How I Research Restaurants Before I Travel

Exploring Barcelona!

Hey there, happy Friday! I’m on my way up to Dallas today to spend the weekend with my sister. I grew up in Dallas and lived there until I was 18, but I don’t feel like I know the city very well. Every time I go back to visit my family, I try to sneak in a few fun places to eat and drink! Which leads me to today’s post..

This is a step-by-step guide of how I find fun places to eat when I’m traveling. No one wants to explore a new city and eat somewhere BORING, right? Food is one of the best parts of traveling, but with the stress of packing, scheduling, and other prep work for a vacation, I completely understand how hard it can be to also set aside time to research new, exciting, beautiful places to eat.

I have a method that I’ve been using for a while…it’s not ground breaking, but it works for me. I don’t always do every single one of these steps. It depends on what type of trip I’m taking, who I’m going with, and how long I’ll be there. But generally, this is what I do to research food before I travel:


1. I think realistically about how many days/meals I have, and how much money I can spend. If it’s a 4-day trip, researching more than 4 dinner restaurants would be a waste of time. And even if I could squeeze 12 restaurants into 4 days, I probably couldn’t afford that many pricey meals on top of other travel expenses. Having a set number of meals to plan makes researching restaurants so much more reasonable.

2. I pick a primary location in the city to explore. Take Dallas, for instance…. It’s huge! I’m not gonna waste my time fighting Dallas traffic, trying to go to restaurants in Oak Cliff AND Plano on the same day. The same is true when I’m traveling in Europe: I’ll choose a small section of the city, at least for a day, and find restaurants there. Again, just limiting my options makes research a lot easier.

3. If I’m visiting a big city in the states, I’ll start at www.eater.com. Always. Eater has websites devoted to 24 cities, so if I’m visiting one of those places, I’ll look at the Eater 38 map, which is the “38 essential restaurants” in that city for a 3-month period. The list is constantly evolving, so it’s a good combo of old classics and newer hotshots. It’s not a perfect list (sometimes I disagree with the Eater Austin 38 map), but it’s a great place to start.

There’s also a Heat Map, which is fun if you want to try some of the newest restaurants in the city!

4. Next up: instagram! Each city has certain hashtags that food bloggers/food enthusiasts use to post pictures of their food. In Austin, the biggest two are #atxeats (91,000 posts) and #austin360eats (50,000 posts). I’ll search that hashtag, then look at the top 9 photos as the top of the page. Odds are, one of those will be a food blogger who has a website I can look at. I’ll sometimes get more ideas of places to visit from those blogs!

If you feel clueless about social media (um…kind of how all of us feel, am I right?) and need help finding the top hashtags for the city you’re visiting, do this: search under “tags” for #[city]food. So, #dallasfood, or #chicagofood, or #portlandfood. Then look through a few of the “related” hashtags until you find the one with the highest number of posts. (If you search #portlandfood, you’ll just get 45,000 posts. But the related tag #pdxeats has 210,000. Bingo!)  I usually have the best luck finding a variety of good food ‘gram accounts when I’m looking at the most popular hashtag.

5. Ask Dr. Google. By now, I typically have a bunch of good option, and I have to remind myself to calm down…you’re just exploring a city for fun and every restaurant you try might not be your favorite EVER. But I’ll usually do a quick google search (“Saturday happy hours in Dallas” was one of my google searches for this weekend.) Sometimes I’ll find something good. 🙂

6. I watch a couple TV shows about the place I’m visiting. If I’m going on a big trip to Europe and I have more time to plan, I’ll watch foodie tv shows in the months leading up to the trip. A few of my favorites for foodie trip planning:

The Layover

The Mind of a Chef

No Reservations

I hear the Huang’s World is good! I haven’t watched it yet, though. Any thoughts on this one?

7. Finally, ask friends! I’ll throw out a general question on Facebook, like “any favorite places to eat in ___?”  I’ll text friends who I know have similar food tastes as I do, and I’ll check with people who have traveled to or used to live in the city I’m visiting.


That’s about it! This method works for me…what works for you? Spill your secrets! I’m sure you’ve got all sorts of tricks that I’m not utilizing right now, so let me know if you have any research methods that help you find the best places to eat when you’re traveling!

I’ll be bopping around Dallas all weekend. Feel free to follow along on my instastories! I’ll talk to ya on Monday morning!

Kelsey

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Molly | Awfully Big Adventure Blog
5 years ago

Love this post! I’m from Dallas, so I’m curious – what spots are you thinking you’ll visit? Hope you have a great time!

Anita
5 years ago

Agree with a lot of your points! (I don’t like Eater Dallas 38 map either. Some duds in there.) I go a little research crazy. I look at Eater, Yelp, Zagat, and the local critic’s list (Austin would be Statesman) and look for similarities in the lists. Yes, Anthony Bourdain recommendations are great! Instagram is a little tricky. I’ve been disappointed with food that looks better than it tastes so I take it with a grain of salt. For Dallas, I have a running list of restaurants because I visit often. Fun post, Kelsey!

Melissa
Melissa
5 years ago

Huangs World is the best! You should watch an episode or three. Eddie is a great host and is conscience about local and community eats and treats.

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8 months ago

[…] is nothing wrong with restaurant eating when you travel, you just have to be a little more mindful. This isn’t saying that you should cut […]

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