Travel to most city websites around the net and you’ll be surprised by how many purport to have more restaurants per capita than anywhere else. This is claimed by San Francisco; Madison, Wisconsin; Washington DC; and Shreveport, Louisiana. At least Canadian cities stake the same claim.
So which cities do have a legitimate claim to the title of “Most Restaurants Per Capita?” The National Restaurant Association (NRA) does publish a list of restaurants per capita per state. According to the Association, California has by far the most restaurants with a staggering 87,225 dining establishments. New York State comes in at a paltry 58,027. The top five is rounded out by Texas (53,631), Florida (41,901) Pennsylvania (31,466).
In terms of per capita per state, Washington DC tops the list according to NRA. The US capital region boosts some 0.4 restaurants per 100 people. Second is, surprisingly, Montana at .354 restaurants per 100 people. Rounding out the NRA’s top five are Rhode Island (0.304 per 100) Vermont (.303 per 100) New York (.301 per 100). If you are a little hungry you might want avoid the three states with the fewest restaurants Mississippi, Kentucky and Utah.
In terms of North American cities, it is a little harder to ascertain who can claim the title of city with most restaurants per capita.
Here are ten cities with more than 100,000 people that have made the claim. But who has the real claim? Who offers the cuisine searcher or just plain hungry shopper the most choice? Who can claim the title of The Restaurant City.
The city of San Francisco is a city of 744,230 people and claims to have 2,662 restaurants within the city boundaries. There is no doubt that the standard of restaurants in the city of the bay is exceptional. If you just include San Francisco properly your density is 279 people per restaurant. But because costs of housing the number of people living in the city proper has declined while the number of businesses including restaurants, San Francisco is a distorted number. If you count the metro area, the number of restaurants climbs to 4,300 restaurants (we won’t include hundreds more in the nearby wine country of Napa and Sonoma). If you consider the metro area population of 7,168,176 and divide by 4,300 you get a per capita density of 1,667 people per restaurant.
Winnipeg is a city on the edge of the Canadian prairies that boasts a broad cross section of immigrant communities all of whom have their local ethnic cuisines. If you want French toast for breakfast, perogies and sauerkraut for lunch , and Vietnamese imperial rolls for dinner then this is the place to come. This city regularly claims to have more restaurants per capita than any other city. Some websites claim the city has 900 restaurants but in reality there are just 478. With a population of 619,544 Winnipeg can claim only one restaurant per 1,296 snow-bound Canadian.
Victoria. This city on Vancouver Island and capital city of British Columbia, Canada regularly makes the claim that it has the “second highest number of restaurants per capita,” which is perhaps clever psychology as the city has never indicted which is top. With a population of 335,000 the city claims to have 265 Italian, French, Greek, East Indian, Vegetarian, German, Dutch, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai eateries. That means Victoria has a restaurant per 1,264 people. But with its spectacular location halfway between Vancouver and Seattle, you’d hardly care if its claim is a little off.
In New York City no one cooks at home and by the time you’ve heard of a restaurant it has probably closed. Restaurants open and close with alarming alacrity in the Big Apple. On average, the city of New York can claim 6,650 dining places from the chic Lespinasse to the greasiest corner diner — the most restaurants in any one place on the continent. Yet with 8,168,338 people, New York can only claim to have 1, 228 people per restaurant. It might seem that every second building in New York is a restaurant but they have to cater to a lot of vertically housed residents. That explains why it is hard to find a table some nights.
The one Canadian city that can make a great claim to have the most restaurants per capita is Montreal in the province of Quebec. With just over 5,000 restaurants in the metro island area, is appears there are at least one restaurant on every street corner. With its diverse immigrant population and French majority, the city has every type of cuisine available from Lebanese to continental French to native Canadian. Some 3,720,000 Quebecois live in the metro area making Montreal the second largest French speaking city in the world. Giving it a restaurant per capita number of 744.
When you leave Austin you enter Texas so the saying goes. This funky city in central Texas has 1,088 eating places to enhance its reputation as Music City USA. That list includes 128 establishments in or around the University of Texas alone. Austin’s burgeoning population is currently 690, 252 making their people to restaurant ratio 634.
Louisville, home to the Kentucky Derby, is a small city of just over half a million people. Pap John’s Pizza and Yum Brands, the parent company of A&W, KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, both make Louisville their corporate home so it is not surprising that that this city on the Ohio River has 1,089 restaurants. That makes for 510 people per restaurant.
Madison owns the rights to the title of “city with the most restaurants per capita” and the capital makes the claim throughout its literature. However, pining down the actual number of restaurants is pretty hard. The best list available points to 437 restaurants that caters to 221,551 people in the Wisconsin city. But that makes for only 506 people for each restaurant. Good for only third on this list.
Wichita, Kansas is not usually a city that leaps to mind when one thinks of cuisine. But with an ethnically diverse work force, the largest city in Kansas has a reputation for cultural diversity and is located in the breadbasket of America. The 739 restaurants in town have only to cater to 360, 715 people. That translates into 488 people per restaurant, good for second on our list.