It’s no secret that college towns are home to some of the best deals and tastiest food in the country. Several sites have come out with lists of the best college town foods and restaurants in the United States, but one thing they all miss is how a foodie college town is so much more than the food in it.
To be a true foodie college town, food and drink have to be built into your culture. It’s gotta be a major key for the locals, the university, and the students. Having programs like culinary, food science, sustainable agriculture, or culinology are essentials to be considered in the pantheon of elite foodie destinations for college students.
Many schools have all of these and more, making them true giants in the world of college foodie towns. Here’s the ten best ones across the country for prospective college foodies to consider applying to and for all other foodies to consider visiting.
10. New Haven, Connecticut (Yale University)
You can’t have a list of college foodie towns without the birthplace of one of college’s most iconic meals — the burger — being on the list. The OG version of this staple can be found at Louis Lunch. Apart from that, New Haven’s also got some of the best and unique pizzas in the country, like the must-try white clam “apizza” at Pepe‘s or BAR‘s mashed potato pizza. For the foodie activists, New Haven’s Ivy-League school, Yale University, is home to a dope program focusing on sustainable food and agriculture alongside an on-campus farm that you can actually work on and get to know your food up close and personal. New Haven’s got tradition and forward-thinking when it comes to food, and it’s hard to find both of those in one place.
9. Corvallis, Oregon (Oregon State University)
This creekside college town is just an hour away from street food mecca Portland, so you know that the area is gonna have some bomb bites to draw in the college crowd. Between the fire breakfasts you can get at the Broken Yolk Cafe, some legit Hawaiian food from Local Boyz, the custom dogs and burgers at college favorite Roxy Dawgz, and Corvallis classic Squirrel’s Tavern, there are a plethora of choices for both college students and locals alike to chose from. Factor in a top-notch food science program at Oregon State University and a host of wineries and farms within driving distance to visit, and you’ve got a great foodie destination in the heart of Oregon.
8. San Luis Obispo, California (Cal Poly SLO)
This city is stuck in between SoCal and NorCal, but it’s a top-notch place to go for anybody who loves food (even the nearby military base has some of the best chow hall food in the country). The school’s got farms beyond belief and produces a ton of food on campus, including chocolate, jam, and barbeque sauce. The local food scene is just as hype, with duck and pork nachos from SLO Brew Co., locally roasted coffee and baked goods at Scout Coffee Co., all-day favorites and classy “lounge items” at Kreuzberg, and a meat lover’s paradise at Firestone Grill. If your life literally revolves around food, San Luis Obispo is the place to go.
7. Amherst, Massachusetts (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
The university and town here are both home to Harold McGee, a food science icon and producer of the PBS Show “America’s Test Kitchen,” so you know the food curriculum here is gonna be legit. They’ve got research specialties including health and wellness, so you’ll really learn how to take care of yourself here. The food scene provides some next-level TLC as well, with some dope burritos at Veracruzana and slices of cheesy heaven at Antonio’s Pizza highlighting the diverse and authentic food scene. Make no mistake, Amherst is a foodie haven for any geek or food lover out there.
6. Berkeley, California (University of California, Berkeley)
I could just talk about Chez Panisse and be done, but that would leave out so much other great food in Berkeley. Iconic spots to try include Blondie’s Pizza, The Cheese Board Pizzeria, The Snack Shack, Vik’s Chaat Corner, Top Dog… yeah, there’s a ton more to go through. Berkeley is a HOT restaurant destination right now, and it’s also one of the most innovative food cities currently. UC Berkeley is all about that, with clubs focusing on food innovation and food justice making a huge impact on the local community. As berserk as this place can get, no other city in the United States is more woke when it comes to food.
5. Madison, Wisconsin (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
UW Madison’s got one of the oldest food science programs in the nation, so it brings some hefty experience to the foodie nerd table. It’s culinary experiences, however, are chic and modern, with some new-age hype pizza at Salvatore’s Tomato Pies, fancy fine dining at L’Etoile, croissant-pretzel hybrids at Field Table, and some dope traditional ramen at Morris Ramen. This balance of upscale dining and deep roots in food education make Madison a fun place for any foodie to eat and learn.
4. Chico, California (California State University, Chico)
Chico State’s got food science, but it’s really the town that makes this city an amazing educational and eating experience. It’s got an innovative local butcher named Chico Locker, tons of local roasters and upscale coffee shops like Naked Lounge, twists on teas and small plates at T Bar, and restaurants like Cafe Petra that’ll blow you away. Chico is also home to Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, one of the most well-known craft breweries in the country. You can actually tour the place and try their legit lineup of beers as well, which I highly recommend doing. The whole foodie experience of Chico is something to cherish, and I can’t wait to see it continue to thrive.
3. Boulder, Colorado (University of Colorado, Boulder)
Boulder is one of the hottest cities for food startups and businesses to work in right now, with trendy companies like Beyond Meat, Bobo’s Oat Bars, IZZE, and others headquartered here. While CU Boulder doesn’t have any formal food curriculum, the businesses here provide a ton of opportunity to any students looking to get their start in these fields. The restaurant scene in Boulder is just as buzzing, with Chez Thuy bringing in influences from Vietnam, France, Indonesia, and Thailand, Fior di Latte serving up authentic gelato with vegan options, farm-to-table fare at Leaf, and the real deal Argentinian food at Rincon Argentino. Diverse restaurants and a trendy, buzzing food industrial scene make this one of the nation’s top cities to get interested and excited about all different kinds of eats.
2. Davis, California (University of California, Davis)
The top food school on the West Coast has got a great food scene to back it up. UC Davis has a student-run butchery and cheese shop on top of on-campus farms that produce olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, and many more commodities. That and its top-ranked food science and nutrition programs match perfectly with awesome farmers markets, creative breweries, and an eclectic dining scene. Dumpling House has the best homemade dumplings north of SF, Village Bakery has some terrific pizza, Open Rice Kitchen brings poppin’ Asian fusion to the table, and Ikeda’s is home to authentic pies and tamales that taste out of this world. If you love food, there’s no way you won’t love Davis.
1. Ithaca, New York (Cornell University)
One of the world’s best food and agriculture universities, Cornell gets supplemented by top-name chefs like Dan Barber that get down with the research happening on campus. Off campus, the farmer’s market is full of as much ethnic food as it is produce, and bars like The Chapel House offer unique historic settings to pick up some amazing beer. Other awesome food opportunities in Ithaca include fancy grass-fed burgers at Stella’s Cafe, eclectic round-the-clock fare at State Street Diner, dope deep dish pizza at The Nines, and gigantic sundaes at the legendary Purity Ice Cream Co. Cornell’s typically number one in food university rankings, and the city it’s in definitely belongs in the top spot for the curriculum and for the cuisine.