Traveling to a new place is fun and exciting. It can also be a challenge to find good food if you don’t know where to look. Follow these tips to find the best local food while traveling.
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know the local specialties
One major problem travelers can run into is not being able to find good, local food. In order to avoid this, it helps to know what kind of food you are looking for.
Before you go on your trip, research local specialties. Knowing what to look for in a restaurant helps ensure you find the best food while traveling without falling into a tourist trap. It can also be useful to familiarize yourself with the local food. If you can, learn the foods in the native language. At the very least, it’s helpful to know what the words would look like on a menu.
This can help you sift through what may be presented as a tourist attraction, and what you really want – local good eats!
One great example of this is pasta in Italy. While Italy is known for it’s pastas, each region of Italy has it’s own specialty pasta that it’s known for. Learning which pasta is specific to the region to the you are in can help ensure you get only the best. For example, ordering a carbonara in Rome, where the pasta originated, would be a different experience than ordering it in a different city.
Stray off the beaten path to find the best food while traveling
Once you know the local specialties, it’s time to get out and explore. Staying in a town center can be great for ease of getting around, but it may not always give you the best access to local eats.
In order to eat like a local, you’ve got to explore the city like a local! Sometimes this is as simple as diverting off the main street. Or, it could be more like venturing out into more residential neighborhoods.
A great example is Catania, Sicily. It’s the second largest city in Sicily. Via Etnea is the main street where you can find shopping, the city square with the Cathedral, and even access the famous fish market. All of these things make it the tourist center of the city. The street itself is worth a visit. But for food, you are better off exploring one of the many side streets that run parallel to Via Etnea. Once you get out of the main tourist center, a world of nice restaurants, wine bars and local hidden gems opens up.
attend a local market
If you’ve ever watched Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, you know this tip: attend a local market. Doing so will give you insight into what foods are common and in season in the local area. This will not only help you be able to recognize the foods and ingredients on menus, but it will also familiarize you with what you should be looking for to eat. When you don’t speak the language of the city you’re visiting, knowing what foods look like can really help!
Additionally, many local markets also have food stalls alongside the other vendors. Often, these food stalls utilize the wares of the market to create delicious and prized local dishes. This is a great way to get acquainted with the flavors of the city. You’ll be able to try some new foods and find out what you like from the local fare. Typically, market vendors like this are also more affordable than restaurants, allowing you to try many dishes at once for half the price.
Book a Food Tour
When in doubt – get some local help! Booking a tour with a local is a surefire way to become acquainted with the local food. Try a local market tour and cooking class, like shopping for market produce in Barcelona and learning how to make authentic paella.
For example, you can book a food tour, where a local will take you to local eateries for small bites. Often, these type of tours include the guide sharing about local history, including food history, as well as arts and culture. Take, for example, this pastry tour in Paris guided by French authors. Taking a food tour is also a great way to support multiple local small businesses.
If a food-centric tour isn’t your thing, no worries. You can book a history, city walking tour, or arts and culture tour with a local. From there, it’s easy to ask for recommendations. However, we’d recommend asking more along the lines of “where do you like to eat?” or “what’s your favorite late night snack?” instead of simply asking for restaurant recommendations. This way, your guide knows you are looking to have a taste of what the locals enjoy.
There’s a wealth of different types of tours you can book on your next vacation, from a cooking class, to wine paired lunch, to a bicycle tour of the city. To get help booking the best tours, visit this link.
trust your instincts to find the best food while traveling
Last but not least, trust your instincts. Now, this one can be up to interpretation to be sure. Mostly, what I mean by this is don’t always rely on Trip Advisor or Yelp to find good places to eat on your vacation. Some of the greatest food I’ve experienced while traveling has been from small restaurants that aren’t even listed on Google Maps. I walked down the right street at the right time and found a gem of a place that I may or may not be able to find again. (Though if you take enough pictures, it’s easier than you think to relocate some of your favorites!)
Additionally, like with any review site, the reviews on Trip Advisor or even Yelp may be made by people with completely different tastes from yours. If you want a good food adventure, and to really experience a place like a local, venturing outside of your comfort zone is inevitable. Sometimes you discover a food you’d never thought to try that you really love. Sometimes, not so much. Either way it’s a great experience.
dine where the locals do
Along with trusting your instinct is another important tip: look for locals. The best way to find out where the locals are eating is to pay attention to where they are eating! This is easiest with restaurants and eateries that feature outside dining, so you can get a glimpse of who is eating there before you go in. And sometimes, the opposite can be true. I’ve had great experiences at restaurants that have no one in them.
Finding great food while traveling is an adventure in itself. Often times, it will lead you to places you might not have originally planned on going. But when you get there, you’re always glad you did. And sometimes, those adventures create the best experiences and the most treasured memories.