How to Find the Best Local Restaurants

Avoid pricey tourist traps and track down the best local restaurants? when you're on the road

Credit: Flickr/Hoa Trang Ah

Find out where the locals eat and follow their lead

Avoid tourist traps and find the best local food when you’re on a trip

When you’re travelling, cooking for yourself in your hotel, motel or other chosen accommodation often isn’t a convenient option, which leaves you searching in unfamiliar territory for a good local eatery. 
Unfortunately, most tourist destinations have plenty of enterprising restaurant operators whose main objective is to collect as much of your money as they can — while offering less than stellar fare.

If you want to avoid falling into one of these common traps, here are some tips on finding the best food when you’re on vacation.

Eat Where the Locals Eat

Eating poor food at high prices isn’t fun at the best of times, let alone when you’re on holiday. So, do yourself a favour and branch out a little — you might just discover what winds up being one of your best meals ever. The smartest way to do this is simply to eat where the locals eat.

How do you find these hot spots?

  • Start by checking out locally produced “best of” guides. Most major cities have some sort of dedicated magazine, newspaper or mainstream or alternative weekly that does an annual “best of” or “readers’ choice” issue. The upside of these publications is that their readership is truly a local one and their mission is to seek the best, frequently off-the-beaten-track restaurants that locals love and can afford.

  • If you’re roaming the streets in search of somewhere to eat, a great indicator of whether a restaurant has earned the approval of locals is to check out the patrons. I know people who even do this here at home when they’re considering a new restaurant. Check out how the diners are dressed. Do they look as if they just walked off a cruise ship, or are they wearing work or casual clothes? If it’s the latter, chances are good the restaurant is filled with locals and it’s likely worth a try.

  • It may seem counterintuitive to expect a better meal at a less expensive restaurant, until you remember that the tourist-trap establishments often jack up prices merely because they feel they have a captive audience that just doesn’t know any better.
 So, if you’re willing to take a walk away from the tourist strip, you may find that prices drop to levels locals will actually pay. If prices seem in line with the menu and ambiance of a restaurant you’re considering, this can also be a good indicator that you’ve found a place where locals come to eat. 

Find Restaurants Online

Websites and smartphone apps are useful for finding restaurants in a flash.
 One of my favourite websites is for dining reviews. For apps, you can’t go wrong with Urbanspoon. Both are fast and intuitive and can help you decide on a restaurant in under five minutes.

For online searching, Twitter can be a great source too. A quick Twitter search for something like “Best Portland Lunch” or “Top Toronto Breakfast” can also bring up some helpful results.

Watch Claire Newell on Global BC News: Final (Mon.), Early (Wed.), Morning & Noon (Thur.), Noon (Sat.). Or catch her Tuesdays at 8:30 a.m. on Shore 104 FM.

Originally published in TV Week. For daily updates, subscribe to the free TV Week e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.