There's no question that the advent of the World Wide Web has made it easier to locate dining establishments all around the globe. Nevertheless, finding the best places might require a little more digging. If good food ranks at the top of your hit parade, especially during travel, read on for tips on how to eat like a king during your travels.
Talk to the Locals
As mentioned above, apps like Yelp and Trip Advisor have the benefit of offering a "consumers-eye" view of certain establishments. Most of the reviews, however, should be taken with a grain of salt. A single visit is unlikely to provide the reviewer with enough information to make a clear and honest assessment of the place. Moreover, many people tend to don rose-colored glasses while on vacation, and this can tip the scales in the restaurant's favor—perhaps undeservedly. This is especially true when it comes to touristy places, like transatlantic cruise ports and other coastal towns.
To avoid falling into this trap, attempt to strike up a conversation with the locals. On your first night, visit an establishment that's consistently recommended as clean, friendly and popular with the residents. Grab seats at the bar and chat with the bartender and the other people around you, asking them to list their favorite spots. You might stumble upon a few gems that aren't listed in the guidebooks.
Follow the "When in Rome" Rule of Thumb
If you're visiting the red rocks region of Arizona, it's probably a good idea to steer clear of seafood restaurants. Conversely, when traveling through seaside regions, you'll want to seek out as many creatively prepared pescatarian delights as possible. Consider the culture and the local climate when making decisions about where to eat, and narrow your focus to places that seem to best reflect the area's finest culinary treasures.
This isn't to say that you should cross certain eateries off your list just because they don't meet your initial criteria. It's fine to relax this rule in major metropolitan areas, where your range of options will naturally be much broader. Even less populous regions might end up surprising you with their diversity. Coastal Maine, for example, is home to several ethnic restaurants that do a beautiful job of showcasing local ingredients. The bottom line? Look for well-established places that fit neatly into their surroundings.
When it Comes to Menus, Too Much is Often Not Enough
You might think that a long, extensive menu is a good thing. After all, variety is the spice of life, right? For restaurants, though, this isn't often the case. In fact, it's just the opposite.
First of all, navigating through a multi-page menu is overwhelming for the consumer. You might find yourself choosing something just for hunger's sake, without even bothering to narrow down your options. Further, when there are too many dishes available, it can be exceedingly difficult for the kitchen to maintain optimum freshness for all of the ingredients involved. Some of the items listed might not even be available, as it's tough to stay on top of the prep work with so many proverbial balls in the air. Lastly, a kitchen that tries to suit every palate at once is often lacking in focus. Your goal is to find a restaurant that does everything well, but on a smaller scale.
Remember That Not All Who Wander Are Lost
The earlier tip about chatting up the locals might be an invaluable one, but sometimes the most memorable meals come from places you've discovered on your own. If you've chosen a particular city as your destination, get off the beaten path. Travel to a nearby, lesser-known hamlet—research the local public transportation options, if necessary—and spend a day exploring on foot. Often, when the spotlight is turned up on a certain destination, the satellites that surround it are overlooked. However, when a restaurant is one of only a handful in town, it's under a lot of pressure to get things right. The ones that do are bound to stick around, and these are the ones you're looking for.
You don't have to be a restaurant critic or even a die-hard foodie to seek out the best dining facilities while you're on the road. Everyone has to eat, and it's always preferable to eat well. Keep both eyes and ears open—and your mind as well—and you're bound to have a culinary adventure to remember. Bon appetit!