We’ve been there: It’s day three of your trip, and you’re rocking that relaxed vacation vibe like no other. But you’ve also tried every concierge-recommended restaurant within walking distance of your hotel — and you’re already tired of each and every one.
What’s a visitor looking to completely soak up the culture of their new locale to do? With the following tips — and an adventurous spirit — you can eat like a local anywhere in the world.
1. Talk (and listen) to the right people.
Hotel concierges are an unparalleled resource when you’re in an unfamiliar city all dressed up with nowhere to go. But they don’t typically recommend the small, hyper-local spots that will give you a real understanding of what your destination has to offer.
For that, you need a true resident.
Ideally, you’ll meet a super friendly local on the plane ride who willingly offers up the names and locations of the absolute best places in town. But considering that most travelers are more interested in their smartphone than their seatmate, this is unlikely.
With social media, however, we now have thousands of people at our disposal — and more than likely, one of them is familiar with your travel destination. Email your friends and family, poll your Facebook friends, post about your trip on Twitter, or use online reviews to guide your decisions.
Not only are these online commenters sure to be honest, most will specify right in their review whether they were in town traveling or are locals who frequent that location. Not to mention you’ll have a handy numerical system to help you choose. Just watch out for spammers or false reviews, however. They could pose your destination as a local favorite when it’s actually a tourist trap in disguise.
To get some truly reliable advice, we suggest checking out the reviews on your dining loyalty rewards program website while you’re planning your trip and documenting any restaurants that interest you. Remember, these folks are verified diners — and steadfast foodies — who have made finding the best eats a way of life.
2. Break out your smartphone.
The Internet’s vacation-saving power doesn’t stop at social media. There are a whole host of apps designed to help frustrated travelers find the best food around.
Local Eats, for example, offers users a list of independently owned, local shops and restaurants near them with a GPS driven “What’s near me?” feature. You can even order a cab from within the app, just in case your wanderings have brought you a little farther than you’d expected.
The mobile sites and apps developed for your dining rewards program can also help locate nearby attractions, in addition to providing plenty of reviews to help you weed out tourist traps before you even set foot in the door. Even if you’ve lost your way, you can use the quick and easy “Use Current Location” option to see all of the restaurants within walking distance — and find yourself on a handy digital map.
For an extra boost, you can also download Foodict Food Dictionary, an app featuring more than 2,100 food-related terms. Chances are, if you’re looking at a menu chock full of locale-specific words, you’re in a place that caters to initiated locals more than bewildered travelers. Not to mention, you’ll never order something like Rocky Mountain Oysters without knowing what you’re really getting again.
3. Get lost.
They say the best way to explore a new city is by foot. And they are definitely right.
Although traveling by car or bus allows you to see more in a single trip, traveling by foot — or, if you’re looking to cover more ground, a bike — gives you time to actually explore each place you pass, including those small restaurants and shops that may otherwise go unnoticed.
Of course, there’s always the chance of finding yourself in an area that the tours pass over for a reason, but if you plan a path with the help of your concierge, you’re much more likely to find a special hole-in-the-wall that even some locals have yet to discover.
You’ll also increase your chances of accidentally discovering a farmers market, art fair, festival, or rummage sale, giving you an extra-special look into the small businesses and local artisans that populate your destination. By talking to the vendors — and even some of the locals you meet — you can discover not just the restaurant the residents love, but also pick up a few unique souvenirs that the folks back home will actually love.