One of the biggest food travel tips I have to share (It may be more like strongly encourage!) is that you should always “eat local”.
What I mean by this is, when traveling, find out what your destination’s local or traditional cuisine and/or coveted dish is. Most places are known for a specific type of food in their area. These are the meals you should try while at your latest destination. This allows you to engross yourself into the local food culture.
You may be wondering, how do I know what places or dishes are considered “local”? Well, there are a few resources you can use to try and find a good restaurant to try the local cuisine.
- The Internet-basic Google searches for your destination, review websites like Yelp and Zagat, or other foodie focused sites such as roadfood.com or UrbanSpoon.com are good starting points. Many countries, states, and cities also have visitor websites. These may provide some insight to what the locally grown or inspired cuisine might be. Another alternative search tool is to look on websites like eatwellguide.org and localharvest.org (Domestic travel only) which allows you to search by zip code and will provide farmers markets, stores, etc. that provide local and sustainable food.
- Ask a native-If you know someone or can speak with someone who visited or lives where you are traveling to don’t be shy about asking for recommendations. I know I’m always excited to share my favorite hometown spots and dishes with people! In my opinion it would be a tragedy if the only New Jersey food experience a visiting friend or family member had was at a chain restaurant. Not that there is anything wrong with these places but, wouldn’t you want them try what we do best? ( ie. a favorite pizza joint, an italian eatery, a seafood shack near the beach or a farm to table establishment?). I’m proud of my local food culture and love to share my experiences (obviously!). I know there are many others like me out there who would enjoy bragging about their must-try places, you just have to ask!
- Phone Apps– There truly is an app for everything. The new app called Global Foodie will let you search the top country travel destinations and it will tell you what the local cuisine is (food descriptions and histories included too!). It even provides a checklist of the top 10 dishes for the selected country and allows you to check them off as you eat your way through the list! Scared you won’t be able to read the menu in a foreign country at a less touristy restaurant? Not to worry, there is an app for that too! Check out World Lens . This app uses your phone’s built in camera to instantly translate menus, labels etc. It doesn’t even require a network connection. You no longer have to be fearful about ordering out in a foregin country and not knowing what you actually ordered. There is another noteworth app for domestic travel as well. LocalEats is a US only local food finder (50 Major cities across the country). It has a strict “No Food-Chain” policy, top 100 best local restaurants lists, reviews, and user photos of local dishes.
Dining out where the locals eat and avoiding the tourist spots has its benefits. Eating at an off the beaten path restaurant will often allow you to get the true experience from a native’s perspective. One reason I really enjoy eating local is that in many places they offer dishes prepared with locally grown ingredients. Not only does this provide a unique freshness to the meals it is also helping support the local farms. Some downsides to consider when choosing tourist targeted restaurants are the overpriced food, overcrowding and the menu selections are typically not the best representation of what the city, state, country, etc. has to offer.
I hope you try one of these tricks of the trade next time you are traveling. My last words: Be a traveler, not a tourist!
…all for the love of the dish