The inflated prices, cheap alternatives and imitation experience – there’s nothing worse than falling victim to a tourist trap when exploring a new place. And of course for us travelling foodies, we hate to waste the gift of an empty stomach on anything short of spectacular. Tourist traps are simply that – they look tempting with their copycat versions of authentic decor and familial crowd – but beware! Sure you’ll check Zagat, Trip Advisor and your friends for their restaurant tips, but we at Foodie-Trips have collected our own expert guidelines based on our experiences. Here’s how to avoid being let down and ensure your limited vacation time is full of quality local fare.
Back Away from Beckoning
Anywhere that has staff out front actively calling you into their restaurant clearly needs your business. Which is to say that they’re desperate, which means no good. Authentic, locally loved spots don’t need this fanfare, so consider beckoning a surefire red flag.
Note The Neighbourhood
Proximity to landmark sites can be an easily identifiable way to discern a tourist trap from an authentic eatery. The real estate costs closer to the Eiffel Tower are higher than spots further away, which means you’re paying more to sit than to eat.
Scout For Spotless Scenes
Napkins piling up on the floor, peanut shells on the bar counter, disheveled chairs – a messy looking place is a good sign! This (most times) indicates the place is either so rammed with clientele that clean up duties come secondary to service, or that unpretentious is the kind of crowd the restaurateurs want. Of course, messy is not to be confused with unhygienic – we just mean to say that rambunctious places are often the most delicious!
The Cool Kids Aren’t Kids
While this isn’t a widespread opinion, it’s been our personal experience that great eateries are generally occupied with a good representation of an older age bracket (aka baby boomers). Maybe it’s the higher standards that come with experience, but the people in the know of great restaurants tend to be those recurring visitors who don’t care so much for trends as they do a knowingly delicious meal. Follow them!
Decode Sandwich Boards
Hand-written menu items on worn-looking sandwich boards = good.
Pictures of dishes and the over-use of exclamation points on sandwich boards = bad!
Take Local Suggestions with a Grain of Salt
Asking your hotel’s concierge or a retail owner where you might get yourself a reliable meal is a smart move, but be careful in taking the advice you’re given. Some locals who work in tourist industries get kick backs from related businesses, and if it’s a small town you’re likely to get recommendations to dine at a relative’s establishment. Instead of asking a local where you might find yourself a good fish house in Mykonos, ask rather where they last had really fresh fish, or where their families go to celebrate birthdays. Like any curiously cautious traveler, use your instincts in reading their suggestions.