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Chow friendly cities

What are our most ( and least) chow-friendly cities? Would anyone care to go a step further and break it down by region? I am considering a relocation and need all the pertinant info,

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  1. Sorry for being vague, I was thinking more of a jumping off place for discussion. Say I'm contemplating leaving the SF Bay Area for parts unknown, possibly the Southeast. I'm wondering what people think the attitudes in general are towards chow et al. Where are the hidden gems, the diamonds in the rough, where are the local farmer's markets on the upswing, where do people only eat ranch dressing on their salads?

    3 Replies
    1. re: WCchopper

      It seems to me you'd be better off doing some reading around the site, browsing through the local boards to find cities of interest.

      1. re: WCchopper

        We had the opportunity through friends to meet a wonderful couple who were Bay area natives, living near Silicon Valley who pulled up stakes and moved to Ann Arbor (Univ. of MI). They are thrilled beyond belief and love it. Their friends back home think they're crazy.

        Ann Arbor is a great town, with great university. Very nice quality of life in A2 (I went to school there), wonderful farmer's market, access to lots of variety of true ethnic cuisine in the Detroit area (Arabic, Polish, Italian, Greek) and the vast Detroit Farmer's market,as well as local farmers' markets (we go to Royal Oak.) Zingerman's is a plus, a number of Trader Joe's some very, very upscale markets (Papa Joe's, Holiday) where you can get anything you want.

        Boston Globe just ran a travel article about Detroit, you might be interested in checking it out. Just came out, I think, this week.

        Something to be said for good eats, four seasons and nice people.

        1. re: berkleybabe

          here, here, sister. nice to get some good run about d-town. despite a very polarized city-suburb thing going on, we have tremendous diversity in the region, great restaurants, and great markets to shp for food.

      2. Buffalo, NY. Honest. Have yet to have a bad meal:) Great pizza, great wings (just not at the anchor bar...I think they're dry), great beef on weck, great food period! Cheap food, but they also have some phenomenal gourmet. Farmers markets everywhere due to close by farm country, and food festivals galore during the summer.

        3 Replies
        1. re: milkyway4679

          Nothing against Buffalo, but Toronto's a much better choice. Large ethnic communities from everywhere (Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Korean, Indian, French, Vietnamese), plus some great markets, and if you want to visit Buffalo, it's only 90 minutes away.

          And, with about 300,000 people, and some 60+ murders a year, it's a lot more dangerous than Toronto, with 2.5 million people and 60+ murders a year.

          1. re: KevinB

            I'm not going to wade into a Toronto vs. Buffalo debate here as I think it is a moot point. One cannot usually relocate from one country to another on a permanent basis without having to fill out a lot of paperwork. I think the original poster is asking for locations inside the U.S.

            1. re: Moosemeat

              It would be worth the paperwork. Toronto is a great city, esp. compared to THE BUFF!

        2. i pretty much like whatever city i'm dropped into. my take is that it's up to me to blend in, figure out how to get around and make some modest food decisions. i shrink from making regional/national comparisons. its all good.

          1. Regarding the Southeast: I just want to put in a plug for my current home, the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) in NC. I grew up in NYC and have traveled a lot; and though I think the options here in the Triangle are few in comparison to very big cities, I'd say the chow-to-hassle ratio is excellent here. The universities and tech industries draw a lot of chowhound types.

            9 Replies
            1. re: clee0601105

              Your point about universities being related to good chow-worthy places is really good.

              In Boston, we're flush with universities and colleges (little, unknown ones like Harvard, MIT, etc.), so there are tons of inexpensive, tasty, places Hounds around here love. They're especially attractive to me this time of year when the students are out of town. I get all the value and tastiness, without the stupid-kid-factor.

              1. re: clee0601105

                Care to offer any more specifics about the Triangle? I am interested in that area and have only had one dining experience in Durham. What are the farmers markets like; how about ethnic food availability? Variety and availabilty of fresh high quality meats and seafood?

                1. re: WCchopper

                  Currently being more of an eating-out person than a cooking-myself person, I don't feel qualified enough to answer fully about the farmers markets and meats/ seafood, except to say that I hear very good things about specific places. You just need to know where to go. I think if you post your question on the South regional board you'll be pleased with what you get in reply. There are so many transplants down here, you could probably even frame your question as a Bay area v. Triangle sort of thing, and get helpful concrete answers. You might even try naming some of your favorite Bay-area places to get specific Triangle equivalents (or close runners-up).

                  On the ethnic food, availability is very good -- just not as many places as in a very big city. Also, we don't have places that stay open all night. Again, you just have to be willing to learn the places to go. Here's a recent topic on the South board that may be pertinent: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/418458

                  With all due respect, to compare to the other cities that people have mentioned as of this post (all of which I've eaten in except Portland and Providence), I think the Triangle could beat out all but Toronto and NYC, and maybe Boston. And that's just based on the chow. Factor in weather and overall quality of life, the Triangle could be it.

                  1. re: clee0601105

                    Except that you probably need a car to get to those places, which is not necessary in Toronto, NYC, the city and inner suburbs of Boston, or my city (Montréal).

                    1. re: lagatta

                      Uh, no, Amtrak runs from Boston to both places.

                      1. re: Karl S

                        No, I meant foodie locations within that region.

                        1. re: lagatta

                          Yes, you're right -- the Triangle in general is the kind of place where one would need a car in order to enjoy things. Chapel Hill-Carrboro has a convenient and free bus system, but it doesn't go to most Triangle places.

                  2. re: WCchopper

                    I recently moved to the Triangle. Seafood variety & availability is quite good & very fresh. Ethnic market galore! A recent thread in South board gives a link to the News & Observers article listing dozens of area ethnic markets. Meat, so far best I've found is Whole Foods & Fresh Market. Still looking for independent butcher and really good deli/sausage. Have only been to the state farmers market, although there are probably a half dozen others in the area. It isn't the best I've seen, but you should be able to find most standards.

                    Really considered moving to Atlanta just to be near the DeKalb Farmers Market. It is an amazing grocery with a strong international selection. It is food shopping nirvana! Unfortunately, Atlanta wasn't in the cards.

                    If you prefer a smaller area with a strong organic/local focus you might like Asheville. But ethnic markets are lean and good seafood can be found, but not always easily or in abundance.

                    1. re: meatn3

                      Yup, I grew up in the Dekalb Market. It has been one of the most shaping influences on my culinary life.

                2. I live 5 hours away but go often...to Tampa. Moderate sized city; the nation's best steakhouse (Bern's) and some outstanding Spanish and Cuban ethnic food. Plus, on the coast, so there is ostensibly fresh seafood.

                  1. Charleston SC comes to mind, but I would need those who've been there to comment on the chowiness of the region it is the center of. It's certainly one of the more historic places in terms of American regional cuisine, and often overlooked.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Karl S

                      Yes, Charleston is certainly deserving of consideration. In addition to its history and natural beauty, it is deservedly famous for it's upscale restaurants. You can read a lot about them on the South boards, so I'll only say they run the gamut from Nouveau Southern to French to Italian to Asian fusion to molecular gastronomy to slow foods. The Charleston area is also pretty well-represented on the other end of the spectrum with some decent seafood shacks, meat-and-threes, and lots of BBQ options. Cheaper "ethnic" options aren't as great as in larger cities, but probably better than most cities Charleston's size, with a decent selection of Asian restaurants and a large pool of Latino places, mostly taquerias. The middle range is perhaps where Charleston has the most room to grow, but there are some very positive signs including one of my new favorite places, a wood-burning pizza place with a seasonal menu focusing on local produce.

                      Speaking of local produce, it's pretty fantastic. There are a couple of good farmers' markets, but even better there are several FARM markets where you can buy produce just picked from the fields. In the same vein, there are some great seafood markets featuring local seafood, but there are also fisherman who will sell you seafood right off the docks if you know where to go. There's always something in season, be it blue crab, shrimp, flounder, red snapper, grouper, or oysters.

                      All in all, pound for pound, Charleston is one of the U.S.'s great food cities.

                      1. re: Low Country Jon

                        That's what I suspected.

                        OP, take note. Seriously.

                    2. Philly, for sure. Lived there for 7 years after 25 years in Boston (a relative food wasteland) and the food scene is wonderful. Providence also good for such a small place. And of course, New York.
                      www.littlecomptonmornings.blogspot.com

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: janeer

                        I lived in Philly for about a year. Compared to (the current) Boston, it's a joke, food-wise. I will admit that Boston of say, 15 years ago, was a food wasteland. It's anything but these days.

                        Like the airline commercial about Philadelphia says, We're, uh, like a little New York."

                        Yeah, a very, very, very little New York. Staten Island-ish.

                        1. re: Bostonbob3

                          My impression from reading many, many conversations among Hounds about comparing Philly and Boston is that they were different in terms of areas of strength/weakness but overall on a comparable level food-wise. Boston 15 years ago was actually more innovative in its very fine dining than now due to the price of real estate which has made the restaurant business more conservative. Some of the more innovative action seems to have moved out of the city center (this seems to be a trend in other high price areas like SF and NY), is more disparate and is less covered by the press/tourists.

                          One of the benefits of Philly is its proximity to NYC. Boston has Providence and Portland has its side-benefits. Crime is much less of an issue in the Boston area, but winters are worse. Et cet.

                          1. re: Karl S

                            Well, there were a very few restaurants 10-15 years ago doing interesting work, but the vast, vast majority of places here were just plain bad. Now there's a huge variety of very good places across the board. Yes, some fine dining has moved to the burbs, but it's all accessible by the T. Overall, Boston today is a gigantic upgrade over a decade or so ago.

                            1. re: Bostonbob3

                              Maybe its because 10-15 years ago nobody was watching Patriot or Red Sox games, but now we have a huge bandwagon of fans to feed on game day !!

                              1. re: Jimbosox04

                                It's all relative; anyone who thinks Boston today is a good restaurant town in comparing it to the total wasteland it was before. I eat in Boston at least once a week. A giant upgrade--yes, when you're going from zero, that is certainly the case. There are a few good places, but creative, or innovative, or satisfying, is not what I'd call it. Philly has it all over Boston, in my opinion. The comparison to NY is like something someone read in a magazine; it's not NY, and no one in Philly says it is (although let's not forget that Morimoto started in Philly before going to NY, as did Buddakan, Django, etc etc.
                                www.littlecomptonmornings.blogspot. com

                                1. re: janeer

                                  Let's see, the OP hinted at the Southeast, and I see the Triangle has already been well represented, which is nice because it may be be the best all-around chow friendly area in the Southeast. You also have to look towards Atlanta, where the mere size of the city allows for decent ethnic reach and a decent pool of very well-known chefs. Nashville and Memphis are two other cities that are becoming much more chow friendly, though it is has been difficult for both to shake off their national stigmas as meat-n-3 and bbq towns, respectively.

                      2. In my limited expereience and in order: a) New York, b) San Francisco, c) Toronto, d) Fresno, e) Los Angeles, f) Vancouver, g) Seattle, h) Portland, and i) Miami.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          Sam, I love your list because it brings to mind the statement the Mayor of Salinas (my birthplace) made that some day our street food could be up there with New York and Toronto. We're going to beat Fresno!!!

                        2. One the East Coast -- is there another one? 8>P -- three extremely chowish, smaller cities are Portland ME, Providence RI, and Charleston SC. You can probably throw Savannah GA in there too.

                          Unfortunately, the job markets in these burgs might not be so hot. But the food is great!