I am a research junkie when it comes to travel.
Whenever I am headed to a new city, I love seeking out the coolest restaurants to eat, most creative places to explore and the local hidden gems, all of which takes time to search and sift through.
It’s all motivated by a desire to only eat the best stuff. One of my pet peeves when traveling is wandering around in search of a good/cool restaurant, only to get so hungry that I settle for a mediocre place or chain establishment. If I’m going to pay for it with money (and calories!), the food better be worth it.
There are tons of apps out there designed to “help you find local spots”. I tend not to trust Yelp or Tripadvisor reviews, since they are not usually submitted by local people, and both of those sites tailors the search results based on ad dollars and sponsorship.
A much preferred search method (at least for me) is a good old fashioned Google search. I think it warrants the best results.
Disclaimer: I’m a foodie, so I tend to gravitate towards more elevated cuisine from talented local chefs over traditional/authentic fare, street food or diners. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate those styles of food, but I just tend to seek out food that’s a little more refined. A personal preference!
I take a three-pronged approach to researching where to eat in a new city:
- See what local food bloggers are eating
- See what foodie websites are talking about
- See what your friends are recommending
First and foremost, I research what local food bloggers are eating. These are the people who live and breathe their local food scene and are excited about trying new places and fresh chefs. They are usually pretty knowledgeable on certain neighborhoods or styles of food depending on what they like or where they live.
Now how to find food bloggers is the question. We’ll take Portland as an example, since I’m just coming back from my trip there. A simple search of “Portland food bloggers” or “best food bloggers in the Northwest” can get you some good recommendations. Also check out twitter hashtags about food in the area and see who is posting (ex: #portlandfood or #PDXeats). They’ll likely link back to their blog so you can explore what else they have tried.
My next step in my food quest is checking out the Eater and Thrillst posts (if available in the city). These sights have local writers compile reviews and food lists that are totally legit. These are real eaters writing after trying lots of options around the city. I genuinely think they give a more up-to-date and inspired view of local food than sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp.
What I like about both of these websites is that they compile lists of things such as “Best Asian Noodles in _____” or “Favorite Late Night Eats in _____” so that you can do a more tailored search depending on what you like. I think it’s unfair to compare restaurants of different calibre or style, which often happens if you just search best restaurant or top 10 places to eat. Plus their photos will leave you mouthwatering.
A final step to researching the best places to eat is to ask around! I surround myself with fellow food interested individuals, so I’ve got fountains of knowledge around me all the time. You might be surprised how many people you know who explored in other cities or have recommendations of places to try. For me, anything that my coworker Lauren recommends I will try. She has never once let me down.
Now I know this seems like a lot of work, but honestly, it only takes a few hours once you get the hang of it and know where to look. Plus once you have your first trip with amazing local food stops, you’ll be hooked and won’t ever look back! Better food makes for better vacations.
Next week, I’ll show you how to compile all of this culinary research into one easy to use resource so that you can travel and explore around the city easier. Happy eating folks!