Portland on CNBC

Monday, Feb 07, 2011

Rabelais gets a heads up as CNBC declares Portland one of America's best food cities, and with an interesting formula too (check it out in the article).

A city's food appeal is not just measured by fine dining or Michelin stars; you have to also consider the everyday eating experiences. Is there a unique regional cuisine? Have ethnic enclaves left edible legacies on the area's tables? The availability of fresh local produce, meats and seafood are other major considerations.

In such discussions, certain major cities such as New York and New Orleans tend to be named, but Sperlings Best Places crunched numbers, using the following city data: ratio of local restaurants to chain restaurants, number of Whole Foods and cooking stores, number of wine shops, wine bars, craft breweries, and brew pubs; and the number of CSA (community supported agriculture) farms and local farmers markets. (Note: given populations are for metro areas.)

The result is a top ten that isn't dominated by the usual suspects. To see the top picks, including more than a few you probably didn't expect, dig in.

Portland, Maine

Local restaurant percentage: 81.9%

Population: 513,373

Breweries: 19, or 37 per million

Farmers Markets: 15, or 29.2 per million

This New England city has proven to offer much more than the edible attractions the tourists seek out: lobstah and chowdah. Farmers are undeterred by Maine's unforgiving winters, as 26 CSA farms and 15 farmers markets attest, resulting in local lamb, bacon, scallops, honey, and potatoes, and more. The population of just about half a million is interested enough in food to support Rabelais, an all-food bookstore. Eateries of note in Portland include Emilitsa, Standard Baking Co., and Back Bay Grill.