Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Travelling Somewhere Soon? Here's How NOT to Eat Like a Tourist

Travelling is a lot of fun but simple things like dining can become difficult when you don't speak the native language. This can be a problem especially in cities with a lot of tourism, as restaurants with large English lettering call tourists in, rip them off and leave them thinking the pasta was better at home. 

Here is a compilation of the best tips for eating in Europe- some I've learned the hard way and others were passed on to me by friends, but either way these are some of the best tips for making sure you get your money's worth - in euros and that you enjoy some delicious regional food while you are away from home.

1) Stay away from restaurants with large colourful pictures of food plastered on their walls, signs and menus.

2) Stay away from restaurants that advertise "large coffees" and "big salads" or any other places that use a lot of English on their signs/menus. As you might have guessed- locals don't eat there. 

3) Don't eat anywhere from where a major tourist attraction is visible. This rule can be bent slightly if you want to eat in a large piazza (just use the other rules to help you avoid the major tourist traps)

4)Observe the diners...if they don't look like locals or as if they are savouring their meals...they are probably not! Avoid places where the diners don't look excited about what they are eating.

5) If they offer a "menu turista" where there is a combo of pizza, a drink and a dessert for ten euro and it sounds too good to be true...it probably is. (There may be places where this is not the case but I didn't risk this so can't really give you my personal opinion on whether to try it)

6) Do ask locals that you meet where they like to eat and don't be afraid to ask for recommendations from BnBs you walk by or the staff at your own hotel/apartment/residence.

7) Do use online forums like trip advisor to locate some authentic restaurants near you. I found however, that the best ones were those recommended by kitchen staff, BnB owners, even tour guides. Just specify you want to eat local food.

8) Don't stop at places that have a small selection of food on their menu. Places that have lots of dishes on their menu tend to have lots of food coming out of pantries and freezers, which means the food is not fresh and seasonal. If they don't offer a lot on their menu or don't have a fancy printed menu it means the food is fresh and comes in daily. 

9) If the restaurant has multiple menus in different languages this is not necessarily a bad thing. It means that they cater to both locals and tourists. If the menu is strictly in English...I'd stay away though.

10) the last- and In my opinion best- tip is to eat at places that only have one menu- a chalkboard near the entrance. Especially if it is written in the local language...you're in for a foodie's delight! It's written on a chalkboard because the ingriedients arrive fresh daily and it varies based on what's available. If they run out, it's because they don't overstock and only make what the fisherman catches or the farmer sends in. In this case, they simply erase it off the chalkboard and diners know what the best dish in the house is, in case they decide to revisit.

Hope these tips help you avoid tourist traps (there's nothing worse for a food lover if you ask me) and enjoy some true authentic cooking no matter which country you are in. Happy travels! 

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