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jan 31 2012

Where do You Turn for Off-The-Radar Restaurant Recommendations?

Whenever I reach a new city, finding authentic restaurants and food carts is one of my top goals as a tourist. Sorry, Golden Gate Bridge. I’ll get to you after my sixth San Francisco–style burrito. But I’ve learned not to always trust guidebooks (which often miss the most authentic and offbeat places in favor of more tourist–friendly picks) and concierges (some of whom have been known to take kickbacks for their recommendations). So just how do you find the best quirky spots?

Here are a few rules I’ve learned to incorporate into my routine:

Follow the taxis: If you’re walking past a restaurant and the street in front is lined with yellow cabs, you’ve probably stumbled upon a foodie goldmine. Taxi drivers from across the globe will often eat out during their shifts and will almost always congregate at only the most authentic restaurants for a taste of home.

Find an obsessive foodie blogger and pick her brain: These days, everyone with a camera phone and an opinion can become a food blogger. But with this massive number of blogs comes a great consequence. There are hyper–specific food blogs dedicated to almost every food you can imagine. Not just cuisines, but specific dishes, like French macarons and New Mexican green chile. These people are experts on their micro–specialties. Google a dish before you go, send a note with questions, and listen to the blogger’s advice. Chances are your taste buds will thank you later.

Visit tvfoodmaps.com: One of my new favorite tools for restaurant picks is a website called tvfoodmaps.com, which curates recommendations from television shows like Man vs. Food, Top Chef, Throwdown with Bobby Flay, and Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. No need to grab a pen and a pad every time you see a great place on the Food Network late at night. This site has you covered. Even better, you can search by zip code and find any nearby spots that were featured on any show.

Rely on friends—you never know who’s been to the city before you: Any time I’m traveling somewhere, I’ll mention my vacation in a Facebook status and reach out to friends with a line like, “Help! Going to Santa Fe. Where should I eat?” You never know who might have lived there as a kid, had a college boyfriend from there, went there every summer to visit a favorite great–aunt. Most people are so proud of their foodie finds that they’ll want to respond with a suggestion—even if you haven’t seen them since third–grade Little League.

So how about you? Do you have any must-try tips for finding the best off-the-beaten path eats while traveling?

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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