You want to see the sights, visit the famous landmarks, take pictures and have memorable food experiences. This is culinary tourism, and it’s the hottest trend in travel. One of the best ways to experience culture is through food – local foods, local stories and local people. Now that you know what culinary tourism is, savor these 10 tips to eat like a local.
Culinary Tourism – How to Eat Like a Local on Vacation
1. Get off the beaten path and get into the neighborhoods. Let’s suppose you’re visiting New York City. Rather than looking for restaurants in Times Square, venture beyond the tourist traps and explore neighborhoods like Greenwich Village, Soho or Little Italy. If you want the full experience of being a local, opt to stay in these neighborhoods rather than a cookie-cutter chain hotel. Sites like Air BnB are full of possibilities.
2. Talk to locals and I don’t mean the hotel concierge who will give you a coupon book, and send you off to the beautiful touristy parts of town. Talk to your cab driver or vendors at the local farmer’s market, and ask them where the best local hole-in-the-wall restaurants are. Finding authentic foods does not always translate into finding 5-star restaurants. Those authentic local foods may come from a gourmet restaurant, but they might also come from a food truck, a farmer’s market or a family-owned restaurant.
3. Find a food tour…it’s a delicious and entertaining way to learn about a city, and it’s a chance to visit a variety of locally-owned restaurants in one afternoon. Most food tour operators pride themselves on getting off-the-beaten path, and serving foods that help tell the story of the area. If you’re on the West Palm Beach Food Tour, you’ll start your day with an Ahi Tuna Tostada piled high with a fresh, locally grown mango and avocado salsa. If possible, schedule your food tour at the beginning of your vacation because most food tours leave you with a list of recommended restaurants to enjoy during your visit.
4. Take a cooking class to discover local ingredients and local flavors. Imagine taking a salsa making class in Mexico or a crepe making class in Paris…delicious and educational.
5. Enjoy a Farm-to-Table Dinner on a farm! Many restaurants pride themselves on farm-to-table cuisine, but why not go straight to the source and have dinner at the farm? Here in West Palm Beach, Swank Farms hosts al fresco dinners with local chefs and local produce.
6. Read blogs…local food bloggers are the experts when it comes to the local food scene. Seek out this wonderful resource if you want to eat like a local. I recently published a blog post titled “Where Do West Palm Beach Chefs Eat.” I asked our West Palm Beach Food Tour chefs and restaurant owners where they like to eat, and they answered. You’ll discover more than just 5-star gourmet restaurants. You’ll discover hidden gems, ethnic eateries and small locally owned neighborhood restaurants.
7. Explore a local market to discover local produce, local ingredients and local flavors. Ask questions and expand your culinary horizons. If you’re in Puerto Rico, you might learn about the yucca while trying yucca fries. In the Philippines? Try Filipino street food at their local market. Eat, explore, enjoy.
8. Dine with locals in their homes…how fun is that? Sites like BookALocal.com, EatWith.com or TravelingSpoon.com are like the Air BnB of the culinary world linking you with local hosts to enjoy a meal together.
9. Discover Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives…Guy Fieri’s popular Food Network program uncovers local restaurants with great stories, great food and a not so stellar appearance. Visit TVFoodMap.com and search your next vacation destination for diners, drive-ins and dives.
10. Avoid chain restaurants…you didn’t travel halfway across the country to eat at Olive Garden or Bonefish Grill, so follow this one simple rule to eat like a local.
Remember, authentic doesn’t guarantee you’ll love the food, but it’s the local experience you’re after. New tastes, new flavors and new experiences await in the world of culinary tourism.