I am always very curious about people’s travels and want to know what made the food memorable. How did they chose a place to eat or did the restaurant chose them? What was important for them such as the location, type of food, the service, the prices, or the people they were sharing the meal with?

It’s good to take notes even if the experience was a bad one. I think it’s just as valuable to know what they didn’t like so you know where or what to avoid.

Here are some things to do before you pick a place to eat:

  1. Do your research on the region and find out what it is known for. In the South, BBQ is king; Chicago is known for its pizza; in New Orleans, it’s gumbo; New England is famous for its lobster.
  2. Check out reviews and definitely use Yelp and TripAdvisor for places that might not be on your radar.
  3. Ask the locals where they would recommend. Often they will steer you away from the tourist traps and suggest the best places to eat.
  4. Look in the parking lot. If it’s 6:00 PM on a Saturday and the parking lot is almost empty, you might want to consider eating elsewhere. I made the mistake of going into a restaurant that had one car in the parking lot. My family and I spent the meal listening to talk radio (which they refused to turn off) and there was a smell of smoke from the kitchen. We were all wondering if the restaurant was a front for some illegal business. We were the only ones there and the wait staff kept disappearing.
  5. Check the restaurant’s website. Often they will post their menus with the cost. They might even let you know if reservations are recommended. I look at the location and map to see if we can walk there or if we need a car. For me, if it’s over five blocks, I’m driving.

    Must see in Chicago. The Oven Grinder

Do you have any tried-and-true methods for finding a delicious restaurant in a strange city? What’s the best restaurant you’ve eaten at on vacation?  I would love to hear from you.