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…
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.
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.
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.