Best Small Town Food Scene (2016)


Tasty things sometimes come in very small packages! These 10 small towns – each with a population of under 25,000 and each voted to the top by 10Best and USA TODAY readers – have big food scenes with chef-driven restaurants, local flavors and plenty of variety, especially given their small size.

  • Frankenmuth, Mich.

    Frankenmuth, Mich.

    Frankenmuth's German heritage is evidenced in its cuisine, but the culinary scene here goes far beyond Bavarian. The town boasts Michigan's oldest brewery and winery (Frankenmuth Brewery and St. Julian Wine Company), as well as a wine bar (Prost Wine Bar & Charcuterie) and a cocktail bar and pizzeria (Tiffany's Food & Spirits). Willis Sausage Company makes more than 100 varieties, and the Frankenmuth Fudge Kitchen is on hand to satisfy a sweet tooth.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Driftwood, Texas

    Driftwood, Texas

    Driftwood, a little town outside of Austin, is famous for serving some of the best barbecue in Texas at The Salt Lick. Smoked meats aside, this small town also has Texas comfort food at Hays City Store, baked goods at Rolling in Thyme and Dough and Italian at Trattoria Lisina, as well as food and wine at a few area wineries.
    Photo courtesy of Anthony Quintano / Flickr

  • Portsmouth, N.H.

    Portsmouth, N.H.

    Chefs from near and far have been coming to the shores of coastal Portsmouth, fueling a flavor-filled food revolution in the small town. Moxy, with James Beard semifinalist Matt Louis at the helm, features New American with local New England ingredients. Chef Gregg Sessler oversees the top notch tapas menu at nearby Cava.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Yountville, Calif.

    Yountville, Calif.

    Think Yountville, and three words come to mind: The French Laundry. The self-proclaimed "Culinary Capital of Napa Valley" has plenty of other worthy eating establishments; in fact, the tiny village has more Michelin stars per capita than any other place in North America. With options like Ad Hoc, Bouchon, Bottega and Bistro Jeanty, it's hard to go wrong!
    Photo courtesy of Yountville

  • St. Helena, Calif.

    St. Helena, Calif.

    Meadowood, Auberge Du Soleil, Harvest Table, The Culinary Institute of America – the list of food offerings in little St. Helena reads like a who's who of great American cooking. Located in the heart of Napa Wine Country, the stellar food menus are easily matched in quality by wine lists.
    Photo courtesy of Bob McClenahan Photography

  • Traverse City, Mich.

    Traverse City, Mich.

    Known first and foremost for its beautiful freshwater beaches, Traverse City on the shores of Lake Michigan enjoys a buzzing food scene, spurred on in part by the presence of summer resident Mario Batali. Morel mushrooms grow in the area woods, and local chefs pair them with everything from local fish to farm-fresh eggs. Top dining options include Trattoria Stella by James Beard semifinalist Myles Anton, Filling Station Microwbrewery and Harvest, a food truck-turned-brick and mortar eatery specializing in fresh, local flavors.
    Photo courtesy of John L. Russell

  • Tarpon Springs, Fla.

    Tarpon Springs, Fla.

    Besides seafood (it is on the Florida coast after all), the town of Tarpon Springs is renowned for its excellent Greek cuisine, served up at restaurants like Hellas Restaurant and Dimitri's on the Water. For seafood, Tarpon Tavern reigns supreme with dishes like crab cake pops, fish & chips and mahi mahi fish tacos.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Hendersonville, N.C.

    Hendersonville, N.C.

    Hendersonville, once little more than a quiet retirement community, has a burgeoning food scene to rival nearby Asheville. Locals and visitors dine on wood-fired pizza at West First or New American at Postero. Outdoor dining is the norm along pedestrian-friendly Main Street.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Naples, Fla.

    Naples, Fla.

    Gourmet chefs abound in Naples, where the culinary scene is dominated by seafood and Italian. Sicily-born Chef Vincenzo Betulia's creations at Osteria Tulia are as good as they come, while small plates are the name of the game at Sea Salt, a restaurant by Venice-born Fabrizio Aielli and partner Chef Jason Goddard. Besides Italian, you will find everything from French to Persian cuisine in the Naples area.
    Photo courtesy of JoNell Modys / © Naples Marco Island Everglades CVB

  • Fredericksburg, Texas

    Fredericksburg, Texas

    Located in the heart of Texas Hill Country and one of the South's top wine regions, Fredericksburg enjoys a stellar dining scene for a town of its size. Besides area wineries, the town is home to more than 70 restaurants and bakeries, including China Café, a restaurant by James Beard finalist Peter Chang, and Farm Haus Bistro, a restaurant set in a historic rock house at the Fredericksburg Herb Garden.
    Photo courtesy of TravelTex

The top 10 winners in the category Best Small Town Food Scene are as follows:

  1. Frankenmuth, Mich.
  2. Driftwood, Texas
  3. Portsmouth, N.H.
  4. Yountville, Calif.
  5. St. Helena, Calif.
  6. Traverse City, Mich.
  7. Tarpon Springs, Fla.
  8. Hendersonville, N.C.
  9. Naples, Fla.
  10. Fredericksburg, Texas

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Larry Bleiberg (, Deborah Fallows (American Futures), Anna Hider (Roadtrippers), Libby McMillan and the 10Best team of Local Experts were chosen based on their extensive knowledge of American travel.

Other nominated towns included Aspen, Colo.; Carrboro, N.C.; Cooperstown, N.Y.; Great Barrington, Mass.; Healdsburg, Calif.; Islamorada, Fla.; Marfa, Texas; Ojai, Calif.; Tarrytown, N.Y. and Woodinville, Wash.

Congratulations to all our winning small towns! Keep this list handy next time you're in the mood for a food-centric road trip!

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Larry Bleiberg

Larry Bleiberg

Larry Bleiberg

Deborah Fallows

Deborah Fallows

Deborah Fallows

Anna Hider

Anna Hider

Anna Hider

Libby McMillan

Libby McMillan

Libby McMillan

10Best Local Experts

10Best Local Experts

10Best Local Experts