hong kong food john anthony

The world doesn’t need another story of tourists getting charged $500 for a burger.

Without doubt, there are few privileges in life greater than travel through food. Long after the flight home has landed, it’s the aromas, tastes and utter cravings which endear a destination to you forever.

Food, at its best, gives you a deeper understanding, love and appreciation for a people or culture. But with record numbers of tourists getting ripped off by restaurants eager to take advantage of traveller desire, it’s more important than ever to pick the right restaurant. Here’s how…

Listen To Anthony Bourdain

Like many of history’s greatest, Anthony Bourdain wisdom lives on long past his untimely demise. One of his best pieces of advice: ask the hotel concierge where to eat, and then go anywhere but there. True food exploration is about getting away from the places where the other foreigners staying in chain hotels are eating.

Don’t Trust TripAdvisor

For a period of time last year, the number one rated London restaurant was so hot, no one could get a reservation. Nope, not because it had a three month waiting list like Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, but because it didn’t actually exist. Time and time again, it’s been proven that reviews are easy to fake, so using arbitrary lists like this will rarely be of any use whatsoever.

Call An Old Friend Or Make New Ones

There’s no better way to get a lay of the land than to reach out to an old friend, colleague or family member and ask for helpful suggestions in their city. If you’re looking for recommendations, from a “friend”, our 48 hour guides provide tried and tested favourite recommendations all over the world. Oh, and they’re free – of course.

Never Eat Where There’s An Usher

Good restaurants have a harder time keeping people out than getting people in. Think about that for a second. The charming staff member outside telling you how lovely you look is there to charm you into a bad meal. If there’s someone outside drawing people in, it’s best if you stay out.

Find Out Where People Actually Live

My first activity in any new city is to try and understand where I might live, or where I might fit in, if I was to move here. Doing so points you to inherently local neighbourhoods, where you can get a more realistic feel for daily life, local eats and actual prices than anywhere else. If you don’t want to be you, find the neighbourhood where the person you want to be might live, and eat there.

No Prices Means No Meal

The big con many restaurants are using in tourist capitols around the world is to draw people in with special pre fixe menus, and then hand them options without prices. When your dishes come out, all is well – but when the $750 bill comes, not so much. Never eat anywhere that you can’t confirm prices.

Cross Reference Your Foodie Research

Eater and TimeOut have established themselves amongst the best resources for the “where to eat” guides in cities all around the world. At higher end of refinement, the Michelin Guide is also a great resource. I find the most fail proof way of vetting restaurants is to start with one of these lists, see if it appears on another, and then check it against Google reviews or other crowd feedback. If at that point it seems like a winner, it probably is.

Don’t Eat Near Tourist Attractions

Sure, Le Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower may have something to say about this, but in general, food near tourist attraction isn’t food. There are exceptions everywhere, of course, but no New Yorker buys pizza in Times Square, nor should you.

Look For Foreign Window Menus

Many great restaurants post menus in the window, especially “specials” driven spots which change daily. If you want to pop into one that doesn’t cater to tourists, and may put you arm to arm with real live locals, look for places with menus in the native language. This simple distinction can make all the difference.

Ditch The Hotel Breakfast

Hotels have done everything in their power to takeaway breakfast, and even if it’s free there’s a high chance it’s nothing new. Breakfast is the perfect time to set out and find affordable local fare and develop a better understanding for how cultures live. Like the fact that Romans don’t sits down for coffee.

What’s your best tip for dining abroad?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

Join the Conversation

9 Comments

  1. I believe it’s illegal to even suggest that a point/mile “enthusiast” pass on a free bfast.

  2. Watch out in Portugal, normally bread and olives will cost you 2 euro that gives you something to munch before your starter or dinner. We have heard of some stories that some restaurants have been charging 20 euros for such a small cover. Remember under Portuguese law it is an offence to place these covers on your table without the customers permission. If they do just ask for the complaints book that will see them offering freebies galore rather than have the tourist police visit their restaurant.

  3. I disagree this time. The best restaurant I ate in Tehran was #1 in Tripadvsior. I know it can fail, and it needs some reading, but knowing how to use the tool it can be useful.

  4. I appreciate that you brought up the point that food near tourist attractions isn’t always the best food. My wife and I are moving to a new city soon and we really enjoy eating Mexican food. We will have to keep these tips in mind when we begin looking for a restaurant that has quality food.

  5. Thank you for stating that you should confirm prices before going to a restaurant. My husband and I are traveling next month, and need help finding a restaurant. I will definitely utilize all of your great tips and information when looking for a restaurant.

  6. Thank you for your great tips on how to find a restaurant. My husband and I might be going to Italy and want to make sure we find a good Italian restaurant. I will definitely utilize all of your great tips and information when looking for a great restaurant.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.