While many food worshipers look to large-scale cities like New York and San Francisco when they're searching for their delicious fix, others turn to quaint, small towns that have just as much culinary zeal. Many of these spots are teeming with local restaurant concepts focused on freshness and the highest-quality ingredients. Small towns across the country are now celebrated for their passion for food and their timeless mantra that food brings people together.
For the traveling food lover, finding small-town culinary hot spots has become a calling. Quick road trips to find the best lobster in Maine aren't out of reach, and certainly swinging by Tarrytown, N.Y., for a tour of Blue Hill at Stone Barns' farm and winery isn't a bad idea, either. California is flooded with small towns, mostly around wine country, which are overflowing with top-notch restaurants from up-and-coming chefs that boast incredibly inventive cuisine coupled with killer wine lists. San Mateo, Calif., is also now on food lovers' radar after being a 2012 Best for Food finalist in the Rand McNally Best of the Road contest.
Right in the heart of wine country is the small town of Healdsburg. If you throw a stone two feet in either direction in this town, you’ll wind up hitting a spectacular restaurant. Guests on wine country tours often stop in the quaint, popular town for a quick yet amazing lunch before resuming tasting. For those who love seafood, Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar is your pick, and if you’re in the mood for burgers and the best seasoned garlic fries in town, try the Healdsburg Bar & Grill. Bistro Ralph is another local favorite that won’t disappoint with items like moules frites. Photo Credit: © Flickr /tastingsfClick Here to see The Complete List of America’s Best Small Towns for Food
Known by locals as the "capital" of Cajun cuisine, Lafayette, La., is a town made for true food lovers. For traditional Southern cuisine, eaters may find themselves at staples like The French Press. To learn how to make traditional gumbo while you’re in town, swing by The Accidental Chef Cooking School. And for those looking to veer away from Cajun, Spanish tapas joint Pamplona never disappoints. Photo Credit: © Flickr /frank3.0
Traverse City, Mich.
Local cuisine is at its finest in Traverse City, a beautiful small town situated in close proximity to Lake Michigan. Locally grown morel mushrooms, cherries, and apples can be found in the dishes of the many restaurants in town. As for fish, the town is known for its fresh whitefish, perch, and salmon from area waters. Check out seasonal items at spots like Morselsand the Grand Traverse Pie Company, as well as at Trattoria Stella and The Cooks' House. Photo Credit: © Flickr /pulinglooClick Here to see The Complete List of America’s Best Small Towns for Food
Normally, college towns are filled with chain restaurants and late-night greasy spoons, but Boulder’s cuisine is nothing short of phenomenal. With a heavy emphasis on local, seasonal dishes, The Kitchen and its sister restaurants are offering very healthful cuisine packed with flavor. Shine Restaurant and Gathering Place boasts a local, seasonal, and allergy-free menu catering to those with gluten and lactose intolerance, as well as offering vegan and vegetarian options. And finally, there’s Frasca Food & Wine for a fine-dining Italian experience. Photo Credit: © Flickr /wallyg
Click Here to see More of America’s Best Small Towns for Food
If it’s fresh lobsters you want, it’s lobsters you’ll get in Rockland, Maine. This New England seaside town is home to the Maine Lobster Festival during July and August and offers locals and tourists the opportunity to taste and indulge in some of the world’s freshest lobsters. For charming lobster joints, try Linda's Beans or Miller's Lobster Company.For a bit of variety, Rockland also offers traditional Italian food at Primo. Photo Credit: © Flickr /InspirationDC
Some lesser-known places like Hilton Head Island in South Carolina may surprise many, but the island has stepped up its game when it comes to its food selections. While it offers traditional island seafood, it also offers a mixture of local Gullah cuisine at restaurants likeRoastfish and Cornbread, and for a higher-end dining experience, there's Vine Bistro & Wine Bar. Not to be outdone, towns like Traverse City, Mich., and Galesburg, Ill., each have their own charms.
The Daily Meal is updating its list from last year, and while many of the same small towns made the cut, there are a few new additions that have been making waves in the media over the last year. Towns that were included on the list have a variety of restaurants in the region with a focus on local, fresh, and seasonal ingredients as well as a flair for culinary creativity. They also have a population of fewer than 300,000 residents.
-Kristen Oliveri, The Daily Meal
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