Cultural shifts are taking place on a national level.

When I considered moving from sunny Southern California to the Triangle region of North Carolina this time last year, I did the first thing I do before I travel anywhere: I checked out the restaurant scene … on Instagram.

Millennial foodie habit or not, it is a very good indicator and a generally accurate, encompassing overview of where to eat in any destination. I’ve been researching vacation spots in this manner since 2013 and even finding dining options in remote small towns I’d visited for previous jobs. Since then, location tagging has become so much more pervasive that you can find exciting, authentic dining options even in tiny towns throughout the U.S. If there’s drool-worthy (i.e., ’gram-worthy) food, you’ll find a photo of it on Instagram. Secret spots are not so secret anymore—to the disappointment of some locals, perhaps, but to the boon of the restaurant owner, surely.

This may not quite be the exact methodology behind FSR’s new Hot Markets report, but for a business move parallel to my residential relocation, we’ve at least done the groundwork for a restaurant considering a new locale.

The list demonstrates cultural shifts we’re hearing about on a national level. The millennial generation is moving in the opposite direction of their parents’ generation. Millennials are moving into urban areas instead of out of them, transforming even the smallest cities, some once desolate and downtrodden, into newly revived epicenters.

Look at one of our list members, Oklahoma City, as an example. The city’s tourism board and restaurant association may well disagree, but I doubt folks were planning vacations there in the last decade just for the onion burger (though I’ll absolutely try one when I visit to check out everything else on the scene). And yes, I will come visit your restaurant there. I’ve already got a list going of the restaurants I want to try. Institutions like Cheever’s and Tucker’s Onion Burgers benefit just as much from this influx of dining tourism as the new kids on the block like vegan doughnut shop Holey Rollers.

Should you choose to open up shop in downtown Oklahoma City or at any of the seven hot spots we’re talking about this issue, the cities all have one thing in common: a hungry crowd that’s eager to welcome you. And if you need more proof, well, just head over to Instagram and do your “research.”

Expert Takes, Feature