How many of you have stumbled wearily into a hole-in-the-wall diner after a long day of traveling, tired of gas station or airport snacks and hoping for a hot meal – only to have that meal end up being one of your favorites? I’ve had several such experiences, with the most memorable being a biscuit shop behind an auto parts store in Roanoke, Virginia. Or maybe it was the first time I tried fry bread in New Mexico. Or maybe it was that Cubano sandwich from a street vendor in St. Petersburg, Florida. Or maybe … well, you get the picture.
These types of places are revered, and many are hidden gems. When visiting or relocating to a new city, immersing yourself in the local culture often leads to new food experiences. As a lover of “food-ventures,” I’ve listed my favorite ways to find some local haunts in your new area that will have you coming back for seconds.Talk to the locals: Next time you’re playing with Fido at the dog park, trying that coffee shop by your new apartment, or getting to know a coworker before a meeting begins, why not make some friendly food conversation? Locals know best when it comes to food and may be able to give you a recommendation for something off of the beaten path. Some of the best food comes from humble storefronts that might otherwise be overlooked.
Do some independent research: If you’re like me, you’ve read a food blog or two. Maybe you were just trying to get a simple recipe for marinara sauce and ended up learning about the blogger’s fascinating history with their tomato garden. Blogs written by passionate food people are fun to peruse when you’re going to a new place. Having a plan is a great way to start, especially if you are looking for a particular type of food or have dietary restrictions. Ask friends and family if they’ve had good meals where you’re going, poll your social media followers, look up menus, venture out on restaurant weeks, check out local festivals, and figure out what your new area is known for.
Pick up a local publication: I am passionate about breakfast foods and always research them before my travels. Right outside the location of a recent breakfast experience in New Mexico was a free local newspaper bin. Over the most delicious chilaquiles I’ve ever had, my partner and I found a pop-up ramen festival featuring local ingredients at an independent brewpub nearby. I would never have thought to find great ramen in New Mexico and was blown away by the fresh ingredients (and amazing beer).Be open to trying new things: Globally, each new city has its own famous food offerings, some in unlikely places. Many of these may be totally different than what you often seek or are accustomed to. Why not give them a try? Back in college, my friend and I implemented the “no thank you bite” for trying new foods. We try everything at least once with the option to say “no, thanks, not for me.” You may be pleasantly surprised about what preconceived notions are wrong and what’s about to become your next best bite.
So, what are you looking for? Fine dining with cloth napkins? Street food eaten steaming hot and standing up? The world is yours! Happy food-hopping to you. I hope you find something that really butters your bread.