Thursday, February 5, 2015

Eight Rules for finding Decent Food--almost anywhere! @lucyburdette

LUCY BURDETTE:  Food matters deeply to my food critic character.  And to me too! If either of us get too hungry, we're miserable--a poor state to travel in. After three weeks in Australia, we came up with these suggestions for finding good food on the road...
Mex and Co in Manly
1. Go where the lines are. We found this little Mexican place in Manly when we looked in the window and saw baskets of homemade tortilla chips and margaritas in mason jars. And then I remembered I'd seen it recommended on Yelp by a California girl--who would know better? We weren't able to get in that night but believe me we showed up 15 minutes before opening the next night.


2. Which brings me to the law of converging suggestions. Try Yelp or Tripadvisor, but it helps if more than one person recommends, and also if you can get a sense of what kind of eater they are.

3. When desperate for something not too foreign or in doubt about the choices, go to the museum cafe. 

Here are my hummus and olives from the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.


Sydney Harbor
4.  Steer away from tourist traps on the main drag. Be leery of these recommendations. (For instance, I would never start with a restaurant right on Duval, though of course there are exceptions!)


But sometimes the food can be sacrificed if the view is good enough (e.g., the cafe outside the Opera House), even if the folks at the next table are a little annoying... 

Parma at the Royal Mail on Spencer

5.  Try the local specialties. Parma turns out to be fried chicken with ham and cheese and tomato sauce baked on, which is a regional specialty in Melbourne. And we were crazy for the homemade curried mustard, too, at The Royal Mail on Spencer in Melbourne.


6.  Eat what's local and fresh. (This was a flower bed planted with lettuce in Sydney!)



7. Ask people who live there. We went to Little Creatures in Melbourne on our nephew's recommendation. 


And then ran into the chef and waitress from the restaurant we'd visited the night before--we struck gold with their recommendations of roasted corn, pulled pork,
Little Creatures in Melbourne
and these decadent salted caramel-stuffed donuts--served warm with ice cream:).


Cait with Lucy

8. If you're in a city, look for a foodie walking tour. In Adelaide, John and I booked places for a tour called Feast on Foot. Cait, a lively city resident, took us to six of her favorite spots where we tasted falafel and dolmades, duck tacos,
duck taco  at Mall Food
spoonfuls of incredible salted caramel, pork bbq buns, cupcakes and more.

And she gave us city history and a tour of street art, too--the best way to see Adelaide!


How about you Reds? Any tips for finding food in a strange place?


  1. Your pictures and descriptions are absolutely mouth-watering!
    Generally we've heeded the advice of the local folks when looking for good places to eat in an unfamiliar place. Only once were we disappointed . . . most of the time the recommendations were spot-on.

  2. Went to France this fall with some other people and my friend Corky was the champ. The restaurants were all outside and Corky would wander through the tables and come back with a visual and olfactory report for us. "The pizza looked good and thin crusted, not too greasy. The fish smelled fresh. Let's sit and eat."

    Crowd size was a factor and maybe even better than Corky in picking the best place.

    I would love to go to Australia someday but my wife is afraid of the snakes and spiders. Any first-hand encounters for Lucky?

  3. Pictures are gorgeous and as a salt lover (I know so un PC) my mouth is watering for the caramel sauce. I usually manage to find good food when traveling by depending on word of mouth from the locals. Those not dependent on the tourist economy! But you are right, sometimes you have to sacrifice for a table with a view. Thanks for the tour 'down under.'


    I agree--I think go into the restaurant, see if it smells good. And serif people seem happy.

    Gorgeous photos! And how do you stay so thin??

  5. Yes the locals and the appearance of the food both critical.

    Jack, my hub had one encounter with an enormous spider, but that's because he stepped off the path to relieve himself (he'd kill me for telling)--I don't know who was more frightened, the arachnid on his shorts or John!

    No snakes...tell her NOT to read Bill Bryson's book IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY before you go. I highly recommend the visit!

  6. Kait, you are welcome--this was so much fun to put together! And yes about the view--the seagulls loved the food, but us, not so much...

  7. Hank, I'm sure we gained a few kilos, but sadly the battery on our scale is dead so we couldn't find out LOL.

    Seriously, we did a lot of walking and biking, which compensated for some of the extras. And we'll get back to our normal routine this week!

  8. I like to go where local residents eat, too. Often the restaurants themselves are rather plain but the owners obviously spent more money on wonderful food!

  9. Totally right, Deb, the atmosphere means less than the food!

    and Hank, I forgot to say that Cait from FEast on Foot told us that there are no calories in walking tour food....

  10. Love your advice, Lucy! I agree. DEFINITELY go where the lines are. And use the online resources like Yelp and Tripadvisor but look past the ratings, read the comments, and look for reviewers who care about what you care about.

    You didn't mention wine and beer. We drank very well in Australia. And I loved that you could order a half pint of beer. Just ny speed.

  11. On our road trip to Ak from the East Coast, we looked for small local cafes. Usually the homemade soup and bread was to die for...

  12. Only once have I had a local recommendation go bad. We went to a tournament for my son and asked for a good place to get a casual dinner (burgers/sandwiches). The hotel clerk said there was a place that was fabulous, but we were unimpressed.

    When I was in Puerto Rico, I found all the hole-in-the-wall places where the tourists didn't go. It helped that I made friends with a local who gave me tips (and brought me some fabulous homemade goodies).

  13. Hallie, OMG, the beer was amazing! I never got to the wine as I was too busy with Cooper's pale ale and some others:).

    Yes, definitely, read the review, don't just look at the stars. (works for book reviews, too, right?)

    Gram, bread and homemade soup--you are making me hungry!

    Mary, sometimes the people making suggestions have different tastes or standards, right? Goes with the territory I guess...

  14. What a terrific piece! You're killing me with the doughnuts.

    Food IS important. I think Donald and I have gauged every trip we've ever taken by how well we ate. We always ask locals for suggestions.

    Saddest thing ever is finding a restaurant we love and then going back to the same city on a later trip only to find out it has closed.

  15. Oh gosh Kaye, that happened to us. We went back to the Royal Mail a second time because we'd liked it so well. And I had this special HOT DOG in my mind (no kidding, with house-made sauerkraut and caramelized onions and that curried mustard...). The place was closed for Australia Day. I was so disappointed!

  16. Just wander around and smell? When we were in Australia in 2005, we stayed in a hotel in North Sydney, with a spectacular view of the bridge. The hotel restaurant was surprisingly good--they had a salad made with lamb medallions that was amazing. We also spent time out in the country (it was a business trip for my husband, so I found myself hunting caterpillars in pine plantations), and discovered oysters in crummy roadside joints, beets on sandwiches everywhere (messy!), and neon-frosted donuts. One of the best places we ate looked like it had started life as a fast-food joint, but we had rock lobster and amazing ice cream there. It's an adventure!

  17. Great adventure Sheila--so interesting how different your food was than ours! Somebody else told us yesterday that their fave thing about Australia was the scones--which we never saw!

  18. Lucy, yes. Could also be we chose to order something that just wasn't their "best" menu option. Oh well.

  19. We always ask the desk clerk at the hotel where he would go to eat with his friends. Discovered a hole in the wall souklavi place in Athens that was brilliant.
    And so true about the line outside. Best fish and chips in UK found that way. Also museum cafes. I go to the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco just to eat sometimes.
    And don't forget food trucks. They are a brilliant new find when you want to dine al fresco and enjoy the view.

  20. No suggestions, but I need to try Parma, now.

  21. Lucy, brilliant! My parents loved to try local places when traveling, so I grew up believing that was the way to travel. Do you remember the Frommer books? Do they still publish those? We did "Europe on $25 a Day" and had the best food, eating in places were the locals ate.

    Now I use most of the above suggestions; ask at the hotel, look for lines, read reviews, and food trucks, yes! Looking forward to finding food trucks in London in a couple of weeks!

  22. yes, food trucks are a good idea Rhys!

    Debs, I know they do Frommer books but the price for a day has gone up LOL! We like to read the Rick Steves books too, but some of his choices in Rome were downright odd...I think the websites are more up to date, though you do have to wade through the opinions...

  23. Lovely post Lucy, I love eating the food of the country I am staying in, and try new dishes and such.

  24. In New Orleans we asked the trolley driver ;-)
    Your photos make me want to go and try each place, but for now, I'll just go to my kitchen.

  25. Roberta, the pictures are so yummy looking! Oh, my, those salted caramel stuffed donuts sound insanely good. I just discovered salted caramel fudge at a local fudge shop, and, well, I now need to stay away from that shop.

    Rhys, food trucks are a definite place to check. I must be a slow learner because it took my third trip to Oahu to venture out to the shrimp trucks, or buses, as our favorite spot was a converted school bus. Best meal and best value on the island. I can do fairly well blind, but I think it's a big help to get input from friends who have visited a place or live there for food suggestions. Even though I had some favorites in Key West, Roberta's suggestions were most helpful. Only wish we could have gotten in Louie's Backyard upper deck, but it was September, the time of restaurant closings for vacations and redoing in Key West.

    If I'm not familiar with an area, and I have to pick a restaurant, I usually go to Trip Advisor and see what ratings and reviews are for different places. Kaye, I'm with you on determining the success of a trip by how my tummy was satisfied. I just don't understand how people can go on vacation and not care about the food. I have a friend who went to Key West with her son and granddaughters, and they ate at a Denny's and other chain restaurants. I even had great suggestions for her. I have decided she was born without taste buds.

  26. thanks for the nice comments Aurian and StorytellerMary!

    Kathy, Denny's? yikes! but I believe that some people don't care that much about eating. Food for fuel more than pleasure. I'm not one of them--could you guess??

  27. Now I want to go to Australia.