Enjoying good food is an essential part of any vacation – at least according to David McInerney, the co-founder of the New York City-based grocery delivery service FreshDirect, who spends most of his time traveling the world sourcing food for the company. The way to savor memorable cuisine, he said, is to skip fancy restaurants and eat as the locals do. “You'll get the best meals by eating the way the people do who live in the destination you’re visiting,” he said. Here, he shares advice on how to do just that:
Talk to the Locals: The best way to eat like the locals is to talk to the locals, McInerney said. Police officers, construction workers and security guards are all reliable sources to ask for restaurant recommendations. But be specific and ask these people where they like to eat. McInerney has had many pleasurable meals using this tactic including on a recent trip to Milan, where a bus driver recommended his favorite pasta place. “Thanks to his tip, I had incredible fettuccine with white truffles that was very reasonably priced,” he said.
Try Several Restaurants for One Meal: An enjoyable way to get a flavor of the local food is to spread a single meal out over three or four restaurants – have appetizers in one, entrees in another and desserts at a third. Another approach is to hit several restaurants that serve the region’s specialty, such as visiting a trio of lobster shacks in Maine to try different versions of lobster rolls.
At a Resort, Ask for the Staff Meal: Resorts tend to serve food that caters to a variety of palates and doesn’t necessarily reflect the destination’s cuisine, but travelers in search of authenticity should ask if it’s possible to try the staff meal, which is often prepared by locals for locals. McInerney said that the many staff meals he has eaten throughout his travels, including the curried goat he recently enjoyed at a resort in the Grenadines, have been among the best meals of his trips.
Be Willing to Travel: Don’t limit your food options by sticking to the heart of the city in whatever destination you’re visiting; many of the spots popular with locals tend to be away from tourist-heavy areas and are in the outskirts of town or farther. “The best barbecue I’ve ever had was a 40-minute taxi ride outside of Atlanta where a woman cooked ribs on a smoker outside of a trailer,” McInerney said.
Choose Appetizers Over Entrees: Starters, compared with main courses, are usually simpler and give travelers a taste of dishes that locals eat; they’re also cheaper. Grilled octopus in Spain, oysters in Seattle and steak skewers in Argentina are examples of popular appetizers in these destinations and are foods that locals regularly eat.