Travel Tip: How to Eat Like a Local Anywhere
Updated: Aug 17
Food is a major part of what I love about traveling. But sometimes you end up eating a bad meal, and that’s no fun. The food in tourist-heavy areas of a city tends to be lower quality, so I do my best to avoid it. Here are my tips for finding the best restaurants and bites, no matter where you’re traveling.
1. Hop on Yelp
I rely hugely on Yelp to see what other people think of restaurants, both while traveling and at home in San Diego. I’ve found the reviews to be pretty accurate, and try to only choose restaurants with four or five stars.
I like Yelp because it will not only tell me about the quality of the food and service, but usually other Yelpers will give recommendations on what to eat. It’s always good to try a restaurant’s specialty, and I’m rarely disappointed when I take their recommendations.
The only drawback is that some smaller towns (and everywhere in Europe) don’t have many reviews on Yelp. In that case, I try another one of the following tactics. And in Europe, I use Trip Advisor the same as I use Yelp here because it’s more popular.
2. Walk Two Blocks Out of the Tourist Zone
San Francisco’s Union Square is chock full of overpriced, crappy restaurants, as is New York City’s Times Square. But if you walk a few blocks out of that area, you’ll find much better options. Just out of the shadow of a major tourist attraction, restaurants have to be good to compete for locals’ dollars, so I’ve found great success with this strategy.
3. Ask a Local
Admittedly, I don’t do this enough because I tend to be shy, but it’s a great strategy, and one Rachael Ray used to use on her travel show. Who better to tell you where to eat than a local who knows the area well?
4. Go Small
I don’t like dining at major food chains anywhere. Sure, the quality of the food will be consistent with elsewhere, but where’s the fun in coming home and telling all your friends you ate at Chili’s while in Washington DC? I keep an eagle eye out for holes-in-the-wall, for restaurants that are bustling, despite a lack of flashy signage outside.
5. If It’s Empty, Run Like the Wind
Years ago, in my inexperience, I and my ex let a waiter at a pizza restaurant in Nice coerce us inside. Big mistake. The entire place was deserted, despite it being prime lunch time. A waiter having to beg you to come in is another red flag, and one I’ve added to my “must avoid” list. You want a restaurant with lots of people in it. And if it’s an ethnic restaurant, look for people of that ethnicity dining there.