Location, Location, Location:
When my husband and I got married our honeymoon destination was Cabo, Mexico. We had heard such great things about the food (as well as other things) so we were pretty excited to try the local cuisine. As a bonus, we were told that the food was really inexpensive. Once we arrived at our hotel, situated in the heart of our honeymoon destination, we hesitated to wander too far from our hotel since we had never been out of the country before. Due to our lack of adventure however, the food proved to be disappointing. Offered in the heart of a tourist town is food for tourists, expensive and not authentic. After a few days of enduring meals that disappointed, we decided to be brave and venture into the local community. We discovered the best Mexican food we have ever eaten at a local corner cart for just a few dollars. There are a few funny stories to be told from this adventure since we did not speak the language, but this just added to the experience. We have taken this lesson with us wherever we travel, looking for the local spots just a bit off the beaten path. This new motto has lead us to find many a good meal, sometimes in the most unusual places.
Try Something New:
Whenever we travel we try to widen our palate and try something new.(refer to other post here) We ask a local where their favorite place to eat is, or what their favorite food is. We research local foods on the internet. As the commercial in the 80’s recommended, “Mikey says, ‘try it you’ll like it.’” This has not always proved to be true, but at least we can say we tried it.
What’s In A Name?:
Living and traveling outside the U.S has taught us many things. Before we did much traveling and before we lived outside the U.S, we would have said that the name of a restaurant is important. For example, in the past I would have, not only shied away, but ran away from eating at a restaurant that had the words cat, garage, ambulance or dolphin in the name. I imagine I’m not the only one who feels this way. But now, I’m here to tell you this may not be a good rule by which to go. In the last few years, some of the places we enjoyed the most included these words in the names of the restaurants. While we were in St. Petersburg, Russia, we ducked down into a place with the name KET CAT (with a backwards E). My first impulse was to pass it by, however, we were in Russia and trying new things and local cuisine was on the short list. This place also fell into the “off the beaten path” rule. Upon entering the establishment, we found it clean and neat and the staff kind and welcoming. The food was fabulous Georgian cuisine and one of our favorite memories of our Russian experience. The lesson: it is not always about the name.
Whether eating at a beach cabaña restaurant, street cart, sidewalk restaurant, basement restaurant, garage restaurant or a four star restaurant there are two rules we go by. Does it look clean and neat, and is it busy? One of our favorite hamburger spots is a street corner restaurant with the name, Ambulance of Flavor (roughly translated from Spanish). This place is always packed with people, standing room only. Besides the good hamburgers, we can see into the small restaurant kitchen to see that the staff all wear gloves and the kitchen is clean. Despite the restaurant being on the busy street corner, the tables are kept clean and the sidewalk area is cleaned before each daily opening. Of course, nothing is perfect, we do live in a developing country.
Now, if a restaurant covers all the above criteria but the waitstaff is not friendly, the experience will be unpleasant, which is why I would not return to that establishment. In the U.S., customer service is really emphasized, but this is not the case in every country. Some places don’t have a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Sometimes it’s obvious upon walking in the door. When this happens, walk back out the door. Even if the food is good, time will be spent being irritated rather than enjoying the food. If it becomes apparent during the meal that the waitstaff is unaccommodating it may be best to not return..
I hope that these 5 things help you in your next eating adventure as you travel the world or as you travel the neighborhood of your new home,(if you have moved abroad).
written by: DJ Hughes