Food is my #1 passion in life and travel #2. However, sometimes I think the only reason I like to travel is to find different foods to fuel Passion #1 - I even keep a restaurant journal. When I travel, I research the restaurants and make someone else research everything else. I then record the details of the foodie-adventures in my journal.
Some lessons I have learned along the way:
- Ask locals for recommendations – obvious, but there are a few caveats.
- Your hotel front desk is usually the first place to start, but beware. If they recommend a restaurant with a business card and instructions to give it to the restaurant and “tell them we sent you,” DON’T GO. This happened to me in Barcelona, and we were so upsold at dinner it was the most unrelaxing part of the trip.
- Ask the right question. Don’t ask, “What restaurants do you recommend.” Ask, “Where do you eat with your friends/family?” and follow that one up with “What kind of food do you like” to ensure their tastes aren’t completely off from yours.
- My favorite people to ask are taxi drivers and locals working at bars or restaurants where you have had a good experience.
- If you are traveling within the US, the internet will be your best friend in pre-planning, but web sites aren’t as common among international restaurants. I like www.chowhound.com for national and international.
- One thing you can research online before is what is considered local cuisine and drinks. Research tipping practices while you are at it.
- If you go to a restaurant that you like, and there are a lot of other restaurants in that same area, grab a business card – that way, you can hand the taxi driver the card the next night instead of trying to explain.
- Look for restaurants that are already busy – it will be worth the short wait.
- Ask for an English menu, you would be surprised how many places have them – and they usually give you a good laugh with the spelling and translations.
- I shouldn’t have to tell anyone this – but try to avoid chains. However, some local chains, are usually pretty good.
So actual recommendations in random locations?
Tokyo: Garlic House – order the garlic French bread for the appetizer, amazing!
Madrid: La Finca de Susana (chefs in training, so great, inexpensive food), and ENE (funky posh, a little pricy)
Dublin: For me, the food in Irelandtastes as dull as the weather, but I managed to find one good place: Chatham Brasserie (Chatham street Dublin– try the burger and chorizo brushetta). Diep Noodle Bar (Ranelagh Dublin 6) is also good.
Madison, WI:I know, not very ‘jetsetter’ of me, but this is an all time favorite and easy to miss and there is only a small black sign hanging on a grey door: Muramoto (106 King Street; Asian fusion)
Barcelona:Barceloneta (L’Escar, 22 moll Dels Pescadors) – pricey, but the view is to die for! Try the cod Carpaccio and don’t skip dessert.
London: Too many great restaurants to count, but Ping Pong is great. All Dim Sum! Order Jasmine tea for a nice surprise too!
Berlin: KaDeWe is a department store in Berlin – like Harrods in London, at least when it comes to the food. Take a few hours to wonder around the upstairs section and sample oysters and champagne!
Santiago: Nau Kana - unbelievable Asian, Middle East fusion! Try their version of the Mojito - vodka & basil.