With the flood of restaurant review sites, it’s often hard to know which will lead you to truly good food. The first thing you need to know is how you’d like to eat. If you’re going solo or with another adult, you may want more bar-like settings or high-end options. If you’re on a big family trip, you might need kid-friendly spots. The one thing you should do is find the restaurants that show off the best of local cuisine. You don’t want to go somewhere just to have another anonymous chicken tender plate or kale salad. To find the best eats, consult the experts. Crowd-sourced sites, such as Yelp and Trip Advisor, have up-to-the-minute reviews, but there’s no accounting for taste and anyone can post. Once you’ve made selections, you can confirm your choices with the wisdom of the crowds.
1. Read local reviews. The restaurant reviewers of local papers and magazines (yes, they still exist!) know their towns’ options better than anyone.
2. Find out where chefs go when they’re not cooking. Phaidon just released their 2015 edition of Where Chefs Eat (to buy: $15, amazon.com). It’s a brilliant compendium, helpfully organized by location. A lot of chefs tweet and Instagram meals they’re enjoying on their travels too, so start following chefs you like.
3. Take bloggers’ tips. If you already follow food-focused blogs and know you share the same tastes, you’ll likely enjoy their restaurant choices too. The same is true of television travel-show hosts, especially those, such as Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain, who seek out the most authentic eats.
4. Check out national magazines and websites. Despite the obvious bias here, food and travel writers devote their lives to finding the best places to eat. Given the sheer volume of restaurants they’ve tried, they feature only spots truly worth visiting.
5. Get to know locals. Make a reservation at a place you know you’ll like and chat up the bartender, servers, or chefs. Most food industry folks have insider intel on everything from haute cuisine to cheap eats.
If good food matters to you, try to make some plans before you arrive at your destination. But it’s just as important to stumble into meals. If you spot a joint that’s not listed in any guide or on any site, but you see locals having a blast and eating dishes that make you drool, walk right in. It may be the best meal of your trip.