"Every day, 133 million Americans eat away from home," says Mary Adolf, president of the products and services division of the National Restaurant Association. This may sound like a lot, but the average American still consumes 76 percent of his or her meals at home. As the economy continues to decline and unemployment continues to rise, more and more Americans will be choosing to eat a greater percentage of their meals at home.
Needless to say, there is more than one way to determine the best cities to eat at home. ServiceMagic, an online contractor referral service, looked at a number of kitchen projectsincluding remodels, high-quality stone countertops, and major appliance installationfor every major U.S. city to see who was best prepared to cook for themselves. We then used a combination of each city's restaurant options, quality, and economic strength to determine whose residents were having the toughest time finding healthy, diverse, and reasonably priced meals at their local restaurants.
Top 5 Cities to Eat at Home
5. Cleveland, OH
Kitchen remodeling in Cleveland is a near perfect mirror for the national average, but individual kitchen projects show surprising strength. In addition to solid performance in kitchen appliance installation, high-end stone countertop installation is three times the national average in Cleveland, trailing only Houston and Atlanta in this category. According to Gourmet magazine, Cleveland is in the middle of a restaurant boom. That said, the city also gets poor marks for junk food, and the decreased spending power of residents continues to make eating out a dicey proposition. So for now, it's probably best to save your money and enjoy your stone countertops.
4. Oklahoma City, OK
Oklahoma is avoiding the brunt force of the national recession, but the economy isn't expanding like some thought it might. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Oklahoma City's leisure and hospitality employment rates have remained steady over the past quarter and are expected to grow 1.9 percent overall from last year. Unfortunately, cuisine options are somewhat limited in Oklahoma City. If you're a fan of steak and BBQ, you'll be okay, but Men's Fitness magazine ranked Oklahoma City last in terms of general nutrition and junk food. Meanwhile, back on the home front, the city's cooking is in good shape. Oklahoma City has seen kitchen remodeling projects outpace the national average by a solid 15 percent clip.
3. Phoenix, AZ
2. Lexington, KY
1. Detroit, MI
If you like Mexican food, you might be okay in Phoenix, though residents of the city will tell you that there as just as many bad Mexican restaurants as there are good ones. If you look around Phoenix's urban villages, you can find a passable restaurant for almost any theme, but the city isn't known for stellar dining options. Worse yet, Phoenix is getting hit hard by the housing crisis. In terms of residents' ability to eat at home, the past few years have yielded one great advantageinfrastructure. The population and home building boom of the previous decade has led to many state-of-the-art kitchens. Plus, before the housing bubble burst, many homeowners used incredible home equity to complete luxury kitchen remodels.
Kentucky has among the fewest restaurants of any state in the Union, and anybody who knows about the makeup of the Bluegrass State can tell you that it feels like more than half of these restaurants are located in cross-state rival, Louisville. Despite 12 percent of its labor force located in high-risk manufacturing jobs, BusinessWeek recently included Lexington on its list of best cities to ride out a recession. Residents may not have the most diverse cuisine in the country to choose from, but they take their culinary skills seriously. This past quarter, the city of Lexington started kitchen remodeling projects at a rate of 26 percent higher than the national averageamong the top performers for cities getting hit by the recession.
In terms of eating out and spending power, many Detroit residents are in a tough spot. There are tons of great, reasonably priced restaurants in the city, but more than a few are struggling to stay open. This has created at atmosphere where people have come to appreciate high-quality and diverse cuisine, even though many can no longer afford to dine out as much as they would like. While downtown Detroit is seemingly on life-support, knowledgeable residents know that Detroit still boasts some of the nicest suburbs around. These homeowners have paid attention to their kitchens: Detroit is one of the only cities in the country that ranks above the national average in kitchen remodeling, stone countertop installation, AND major kitchen appliance installation.
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3. Phoenix, AZ
2. Lexington, KY
1. Detroit, MI