When I travel, I like to let my foodie desires come out to play. I travel the world like a foodie. That means I enjoy trying unique cuisine, discovering local restaurants, and indulging in all the foodie experiences that make the destination shine. I like to eat the best of the best (in whatever form that is, not necessarily the most expensive) to get best experience of the culture. Here are ten tips to make the most of your travel eats and help you travel like a foodie.
1. Keep an open mind.
Isn’t it funny how travel advice always starts like this? When traveling, you’ll encounter different traditions, cultures and ingredients. Sometimes, they’re VERY different from what you are accustomed to, which can be uncomfortable. Understanding this, be ready to experience different flavors and strange-to-you ingredients. Try everything once. You can discover new favorite dishes and flavors and if anything, you can cross it off your bucket list!
2. Do your research on dishes.
This is especially helpful in foreign countries. Learn what the traditional foods are, what ingredients are in them, and what they’re called. This will help you know what to expect and order off a menu, especially if a menu is in a different language. When my friends and I went to Spain, we knew we would be indulging in a variety of tapas, jamon, paella and wine, and it helped to look out for what we knew at different restaurants. (Check out what we ate in Spain here.)
3. Do your research on restaurants.
Many, many food critics and foodies have done the work for you already! Thank you, Internet. Look up travel blog posts, Yelp, TripAdvisor, award lists and news stories about a city. Rick Steves always has great restaurant recommendations in his guide books. I found this Eater list helpful for future trips. You can get recommendations from the Anthony Bourdain ‘Parts Unknown’ episode about the location. For the very popular restaurants, like anything on a ‘world’s best restaurants’ list, be sure to make your reservation well ahead of time. If there are multiple restaurants you want to visit, make a loose schedule of your trip to make sure you hit every one you want to visit.
4. Vary your options.
Fully explore your options, from high-end restaurants to street vendors, appetizers to desserts, and touristy restaurants to local hangouts. This will give you a full scope about the cuisine. It might help to keep your restaurant list loose to have some spontaneity. Also, try new dishes at every place. It helps if your travel mates order different dishes and you all share them. When it comes to gelato in Europe, disregard this tip and eat it everywhere.
5. Ask the locals for recommendations.
Before your trip, you can find locals on TripAdvisor, Twitter and Instagram or blogs. You should also ask locals while you’re exploring. We found our favorite restaurant in Tamarindo, Costa Rica because we asked our kayak tour guide where he loves to eat. If you don’t encounter any locals naturally, check with your hotel concierge before you go out to explore and he/she is sure to have recommendations.
6. Eat with a local.
One of my favorite meals in Barcelona and on my Spain trip wasn’t at a restaurant. It was with a wonderful family in their home. (Long story short, one of my travel mates knew someone in the family.) This experience allowed us to see the custom of jamon on the kitchen counter, taste a home-cooked and delicious meal, and learn more about Spain and its culture through conversation. An unforgettable experience! There are companies that help facilitate these experiences if you don’t already know a local. Research Mealsharing, EatWith, With Locals and Feastly.
7. Take a food tour.
Food tours are great in foodie cities like New York City. They’ll take you to four or five different restaurants to try some bites while giving food and city history along the way. This tip also refers to tours at a brewery, winery, or culinary factory. I enjoyed Santorini Brewing Company in Greece and Platypus Wine Tours in Sonoma. You can also look up produce specific to the location. For example, tour a coffee plantation in Costa Rica or tequila distillery in Mexico.
8. Take a cooking class.
A great way to experience the food in another place is through in-depth learning by doing. Get hands-on experience from knowledgeable instructors, taste dishes and learn about the ingredients. This blog post has a lot of options for cooking classes around the world.
9. Go to a farmers market or grocery store.
Visit a farmers market or grocery store to get a free, exploratory experience. You’ll see the unique fresh produce and packaged items and even find cheaper souvenirs. What I like about doing this in the U.S. is seeing all the different kinds of craft beers the city/state offers. If you’re ever in San Francisco, their farmers market at the Ferry Building is definitely one you want to experience.
10. Bring back the memories.
Find food-related – perishable or not – souvenirs to bring your memories back with you. Chocolate bars, unique spices, a hand-made plate, and embroidered dishtowels are all great ideas.
I hope these tips can help you have a happy foodie trip! If you have any questions or additional recommendations, please comment below. Happy Eating!