It happens to me all the time: I’m traveling somewhere new, and yet all I see around me are McDonald’s and Chili’s. I’m surrounded by national chain restaurants I could patronize at home, when all I want is to sample authentic, local food. Fortunately, I’ve learned a few tricks for finding the food trucks and farm-to-table restaurants I crave. If you want to know where to find local cuisine while traveling (and even when you’re at home), read on!
Go to the Source
Unless you’re in a foodie haven in which every other restaurant offers farm-to-table, organic fare, it may take effort to seek out local cuisine. The best place to start? At the source: in an agricultural area, seek out fruit or vegetable stands roadside, and ask for recommendations while making a purchase. In wine country, many wineries double as farm-to-table restaurants, and large organic orchards and berry farms often supplement their profit by serving prepared dishes. If you’re visiting a coastal destination, go to the water. You’ll find the freshest seafood vendors and dining right on the docks. Ask at the local fish market for the name of the establishment that buys from them and prepares it best. (Just make sure you make sustainable seafood choices.)
Go Online for Food Truck Information
Food trucks are nomadic by nature. You have to know where to go to find that talked-about food truck, and the location can change by the day. Cities often let food trucks use empty lots, parks, and parking lots; you’ll see them trucks circling like so many western wagons. Ask at your hotel or stop a local on the street to find the most popular and well-known food truck gathering places. But if you’re in search of a particular vendor, most cities have sites such as Portland Oregon’s Food Trucks of Portland index, or Boston’s mobile food truck schedule, both of which list food truck vendors and location. Some even offer apps, or message boards where foodies can list “sightings.” Many food trucks notify customers of their locations via Twitter, so there are also plenty of Twitter lists and Twitter accounts dedicated to street food in certain cities, like this street food guide for Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Go on Foot or on Wheels
A great way to see the lay of the land, talk to locals, and get to know a destination best is by foot or bicycle. A stroll through a downtown tourist or business district will often yield great food truck and local dining finds. Local storeowners and tour operators will be happy to help point you in the direction of their local favorites, too.
Go to Tourist Bureaus or Visitor Centers
No need to seek out their brick and mortar locations, either (who has the time?). Google the city name + “twitter” to quickly find appropriate Twitter handles for tourist bureaus and others who will answer all your local cuisine questions. I’ve had luck with tweets such as “Love visiting #Seattle. Now, where to eat for farm-to-table fare?” Within seconds, answers are at my fingertips.
How do you find the best local cuisine in new destinations? What food trucks do you recommend in your favorite city (and where are they hiding out?).