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10 U.S. metro areas with the highest density of restaurants

Dave Moore
*

*Based on populations of 1 million or more

#10

Virginia Beach/Norfolk

Restaurants per 10,000 residents: 17.74

Change, 2011-2014: -0.6 percentage point

The region's proximity to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean
gives the chefs a leg up on a lot of other major metropolitan areas
for access to fresh ingredients. The Hampton Roads Metropolitan
Statistical Area (officially known as the Virginia
Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Virginia/North Carolina MSA) offers
Virginia Beach for tourism purposes, and Norfolk/Newport News for the
industrial/shipbuilding crowd (Norfolk has been the a major
shipbuilding/repairing hub since 1767 -- even for the British Navy,
prior to the Revolutionary War). The Brits later burned the Norfolk
shipyard to the ground. Arguably, the strongest lashing a dining
district has experienced since 1779, at least.

#9

Buffalo, New York

Restaurants per 10,000 residents: 17.93

Restaurant density change, 2011-2014: +5.4 percentage points

National Geographic magazine recently named Buffalo the third-best
food city in the world, oddly citing the Buffalo-based Anchor Bar's
invention of Buffalo wings. While wings are tasty, a better
explanation might be that diners in the Buffalo/Niagara region
continue to benefit from the region's roots in Old World
(Polish/Slavic) migration to the formerly booming industrial and
transportation center. And, like many Rust Belt cities,
Buffalo/Niagara has continued to attract a diverse ethnic population,
and the restaurant scene reflects that. Burmese, Balkan and
Belarusian food in Buffalo? Believe it or not, yes, and to public
approval.

#8

Jacksonville, Florida

Restaurants per 10,000 residents: 18

Restaurant density change, 2011-2014: -0.1 percentage point

Known as the Oldest City, Jacksonville offers a nice blend of holes in
the wall, barbecue hubs and East Coast-influenced bistros. Florida
Times-Union sports reporter/restaurant reviewer/all-purpose player
Matt Pittman has the enviable job (if you could call it that) of
gorging at and then writing about many of the region's mom-and-pop
joints. You can just about feel the garlic oozing from his recent
review of EJ's Italian Bistro and regret not being able to drink beer
for breakfast at Tommy's on Walnut Street. We'll have what he's
having.

#7

New York

Restaurants per 10,000 residents: 19.27

Change, 2011-2014: +8.3 percentage points

The Big Apple/Jersey area saw the biggest jump in restaurants per
capita on the top 10 list, with an 8 percentage point increase in
restaurants per capita since 2011. Spikes such as these are indicators
that a region's economy has recovered from the recession of 2009, says
Annika Stensson, director of Research Communications, National
Restaurant Association. Stensson says that some metro areas'
restaurant growth slowed during the recession, and now growth is
picking back up again

#6

Portland

Restaurants per 10,000 residents: 19.62

Change, 2011-2014: +2 percentage points

The off-beat and minimalist nature of this region (bicycle traffic
jams, zealous composting and recycling and a Darth Vader riding a
unicycle while playing a flaming bagpipe) creeps into the cooking as
well. Says Portland resident and bicycling advocate Michael Andersen:
"The one fact that explains most of Portland is that we're a city of
cheapskates. This is reflected in our restaurants: what makes us
remarkable is not the quality of our expensive food (excellent, but
not better than any other city's) but rather the quality of our
semi-cheap food (shockingly good). There might be no better city to
eat in on a $10 budget."

#5

New Orleans

Restaurants per 10,000 residents: 19.68

Change, 2011-2014: +1.5 percentage points

Nawlins' perennial place on the top dining spots list is testament to
Americans' overall good taste. Home to the muffuletta, red beans and
rice, po boys, beignets, crawfish boils ... you get the idea. Most
anyone who has been to the Big Easy can recount their favorite meal,
who it was with, and the first thing they will (not if, but when) eat
when they return. Again, a coastal city that routinely dominates this
list. No coincidence.

#4

Boston

Restaurants per 10,000 residents: 19.72

Change, 2011-2014: -0.1 percentage point

One of America's oldest cities still has plenty of new tricks for its
diners, who can travel over the same cobblestones Revolutionary War
soldiers trod en route to challenging and fresh dining concepts. We're
willing to forgive this city for the Dunkin Donut-ification of the
East Coast for the breakthroughs Boston area chefs have been sharing
with adventurous restaurant goers.

#3

Seattle

Restaurants per 10,000 residents: 20.36

Change, 2011-2014: +1.8 percentage points

This West Coast culinary and tourist destination in some years tops
Rhode Island for its restaurant concentration. According to longtime
residents, the only dining dilemma facing restaurant goers is which
top-notch eating spot they should patronize. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue
offers Americanized and authentic versions of Chinese, Mexican, Thai,
etc. Due to poor oceanic conditions,  officials are expecting
below-average catches of coho and shinook salmon this year. That might
bump up menu prices a bit.

#2

San Francisco

Restaurants per 10,000 residents: 20.55

Change, 2011-2014: +5.7 percentage points

Yet another coastal area dominates this list nearly every year. The
melting pot nature of the San Francisco-Oakland MSA manifests itself
on the plates of visitors and residents. The Refinery 29 food and
culture blog proclaims 2015 a blockbuster year for new restaurants in
San Fran. This metro area saw the second-biggest gains in its per
capita restaurant rate (nearly 6%), second only to NYC. The
blog writer, Marcia Gagliardi, wonders aloud how the new restaurants
will find the skilled employees they need for operation. That's an
industry-wide concern, but it is particularly acute in
restaurant-intense regions such as San Francisco-Oakland, which has an
exceedingly high cost of living. According to the Bureau of Labor
Statistics, this metro area employed an average of 158,592 workers in
2014 in the category. That's an average number of employees of about 17 per
restaurant.


































































































































































 
# 1

Providence, Rhode Island

Restaurants per 10,000 residents: 20.62

Change, 2011-2014: +3.7 percentage points

This New England culinary stronghold is a perennial on the list of top
U.S. restaurant destinations. The food scene here strongly reflects
the former British colony's royal charter, "A lively experience,"
drawing heavily from local suppliers and venturing into Peruvian
cuisine, Spanish tapas and noodle houses. The Federal Hill dining
district boasts having 20 restaurants in a quarter mile, boosting
Rhode Island's restaurant density further.

















 

The above list has been compiled using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Bureau.

Dave Moore is a freelance writer based in Dallas, Texas.