In advance of World Food Day on Sunday, personal finance website WalletHub has unveiled its survey of 2016's Best and Worst Foodie Cities. In short, Florida dominated, nabbing three out of the top 10. Orlando weighed it at No. 1, and Miami came in third, with Tampa nipping at its heels in fourth place.
Tampa beat out next-best San Francisco, a city nearly synonymous with fancy restaurants and celebrity chefs. And Tampa won for the city proper, with no assist from booming St. Petersburg or environs. So what gives? How did we win?
WalletHub had a team of six analysts who, working in conjunction with academic experts and using census data, spent a month crunching numbers. They compared the 150 most populated cities in the United States across two key dimensions: affordability and quality (this latter category included diversity and accessibility). Using 21 relevant metrics — from cost of groceries to number of food festivals or coffee or tea shops per capita — they gave each metric a corresponding weight, grading each on a 100-point scale, then calculated overall scores using the weighted average across all metrics and constructed a final ranking based on the results.
Whew, it's starting to sound complicated, but here's what they thought of Tampa: It scored tops for food tax (we have none), and tops again for number of craft breweries. We ranked very respectably for number of food trucks and grocery stores per 100,000 residents, and held our own when it came to number of ice cream shops or specialty food stores.
Florida cities may have an advantage, said WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez, because of that affordability-to-quality ratio: "Orlando, Miami and Tampa ranked very high when it comes to diversity, accessibility and quality, and all three cities are fairly affordable, making them great places for foodies' wallets."
So while Laredo, Texas, has the lowest grocery cost index; Santa Rosa, Calif., has the highest ratio of full-service restaurants to fast-food establishments; and Cincinnati has the most grocery stores per 100,000 residents, Tampa still wiped the floor with them and improved upon its 2015 ranking (this is the third year WalletHub has done this). Last year, Orlando ranked second, Miami ranked tenth and Tampa ranked eighth. And with the year we're having, Orlando better not get too comfy as the top banana.
Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.