Tex-Mex vs. Thai Food—Mapping American Restaurant Preferences

From the donut stronghold of Boston to the sushi smorgasbord of Seattle, the United States is a diverse culinary landscape. With so much good eats to be had, where exactly should a hungry home buyer call home? Well that all depends on your food preferences…

Estately Real Estate Search set out to map the restaurant preferences of the 50 largest U.S. cities. Using data from Yelp, we scored each city from 0-300 on the abundance of 18 different restaurant types. The restaurant score for each type of restaurant takes three variables and weights them equally—restaurants per capita, restaurants per square mile, and the percentage of all area restaurants that each type makes up. Check out the results below.

5 best cities for breakfast

City rank Score
1 Oakland, CA 213.0
2 San Francisco, CA 212.6
3 Atlanta, GA 183.4
4 Minneapolis, MN 172.7
5 Mesa, AZ 167.5

5 worst cities for breakfast

City rank Score
1 Wichita, KS 7.9
2 El Paso, TX 8.2
3 San Antonio, TX 12.8
4 Omaha, NE 14.6
5 Fresno, CA 17.1

Dining out for the most important meal of the day is popular across much of the country, with the exception of the Great Plains, Texas, and much of the Midwest. This breakfast and brunch void has us wondering, is it possible that breakfast joints are largely absent from tornado alley states because they were sucked up by twisters and dropped in the Bay Area?

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5 best cities for coffee

City rank Score
1 Oakland, CA 235.5
2 San Francisco, CA 231.9
3 Seattle, WA 220.3
4 Boston, MA 151.5
5 Portland, OR 150.4

5 worst cities for coffee

City rank Score
1 El Paso, TX 0.2
2 Memphis, TN 2.7
3 Tulsa, OK 6.7
4 San Antonio, TX 7.5
5 Jacksonville, FL 10.2

After Seattle declares a day of mourning for its third place coffee finish, only then can we begin to speculate as to how all those cowboys in Texas and Oklahoma turned into tea drinkers.

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5 best cities for donuts

City rank Score
1 Boston, MA 300.0
2 Long Beach, CA 141.4
3 Fort Worth, TX 135.1
4 Dallas, TX 134.6
5 Los Angeles, CA 130.5

5 worst cities for donuts

City rank Score
1 Colorado Springs, CO 4.8
2 Albuquerque, NM 7.9
3 Minneapolis, MN 10.8
4 El Paso, TX 11.0
5 San Antonio, TX 15.0

If Boston wasn't tops for donuts, we'd know there was something seriously wrong with our methodology. Beantown is so synonymous with donuts that we've chosen to spell it "donuts" instead of "doughnuts" because that's how Massachusetts-based Dunkin' Donuts spells it.

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5 best cities for burgers

City rank Score
1 Atlanta, GA 215.0
2 Detroit, MI 191.0
3 Miami, FL 189.3
4 Washington, DC 176.4
5 Mesa, AZ 164.1

5 worst cities for burgers

City rank Score
1 Philadelphia, PA 24.7
2 San Diego, CA 35.2
3 Boston, MA 43.7
4 San Jose, CA 43.8
5 Tucson, AZ 69.1

The map sort of looks like dozens of raw burger patties scattered all over America. The most jarring burger score here is for Philadelphia, a city that reserves its beef and buns for cheesesteaks.

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5 best cities for fast food

City rank Score
1 Atlanta, GA 236.1
2 Mesa, AZ 206.7
3 Washington, DC 194.3
4 Miami, FL 168.3
5 Sacramento, CA 149.2

5 worst cities for fast food

City rank Score
1 Philadelphia, PA 23.3
2 Boston, MA 26.3
3 San Francisco, CA 44.6
4 San Diego, CA 56.5
5 Memphis, TN 62.4

It's no surprise Atlanta tops the fast food rankings; the city is often called America's Fast Food Capital because of the number of fast food chains headquartered there (or nearby), including Chick-fil-A, Zaxby's, Krystal, Church's Chicken, Moe's Southwest Grill, Cinnabon, Arby's, Waffle House, and more.

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5 best cities for pizza

City rank Score
1 Detroit, MI 206.0
2 Washington, DC 205.4
3 Boston, MA 191.8
4 Miami, FL 174.7
5 Baltimore, MD 172.8

5 worst cities for pizza

City rank Score
1 El Paso, TX 13.1
2 Memphis, TN 23.2
3 Tulsa, OK 26.5
4 San Antonio, TX 29.8
5 Houston, TX 35.3

Some say Detroit-style pizza is a square pizza with a thick crust, but a more accurate description would be "Detroit-style pizza is simply an abundance of pizza". Even more than New York City, Detroit is awash in pizza places, and a slice is very accessible in our nation's capital as well.

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5 best cities for buffets

City rank Score
1 Mesa, AZ 264.9
2 Washington, DC 190.5
3 Atlanta, GA 178.0
4 Las Vegas, NV 152.6
5 Kansas City, MO 147.3

5 worst cities for buffets

City rank Score
1 Colorado Springs, CO 13.4
2 Boston, MA 18.9
3 Long Beach, CA 23.9
4 Chicago, IL 27.5
5 Philadelphia, PA 32.1

Perhaps it's not surprising that a city named Mesa, which literally translates to "table," is the city with the greatest abundance of buffets. What is surprising is that Mesa doesn't have a particularly high obesity rate, at least for an American city. Colorado Springs had the fewest buffets, and the state of Colorado does have the lowest obesity rate in the country, so maybe there is some causation there.

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5 best cities for steak

City rank Score
1 Miami, FL 231.3
2 Atlanta, GA 209.8
3 Las Vegas, NV 164.6
4 Washington, DC 158.8
5 Omaha, NE 144.8

5 worst cities for steak

City rank Score
1 Portland, OR 22.7
2 San Jose, CA 26.6
3 Long Beach, CA 27.7
4 Los Angeles, CA 33.1
5 San Diego, CA 36.4

If you find yourself staring a menu in Portland, Oregon and wondering, "Where's the beef?" you will not be alone. The Rose City has the lowest steak score in the country, and that's really not much of a surprise. This is a city where thieves recently stole a delivery truck full of tofu, and they abandoned the truck but kept the tofu. If you think that confounding, try figuring out how Miami beat out Omaha for the highest steak score!

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5 best cities for vegetarian

City rank Score
1 Washington, DC 294.8
2 San Francisco, CA 214.8
3 Oakland, CA 212.6
4 Portland, OR 184.2
5 Mesa, AZ 171.4

5 worst cities for vegetarian

City rank Score
1 Wichita, KS 0.0
2 Tulsa, OK 23.8
3 Oklahoma City, OK 24.4
4 Jacksonville, FL 27.2
5 Fresno, CA 35.2

Does Washington, DC have the most veggie-focused restaurants as a counterbalance to all the pork-barrel politics in town? Who knows, but residents of our nation's capital are definitely making their parents proud by eating their vegetables. That is not the case in Wichita, Kansas, where it seems a Cobb salad is the closest you'll get to vegetarian-friendly meal.

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5 best cities for food trucks

City rank Score
1 Oakland, CA 192.5
2 Austin, TX 185.9
3 Portland, OR 184.6
4 San Francisco, CA 182.6
5 Washington, DC 163.5

5 worst cities for food trucks

City rank Score
1 Chicago, IL 5.8
2 Detroit, MI 9.9
3 Virginia Beach, VA 10.4
4 Dallas, TX 10.9
5 Fort Worth, TX 11.1

If you enjoy standing in line to get food poisoning directly from someone selling food out of the side of truck, then the hipster havens of Oakland, Austin, and Portland are your spots. However, if dining out of a modern chuck wagon isn't your thing, then Chicago and Detroit are your spots.

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5 best cities for gluten free

City rank Score
1 Denver, CO 229.1
2 San Francisco, CA 221.9
3 Oakland, CA 202.4
4 Mesa, AZ 183.6
5 Portland, OR 171.9

5 worst cities for gluten free

City rank Score
1 Fresno, CA 1.5
2 Omaha, NE 3.8
3 Charlotte, NC 14.6
4 Virginia Beach, VA 19.4
5 Jacksonville, FL 19.7

No surprise that Denver is the gluten-free capital of America, as it pairs so well with the city's interest in CrossFit and the Paleo Diet. However, it does raise some concern that gluten intolerance could be a side effect of marijuana use. Now, if you're one of those old-school types who believes that toast goes with eggs and that there's nothing inherently wrong with eating sandwiches or pasta, then Fresno, California is your carb-filled paradise.

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5 best cities for halal

City rank Score
1 Washington, DC 198.9
2 San Jose, CA 176.5
3 Oakland, CA 154.2
4 San Francisco, CA 147.3
5 Seattle, WA 131.7

5 worst cities for halal

City rank Score
1 El Paso, TX 0.0
2 Albuquerque, NM 0.0
3 Virginia Beach, VA 0.0
4 Tulsa, OK 0.0
5 Colorado Springs, CO 0.0

While the West Coast and Northeast provide plenty of cities with restaurants serving food and drinks prepared in accordance with Islamic law, that is not the case in the central or southern parts of the country.

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5 best cities for soul food

City rank Score
1 Atlanta, GA 214.4
2 Oakland, CA 185.7
3 San Francisco, CA 154.5
4 Memphis, TN 137.6
5 Washington, DC 130.9

5 worst cities for soul food

City rank Score
1 Tucson, AZ 1.7
2 Albuquerque, NM 2.3
3 San Jose, CA 2.4
4 San Diego, CA 8.5
5 San Antonio, TX 9.5

If you live in Mountain or Central Standard Time then there's a slim chance you have much soul food options in town, or even know the joys of shrimp and grits, sweet potato pie, or fried okra. Also, you're probably eating baked kale instead of braised collard greens, and that's your loss.

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5 best cities for Tex-Mex

City rank Score
1 Atlanta, GA 203.3
2 Dallas, TX 202.5
3 Washington, DC 177.9
4 Austin, TX 171.1
5 Fort Worth, TX 152.8

5 worst cities for Tex-Mex

City rank Score
1 Boston, MA 9.2
2 San Diego, CA 13.0
3 San Francisco, CA 13.3
4 Philadelphia, PA 23.0
5 Chicago, IL 25.2

It's no surprise Texas cities have the highest Tex-Mex scores, but the real question is what does Boston have against foods covered in melted shredded cheese? What kind of monsters would oppose something delicious like that? What do people in Boston top their nachos with?

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5 best cities for Mexican

City rank Score
1 Mesa, AZ 211.7
2 Oakland, CA 181.9
3 Los Angeles, CA 177.1
4 Atlanta, GA 171.3
5 Denver, CO 158.0

5 worst cities for Mexican

City rank Score
1 Jacksonville, FL 9.5
2 Philadelphia, PA 10.2
3 Virginia Beach, VA 17.2
4 Memphis, TN 30.4
5 Columbus, OH 30.4

The next wave of American westward migration will likely be people fleeing the East Coast and Midwest in search of delicious tacos and burritos.

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5 best cities for Chinese

City rank Score
1 Oakland, CA 233.7
2 San Francisco, CA 229.3
3 Washington, DC 212.4
4 Atlanta, GA 180.3
5 Baltimore, MD 144.1

5 worst cities for Chinese

City rank Score
1 Austin, TX 9.4
2 El Paso, TX 18.2
3 San Diego, CA 23.9
4 Albuquerque, NM 24.2
5 San Antonio, TX 24.3

The only way to explain this is that residents of the Great Plains and Midwest are confounded by chopsticks, and the penalty for chopstick incompetence is pitifully few Chinese restaurants, and that means no fortune cookies.

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5 best cities for Japanese

City rank Score
1 Seattle, WA 235.8
2 San Francisco, CA 226.3
3 Oakland, CA 221.2
4 Los Angeles, CA 140.9
5 Washington, DC 116.9

5 worst cities for Japanese

City rank Score
1 San Antonio, TX 0.6
2 Milwaukee, WI 7.2
3 Omaha, NE 12.6
4 Tucson, AZ 14.3
5 Kansas City, MO 15.3

Maybe it's better if restaurants peddling raw seafood be near the source of that seafood—the ocean. Still, can't the interior of the country at least open up some ramen or teriyaki places?

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5 best cities for Thai

City rank Score
1 Seattle, WA 229.9
2 Oakland, CA 217.8
3 Portland, OR 215.2
4 San Francisco, CA 203.3
5 Washington, DC 183.8

5 worst cities for Thai

City rank Score
1 El Paso, TX 0.0
2 Memphis, TN 3.5
3 Tulsa, OK 12.7
4 Wichita, KS 13.8
5 Tucson, AZ 15.4

You know what the Midwest is? Devoid of Thai food. That means a serious shortage of phad thai, coconut curry, and a thousand other delicious Thai dishes. That's tragic.

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