When I travel, I am concerned with one thing and one thing only: food. Sure, the museums are great and the architecture is fabulous. The villages are quaint and the people charming, but what I really want to know is….when do we get to eat?
Every waking moment, I’m scoping out the neighborhood cafés, food stands, and grocery stores. If the hotel has a free breakfast, I’m wondering what they’re going to be serving. During mid-morning excursions, I’m already thinking about lunch. During lunch, I’m wondering about the best place to get dinner.
Getting to sample new cuisine is one of the best parts about traveling and I spend most of my trip in eager anticipation of the next meal. Unfortunately, finding a good restaurant while traveling can sometimes feel a little like searching for a needle in a haystack. However, with a little research and a few useful tools, you won’t have to settle for a mediocre meal
A good and reliable guidebook is worth its weight in gold. Guidebooks like Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, and Fodor’s offer tremendous and well-researched insights into some of the best places to find grub. If money is no object, then be sure to pick up a Michelin Guide and check out some of the world’s finest restaurants. Then leave us a comment and tell us how it was. Or, better yet, take a photo and pin it on our Travel Eats board on Pinterest.
While apps like Yelp and Urbanspoon are no secret in the U.S., they’re also available internationally. Hip hip hooraaaay! Yelp is available in countless countries, while Urbanspoon is only available throughout the U.S., Canada, the UK, Ireland, and Australia. Foodspotting, an app that lets you browse photos of food from nearby restaurants, is also available in areas around the globe. The Zagat app is another useful restaurant finder, particularly as you can browse restaurants without an Internet connection.
The best way to get the local’s perspective is to check out the blogosphere. Find and get in touch with bloggers from the area you’re going to be visiting. If they haven’t already written about it, shoot them a quick comment and cross your fingers. Most of them will be willing to throw you a bone with a few insider tips. You can also check out nectarandpulse. For under 10 dollars, this site offers you a personalized guidebook for major European cities + New York with tips from locals who match up with you and your tastes.
On forums like Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet, and Couchsurfing, a quick search will generally yield up-to-date recommendations and suggestions from travelers on where (and where not) to eat. If you don’t see what you’re looking for then just submit a question, sit back, and wait for an answer.
The Old-Fashioned Way
You know, walk around, look around, and then ask. Most people are delighted to be able to offer recommendations to travelers. Don’t be afraid to stop someone on the street and ask if they have any restaurant recommendations. If you can’t work up the courage to ask then leave some time for exploration and just pay attention. Don’t wait till you’re ravenous and willing to settle for the first place that serves anything remotely edible or, worse, McDonald’s. If there’s a line, if you don’t see another tourist in sight, and it smells delicious…chances are, you’re onto a good thing.