14 Small Towns in America with Criminally Underrated Food Scenes

Major cities aren’t the only places you find a world-class food scene in America. Here are 14 small towns in the US renowned for their incredible culinary offerings.

When most people think of America’s best foodie destinations, they imagine major cities like New York, New Orleans, Chicago, or Austin. Makes sense, too. From pizzas and bagels to crawfish and BBQ, these are all world-famous foodie hotspots.

However, you don’t have to explore a city to find culinary treasures in America. Tucked away in every state are small places with surprisingly big food scenes. While considerably less known, they pack an outsized punch in terms of what’s on the menu.

In this article, we’re highlighting 14 of the most underrated small-town foodie scenes in the US.

1. Fredericksburg, Texas

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Fredericksburg is “A small town in the Texas Hill Country,” says Margarita Ibbott, Food and Arts Writer at DownshiftingPRO.com, which “will surprise you with its sophisticated and varied food scene. From Texas BBQ at Eaker BBQ to delicious Italian at Alla Campagna to fine dining and signature cocktails at Sage Restaurant and Bar, you will dine well in Fredericksburg.

“There are also ice cream parlors, hipster coffee shops, and even the famed German Otto’s Bistro (with traditional German food and beer). If you like wine, there are more than 60 wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms in the area.”

2. Lewisburg, West Virginia

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Lewisburg came first on USA Today’s list of the best small-town food scenes in America last year. With over 15 locally owned restaurants, it has an impressive range of culinary options.

Whether you want classic Southern fare, artisanal bread, sweet treats, Italian cuisine, or anything else, Lewisburg won’t let you down. High-ranking eateries on TripAdvisor include The French Goat, Stardust Café, The Livery, Food & Friends, and The Humble Tomato.

3. Newberg, Oregon

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Located in Yamhill County, in the heart of Oregon’s wine country, Newberg offers a vibrant small-town food scene renowned for its high-quality, locally sourced ingredients.

Whether you’re looking for fine dining, gourmet pizzas, or bistro bites, expect a diverse selection of options. Highlights include the Bite of Newberg Food Pod, Teeter Totter Sweets and Treats, Rosmarina Osteria Italiana, and the Painted Lady Restaurant.

4. Abingdon, Virginia

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Abingdon is a walkable town in the Blue Ridge Highlands region of the Appalachian Mountains. It has an award-winning culinary scene and more than 30 independent restaurants—not bad for a town of around 8,000 people.

The Tavern, The Peppermill, Rain Restaurant & Bar, Sisters (located at the Martha Washington Inn), and Tumbling Creek Cider Company tap room are a few of its top-rated foodie options.

5. Lancaster, Pennsylvania

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Melanie Allen, founder of Partners in Fire, says Lancaster is “Pretty small and right in the middle of Amish country, but they have an awesome food scene.

“Cabalar has this epic chicken sandwich – a crispy thigh smothered in ranch, dill pickles, and sour cream. It’s so good. The city also has a wide range of ethnic eats, from Nepalese to French and nearly everything in between!”

6. Healdsburg, California

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Located in Sonoma County, about an hour from Napa, Healdsburg has a thriving and fast-growing food scene famous for its farm-to-table offerings. This is the heart of California’s wine country, too, so the town’s culinary options aren’t its only appeal.

An excellent place for people seeking fine dining, you’ll find multiple Michelin-star restaurants, like Single Thread, Valette, and Barndiva. Artisan bakeries, wine bars, burger joints, and many other enviable options are also available.  

7. Mystic, Connecticut

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Mystic is a small waterfront town located a two-hour train ride from Boston. You might know it from the 1988 Julia Roberts rom-com Mystic Pizza. The title comes from the eponymous pizzeria in town, which the movie turned into one of Mystic’s best-known eateries.

However, the town’s culinary claims to fame don’t stop there. You’ll find fresh sourdough doughnuts at Nana’s, delicious lunch options at Rise, fried clams at Sea Swirl, fine dining at S&P Oyster Restaurant and Bar, and so much more.

8. Driftwood, Texas

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Towns don’t get much smaller than Driftwood, which has just 116 residents at the time of writing. Nevertheless, you’ll find a smattering of five-star restaurants here, including famous BBQ joints like the Salt Lick.

When you’ve eaten your fill, you don’t have to travel far to find a winery or brewery to wash it down. There’s also the Desert Door Distillery, where you can try sotol – an earthy spirit made from a desert shrub.

9. Park City, Utah

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Park City is best known for its outdoor pursuits, like skiing and biking, and for the Sundance Film Festival that takes place here yearly. However, there’s a burgeoning food scene there, too.

Expect everything from fine dining and distilleries to laidback coffee shops and upscale breweries. Restaurant highlights include Ruth’s Steak House, the Viking Yurt, Fletcher’s, and Twisted Fern.

10. Oxford, Mississippi

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Sometimes called “The Cultural Mecca of the South,” Oxford is a haven for creatives, history buffs, and foodies alike. The culinary scene in town starts with Chef John Currence – a James Beard award-winning chef whose multiple restaurant offerings helped put Oxford on the map for food fans.

From Southern fare to Asian fusion, there’s a type of cuisine to please every palate. Top Oxford restaurants on TripAdvisor include City Grocery, Snackbar, Big Bad Breakfast, Ajax Diner, and McEwen’s.

11. Lake Chelan, Washington

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Lake Chelan offers dining with a view. This spectacular landscape is almost fjord-like – mountain peaks tower above a narrow glacier-fed lake surrounded by vineyards.

It’s a breathtaking scene, made better by a slew of top-rated wining and dining options. Campbell’s Pub & Veranda, Local Myth Pizza, and the Winemakers Grill are a few highlights to check out if you’re in town.

12. Covington, Louisiana

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A charming downtown area and well-known Arts District have turned Covington one of Louisiana’s best places to live. With over 100 restaurants here, its food scene isn’t bad, either…

You’ll find quality establishments serving everything from seafood, steaks, and sushi to classic Cajun flavors. Noteworthy restaurants include Del Porto Ristorante, Oxlot 9, Gallagher’s Grill, and Lola.

13. Saugatuck, Michigan

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This tiny town of under 900 residents sits on the shores of Lake Michigan, roughly two hours from Chicago. It sounds idyllic – an arty place with beautiful beaches and award-winning wineries and breweries.

Saugatuck’s food scene is full of delights. One reviewer says The Southerner is “Perhaps the best restaurant on the entire west coast of Michigan.” Salt of the Earth, Pennyroyal Café & Provisions, and Saugatuck Brewing are just a few more of its first-class dining options.

14. Cape May, New Jersey

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If you’re ever in New Jersey looking for fresh seafood, check out Cape May. The state’s oldest seaside resort town is famous for it. Expect a vibrant, world-class culinary scene, with a slew of bars, cafes, and restaurants all in close proximity to each other (and the beach!).

A few of the best places to eat in Cape May are Tisha’s Fine Dining, Oyster Bay Steak & Seafood, Peter Shields Inn & Restaurant, and the Ebbitt Room. However, the dining options when you’re there will feel endless.



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Author: Danny Newman

Title: Writer and Content Creator

Expertise: Travel, Digital Nomadry, Outdoors, Blogging

Danny Newman is a writer, content creator, and digital nomad from the UK. He founded the travel and lifestyle blog What’s Danny Doing, a popular resource for people seeking more adventure, self-discovery, and purpose. A nationally syndicated writer, Danny’s work features in dozens of online publications, including MSN.com and news sites across the US.