One of the first things people ask when they hear you went on vacation is “How was the food?” The second thing is, “Where did you eat?”
I wonder why that is?
Is it because we are a nation of gluttonous buffet-eaters who live vicariously through other people’s stomachs? Or is it because, no matter how picky of an eater we claim to be, we all like to try something new and fabulous that no one else has tried?
Uhm. I’m going to go with the new thing.
That being said, it is not easy to find a titillating new trattoria that hasn’t been reviewed in every other guidebook found in every other bookstore across the free world.
So what do you do?
I think not.
Here are five tips to help you find and choose a great restaurant on your next vacation.
1. Ask Around
I know-you have heard this before. Right? But have you done it? I’m not suggesting you ask your cab driver or a hotel staff member where you should eat. I’m saying you should ask them where they eat. There is a difference.
A staff member at our resort in Belize suggested we eat at a steakhouse located inside another hotel. “But I’ve never been there,” he added. “I can’t afford it.”
When we pressed him about where he does eat, he gave up a hole-in-the-wall diner about a half a mile away.
We ate there three times.
2. Be on the Lookout
I’m always on alert for a new restaurant or “happenin'” hot spot on vacation-even if it’s not meal time. As you stroll around, glance at menus, watch employees and see what else is going on there.
Our first night in Rome last April we noticed our street overflowing with people from a local bar. “We have to get back here,” my husband said. We were thrilled the next night when NYC/Caribbean Ragazza suggested we meet there for drinks. Once again it was hoppin’ – and we were happy.
3. Avoid Picture Menus
Oh, you know what I mean … those restaurants that have menus propped up outside-or worse yet, taped to their window-and are covered with pictures of food and over-sized numbers advertising their prices.
Just move on.
Ditto for menus that are translated in multiple languages or restaurants that advertise “tourist” specials.
4. Take a Walk
If I find myself in a new place around meal time without a recommendation, I spend a half an hour or so walking-and looking. Don’t just pay attention to the menu, but walk close to the outside tables and steal a glance at what people are eating. Watch their faces. Does their food look appealing? Do they look happy? Better yet, are they leaving satisfied? Hmmm ….
I also pay attention to who is eating there. If the restaurant is full of tourists or is considerably more expensive-for similar-type food-then it likely caters to tourists over locals.
5. Go Virtual
If you are traveling to a high-volume tourist area like Rome or Paris, then it is worth it for you to spend some time online. Read blogs and websites written by people who live in the area or email them an ask for a recommendation. The worst they can do is ignore your email. Best case scenario? You leave with a notebook full of hidden restaurants and local favorites.
How do you discover new restaurants when you are on vacation? What tips can you share with us?
Until next time … Buon Viaggio!