There’s nothing better than heading to your favorite local restaurant over the weekend, where the servers know your usual and you recognize regulars on the spot.
A local restaurant can bring both charm and good eats to your city, whether it’s an award-winning chef or comfort food from a mom and pop diner.
There are more than one million restaurant locations in the U.S. But when you want a special meal, you want to eat good food, support local talent and skip the chain restaurant that brings nothing new to the table.
Determining the best cities for local restaurants
We looked across the country for the best cities for local restaurants and ranked them below. Our ratings are based on the percentage of restaurants in any given city that are not chains — which makes them locally owned and operated businesses.
If you’re looking for local flavor, you might want to head to the San Francisco Bay Area or New England. Keep on reading for the good, local eats.
10. Philadelphia, PA
- Percentage of non-chain restaurants: 88.2%
- Non-chain restaurants per capita (10k people): 21.74
- Non-chain restaurants per square mile: 25.67
Philadelphia‘s food scene is so famous that it even has an iconic sandwich named after it — Philly cheesesteaks. But it also made it into the Netflix show “Chef’s Table,” with delicious Mexican tacos from South Philly Barbacoa. The city has 88.2 percent non-chain restaurants, with many of them housed inside the Reading Terminal Market.
Stop by the Tommy DiNic’s stall for a delicious roast pork roll, actually named the best sandwich in the whole country by the Travel Channel. You can be near this by renting a one-bedroom apartment for $2,146 per month on average.
9. Oakland, CA
- Percentage of non-chain restaurants: 88.3%
- Non-chain restaurants per capita (10k people): 19.68
- Non-chain restaurants per square mile: 15.27
Here’s something you may not know, Oakland is packed with fried chicken spots. Grab a crispy buttermilk chicken at Bakesale Betty or munch on a garlic-marinated double-fried chicken from Hawking Bird. The 78-square-mile city may pack high prices when it comes to renting, but you can have an excellent, affordable meal within most non-chain restaurants in the city.
You can find food with roots from Cambodian, Middle Eastern, Korean and more. Support local as there are many options within the 19.68 non-chain restaurants per 10,000 residents. You can find a one-bedroom for $3,371 per month on average.
8. New Haven, CT
- Percentage of non-chain restaurants: 90.3%
- Non-chain restaurants per capita (10k people): 30.02
- Non-chain restaurants per square mile: 13.66
Besides Yale University, New Haven offers some exciting farm-to-table options within its dining scene. With 90.3 percent non-chain restaurants within its city limits, you have many chances to support small businesses and their local chefs. You can stick to the dining institutions like Italian spot L’Orcio and Mamoun’s Falafel Restaurant or experience seasonal restaurant ZINC with Asian inspirations.
Don’t forget you’re also close to the water, so oysters and lobster rolls should be at the top of your list. This college town is truly dreamy during the fall season, and you can experience it all with a one-bedroom apartment for $2,058 per month on average.
7. Seattle, WA
- Percentage of non-chain restaurants: 90.4%
- Non-chain restaurants per capita (10k people): 28.57
- Non-chain restaurants per square mile: 25.65
With a jaw-dropping 28.57 non-chain restaurants per 10,000 residents, Seattle has a lot of local flavors to offer. But at the top of your list? Seafood. The Emerald City’s coast provides local restaurants and markets with some of the freshest catches — from salmon to shrimp. Don’t miss some world-class sushi at Machiko and oysters with a view at Elliott’s Oyster House.
You can rent a one-bedroom apartment for $2,534 per month on average and spend the weekends at Pike Place Market. It sounds like a win-win to us!
6. New York, NY
- Percentage of non-chain restaurants: 90.9%
- Non-chain restaurants per capita (10k people): 8.35
- Non-chain restaurants per square mile: 23.01
Whether you’re up in Chinatown, Little Italy or the East Village, it’s genuinely a challenge to pick just one place to eat New York. Nearly 91 percent of restaurants in the Big Apple are non-chain restaurants. It almost makes you wish there were more hours in one day. Grab your jacket and head down to East Village and grab brunch at 24-hour Ukrainian dinner Veselka or Moroccan family-owned spot Café Mogador.
While New York is infamous for its high rents, you can find a one-bedroom for $4,333 on average per month.
5. Cambridge, MA
- Percentage of non-chain restaurants: 91.1%
- Non-chain restaurants per capita (10k people): 31.70
- Non-chain restaurants per square mile: 11.64
In Cambridge, you can find Harvard University and James Beard-winning cuisine among its streets. BISq specializes in small plates, and it’s a local favorite near campus. Pick up a fresh-caught lobster snack at Alive & Kicking. Just don’t call them lobster rolls — they’re sandwiches. The pedestrian-friendly areas are booming with small local restaurants and bars that will capture your attention — 91.1 percent are non-chain restaurants.
You can rent a one-bedroom apartment for $3,116 a month on average, and you can be a few minutes to the beautiful eastern coast. What’s not to love?
4. Stamford, CT
- Percentage of non-chain restaurants: 91.7%
- Non-chain restaurants per capita (10k people): 28.23
- Non-chain restaurants per square mile: 19.88
Sure, you can find an Outback near Stamford (who doesn’t love a blooming onion), but with nearly 92 percent of restaurants in the city being a non-chain, you can also support local. This small town is close to New York as it has quick access to a commuter rail line into the state. Brasitas’ Stamford location offers Latin-inspired dishes and fresh ingredients like those in the ceviche.
Or if you’re in the mood for dry-aged steaks, hop over to Capital Grille for one big one and a selection of 350+ wines. These are just two of the 28.23 non-chain restaurants per 10,000 residents. You can rent a one-bedroom for $2,317 per month on average.
3. Bridgeport, CT
- Percentage of non-chain restaurants: 92.5%
- Non-chain restaurants per capita (10k people): 24.93
- Non-chain restaurants per square mile: 7.45
The historic seaport city of Bridgeport is one of the largest cities in the state. It has beautiful green parks around the city, paired with water views from the port. It’s a genuinely dreamy location. You can get a one-bedroom apartment for an affordable $1,394 per month on average if you’re not convinced yet.
Bridgeport has 24.93 non-chain restaurants per 100,000 residents, so you’ll have plenty to explore in town every time hunger strikes. While seafood reigns here, you can also find a good ol’ burger at Joseph’s Steakhouse, American fare at family-owned Walrus + Carpenter and tapas at Ola Restaurant.
2. Berkeley, CA
- Percentage of non-chain restaurants: 92.7%
- Non-chain restaurants per capita (10k people): 32.63
- Non-chain restaurants per square mile: 22.56
Downtown Berkeley is the cultural hub of the city. You can see a movie, go to a concert or see an intimate play at the Aurora Theatre Company. It’s easy to pair your night with good eats. The Butcher’s Son caters to vegan eaters with its faux-meat selection, one of the most popular in the area. Salvadorean restaurant Platano has some of the best cheesy pupusas on the menu. Wash it all down with a matcha drink at Asha Tea House or an alcoholic drink at Tupper & Reed.
Thinking of heading there? You can rent a one-bedroom for $2,285 per month on average. You’ll have your pick as 92.7 percent of local restaurants are non-chain.
1. San Francisco, CA
- Percentage of non-chain restaurants: 94.2%
- Non-chain restaurants per capita (10k people): 35.73
- Non-chain restaurants per square mile: 10.58
San Francisco has so much food to offer with chefs from different backgrounds and major Asian influences across their cuisine. It’s no wonder it’s our No. 1 city for local restaurants, with a whopping 35.73 non-chain restaurants per 10,000 residents.
First, there’s Chinatown, where you can find various approaches to familiar or new-to-you dishes. Don’t the salt-and-pepper squid at Yuet Lee Seafood Restaurant and dim sum at the mainstay Dim Sum Bistro.
In other neighborhoods, you can find different cuisines such as Burmese dining at Mandalay and Sardinian pasta at La Ciccia. There’s no doubt your palate will get satisfied in San Francisco.
You visit the Golden Gate Bridge on the weekends when you rent one of the city’s one-bedrooms — they cost $4,407 per month on average.
Top 50 cities for local restaurants
Thinking of a road trip to check out some local good eats and get to know the regional cuisine? You’re in luck. Here’s an overview of the top 50 cities for local restaurants.
Cities with the most chain restaurants
What if we turn the tables? These 10 cities are teaming with chain restaurants, from fast food to table service chains.
To determine the best foodie cities, we looked at all cities in the country with more than 100,000 people according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 estimates and then used a database of 8 million commercially licensed business listings to find the total number of restaurants in each area.
We ranked each city by its percentage of non-chain restaurants (local establishments). These listings may not reflect recent business closures.
Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments. Data was pulled in August 2020 and goes back for one year. We use a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.