As you might have noticed, we love going to the restaurant whether in our region or when travelling abroad. As we where travelling with friends of ours but on different schedules, we noticed that we ate in amazing restaurants while our friends kept on accumulating bad experiences.
That got us thinking… what are we doing so differently?
Finding a nice restaurant is not rocket science and our method is far from being revolutionary but, if you keep some principles and follow a few rules, you will see yourself getting less and less disappointed by restaurants.
1. Prepare in advance
Most of the time, you know when you will be eating outside at least a day in advance. Take the time to look for restaurants tempting you, read their menu and think about what you would choose and visit their website or social media profiles. It is not always the case and it depends a lot on the country but, in Europe at least, if a restaurant takes the time to keep a nice and up-to-date website is usually well taken care of.
Obviously, TripAdvisor or similar tools are of a great help to find restaurants. However, we would not recommend to blindly follow TripAdvisor judgments; people have different standards and there are many fake reviews, especially in touristic locations.
Here are our tips to filter out reviews:
- Filter out most of the 5 stars and 1 stars reviews (at least as a first step).
- Only read reviews with an important quantity of texts and that are well written (filter out all one-sentence critics).
- Take a look at the mid-range reviews (3-4 stars). Reject the restaurant if they criticize food, hygiene, smell, etc. but keep looking if the critics are targeted towards noise levels, comfort of the chairs, waiting times (unless it is a theme that constantly comes up), etc.
- Give a high importance to replies from the restaurant which often gives a complete other view on a bad review.
Sometimes, you will of course be going out spontaneously. This does not mean that you should not think about potential alternatives. Take the time to find something that seems good before rushing to the first building that says “restaurant”.
2. Pay attention to details
If you do not want to make some research in advance, taking a glimpse at a the location might already be enough to tell you if you should step in or not. Here are a few things you should be looking for:
- The windows are clean, the entrance presents well and is tidy.
- If you can see a terrace, the empty tables should be tidy and free of any dirty dishes.
- If it is lunch/dinner time, the restaurant should be frequented. Do not enter if it is empty and you can see the staff smoking outside or being bored.
- If the restaurant is full, is it by locals or only tourists? If they all seem like tourists, find another.
- Look at the menu and try to figure out what the concept is. Look for restaurant with a list of dish that make sense and that do not propose anything and everything (meat, seafood, pizzas, gyros, crepes, etc.). If a menu is long, it probably means that nothing is cooked fresh. the dishes make sense are big pictures of the food at the entrance of the restaurant.
- Avoid any restaurant that shows picture of their food.
- If you want to double-check hygiene standards, visit the toilets as soon as you got your table. Toilets are always cleaner than the kitchen.
3. Ask the locals for their favorite restaurant
Don’t you know most of the restaurant in your region, where to go and where not to? Think about this when you are travelling, don’t be shy to ask the locals.. they know where they would go out if it were for themselves and are the best reference to find restaurants that are not even to be found on TripAdvisor.
If you are staying in a hotel, you could of course ask the reception. This can work well but keep in mind that hotels often have deals with restaurants and send their clients to restaurant who give them a contribution.
What we do if we are staying several days at the same place is to ask restaurants we appreciated what other restaurant they would recommend in the region, it was always a success!
4. Be opened to new experiences
We discovered most of our favorite restaurants because they caught our attention with something different and creative. We always stay opened for new types of food and this is one of the recipe for culinary success while travelling.
Unless in very touristic places, local food is always what is cooked in the best and purest way. Be opened to extend your taste to new experiences and you might find your new favorite dish