Best Small Town Food Scene (2019)


Tasty things sometimes come in very small packages. These 10 small towns – each with a population of under 35,000 – have big food scenes with chef-driven restaurants, local flavors and plenty of variety, especially given their small size.

  • Abingdon


    While Abingdon is perhaps best known for its performing and visual arts, its culinary scene is equally creative. Local chefs draw inspiration from the area’s farming heritage as they craft an eclectic mix of cuisines. Satisfy a sweet tooth at 149 Sweets, sample some smokey barbecue at Bone Fire Smokehouse, enjoy afternoon tea at Camella’s or dine on raw plant-based dishes at Chef Jennifer’s Raw Life Giving Cuisine.
    Photo courtesy of Jason Barnette / Abingdon Convention & Visitors Bureau

  • Thibodaux


    The town of Thibodaux, situated in Southeast Louisiana’s Bayou Country, is an excellent jumping off point for exploring local flavors on the state’s Cajun Bayou Food Trail. Sample poboys and gumbo from Bubba’s II Poboys, seafood from Spahr’s Downtown, fresh boudin from Bourgeois Meat Market or upscale American fare from Fremin’s.
    Photo courtesy of Lydia Schrandt

  • Traverse City

    Traverse City

    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 iStock / CT757fan

  • Madison


    The small town of Madison packs a big culinary punch with more than 20 restaurants in the downtown area alone. There’s a little bit of everything, from sliders and pizza to seafood and seasonal fare.
    Photo courtesy of Rdikeman / Wikimedia Commons

  • Orange Beach

    Orange Beach

    The sugar white sand beaches aren’t the only draw in coastal Orange Beach, Alabama. A lineup of creative chefs have taken inspiration from the Gulf of Mexico bounty, including three-time James Beard nominee Chef Bill Briand with his upscale Fisher’s Upstairs. Anchor bar serves up seafood-centric bar fare (think fried oysters and seared sea scallops) while The Gulf pairs stellar views with a mean grouper sandwich.
    Photo courtesy of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism

  • Yountville


    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 Visit California

  • Manayunk


    Manayunk, a National Historic District near Philadelphia, offers nearly 50 dining options in its canal-side setting. Find a bit of everything, including burgers at Lucky’s Last Chance, breakfast at Greg’s Kitchen, Korean Caribbean fusion at The Spicy Belly and Middle Eastern specialties at Smiley’s Cafe.

  • Whitefish


    While best known for its menu of outdoor adventures, the small town of Whitefish knows how to satisfy big appetites as well. Four-time James Beard nominee Chef Andy Blanton takes the helm at Cafe Kandahar, known for its modern, seasonal cuisine, while Chef David Lewis cooks up “Mountain Mexican” at Pescado Blanco. Find breakfast and American comfort food at Loula’s, Mediterranean flavors at Latitude 48, Cajun fare at Tupelo Grille and pit BBQ at Piggyback.
    Photo courtesy of Brian Schott/ Explore Whitefish

  • Fredericksburg


    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

  • Frankenmuth


    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 Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce

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

  1. Abingdon, Virginia
  2. Thibodaux, Louisiana
  3. Traverse City, Michigan
  4. Madison, Indiana
  5. Orange Beach, Alabama
  6. Yountville, California
  7. Manayunk, Pennsylvania
  8. Whitefish, Montana
  9. Fredericksburg, Texas
  10. Frankenmuth, Michigan

A panel of experts (listed below) partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote.

Congratulations to all these winning small towns!

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Marla Cimini

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