When it comes to restaurants, every US city has a unique identity. Austin, TX is renowned for its BBQ. New York City is densely packed with pizza-by-the-slice. San Francisco and LA compete on taqueria prestige.
Using Google data, visualized by Google News Lab with design studio Polygraph, we can begin to quantify how these food trends vary across the country. Based on aggregated, anonymized, and differentially private data from users who have opted in to Google Location History, we ranked cities and counties by their most popular cuisine.
For example, here’s a map showing where barbecue restaurants are most popular:
We’ve also produced similar maps for pizza, coffee, and Mexican, seafood, Italian, and sandwich shops here.
We can also make comparisons: where are pizza parlors more popular than Mexican restaurants?
In the midwest, visits to pizza shops far outpace Mexican restaurants (especially in pizza-obsessed states such as Iowa and Missouri). Try comparing other cuisines, such as seafood vs. pizza or sandwich vs. burger.
And by comparing all cuisines, we have a better picture of regional preferences across the US:
In most of the country, the two most popular cuisines are pizza or Mexican. But in some regions, local niches prevail. Seafood is most popular along the coasts. Sandwiches dominate in Philadelphia. Burgers reign in Wisconsin.
So far, we have examined regional trends across the US. What about specific cities?
Here are the cities where certain cuisines make up the highest percent of restaurant visits.
Which city is the most highly caffeinated? When examining visits to coffee shops, Seattle, WA took the top spot, followed by San Diego, CA, and Portland, OR.
Going one level deeper we can also examine trends within a city. For example, what is the most popular cuisine neighborhood by neighborhood?
Which of these trends surprise you and which confirm your expectations? We were surprised to see that BBQ is more popular in Bleckley, Georgia than the places we previously thought to be BBQ Meccas (like Austin). Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Simon Rogers is Data Editor at the Google News Lab and Director of the Data Journalism Awards