Locals-Only Spots to Crash on Your Next Vacation

Escape the throngs of tourists on your next vacation and head to these local-approved spots. Travel experts in 10 tourist-destination cities, from Chicago to Paris, share with us where there the locals eat and drink.

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Vancouver: 33 Acres Brewing Co.

With over 80 craft breweries in Vancouver, local Michael Sadowski says it’s hard for a tourist to choose right and that they usually end up at Steamworks in Gastown, were the cruise ships dock. When Sadowski, an always-on-the-road Intrepid Travel PR manager, is home in Vancouver he heads to 33 Acres, his go-to neighborhood coffee shop and brewery for a pick-me-up. "Nowhere else in the city do these two worlds collide as perfectly as they do here," says Sadowski. "You can find me enjoying a 33 Pick Up, a shot of espresso paired with a pint."

Vancouver: Toshi Sushi

Besides beer, you can’t visit Vancouver without trying its "culinary claim of fame" -- sushi, says Sadowski. "My personal favorite is a spot called Toshi by chef Toshiyuki Saito," shares Sadowski. "Hands down the city's best sashimi and nigiri."

Chicago: Belly Q

With the Windy Cindy’s thriving food scene, a visitor might feel overwhelmed with choices of where to eat. Local food blogger Kit Graham of The Kittchen, suggests Belly Q, a causal Asian-barbecue restaurant well off the tourist-track. “The menu is creative and shareable, and features things like curry BBQ pork butt, Korean short ribs, and pork belly mac made with Japanese noodles, Thai curry and cheddar," says Graham. "It's like sending your taste buds on an adventure; the balance of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors is spot on.”

Chicago: Pub Royale

Tourists might only have eyes for deep-dish pizza on a visit to Chicago, but Graham suggests trying out a local favorite, Pub Royale, a British style pub serving up Indian food. "The cocktails are reason enough to add this restaurant to your itinerary, and the menu has a fun mix of pub fare and Indian food, with plenty of vegetarian options." Kit adds, "It’s an equally-fitting place for a quiet date or a gathering with friends."

Paris: Les Trois Huit

With every romantic sidewalk cafe looking so inviting in Paris, it can be hard to know where to go. Paris local and founder of tour company Urban Adventures, Timothee Demeillers suggests heading to the up-an-coming Ménilmontant district in Paris, to find Les Trois Huit, a small bar on a tiny street. Demeillers describes the local haunt: "An authentic craft beer drinker's paradise that serves tap beers from all over the world, with a weekly-renewed menu displayed on the chalkboard."

Paris: Septime

Where do the locals go in Paris for a special night out? Demeillers points to Septime. "This 'new generation' style of French restaurant serves up unpretentious and truly delightful dishes," shares Demeillers. "The chic style interiors with a Scandinavian bent add to the unfussy atmosphere. Not cheap but certainly recommended for a special occasion that won’t break the bank."

Washington, DC: Compass Coffee

How do Washingtonians stay so perky? You’ll find local food writer and cookbook author Nevin Martell dishing about his latest meal at Compass Coffee, his go-to coffee shop in the Shaw neighborhood, a world away from more touristy-areas like Georgetown and around the National Mall. "I love stopping for their high-octane nitro cold brew, which is the perfect fuel when I need a pick-me-up on a hot summer day," says Martell.

Washington, DC: Tail Up Goat

After a day of museum-hopping and monument photo-snapping, escape the tourists and grab a bite alongside Washingtonians on a tucked-away corner in Adams Morgan. Martell’s restaurant top pick of the moment is Tail Up Goat. "The Medi-minded charmer is worth searching out," says Martell. "Chef Jon Sybert dazzles with creative pastas, almost-too-beautiful-to-eat artisanal toasts, seasonal small plates and shareable large format entrees."

Miami: Yambo

Looking to escape South Beach tourist traps? Miami local and travel writer Priscilla Blossom’s recommends local spot Yambo, a Nicaraguan restaurant in Little Havana."Open 24 hours, you can order authentic fritanga staples like gallo pinto, carne asada, queso frito and fresh juices from their take-out window, or sit inside where the walls are adorned in Nicaraguan handicrafts," says Blossom.

Miami: Churchill’s Pub

You never know what you’re going to get at Churchill’s Pub, shares Blossom, about this local hangout in Miami. "Part English pub, part punk-rock club, part open mic venue, it’s a home away from home for Miami's social 'outcasts' and alternative creatives," says Blossom. "Gritty, exciting, and in a class of its own."

London: Choccy Woccy Doodah

While tourists might head to Soho, London’s entertainment mecca, only the locals know where to find this hidden chocolate shop and café, that’s almost an art studio, shares Linton Street, founder of London tour company Urban Adventures. A local authority on food and drink, Street applauds Choccy Woccy Doodah, "These former rockabillies craft such amazing, edible works of art that they were given their own reality cooking show in England."

London: The Dog & Duck

Another local-approved spot Street recommends in London? The Dog & Duck. "Hidden away in Soho's tiny back streets is this fantastic example of a remodeled Victorian Gin Palace," shares Street. Perhaps a place to find inspiration, too, as George Orwell frequented the joint -- he's even rumored to have written parts of "1984" while sipping on drinks here.

San Francisco: Gracias Madre

While Gracias Madre, a vegan Mexican restaurant, isn't exactly a secret gem, local travel blogger Megan Eileen McDonough of Bohemian Trails says it’s overlooked by many tourists. "I'm not a vegan, but that doesn't stop me from frequenting Gracias Madre more times than I care to count," says McDonough. "In a neighborhood filled to the brim with popular Mexican joints, it requires some extra special secret sauce to really stand out among the crowd."

San Francisco: The Fine Mousse

San Francisco’s Nob Hill might be no stranger to tourists, but McDonough says The Fine Mousse, an intimate corner bistro in the heart of this bustling neighborhood, is surprisingly mostly frequented by locals. "This self-proclaimed 'bubbly and fries' bar specializes in gourmet mayos, like their Parmesan & Truffle and Hibiscus & Pink Peppercorn flavors," says McDonough, adding, "Split a bottle of sparkling wine with friends over happy hour, or save this romantic spot for date night."

NYC: Sanuria

New York City local and founder of The Expeditioner, Matt Stabile channels his same skills for finding hidden gems on the road as he does in his home city, too. "My favorite Malaysian restaurant that no sane tourist would ever find is Sanuria in Chinatown," says Stabile. "It's down a set of dingy stairs on a side street, but it's some of the best, most authentic Malaysian cuisine you can find 9,000 miles away from Kuala Lumpur."

NYC: Barawine

New York City local Teri Johnson, better known as Travelista Teri, a Travel Channel video host and travel expert, loves to hang out in her neighborhood of Harlem when she’s not gallivanting across the world. Her favorite neighborhood hangout? Barawine. “It's beautiful, vibrant, and French with a great wine selection,” says Johnson. “This Harlem gem also has one of the best happy hours in N.Y.C. (Monday — Friday, 4-8 p.m.).”

Honolulu: Rainbow Drive-In

There are many iconic places to eat in Honolulu, says travel journalist and local Jermel-Lynn Quillopo, and Rainbow Drive-In is one of her favorites. Known for its generous-sized plate lunches, this local spot is where you’ll find island-style comfort foods, like heavy macaroni salad and heaping scoops of rice. Quillopo suggests after your meal checking out the attached retail store to bring home a taste of the island, "Buy some gifts for loved ones, such as Hawaiian-style chili seasoning or a shaka neko ceramic cat that's said to bring good luck and good surf."

Honolulu: Liliha Bakery

Instead of standing in line for shaved ice on Honolulu’s packed streets, head to where the locals get their sweet fix. Quillopo recommends Liliha Bakery, and more specifically their coco puffs, what put them on the map, she says. "They have a light crust, are filled with a light chocolate cream and are topped with a dollop of Chantilly frosting," and adds, "If you end up liking the signature jelly or coco puffs, they can be packaged up for you so you can take them home."

San Juan, Puerto Rico: Stop & Go

While San Juan’s hotel-lined Condado Beach is where many visitors set up base on a vacation in Puerto Rico, there are also local spots devoid of tourists here, too.

Amaury Gelabert, digital editor for New York’s Resident magazine, lived in his native country of Puerto Rico until college, and suggests heading to Stop & Go in Condado Beach, if you want a true taste of San Juan, without the tourists. "This spot is the Puerto Rican typical hangout place; cheap, good, friendly, and fun," says Gelabert. Located right in front of La Concha Hotel, Stop & Go has been the favorite weekend spot of many locals, including Gelabert, for many years.

San Juan, Puerto Rico: Raices

Another San Juan favorite of Gelabert’s? Raíces. “After opening their first location 30 minutes away from San Juan, Raices has gained the love of so many Puerto Ricans that they opened another restaurant in the heart of Old San Juan, where now even tourists are starting to like it.” The must-try dish at this restaurant serving traditional island favorites? Anything that comes with the mashed-plantain delishness of mofongo.

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