I really did try to avoid doing this one, but I couldn’t help myself.
My personal rules for eating (dinner) out abroad:
- Never the same place twice. Exceptions being very small towns, or extended stays. Too often, folks stick to the first “low stress” restaurant they find (the one where everyone spoke English or whatever), declare it the absolute best, and just go back every night. I need a much larger set of data points from a new place before I can decide whether food is good or not.
- Use the foreign language menu. Not to look cool, but because it makes you more likely to get a surprise, or to try something you’ve never had before. Back in Madonna di Campiglio, I had some very delicious meat in a balsamic reduction. What animal was it from? No idea.
- Handwritten menus are a red herring. In a tourist-heavy city, the folks serving you are far more savvy than you are about all the “tricks” (not a fair word to use really). Just because the menu is handwritten, it doesn’t mean the food will be any more fresh or exciting than a place with a printed menu (it’s handwritten, is it ever changed?). I tend to look for a small menu, with only a few options instead, though again, that’s not guarantee.
- Don’t eat at places recommended by your guidebook. Not because they’re all in cahoots, or because it makes restaurants lazy, but because it’s too easy to pick a place from the guidebook. Boring. You can’t actually avoid guidebook-recommended places (too many guidebooks!) but you can at least avoid your guidebook.
- If you’re really looking for a special place, try toggling a review site into the local language and browsing reviews. Yelp isn’t as entrenched in Europe, but Tripadvisor generally has a lot of local-language reviews for restaurants.
So yeah, just my own biases.