Tuesday, November 4, 2008

You CAN Find Good Food While Traveling.

One of the enjoyments of travel is finding new, good, and inexpensive restaurants. I kind of pride myself in the ability to sniff them out. But even when I find a bad restaurant, it can be fun.

Here are a couple of my rules (all of them have exceptions).

1. I try to do some research. Find the blogs that are written locally and have real opinions and not just links. (See below for a good blog for hamburger lovers traveling in Texas).

2. I never dine in areas populated by out-of-town tourists. I love the San Antonio Riverwalk but there are a lot of bad restaurants on the Riverwalk. These restaurants survive because of location and not food quality. I go a block or two away from the main tourist area. The food is almost always better, the service is better, and they are less expensive. Again, San Antonio is a good example of this with great restaurants downtown. Similarly, I seldom dine in a restaurant with a good view because they are selling the view not the food. There are exceptions, of course.

3. Look for local patrons -- but also look for locals going in and out. Many local restaurants are just hangouts for guys who drink coffee. A healthy supply of newspaper "kiosks" outside of the restaurant is a good sign of heavy traffic.

4. An empty restaurant is empty for a reason, unless it is new, it's a bad reason.

5. I try to find the "specialty of the day." It is usually the freshest thing on the menu.

6. Look for the local specialties. That is, look for good crab cakes in Baltimore and good tacos in Texas.

7. Smell first, taste second. If the restaurant smells bad it tastes bad.

8. You don't eat the furniture. Who cares if the chairs match.

Speaking of finding good food. There is an excellent website, locally written, for folks traveling in Texas who like to stop for burgers. The name is Texas Burger Stops, and in those pages you can get opinions on burger spots from Mabank to Southlake. I like the way TBS gives the details of a good burger: the bread, lettuce, tomatoes, and the meat and cheese.



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