor and serves Mexican-American fusion food.

The United States is home to a diverse food culture, and the foodservice industry is constantly changing and evolving. Plus, there are many young and talented chefs outside of major U.S. cities that are starting to innovate and play with traditional American cuisine, creating new and unique food cultures. So, the next time that you're planning a food trip, check out one of these top 10 underrated foodie destinations.

Posted in: Advertising & Marketing|Foodservice Trends|By Richard Traylor
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