Though we make a big majority of the food we eat, we have also had some really great experiences eating in awesome restaurants. We’ve had to learn the hard way a couple of times in order to get to the place where we are now. (I’m recalling a particularly awful tourist trap that we fell sucker to in Charleston!) But we’ve put those lessons to use and are now consistently happy if not over the moon with the meals we eat out. After all, who wants to spend money on something only to be disappointed? In this post we talk about some of our best tips and tricks related to how to eat like a local.
Ask a local!
In an earlier post we discussed how to meet people while traveling. Coffee shops, bars, on the street. No matter where you choose to strike up a conversation, asking people about their favorite places to eat is one of the best conversation starters we can think of. It’s often one of the best ways we get information and is one of the first places we start when doing restaurant research.
Check out social media.
We’re on social media a lot and even more so when we’re about to head to a new city. Instagram is a big resource for us because it’s such a visual platform. What we find on Instagram is often the thing that get’s us psyched to visit or turned off. Caroline has a knack for choosing great spots based on their feeds. She usually searches by city and location and then scrolls down to see what catches her eye. Then we go from there!
Visit the Visitors Bureau.
Before we started traveling for dapperQ we rarely utilized the visitors bureau as a source of information. Nowadays we wouldn’t dream of NOT using them! We’ve had such great experiences with not only meeting locals who are passionate about their city but also getting maps, current info on new restaurants and personal tried and true recommendations.
Explore on foot.
We start almost every day with a run and when we’re in a new city, we keep our eyes open for places that look cool that we then make a point to go back and visit later. When we’re not running we spend a good bit of time on foot, seeing what there is to see. We love it when a place has a menu on the window and are easily influenced by the “feel” of a place, especially if the exterior is inviting and unique.
Use your nose.
When trying to eat like a local, use your nose! If it smells delicious, there’s a great chance it’s going to taste that way as well. Often times we’ll get a whiff of something amazing (cheeseburgers on a grill, pizza, stir fry … doughnuts!) and veer hard in the direction of the smells. Rarely has our nose let us down. Do you trust yours yet?!
Keep an open mind!
Sometimes eating like a local means trying new things. One of my first food explorations was in my early twenties. I was offered some conch salad (raw conch plus some vegetables and lime juice). My knee-jerk reaction was “eww gross” but I stuck my fork into the plastic cup and took a bite. It was actually amazingly good and quickly became one of my new favorite foods. Lesson learned! If getting out of your comfort zone is difficult then start small and go from there. Over time, it’s possible that you’ll be able to become a more adventurous eater.
Read print media and blogs.
Newspapers and magazines have never gone out of style in our house. Though we use a lot of technology and also read a lot of digital media, we still love the old school way of finding new places to eat. Garden and Gun, Bon Appetit, Food and Wine and Saveur all have a place in our home. Sometime’s we’ll dog-ear a magazine to show each other something we found, other times we’ll take a photo with our phone that we then reference later.
Use common sense.
This one’s pretty self explanatory but if you’re at what the locals are calling the best steak place in Texas, don’t order the spaghetti. Order the steak! Likewise, don’t order seafood if you’re hundreds of miles from the coast. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, it doesn’t really matter what meal it is, be sure to bring your own common sense to the table!
Attend a food festival.
There may not be another single best way to experience a ton of local food at once. Many food festivals require tickets but if you’re able to score one, go with an empty belly and have a blast! Some food festivals are completely free and you just pay individual vendors for bites and plates.
How to Eat Like a Local Recap
If you’re anything like us, you love to eat when you travel. In addition to just feeling full and getting the calories we need to keep our energy up, want to be able to enjoy delicious, authentic food. After all we may only be in a place for 24 hours or so and we want to feel like we made the most of our time and money. We’ve put the above into play when creating our Best Burgers and Best Ramen in the USA posts and are excited to roll out a few more lists in the coming months.
What tips do you have on how to eat like a local? We’d love to hear them. Please leave your comments below!