When it comes to dining out on vacation, it often comes down to two options – stick with the tried and true chain restaurants you recognize from home, or take a gamble on a local joint. While chain restaurants do offer the piece of mind and knowing the basic menu options, food quality, and price, they can be boring. At the same time, you don't want to be surprised with bad food or high prices at an unknown establishment. Fortunately, there are several ways to find the best local restaurants in your vacation spot, and the following tips can help.
Tip #1: Pick Up the Free Paper
Most large towns and cities have a free weekly paper that you can find in coffee shops or hotel lobbies. Inside this paper will usually be a restaurant section, complete with reviews and menu descriptions. Many even use a simple dollar sign symbol to indicate average price. Read through these to see what the local critics are enjoying. You can always research further online once you have the name of a few good contenders for your dining experience.
Tip #2: Watch the Traffic
When you are out sight seeing, keep an eye on intriguing-looking restaurants in the area. Do they get busy at major meal times? If so, you may have found a local favorite. Note the restaurant name and location for later hotel room research on menu and price, then plan a meal there later in your trip – perhaps right before or right after the normal local rush so you don't have to wait in line.
Tip #3: Narrow your Focus
Instead of looking for a good restaurant, begin by seeking out specific cuisine. What is the best Thai or Mexican food where you are at? Or, if you are in an area with famous regional offerings, where can you find the best of that? Then, approach locals and ask them if they know of any good restaurants within that focus. Where to find locals? Employees at attractions and stores, the person behind you in line at the gas station, or even your cab driver are good places to start.
Tip #4: Use Your Technology
The internet is a wealth of information, but use it wisely. You can begin by searching restaurants near you and then narrowing them down by the type of cuisine you are craving. Next, check out local reviews, such as on services like Yelp. It's also a good idea to see if there are any review options connected to the local newspaper or news stations websites – these may be even more up-to-date and honest. Finish by checking out the restaurant website to get an idea of menu offerings. No website? Try searching the restaurant name and location combined with the word "menu," - sometimes you can find samples of the menu that others have uploaded to a menu service or personal web page.