How to Find the Best Restaurants When You Travel
The hardest part is over: you’ve chosen where you’re going on vacation and where you’ll stay. You may even have an idea of the activities you want to do while you’re there. One thing you probably have yet to plan, though, is where you’ll eat breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. How do you find the best restaurants in a place you don’t know?
Food is a vital part of the travel experience — an amazing meal will be a travel memory you won’t soon forget. Dining out allows you to see where the locals go and experience the way they eat. You’ll sample new flavor combinations or find even better versions of your favorite dishes. You’ll find recipes you want to replicate when you get home, always remembering the first place you tried them.
Of course, all you have to do now is figure out where you’ll have these unforgettable foodie experiences. Here are five ways to scope out local restaurants while traveling:
1. Do Online Research In Advance
It may sound obvious, but doing research to find restaurants is important in your quest to find the best local eateries in a place you’re unfamiliar with. It may seem overwhelming to try to sift through a city’s entire repertoire of restaurants to find the most popular or try to work out where the hidden gems are, but with a few simple web searches, you’ll be well on your way to narrowing it down.
Apps like Yelp will let you set parameters like price, location, type of food, and even more specific details like whether there’s a patio or what the noise level is like. One of the most helpful features of the app is the user reviews which include star ratings and descriptions of people’s experiences. It will also show you how many people have rated the restaurant which gives you an idea of the place’s popularity and to what extent you can rely on the rating. For instance, if a restaurant only has 5 reviews, the overall rating won’t be as reliable as one that has over 100 reviews.
TripAdvisor is another useful review site to check out, as well as online lists of best restaurants and recommendations by area. Look for reliable sources like Fodors for suggestions that have been thoroughly researched and professionally written.
2. Ask People You Know For Recommendations
Why did you decide to go on this trip? In many cases, you heard a good review of the city, cruise line, hotel, campground, etc., from a friend or loved one. The way they described their own experiences convince you to buy your ticket, so you followed in their footsteps and booked.
Because food is such a memorable part of a trip, your friends and family members are likely to remember where they found their favorite brunch spot, tiny café or ice cream parlor. All you have to do is ask them where to go, and you’ll open the floodgates to suggestions that could make your trip just as special as theirs was.
You won’t necessarily find places people have just stumbled upon listed online, so this is a good way to discover some hidden gems, and also to add a level of personal experience to your trip, as you can chat about how much you loved those fresh-baked pastries with the person who recommended them to you when you get home.
3. Make the Most of Happy Hour
Happy Hour is a concept embraced by many North American and European cities. While you’re treating yourself to an affordable glass of Italian wine or a classic English beer, you’re well on your way to finding a great place to sit down for dinner.
Make a night of sampling a few local Happy Hour spots, especially ones with small plates or appetizers that give you a hint of the menu. You’ll get a sense of the food and the atmosphere before you commit to spending on a full dinner.
4. Find Bloggers’ Suggestions
So many people have devoted their time to blogging about life experiences, whether it’s their parenting methods, travel stories, new recipes or forays into the world of fashion. Fellow travelers and foodies who blog are a great resource when you want a more in-depth look at a particular place or restaurant.
Finding a travel blogger to trust can be overwhelming because the internet is flooded with voices. Jodi Ettenberg from Legal Nomads is one of the best, as well as Ayngelina Brogan and Dave Mottershall of Bacon is Magic. Here are some more of the best foodie blogs to follow.
Blogs can often give a more complete context to your food exploring including interesting insights about a place’s history, culture and way of life. Search the archives of their sites to find the city where you’re going and keep a list of where they went so you can go, too.
5. Let Locals Guide You
Another great way to find a local restaurant? Ask a local. Everyone has their go-to spots and they can tell you where to find the most authentic local cuisine. If you’re staying in an Airbnb, your host is a great first point of contact for local recommendations. Many hosts provide a list of ideas of places to visit in the neighborhood where their rental is. Or, you can send an email prior to arriving, asking about the best places to get authentic local food.
A hotel’s concierge desk is similar, but take these suggestions with a grain of salt. Often hotels have deals with local restaurants to direct their guests to dine in a particular place. Once you get a suggestion from the concierge, go back to step one and do a quick online search to make sure it’s as good as promised.
With these five tips in mind, you’re well on your way to a trip that delights all of your senses, especially your taste buds. Experiencing a culture through its food is one of the best ways to really get to know a destination. It’s an easy point of connection for meeting and chatting with locals and getting a glimpse of day-to-day life, and it can illuminate how the culinary history of a place came to define it.