Traveling allows you to experience new cultures through different types of cuisine. You will get the chance to try new types of food and flavors. This can be very exciting, but it can also be very overwhelming. Many times you will find yourself picking at your overpriced airport meal. To keep yourself from falling into one of the many travel pitfalls, I have composed a guide on how to spot the best restaurants and bakeries whenever you are traveling.
–Avoid tourist traps and touristy areas:
I can’t tell you how many times I have almost been swayed by a restaurant/bakery because it is close to some landmark or a scenic view. Odds are though, the food will be way overpriced and lacking in quality. If you really want a good view with a good meal, you should check out a restaurant app like yelp. You may end up a little off of the beaten path, but it will be well worth it.
Also, be careful of “factories” especially those that are usually worked into a planned tour. These places are notorious for overcharging for their mass-produced goods. They will try to pressure you into buying (especially by taking you to some back room and offering you a drink) and will make it seem like you are getting an incredible deal on a one of a kind item, but that is usually far from the truth. Instead, search out small batch bakeries (etc.) that produce a quality product at a fair price.
What you see is what you get:
Although appearances aren’t everything, you can usually tell whether a restaurant/bakery is going to give you a quality product just by analyzing their aesthetic. Look at Laduree in Paris and Demel in Vienna. Their packaging, displays, ambience, and decor all speak that they’re going to deliver a quality product. Yes, they also come with the price tag, but it is usually well worth it (especially if it’s a one in a lifetime trip). If a place looks dingy and subpar, food is usually too. This is not always the case, (You really can get some amazing food at dives) but usually you can tell if a place poses as a health risk.
Talk to the locals:
The locals ALWAYS know the best places to eat. After all, they have spent enough time to know where all the good food is. I always ask my friends who have either lived or traveled in the places I’m visiting, because I know they will give me an honest opinion. Be leery of hotel concierges and the like, because they usually they get a kickback for sending tourists to certain restaurants.
With social media and the internet, it is easier than ever to research the food scene in any travel destination. Travelocity and Yelp are two of my favorite sources for researching restaurants. You can read hundreds of reviews to see whether a certain restaurant/bakery has what you are looking for. By researching ahead of time, you reduce the risk of stumbling into some random mediocre restaurant.
-The Waiting Game:
If a restaurant/bakery has a long line or wait that is usually a good sign. Good food brings in a lot of business. If a place has really good food, people will wait for it. Not all hype is warranted. I have found places that ended up being way better than their overhyped competition. So don’t just go off of a famous name. You may be really surprised by that little hole-in-the-wall place.
It may seem obvious to seek out food that the destination is known for. However, foreign restaurants are starting to offer more variety than before. It may be tempting to order your standby burger and fries, but you might end up missing out on the best risotto ever.
It can also be worthwhile to visit some hotspots that serve more diverse food. You may also be surprised to end up finding the best braised tortellini that you will ever have in the middle of old town Stockholm. Sometimes it pays to seek some diversity, especially when you’re overwhelmed by every resturant claiming to have the best version of some native dish.
Remember to stay true to your tastes and prefences. You know what you like better than 20,000 Yelp reviewers. You may surprise yourself by trying something new, but that doesn’t mean you have order something that you know you’re going to dislike.
Having a meal in a foreign country is one of the best ways to fully immerse yourself in their culture. After all, Food is a language and is the easiest way of communicating in a city where you don’t know a single phrase in their native tongue.