Back to School: OpenTable Reveals 25 Best College Towns for Foodies 2019

best college towns for foodies

With fall and the start of school on the horizon, OpenTable is pleased to reveal the 25 best college towns for foodies 2019*. Whether you’re a parent, a student (aspiring or enrolled), or you’re just looking for a delicious excuse to visit your favorite co-ed this year, let this list be your guide to the cities that have the top spots for hungry undergrads and their dining companions.

1. New York, New York

It’s no secret that the greater New York area is home to some of the world’s best dining – which works out well for attendees of schools like New York University, Columbia, and neighboring Princeton. It’s got a whopping 983 restaurants, such as produce palace Loring Place from veggie-loving chef Dan Kluger, deemed Fit for Foodies (and it’s thisclose to NYU’s Greenwich Village campus).

2. Chicago, Illinois

The Windy City boasts top schools like Northwestern, the University of Chicago, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the city and its ‘burbs have established and hot dining destinations, like chef Dave Park and Jennifer Tran’s imaginative contemporary Korean newbie hit Jeong, among its 362 foodie-friendly restaurants.

3. Washington, D.C.

Politicos aren’t the only ones who like to eat well. Attendees of Georgetown, Howard University, and The George Washington University have easy access to restaurants serving creative cuisine, like Victor Albisu’s Poca Madre, which specializes in flavor-bomb upscale Mexican and is one of 258 top spots.

4. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Students at colleges including University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State-University Park, and Villanova and their in- and out-of-town guests have an array of cutting-edge eateries from which to choose. There’s ingredient-driven Serpico from namesake chef Peter Serpico and James Beard Award-winning restaurateur Stephen Starr, and 222 additional places fitting the bill.

5. Boston, Massachusetts

The Cradle of Liberty is also the cradle to some of the nation’s greatest dining, like chef-partner Tony Messina’s revered Japanese fusion seafood spot Uni, with 206 restaurants serving avid eaters at Boston College, Boston University, and the University of Massachusetts.

6. Los Angeles, California

Out-of-state students alike may come here a stellar education (and perhaps a bit of sunshine) at UCLA, the University of Southern California, and Pepperdine, but they also know they can enjoy fresh fare across a melting pot of cuisines that delight foodies, such as Nancy Silverton’s Michelin-starred Osteria Mozza, which is one of 181 restaurants on the list, and features a greatest hits menu Angelenos can recite by heart.

7. Atlanta, Georgia

To fuel up after studying, attendees at Emory, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Georgia can put some south in their mouths at 181 foodie-approved establishments, like The Optimist from popular chef-restaurateur Ford Fry, which serves fresh seafood and a killer lobster roll that is already legendary.

8. Houston, Texas

Houston students at Rice University, University of Houston, and Houston Baptist University, you have a problem when it comes to discovering terrific eats, thanks to places like Weights and Measures, a casual bar, bakery, and restaurant from chefs Richard Kaplan and Fernando Rios that was one of Houston Chronicle’s 100 best restaurants in 2018 (#18!) that serves American and Italian dishes; Scratch that; perhaps you do: there are an impressive 174 other restaurants designated as fit for foodies from which to choose.

9. Seattle, Washington

UDub (a.k.a. the University of Washington) and neighboring colleges Seattle University and Seattle Pacific are all hot higher-education magnets. However, with 174 restaurants deemed fit for foodies, such as executive chef Stuart Lane’s new-ish Spinasse, which has quickly become a house of worship for pasta lovers of all denominations, we like to think students come to this city to satisfy their appetites for crave-able cuisine.

10. Dallas, Texas

You may think steak when you think Dallas and you wouldn’t be wrong. We’re sure attendees at Southern Methodist, Dallas Baptist University, and the University of Dallas regularly dig into all the meats. But there are spots aplenty (157, to be precise) that serve something different to satisfy hardcore foodies, like Uchi, the ultra-hot contemporary Japanese foodie magnet that showcases chef Tyson Cole’s signature plates plus an inventive menu from chef de cuisine Alex Astranti that changes four times a year.

11. Austin, Texas

There are 119 restaurants that keep Austin weirdly delicious, including farm-to-table destination Hillside Farmacy (Get it?) that also includes a specialty grocery. The studious crowds at University of Texas-Austin, St. Edward’s University, and Texas State can tuck into amazing eats made for the ‘gram from chef Sonya Coté at this casual converted pharmacy – or pick from one of the other 118 that fit the bill.

12. New Orleans, Louisiana

File this one under “Obviously.” The Big Easy boasts 118 spots that cater to foodies at Tulane University, University of New Orleans, and Loyola University (and non-students, of course). For instance, the remarkable Compère Lapin from James Beard Award-winning chef Nina Compton serves up fare that effortlessly yet surprisingly melds Caribbean, Creole, French, and Italian cuisines and lets the good times roll (even during finals!).

13. Nashville, Tennessee

Ninety-nine fit for foodies restaurants — and Henrietta Red is one! With Vanderbilt University, Belmont University, and Welch College in its backyard, Nashville has nearly 100 places to delight diners. Henrietta Red, from Nashville native chef Julia Sullivan and multi-hyphenate business partner Allie Pointdexter, features a wood-fired stove that imbues market-fresh ingredients with homey flavors.

14. Baltimore, Maryland

Want to know where the brilliant minds at Johns Hopkins, Loyola University, and Mount St. Mary’s go to feed their brains and souls? There are 90 fit for foodies establishments in Charm City. The Food Market, which could (and should!) be called The Foodies Market, offers “fine eating and pleasurable service” from chef Chad Gauss and has earned numerous awards from OpenTable diners.

15. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

With 70 eateries designated, Steel Town is the place to steal away if you or your anticipated visitors to Carnegie Mellon, University of Pittsburgh, and Washington and Jefferson College are discerning diners. Chef Eli Wahl is behind the burner at ELEVEN in the city’s Strip District, serving seasonally driven dishes high (think nightly tasting menus) and low (chill bar fare).

16. St. Louis, Missouri

Enrollees at Washington University, Webster, and Blackburn College will find 56 reasons to embrace the freshman (and beyond) 15, thanks to restaurants like The Crossing. This Gateway-to-the-West restaurant owned by exec chef Jim Fiala offers French and/or Italian cuisine based on available carefully and locally sourced ingredients – and that is part of the thrill for foodies.

17. Columbus, Ohio

Fifty-six restaurants, including Service Bar, are at foodies’ service in the capital of Ohio. Ohio State University-Columbus and Columbus School of Art & Design students can count on these spots to entice visitors to the Buckeye State. Service Bar, run by chef Avishar Barua, who has cooked at some of Manhattan’s most revered spots, delivers the boldness of Bangladeshi flavors married with the best of the Midwest bounty.

18. Cleveland, Ohio

Case Western Reserve University and Oberlin can tout a city of 47 restaurants that are fit for foodies, including hometown hero Jonathon Sawyer’s The Greenhouse Tavern. At the forefront of the Rust Belt culinary revolution, Greenhouse’s team, helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef Sawyer, charms diners with comforting menus that have a decidedly global flair.

19. Cambridge, Massachusetts

Getting into Harvard or M.I.T. isn’t easy, but being a foodie in this city across from Boston on the Charles River is. There are 45 restaurants that measure up, including the beloved Craigie on Main. A winner of Boston Magazine’s 2019 Best of Boston “Best Restaurant, General Excellence” award, it and its local, seasonal, French-accented menu by chef-owner Tony Maws is truly an excellent adventure.

20. Pasadena, California

That little old lady from Pasadena was prescient when she settled in this city northeast of Los Angeles, and so are the people who attend California Institute of Technology and other colleges here, if they’re into good eating. This quaint locale has 37 restaurants that are fit for foodies, like Union. A true gem specializing in Northern Italian specialties, the intimate Union in Old Town from owner Marie Petulla and executive chef Chris Keyser brings you deceptively simple yet deeply flavorful fare.

21. Durham, North Carolina

Whether you’re a fan of the Blue Devils or not, you’ll be bedeviled by the sublime sushi at M Sushi, just a stone’s throw from Duke University and its beloved (or not, depending on where you went to school) basketball team. This more-than-a-college town has 35 fit for foodies restaurants, including the aforementioned M Sushi from chef Mike Lee, a Seoul native, who serves ultra-seasonal, traditional Japanese cuisine with Peruvian and Spanish influences.

22. Providence, Rhode Island

The in(telligent) crowd at Brown University, Providence College, and Johnson & Wales know what you haven’t yet discovered: Providence is a foodie’s paradise. This city of fewer than 200,000 people has 34 restaurants made for foodies. The city is renowned for its seafood spots with both a New England and Mediterranean twist, and Circe Restaurant & Bar, operated by owner Carlo Carlozzi and executive chef Simon Keating, is one of the reasons for that.

23. Santa Barbara, California

This not-so-sleepy Cali city dubbed the American Riviera is home to University of California-Santa Barbara and 31 places to dine that will be a hit with any foodie, including Barbareño. With a menu highlighting the flavors of the Central Coast from executive chef Julian Martinez and chef de cuisine Preston Knox, this restaurant alone is enough to make anyone want to matriculate at UCSB.

24. Berkeley, California

Guess who’s coming to dinner if you go to University of California-Berkeley? Your power-diner parents! With 26 restaurants right for foodies, you can practically hit up a new spot every weekend of the school year. Start at executive chef-owner Wendy Brucker and wine director-owner Roscoe Skipper’s Corso Ristorante, a Michelin Bib Gourmand honoree, that serves light and airy pastas that are just as light and airy as the space.

25. Charlottesville, Virginia

Sure, a big draw for visitors to Charlottesville is Monticello as is the Thomas Jefferson-designed campus at the University of Virginia. Afterward, though, foodies can fuel up at 25 restaurants in this historical city, like Ten. A heavenly sushi spot serving modern Japanese-style tapas under the direction of chef J. Pei Chang, Ten has an impressive sake list — the perfect elixirs for parents who are worried about your G.P.A.

*Methodology:
OpenTable’s list of the 25 Best College Towns for Foodies for 2019 in the U.S. is generated solely from diner reviews collected between January 1, 2018, and December 31, 2018. Restaurants that meet a minimum number of reservations tagged with “foodie” in the review is considered a foodie restaurant. The college towns in this list are the “home towns” of the universities featured in U.S. News and World Report’s National University Rankings. These were then sorted in descending order based on their total number of “foodie” restaurants. The top 25 were selected for this year’s list.

Let us know if you’ve dined in any of the best college towns for foodies 2019 honorees here in the comments or over on FacebookInstagramPinterest, or Twitter. And, remember to snap + share your #dishpics with us on Instagram for a chance to win in our weekly giveaway.