Foodies, take note: For your next dining adventure skip the big-name — and super-pricey — restaurants in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. A new survey says some of the best places to find good eats are midsize cities and small towns across America.

RewardExpert, a company that helps travelers maximize their mileage and points for travel, set out to find top culinary hubs across the country outside of the go-to dining meccas. They tracked 100 cities and towns with populations less than 100,000 and ranked them according to nine key metrics, including number of award-winning chefs, number of restaurants with four or more stars per capita, Yelp reviews and even the number of food festivals. They tasted nothing. The result of all this number crunching: The 2017 Best American Foodie Towns

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There are some surprises in the list. In the Midwest, Michigan logs two of the top five ranked food towns — Traverse City and Hamtramck — with the latter boasting noteworthy Polish cuisine. Burlington, Vt., comes in first in the Northeast with 40 restaurants ranked with a five-star rating on Yelp. Topnotch Southwestern fare helps Santa Fe lasso the top spot in the Mountain West, while classic Southern cooking like the kind at Dreamland Bar-B-Que gives Tuscaloosa, Ala., a boost. And the big overall winner: Asheville, N.C., with a mixture of fine dining, brewpubs and barbecue.

Aerial view of Asheville, NC

Sitting in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is the largest city in western North Carolina. In addition to the culinary choices, the city has 30-plus art galleries and a thriving live music scene.

Sean Pavone/iStockphoto
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So why would top chefs choose to locate their restaurants far from the bright lights of a big city? According to Roxanne Webber, VP of media for ChefsFeed, it comes down to costs. “Many chefs we work with are finding more flexibility to be creative and space to grow in the smaller cities where real estate is more affordable,” she says, noting, “local food communities are thriving with great farmers markets [and] local producers.”  

Ladies and gentlemen: Pack those bags, and start your eating.

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