Finding good and interesting restaurants on your vacation and holiday is an important part of the holiday for many.
But how do you avoid the tourist traps and find really good restaurants on the trip?
In your home town, you have probably tried many of the restaurants that are available. You know which are good, which are terrible, and which restaurants are the best option depending on what you want to eat.
But when you go abroad, perhaps on a vacation or business trip, to a completely new city, how do you know which restaurants are good and which you should absolutely stay away from? The difference between good and bad restaurants is huge. At worst, you may get ill due to improperly handled food such as cross-contamination and dirty kitchens, and at best you will have the best meal of your life at a great price.
When coming to a new city, it can be difficult to know without having tried them all, but thankfully, there are some helpful tips and approaches you can use, which we share in this article.
In this post, we share our best tips for finding the best restaurants when abroad during a vacation or business trip.
Use Guide Michelin
Guide Michelin is available on the web and is easily accessible. This is one of the best and surefire ways to find great restaurants. Guide Michelin restaurants are also known for being luxurious and exclusive (in general), which makes these perfect for a date night.
Guide Michelin is a food guide created by Michelin (yes, the tire company) which reviews restaurants, and as the name suggests, guides you to the best restaurants to experience.
The guide reviews restaurants through two to three-line short summaries and an extensive system of symbols, Restaurants may receive zero to 3 stars for the quality of their food.
The guide uses the following 5 Restaurant Rating Criteria:
1. Quality of products
2. Mastery of flavour and cooking techniques
3. The personality of the chef represented in the dining experience
4. Value for money
5. Consistency between inspectors’ visits
The downside with the Michelin guide is that it does not cover every single restaurant in every single town or place, so Michelin restaurants may not be available at the place you are staying during your vacation.
You can find the Michelin guide online on their website. Visit Guide Michelin and select your location. You can also search for specific restaurants and chefs.
Since Guide Michelin is not available in many cities around the world, you need a different approach to find the best restaurants. A great method is to use Tripadvisor. Since the Tripadvisor restaurant reviews are published by the community, there are far more restaurants reviewed than on the Michelin Guide. The catch, however, is that since the reviews are published by a community and not the Michelin Guide team, you need to be a bit more skeptical of the reviews there. Overall, the review system is credible and trusted, but it is worth reading the reviews with some skepticism. For example, the reviews may be published by the restaurant owners, their friends, and family, or the restaurant may bribe customers to leave a positive review and rating. Just make sure you also read the negative reviews so you can get a nuanced picture, and you should be able to get a fairly good idea of the restaurant’s quality.
Tripadvisor is a great help for finding great restaurants according to recommendations by other uses, and the odds of finding hidden gems are substantially better on Tripadvisor than on Guide Michelin. You can access Tripadvisor at Tripadvisor.com.
Ask the restaurant staff
Oftentimes, restaurant staff and bartenders have a good idea of which restaurants are the most popular at the moment and which new restaurants are most talked about – something that is not captured in either Michelin Guide or Tripadvisor. A tip is, therefore, to ask employees at restaurants that you eat at what other restaurants they recommend in the area.
Since the people working there are locals, they should be able to help give some great advice on restaurants that they visit during their free time. You can also ask them for places which you should absolutely not go to. Just bear in mind that they may mention competitors or rivals if you do.
Ask friends for tips
It can be really helpful to ask friends for restaurant recommendations if they have been to the city you are going to. Even if they have only tried a few restaurants, they have been there and tried for themselves, so they should be able to give you some tips on what is good and what is not.
Of course, this also requires that you like the same type of restaurants and food as the friends you ask for advice since we all have different tastes. Furthermore, it also requires that they have been to the place where you are going (unless they just like to do a lot of research).
Ask the locals
Building on the idea of asking locals, go beyond just asking at the restaurants you are eating at for tips.
Locals will naturally have the best insight and experience with the restaurants that are available and will be able to give you recommendations based on their personal experiences.
It is also helpful to visit the tourist’s office (if such is available) and ask them for advice.
Read local newspapers/guides/online reviews
Oftentimes, you will find brochures and guides at the restaurant or at the tourist’s office. These often list restaurants, and can, therefore, be helpful in finding good restaurants.
Explore local publications and magazines. You can also make more detailed research by searching for additional information online such as on forums, blogs, or Google reviews.
There are tons of information out there, so before you go to a restaurant, do your research online and google the restaurant. Chances are, you will find lots of information from people who have been there before you.
Additional tips for finding good restaurants during your vacation
There are additional tips you want to consider when looking for restaurants abroad.
In looking for tips and recommendations, make sure you are always skeptical and question the neutrality and bias of the recommendations. Ask yourself, does the person recommending the restaurant have anything to gain by giving this recommendation?
Furthermore, look at the restaurant’s interior. The interior can often (but not always) say a lot about the restaurant. Does it use plastic tables and chairs? Or does it have a nice, well-thought-out interior with nice decorations? You can often see the quality of the restaurant by looking at the quality of the interior.
A general tip that is often discussed is to have a look at the restaurant’s toilet. If the toilet is clean and fresh, chances are, the kitchen is as well. This is not always a rule, but can still be an indication.
The last tip for finding good restaurants abroad is to avoid the restaurants which are focused on tourists. This means restaurants near tourist attractions, for example. These restaurants are good, but they are generally not the ones the locals go to. Additionally, the prices tend to be much higher than if you look for the hidden gems. Therefore, dare to explore the restaurants available and find your way away from all the tourists. This is when you can get the most bang for your buck and find the true gems that the locals love.