How to eat like a local when traveling abroad:
1) Before you travel, start with Google and look up articles about your destination. I tend to trust the publications that cannot be swayed by tempting free trips to destinations. I then start to look at their links to restaurants, culinary blogs or tours that are mentioned in the articles which often then lead to more links to other information about eating in your destination.
2) Try Urban Adventures for information and great inner-city tours, many of which feature meals with a family and tours of markets and restaurants. They have not branched out to all cities, but this may be a great option if they are in your destination.
3) Tripadvisor (uses crowdsourcing and is very subjective and often based upon price instead of quality) and guide books or travel websites unfortunately can be woefully out of date but they can be good to cross reference the information you get from local papers (digital or not) and blogs.
4) These are just some of the different sources for information that I looked at when recently traveling to Bogotá, Colombia last month. We knew we were going to be in the city for several weeks and my plan was to try the best and most interesting restaurants and experiences that I could (some in Spanish). Because we were there for a period of time we did not limit ourselves to local cuisine, but did branch out and found remarkable restaurants which featured the fresh tropical ingredients that can be had in Bogota in a variety of different cuisines from many countries.
5) Go to Facebook for pages on restaurants in your destination. Look for organizations or groups that weigh in on restaurants and food destinations, but again this is subjective and not always to be trusted. Restaurants always have Facebook pages and will often not bother with a website. You can find all the contact information you will need to see hours and make reservations as well as maps that link to Google Maps.
6) Buy a phone chip with data (usually very reasonable and you can download maps and guidebooks as well as use the GPS for Google Maps and use WAZE app if driving. Very uselful when trying to track down culinary destinations.
7) Buzzfeed is often a good source of local information, but again the information is subjective and unless you trust the source, it is probably better to look for professional reviews or blogs by food obsessed writers, chefs, cooks and hedonists.
8) If you loved one restaurant try to ask the chef where they would eat and if you can’t talk to the chef ask your waiter.
9) If at all possible, look for restaurants that use fresh local ingredients, feature traditional recipes or contemporary twists on the traditional and try to avoid the restaurants offering Japanese, Chinese, Italian, French or Mexican among many cuisines, unless you are eating in those countries.
10) Do go to the fresh food markets in each town or city which are often whole city blocks under one roof and/or just on the weekends to see what fresh produce and local products can be found. Ask the purveyors/farmers/producers where they go to eat. What should you try and what is the local favorite meal/food. Be prepared to taste your way along…but do not eat fresh fruit or vegetables that have not been washed or cut with your own clean knife.
Next week I will share Costa Rica Taste Tips!