The 7 Best Cities for Frugal Foodies

By Christa Avampato on 10 February 2015 0 comments

While New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco continue to dazzle and delight foodies, many cities are in the midst of a culinary renaissance that is not to be missed, and often at far lower prices than these more expensive traditional foodie towns. (See also: 10 of America's Awesomest Cheap Cities)

Artisanal food, locavore, and farm-to-table movements are spreading like wildfire to every corner of the U.S. So here are seven U.S. cities that will make your taste buds and tummy happy without breaking the bank.

1. Orlando, Florida

Wait, what? Isn't Central Florida home to strip malls and fast food establishments galore? Well, yes, it is. But it's also got a burgeoning food scene that's getting national attention. East End Market is an artisan market occupied by local food entrepreneurs in the newly revitalized Mills 50 District. Cask & Larder and Txokos Basque Kitchen have garnered James Beard Award nominations, and Iron Chef Morimoto will open a flagship operation of his widely-acclaimed sushi restaurant in the new Disney Springs. If you're a frugal foodie, Orlando is a place that should be on your "to visit" list.

2. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids is a scenic and charming city situated on the Grand River. The Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College is one of the country's top culinary schools, so it's no wonder that the food scene here is hopping. For the latest in food trends, head to Downtown Market Grand Rapids. Only two years old, it offers a full year indoor market full of artisan food businesses as well as a huge outdoor summer market and culinary events of all shapes and sizes.

Craft breweries are a big deal in this city and include gems such as Founder's Brewing, HopCat, Grand Rapids Brewing Company, and The B.O.B.

The fertile soil of Western Michigan creates one of the finest growing regions in the country. For this reason it's home to numerous farm-to-table restaurants that make dinner a difficult, and delicious, choice.

3. Madison, Wisconsin

Love farmer's markets? Then you need to check out Madison. With a young and highly educated population, the Saturday Farmers' Market in Madison is one of the largest in the country with 200+ farmers selling their freshest crops and food products. Additionally, there is also the Dane County Farmers' Market, Eastside Farmers' Market, Northside Farmers' Market, and South Madison Farmers' Market. And you thought all they made in Wisconsin was cheese!

4. Boise, Idaho

People in Boise are known for their friendliness and easygoing ways. The food scene reflects that with its many casual and welcoming dining options. Cafe Vicinio serves up delectable Italian eats. Winemaking is making a big splash in Boise thanks to local businesses like Boise Co-op Wine Shop. With the third largest Basque population (outside of Spain and Argentina), Basque cuisine is thriving. Bar Gernika is a wonderful stop situated right in an area known as Basque Block.

5. Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati chili is one of my favorite varieties of chili, but this city is now known for much more than that when it comes to culinary innovation. The pulled pork at Eli's, the finest French croissants and quiches at French Crust Cafe, and the authentic Indian food available in every neighborhood across the city prove that Cincinnati has diversity and imagination in its many bustling kitchens.

6. Reno, Nevada

Nevada has another city besides Las Vegas? It sure does! Convenient to Lake Tahoe, Reno showcases its unique culinary scene through its many and varied farmers' markets, local eateries, and cafes. There are so many to mention and visit that it's best to just check out this link to see what's on offer that speaks to your taste buds.

7. New Orleans, Louisiana

You'd really have to work hard to eat badly in New Orleans. This city is just as famous for its food as it is for its music, mystery, and revelry. A beignet and a chicory coffee at Cafe Du Monde is the best way to start any morning. Then it's a seafood, gumbo, and Cajun paradise around every corner. You can eat well for very little money in New Orleans though it offers a huge variety of price options to fit every budget: the fried chicken stand at Brothers Food Mart, mid-range Boucherie, and fancy Restaurant August are some of the most popular food meccas in a city that reveres and celebrates cuisine with wild abandon.

Have you found culinary gems for a small price tag in your city? Please share your recommendations in the comments below!

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