Another day, another appearance by Raleigh and Durham on a quality-of-life list.
The cities’ positions on Wallet Hub’s “Best and Worst Foodie Cities for Your Wallet” spreadsheet, however, leave a lot to be desired: Durham lands at No. 67, while Raleigh limps in at No. 82. That is, of the 150 most populous cities in America, both spots rank near the middle with regard to cost and diversity of food—and ease of access to it. Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Fayetteville appear even deeper in the rankings.
Give the methodology a glance, though, and you’re likely to worry a lot less: The rankings come from a combination of two categories—“affordability” and “diversity, accessibility and quality.” The first component essentially evaluates the cost of groceries, alcohol and restaurants, with considerations of food and sales taxes. The second digs into the quantity, relative to population, of things like food trucks and breweries, coffee shops and butcher shops, food festivals and farmers. Despite the list’s name, the latter component figures more than twice as much into the final ranking. In fact, Raleigh lands at the No. 62 spot with regard to affordability, while Durham lands at No. 95. But Raleigh, which still lacks a grocery store in downtown proper, suffers big-time in that second class.
The real rub for our region, though, comes here: “For our sample, please note that ‘city’ refers to city proper and excludes surrounding metro areas. … With regard to data for the different types of ‘foodie’ stores, we limited our search to a 5-mile radius from the city center in order to avoid double-counting issues.” So, for Raleigh, the cheap eats of strip malls outside of the beltline—the region of the city for which development was central for so long—don’t count, and neither do the rows of ethnic eateries in Cary. The same goes for Durham with relation to Morrisville or the stretch between the Bull City’s center and Chapel Hill.
We’ve got good reason to worry about the rising costs of food in our downtowns, of course, but the options have never been more abundant. (Imagine this study, for instance, a decade ago, without the area’s bustling scenes of food trucks or craft breweries altogether.) Indeed, the region’s food scene is richest when it’s treated as just that—a regional food scene, not isolated by municipal lines or regional divides. That’s the implicit takeaway, I hope, of today’s Dish package, which includes 60 drinks and dishes we love in the area right now. And it’s a lesson that this study’s results reinforce, however unintentionally.