Living in the Foodiest Town in America can certainly rub off on a girl. So much so, that now when I plan a trip, it’s mostly around our culinary experience as much as anything else. Want to travel like a foodie, too? Here are some fun ways to sniff out the culinary gems of any destination.
Determine the type of culinary experience you want
Whether you’ve already planned your trip and have decided to hit up all the great eateries — or are actually planning your trip because of the eateries — determine what kind of culinary experience you want. You could specialize the experience around a particular focus such as cheese, wine, whisky, barbeque or po-boys. Or, you could simply plan an overall experience of eating good stuff.
It’s a good idea to think about how to make the most of your destination ahead of time.
Before you arrive
- Check online food forums like Chowhound, RoadFood.com or eGullet.org and look for the “where to eat” discussions of the town you’re traveling to. People who post on food sites are usually relatively well informed about the local food scene, so there’s often good info there.
- Locally based independent blogs, magazines or newspapers also cover the local food scene and are a great source of information. Often you can get a sense of where the hot areas of town and places to go are from these.
- User review sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and Urbanspoon may not give you the most accurate information on quality, though they can be useful just to locate places to consider (especially in a smaller town where there aren’t that many options). Unfortunately, savvy restaurants know how to game them and seed their reviews with biased sources (like family, friends, regulars, etc.) and it muddles the authenticity.
- Social media is another great place to get recommendations. Reach out to your online friends — chances are if they like a spot, you may too!
After you arrive
Once you’re there, ask around. Bartenders and servers are often very tied in to the local food scene, so if you convince them that you’re serious (but not pretentious), they can be a gold mine of info.
Tip: Offer to buy the bartender at a good place a shot of Fernet and then ask for recommendations, and you’ll usually get the real deal info.
Spend some time at the local market
By exploring the local markets, you can get up-close-and-personal with the ingredients of the region, and you’ll have a greater sense of what the locals like. You don’t have to stop at just the market either — specialty stores, farm stands and food fairs are all usually the best culinary gems!
Just let go and see where your culinary trip takes you
Some of the best experiences when traveling have been discoveries that weren’t out of a guidebook or from a recommendation, but by trusting instinct and following my nose. Stumbling upon an artisan shop here or a hole-in-the-wall diner there, have all been the most memorable. When you let go and take in the experience around you – everything tastes better!
What has been your favorite culinary experience when traveling? I’d love to hear about it.
Special thanks to the foodiest of all, my friend, Justin Konrad for help with this post.