Foodie Underground: What Does It Take to Be a Foodie City?

When it comes to cuisines, a city’s status isn’t just about collecting restaurants with 3 Michelin stars. These days it’s all about a holistic approach: numerous hole-in-the-walls serving up hard-to-find goods, ample access to fresh and local (preferably organic) produce, a local wine culture. Just as the underground food movement has taken hold, making it cool to make your own food, harvest your own vegetables and buy a share in a community-run vineyard, so has the definition of food culture.

You think food-centric cities and the usual suspects pop up: New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Paris. But according to a recent study by CNBC, the foodie cities of the country aren’t just the standard handful. According to the study, the top 10 places for excellent food and excellent food culture are:

  • Santa Rosa, California
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Burlington, Vermont
  • Portland, Maine
  • San Francisco, California
  • Providence, Rhode Island
  • Boston/Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Santa Barbara, California

But how was the list determined? Calculating data on the ratio of local restaurants to chain restaurants, number of Whole Foods and cooking stores, number of wine shops, wine bars, craft breweries, and brew pubs; and the number of CSA (community supported agriculture) farms and local farmers markets.

Which brings me to a minor frustration: Whole Foods is an indicator of a foodie city? With the influx of underground farmers markets, supper clubs, and soup swaps it’s certainly clear that our food trends are not being dictated by larger chains, no matter how many local, unpasteurized, artisan varieties of chevre they sell.

Take Whole Foods out of the picture and it’s easy to posit that these cities are deemed foodie hotspots because their inhabitants care about an important combination of things: personal and environmental health. They have a relationship to where their food comes from, they know the value of eating well and, above all, their cities provide an infrastructure for doing so.

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’s column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground. Each week, Anna will be taking a look at something new and different that’s taking place in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to mini markets to culinary avant garde.

Image: mastermac

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.