It hardly needs to be said at this point that we love eating. We’re certainly foodies but not necessarily gourmets – in other words, we aren’t too bothered about how expensive the restaurant is (as long as it’s within our budget) or how fancy it is, as long as the food is good. But still, we love to eat at tasty restaurants. We have pretty consistently been able to find some of the best food in the places we’ve gone. But how? Here are our secret weapons in finding great places to eat (come to think of it, figuring out the delicacies of a region or best foods in a certain city is a similar process).
Ask a Local
If you’ve followed our advice for meeting locals, you now have the ability to ask a local what their favorite restaurant in the area is. For this I would highly recommend seeing first if the person is as excited about food as you are, and if so, follow their advice to the letter. Sometimes if you ask someone who doesn’t really care about good food (it’s hard to believe, but this applies to many people) they will recommend places that aren’t necessarily the best. If you aren’t sure of the trustworthiness of someone’s recommendation, do a quick search for “Name of Restaurant + reviews” and see what comes up. Generally though, you can be sure that a local will know a good place to eat. This goes for hostel/hotel staff as well – it never hurts to ask.
Look in a Zagat or Michelin guide
Go into a bookstore. Look for some kind of best restaurant guide and jot down or take a picture of the ones that look tasty or are in your budget. Note that in some places this can be difficult because they shrink-wrap every single book (looking at you, Malaysia) or they have no guides in English (thanks a lot, Shanghai).
Hopefully you have internet available, because all the rest of our methods require it. First off is doing a Google search for “best restaurants + City Name” (or you know, use whatever search engine you want – we are just under the opinion that Google is best). Look at a few of the top lists that come up. Compare them. Try out other similar searches like “good restaurants + City Name” or “best budget restaurants + City Name.” You will get better results if you have a particular thing is mind, like “best dimsum restaurants” or “best noodle restaurants.” Write down the ones that keep showing up on all the lists, or ones that look really tasty to you.
Check best of lists in Time Out and the like
Many cities have magazines that will do 50 or 100 best restaurant lists yearly, and these can be found online. One that we like and is in many places is Time Out, so do a search for “Time Out + City Name” and see if that’s available.
Yelp or local equivalent
We absolutely love Yelp, a US-based restaurant review site. It’s slowly but surely making its way to other countries but is still most helpful in the US and Canada. Luckily there are similar sites in other countries, like Open Rice in Hong Kong. Do a search for “restaurant reviews + Country Name” and you may be able to find it. Here you can look at what users think about various restaurants. Usually the really popular stuff is bound to be good – unless we are talking about Ben’s Chili Bowl in DC (it’s just famous because it’s famous… not because it’s good). Also check Chowhound, which has threads for many countries.
Find a site geared to local expats
You might be able to find blogs or websites geared to expats or simply in English (if you speak the local language, good for you!). For example you can use the Beijinger for Beijing or Seoul Eats for tasty restaurants in Seoul.
If it looks like we spend a lot of time researching restaurants, that’s because we absolutely do. Food is important to us so we want to try the best. That’s not to say that every meal is planned out – sometimes we just see a place with a long line or with a good-looking menu or eat somewhere out of convenience. But we do try to eat at well-regarded places and famous places, because often it’s obvious that they deserve their reputation. We also depend on lists of places to eat from other food and travel blogs – some of our favorites include Migrationology, The Road Forks, and Boots in the Oven.
How do you find delicious food on your travels?