Khrys' travel tips: Spotting the best restaurants
Tom and I have a couple priorities when traveling. The city must fulfill some parts of a checklist : proximity to nature, a vibrant art scene, architecture, picturesque streets, good places to relax, and of course amazing food options. That last one is probably at the top of the list. Finding a good spot for a meal is so valuable, and so important. It makes us feel happy, and excited to see what else is the city doing!
But, as it happens, many restaurants have a challenging relationship with providing quality options to their patrons. Depending on the business model, the ownership of the business, the location, food can be either the most delicious, or bland and overpriced. If you’ve got a restaurant, perhaps a little off the beaten path, with an owner who truly cares about every element of the dining experience, who genuinely has a mission to provide highest level of care to the customers, then you’ve got yourself a good recipe ( ; ) ) for a long lasting, beloved business.
There is also different model: get a business in a touristy area, churn out sub-par products to the customers, sell the food at a significant mark-up, and provide zero care to the fact that you’re running a scam. The tourists will keep coming so the business will keep thriving. You need not add any improvements to the menu, because…who cares.
I’ve travelled enough to share some signs that a restaurant will most likely suck, and I urge you to always do your research before spending your hard earned cash. My rules have worked for me without fail, but of course there are exceptions to the rule. Would love to hear other tips on best practices of finding best food experiences.
Your restaurant will most likely suck if:
it’s attached to a hotel. Typically hotels can benefit from their guests coming down to get a bite or a drink, and so they always have a steady flow of patrons.
it’s a chain. The best restaurants are tough to get into (or at least coveted) and there should be few of them within an area (or no duplicates at all). Scarcity is the driver of all demand, and a good restaurant should always be in demand.
there are no pictures on the menu. Often helpful, but add a kitsch feeling to the experience, leading me to question whether they are adhering to the larger demographic of the average customer.
the portions are obnoxiously large. Many restaurants will try to make up in size what they lack in quality. Why would anyone want a bucket full of pasta, when you can have a smaller amount of amazing, high quality flavor?
you are traveling abroad, and the cocktail list consists of “cosmopolitans”, “mojitos”, “daiquiris”. Typically these most common known cocktails are put on the menu for Americans who want name recognition. Even if you love your cosmos, the drink most likely will be made poorly (since it’s not their specialty).
the fruit juices come from a carton. Fresh juices only!
the menu rarely changes. I especially love menus that change seasonally or at least offer many specials that include new flavors. There is nothing wrong with a classic menu, but if the restaurant refuses to grow and change with time, you can bet the recipes are outdated.
your only source for good reviews is Yelp (review are often purchased), Trip Advisor, (target the most touristy tourists) Google Reviews. Some good websites are Culturetrip, Eater. Get reputable sources, like foodie friends or blogs.
if it’s too central. Low hanging fruit seldom offer the most delicious options. Again, the places that are the easiest to find live off of the constant stream of passerby travelers and therefore don’t depend on positive word of mouth, promotions, other marketing to be discovered.
the desert is a monstrosity. This one is tough to predict ahead of time, so some research is in order! If the photos of the desert look like you’re getting a huge dollop of sweet whatever, again the restaurant is depending on the quantity and not the quality.
the “view” is the biggest sale point. If the main draw of the restaurant is the “terrific views”, you can almost always bet that the food is going to be overpriced, and under-seasoned. This particular point is not for places with fantastic decor, but rather those that are on the "top floor” of some building.
What about you? What helps you find the best places to eat?