New York and San Francisco have long been viewed as the meccas the dining world — but now, a few more cities are stepping into the spotlight. If you’re looking to open up a restaurant, consider these up-and-coming locales whose growing economies and diversifying social scenes are putting them on par with either side of the coast.
With a thriving business sector thanks to Amazon and the wealth of seafood and produce available in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is quickly becoming a restaurant hotspot, teeming with youthful people who want to go out multiple times a week. You can’t go wrong with an oyster bar or somewhere that fuses casual and contemporary.
The Mile High City is attracting a lot of attention these days — the legalization of cannabis, the beautiful ski lodges, and the thriving start-up culture that has earned the city the nickname, “Silicon Mountains.” All of these trends have brought in more capital, as well as a social, forward-thinking population. Here’s a city where chefs can experiment with more adventurous dining concepts, without facing the cutthroat competitiveness of a place like New York.
Few cities in America are experiencing the sustained economic boom that is happening in Dallas. Once a city known only for its association with the airline industry, it’s now a cosmopolitan spot with diverse, thriving commerce, and new developments coming up every single day. With each pocket of the city slowly being turned into a trendy dining neighborhood and property costs still relatively stable, it’s the perfect time to open up shop in the Big D.
D.C. has long been the center of government — a gathering place for an intelligent, international crowd. Only recently, it seems, have chefs started to realize the value of this audience as diners — beyond just the power lunch crowd. Top chefs like Daniel Boulud and David Chang have already opened up spots there, with more places earning national renown by the day.
Just two hours from New York City, Philadelphia is like a more laid-back version of the Big Apple — but filled with just as much innovation. With the success of food halls like Reading Terminal Market, chefs like Stephen Starr (with 20+ restaurants in the city), and iconic dishes like the Philly cheesesteak — it’s no secret that this is a place where people love to eat out.
An early leader in the farm-to-table and craft brewing movements, Portland’s rich food culture is only just getting started. Locals and tourists alike are constantly enamored by the city’s abundance of seasonal produce, gorgeous nature vistas, and hip and creative nightlife spots.
Houston’s dining out scene is the perfect marriage of the city’s southern roots with its diverse population. Combine all the media attention that the city has been receiving as of late with its affordable property values, and you’ve got the makings of a great opportunity for chefs to make their mark on the restaurant world.
There’s a reason that Atlanta restaurants continue to win James Beard Awards — the city’s restaurant scene has expanded so much beyond Southern food, churning out food markets (Ponce City Market) and celebrity chefs (Ford Fry) that have all contributed to making it a tourist destination. Make like top restaurateurs Jonathan Waxman and Sean Brock, and strike in Atlanta while the iron is hot.
Durham, North Carolina
This southern city houses more than just sports rivalries. As a thriving college town, Durham is home to a young, cultured, and open-minded community for whom going to a farmers’ market is a weekly ritual. As such, a thriving population of local artisans has taken root in the city, producing the kind of humble, handcrafted food that has come to define Durham. Alongside the restaurant boom, the nightlife scene is also growing, with tons of bars and live music arenas popping up across the city — all frequented by partygoers who want more than just burgers and wings before they go out.
Boston is yet another city that is defined by its educational institutions, meaning its population is constantly rotating, and there are always new people excited and eager to explore the city. And more and more people are choosing Boston as the place to settle down and raise a family, as the city is both very livable and accessible. A few years ago, people overlooked Boston as a dining city, saying that its restaurants didn’t really prioritize innovation; but all of that has changed, particularly in areas like Somerville, where new and novel is the name of the game as far as dining goes.