One of the most thrilling aspects of traveling abroad is sampling the local cuisine. However, finding a restaurant that represents an authentic dining experience can be a daunting task at times. We have six tips to help you spot a restaurant the locals love, no matter where you’re traveling. Discover the best local fare!
1. Do some research.
In order to be able to spot a local favorite, you’ll need to be familiar with the dining culture of the area. Take to the web, and look into local dining culture. Familiarize yourself with typical meal times, signature dishes, and general dining etiquette. Familiarizing yourself with dining culture will not only make you more comfortable dining among locals, it will also give you the knowledge to discern which restaurants will be representative of the dining culture, and which are catering toward travelers.
2. Now do a little more research.
Once you know a bit more about the dining culture as a whole, check out the restaurant scene in the city where you’ll be traveling. The key here is to look at more than one source – though apps that rely on peer reviewing, like Foursquare, are an awesome resource, the reviews can be skewed toward tourist favorites if the app isn’t popular in the area.
Newspaper reviews, dining blogs, and travel articles are good resources in addition to peer review apps. Many big cities (especially those with a large dining scene) will have at least one local dining blog, and can lead you to some wonderful restaurants that would otherwise go undiscovered. (Check out Paris by Mouth for an excellent example of a dining blog.)
3. Look at whether the restaurant sticks to local dining customs.
This is where your research will come in handy. For example, expect restaurants in a good deal of Europe to be closed for a few hours in late afternoon, and to stay open later than many American restaurants. Restaurants that don’t follow these customs tend to be focused toward tourists.
To dine at local favorites, plan to adjust your meal times to fit within the country’s dining culture. For example, if an Italian restaurant seems to be clearing out rather than getting busier at 9pm, that’s a good sign it’s not favored by locals.
4. Check that the menu is representative of the region’s typical food.
Many restaurants will have their menu posted outside – check out the menu to make sure the offerings are typical of regional fare. Menus should be small, focused, and representative of local specialties.
5. Get off the beaten path.
Though it’s certainly easiest to grab a bite to eat somewhere close to the sites, if you’re looking for an authentic experience, get away from the major tourist areas. Plan ahead, and find a restaurant that’s a little off the beaten path, but won’t derail your sightseeing plans too much.
No one knows the restaurant scene better than a local, and most would love to give some insight into their home. Have a discussion with hotel staff about their favorite places to grab a drink or a bite, and which places to skip.
Though it may take a little work to track down an authentic dining experience, few things make you feel as integrated into a culture as dining like a local. This is by no means an exhaustive list – let us know how you decide which restaurants to hit and which ones to skip in the comments.