How to Eat Like a Local
Eating like a local is part of the fun when you’re on the road. When you’re snacking on fried dumplings from a Japanese street market or gourmet popsicles from a Mexican café, you’re not just enjoying foods you don’t have at home. You’re savoring something of the culture, history and even the personality of a place.
But finding great eateries can be tricky. One way to undercover local gems is via Eatwith, a website that works a bit like Airbnb. Instead of connecting you to places to stay, Eatwith links you to chefs around the world.
The chefs are vetted, and many are up-and-comers. Some host you in their own homes, while others will book you into a venue. Dine with just your friends, or reserve a spot at a community table and rub elbows with people you’re meeting for the first time.
Chef Ajito, one of the most popular chefs on Eatwith, has a table that seats 16—and it often sells out. She serves a vegetarian Japanese tasting menu, using greens, herbs and veggies that she grows on the roof of her Brooklyn loft. Although her menu changes weekly, a typical tasting might include appetizers, steamed tofu with edamame sauce, tomato salad with hijiki seaweed, corn and arugula and buckwheat Soba noodles.
Headed to Rome? Eatwith chefs Massi and Alessandra prepare authentic Calabria dishes. A meal might include pasta with fresh tomato and basilico, or homemade gnocchi with pesto Genovese, pine nuts and Parmigiano cheese.
Feastly and VizEat also connect you to trending chefs or other hosts who will cook and serve in their own homes or in pop-up spaces. Browse the dates and meals that are available, and then book space at a table. You can even contact your chef to work out any details for your dining experience.
Culinary tours also offer authentic foodie experiences. The guides at Culinary Tours of Charleston "walk and talk" as they steer you toward some of the best Lowcountry cuisine in the city's historic district. Tour choices include a Chef's Kitchen Tour, with a behind-the-scenes look at gourmet kitchens and buzz-worthy restaurants; a Charleston Dessert Tour to satisfy your sweet tooth as you learn about the history of Huguenot torts, pralines and other treats; and a Savor the Flavors of Upper King Street tour featuring tastings of trendy Southern-inspired BBQ, fried green tomatoes, house bruschetta and more. Foods of New York Tours takes you into historic neighborhoods and other areas, so you can sample Peking duck in Chinatown or sea-salted caramels in the Chelsea market and meatpacking district. Do some online research to find many other tours like these at your travel destination.
Reading food blogs is another great way to discover local and regional recipes, find the best spots to dine, and the location the best markets for buying fresh produce and baked goods. Follow the blog of former chef and author David Lebovitz, who lives in Paris, or Bangkok-born Pim Techamuanvivit, who writes Chez Pim from her home in Northern California, two of our favorites.
Before you hit the road, be sure to Google to find food festivals, food halls, food markets and/or cooking classes at your destination. To be on the safe side, be sure your choices are vetted before you book- or bite, if you're thinking about buying from street vendors.
Once you arrive at your destination, don't hesitate to ask around for the best local eateries. Hotel concierges and desk clerks are likely to recommend tourist spots, so tell them you’re looking for the places they'd go with friends or family. Uber and taxi drivers, shop owners and other travelers can also help you eat like an insider. Or just hang around the street stalls, cafes, diners and other holes-in-the-wall. If you see people waiting to be served, or the tables are constantly full, that’s usually a sign that you’ve found a good spot. Bon appétit!