When I go on vacation, I don't want to eat at overpriced, touristy restaurants. I want good food at a reasonable price that's reflective of the city I'm visiting. I want to be able to tell my friends about that gem of a coffee shop that's off the beaten path, or this wonderful brunch spot with the best doughnuts you ever tasted. In other words, I want to eat like a local when I travel. And though that might seem like a tough thing to do, it's actually pretty easy to learn how to eat like a local when you're on vacation—especially if you follow these five tips on how to find the best local spots, no matter where you are in the world.
Do Your Research
If you want to eat like a local, start by thinking about how you pick restaurants in your own city, where you're technically the "local." Chances are good you go straight to Google, and that's actually a great place to start. After all, it's hard to find the hidden gems in any city if you don't know where to look, and doing a quick search for the "best brunch spots" or "best coffee shops with WiFi" can be an easy way to get a sense of a place. Yelp is also helpful, and if you read a handful of reviews, you'll quickly pick up on whether or not a restaurant is a local hotspot or a total tourist trap.
Once you've got a couple of places in mind, go to Instagram and find the restaurant's account and geotag. It's an easy way to see what kind of food you might be eating before you even get to the city, and based on the pictures, you'll get a sense as to whether this place is beloved or kind of blah.
Pick the Right Neighborhood
To really increase your chances of eating like a local when you're on vacation, stay in a more residential part of town instead of a high-trafficked area. In New York City, for example, you're going to have better luck stumbling on a neighborhood joint if you're staying in the West Village or Williamsburg than if you stayed in Times Square. If you're on spring break in a beach town, chances are good you're going to have better luck finding the local spots a little more inland than right on the boardwalk.
Talk to Everyone
Don't be afraid to talk to people about their favorite restaurants. Put a call out on Facebook to see if any of your friends or colleagues have recommendations. If you're staying at an Airbnb, ask your host where they like to go for brunch. You should even feel free to ask your taxi driver about their go-to spots. It's not weird to ask unless you make it weird! And, in my experience, I've found that most people love having an excuse to talk about food and give recommendations.
I mean this in the most literal sense. The best way to find a restaurant that's off the beaten path is to get off the beaten path. Wander around, and follow your nose. If you see a place that looks cool, go inside and look at a menu to get a feel for it. You're not obligated to eat there if you don't think you'll like it. After all, it's your vacation, so enjoy it however you want. That also means you shouldn't feel bad if you want to eat at the touristy restaurant—because sometimes, locals prefer convenience, too.