Wings at Duff’s in Buffalo, NY

“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonald’s? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head?” -Anthony Bordain

Hot Brown from Ramsey’s in Lexington, KY

If you fly across the world, see the sites, but then eat at a restaurant that you have by your house, did you truly experience the culture of the place you visited? I have to say you did not. I don’t think you can truly experience a place and a culture without trying their food. James Beard said “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”

In all of our travels we try to find unique dining experiences, foods we can’t get at home. Do we typically dine at 5 star restaurants, of course not. Sometimes it’s as basic as finding a local fast food chain that we don’t have at home. If it’s something I can get at home, I try to avoid it while traveling. There was a time a few years ago that we were in Chicago and I was getting hangry. I really wanted to try to find a cool, local place to eat, but my hunger was getting in the way of making decisions. We ended up eating at Panera and I was so upset that I wasted one of our few meals in Chicago on something that is 5 minutes from my house.

Bento Box from Wild Ginger in Corning, NY

With all the technology we have it is so easy to find good and authentic food wherever you go. I talk about it all the time, but TripAdvisor is a great way to get travelers’ honest opinions on restaurants and find places that are under the radar. When we were in Boston we found this very trendy Mexican restaurant called Lolita Cantina. The food was unique and the dining experience is one I will never forget. The meal started with a granita with a splash of tequila and it ended with cotton candy and temporary tattoos.

If you’re looking for something less fancy, go to the dining tab on TripAdvisor and there should be a section labeled cheap eats. We tried all kinds of good restaurants that were unbelievably inexpensive. My favorite was a tiny Italian restaurant in Concord, Massachusetts that served huge portions of pasta. It was not a place I would’ve found just walking around. We also had really good gyros near the campus of Southern New Hampshire State University.

Thin Mint Latte at Higher Grounds in Traverse City, MI

When you travel, branch out of your comfort zone. Try some foods you wouldn’t try at home. It will expand your horizons and transform you. Talk to the people where you’re staying. Find out where they like to eat. Of course check out TripAdvisor. You won’t be disappointed.

Do you have any tips for finding authentic places to eat when you travel? Let me know in the comments.

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