Friday, April 24, 2020

Tasty travel tips: how to find a good restaurant in a new town

A favorite breakfast of one perfectly over-easy egg on European grain bread, fruit, cheese, coffee -- yogurt and walnuts on their way -- served to perfection at the five-star Hotel Claris Grand Luxe in Barcelona. Crusty homemade bread's the best.


Cookie's favorite lamb chops, served with asparagus
spears, after an escargot appetizer. Creme brulee desert.
Aboard the Celebrity Century, late seating.  


ANTICIPATING THAT we'll all travel well and widely again -- once we get past the Covid19 crisis -- we're offering some dining out tips gleaned from decades of happy travel and merry quests for the best food in town.
Since many of our happiest, most memorable travel times have to do with dining, it's important to us to eat well, but not necessarily expensively.
Expansively, yes, but not always expensively.
Sharing a meal with old friends in a foreign port, or enjoying a leisurely feast with new friends are tops in the joys of travel. But if you've just landed in Paris, Honolulu or Rome -- or a village in the Alps, Asia or South America -- how do you find a good meal?
Bruce Keller and Christene Meyers, aka Keller and Cookie, dine a few
weeks before Covid, at Poppie's Fish and Chips in London.
 WE'VE HAD wonderful luck in booking culinary walking tours early on in a visit to a new city. Eating Europe is terrific, and its lively guides offer a wonderful grounding in best eating spots.
These tours are catching on worldwide, and it's a great way to orient yourself early on in the trip.
It's also a fun way to taste a variety of offerings -- the city's best mix -- get a lay of the land and then decide which venues you'd like to revisit. Our London tour took us to a terrific Asian restaurant, a delightful cheese and wine venue, a lively fish and chips joint popular with locals and a tea shop with delicious chocolate pies and berry scones.
Keller celebrates his birthday at a favorite rijsttafel bistro
in Amsterdam. Dessert was shared with Cookie and friends. 
After a tour like this, you'll know what kind of regional foods you’ll want to have again. Be a schmoozer, chat up the guide,  ask for favorite eateries and specialties. We asked Hilton's DoubleTree Hotel Alana's savvy marketing director, Cheryl Nasser, what her what to order at her lovely property's Trees Restaurant. A beautiful appetizer poke plate with tasty fresh tuna made a fine supper for jet-lagged travelers.
An artful poke plate at the
DoubleTree in Honolulu
was a tasty travelers' treat.
Use your  noggin for excellent advice.
ADD SOME fun research to your trip planning by reading up before you go. A treasure trove of posts from local food bloggers and reporters is a quick Google search away. The writers’ bread and butter is finding hot spots and sharing hidden gems.
Getting recommendations from the hotel concierge is also a good plan, and some of the best restaurant tips we get are from people we meet along the way. Cab drivers are a wealth of knowledge for late-night eats, and employees at tourist spots have the scoop on what’s good nearby for lunch (with no long lines or high price).
Asking people you meet is also a good icebreaker for other tips and suggestions. Before you go, post on Facebook and Twitter to see if anyone in your circle has must-visit spots to share.
A street cafe in Mykonos serves fabulous appetizers, as this
plate features: cucumbers, feta and Greek yogurt, 
olives, dolmades and plenty of pita on the side.
WE MAKE it a priority to find restaurants specializing in local cuisine. Why eat food you can get at home?  Stick to the basics and go with something that uses the area's produce. Maybe pizza in Asia isn’t the best plan. Sushi or raman, yes. Even if a place looks crowded, check if it’s full of travellers or locals before you go in.
Cookie's favorite dessert: ginger cookies,
a single scoop of vanilla bean ice cream
and berries of the season, here raspberries,
at Trafalgar St. James London by Hilton.
Eateries have an easier time prospering when they're near tourist attractions; there. We find that neighborhood places a better bet than the main tourist drags. We also look for places with menus in the local language.  If a restaurant has an English menu, it's likely to cater to tourists.
WHEN YOU make your reservation, ask the restaurant or your concierge what the tipping protocol is.  Sometimes it's obvious -- the bill might say, "15 per cent gratuity included."  But particularly in southern Europe, a tip is discretionary; it is good form to leave a small bill or a few Euros on the table.
It's also our custom to learn a few sentences in the local language. We have 25-plus Berlitz pocket size language guides. One is always tucked into the backpack. To say
Shrimp, ahi,  sushi, ginger, wasabi, wine.
This is an easy meal to serve at home.
"hello" or "good evening," "thank you," "please," "the check please," "where's the bathroom, please" and "may I have" or "I'd like to have," opens doors and makes instant smiles.
We find this custom also gives us some idea of what we'll be getting. Once you master a few words, your waiter will be happy to help you -- in English, if you prefer. For even in small, village venues, more and more Europeans speak our language. Bon appetit!

A real tree is used to dance around the May pole in this Danish celebration. 
UP NEXT: We celebrate May Day as it was -- and still is -- celebrated in many parts of northern Europe.  It's a day to celebrate spring, dance around the May pole and give little baskets of flowers, candies and special goodies to friends and loved ones. We need this now more than ever, so how about a May basket revival? Meanwhile, explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a fresh spin on travel, family, nature, the arts and more:


  1. Another fun food piece. We are enjoying these tips and photos.....may we all travel and dine out again soon.

  2. Kansas Trail BlazersApril 26, 2020 at 9:22 AM

    Thanks for the colorful food photos and lively text.

  3. Serving up more fun food for thought.