Food is one of my favorite parts of travel – It can show you the history and culture of a travel destination like no other element of your trip. I’m a huge fan of Andrew Zimmern (the host of Bizarre Foods), and I show a talk he gave to every single one of my classes as an introduction to my favorite part of travel – check out the video here. As you might expect, where I eat is a very important decision. Before we talk about places to find good restaurants – let’s talk a little bit about grocery stores. I recommend going to a local grocery store at the beginning of the trip to every one of my friends and family who ask for travel advice. To me, going to a grocery store can give you insights into a place far beyond what you’d find in tourism spaces. Insights like: What are the things most prominently featured? Are they different than your grocery stores at home? Are there things that are similar? Can you learn some new words by finding common items and seeing what they are called in the language of your destination? One thing is for certain, you will likely get a very authentic experience at a grocery store, as the vast majority of people you see will simply be going about their every day lives.
Now…let’s move on to how to find a good restaurant! Depending on where my destination is, I utilize different sources for restaurant recommendations. My go to for restaurants in the U.S. is Yelp. Yelp provides some excellent user reviews of restaurants destinations across the U.S. However, it is somewhat hit or miss in terms of global destinations. The great thing about Yelp is that you can filter your searches in a lot of ways – by cuisine, price, restaurant style, etc. For international destinations, I’ll usually take a visit to TripAdvisor for user reviews of restaurants. One important thing to remember is that Yelp reviews are usually conducted by mostly locals, while TripAdvisor reviews are usually conducted by mostly travelers – which may be an important distinction depending on your preferences.
Beyond Yelp and TripAdvisor, I will also often have a great deal of luck finding restaurants through travel forums. If you’re traveling to Europe, the Rick Steves forums are a great place to ask questions and get some knowledgeable answers. For other destinations, I recommend the forums over at Lonely Planet.