The weather is starting to heat up here in Miami, as thoughts turn to summer and plans to travel. The CDC says that even fully vaccinated people can still get COVID and advises to: keep wearing masks while traveling, social distance and wash hands frequently. Also, international travelers coming into the U.S. will need to test negative three days before traveling here. So a Road Trip in the good ole USA, with fully vaccinated passengers, may be the best bet for traveling in 2021.
While vacations might look different this year (for sure!) one of my favorite parts of traveling is sampling the local food. In that vein, I thought I would offer these Travel Tips given by author/TV personality Anthony Bourdain to Inc. magazine a couple months before he passed away in 2018, with my take (Foodie in Miami) on his recs.
BOURDIAN’S 5 Rules for Dining Out While Traveling
- THE FOOD-PHOTOS TEST
“You want to go to a place where there’s locals only. No photos of the food, the menu is not in English and people eating there look like they go there a lot.”
FOODIE IN MIAMI’S TAKE:
I agree with this rule in general, but I’ve eaten at places (I’m thinking of a tapas place on a backstreet in Malaga, Spain) where I had an excellent Tortilla Espanola, so there are exceptions to the rule. Also, some people may have difficulty with menus not in English (but there’s always Google Translate).
2. THE THREE THINGS TEST
“My favorite restaurants, in fact, are ones where they only do two or three things. A place that does three things- and it looks like they’ve been doing those same three things for a very long time- that’s a really healthy sign. If they have a menu that’s all over the place, that’s worrisome to me.”
I agree, in general, with this rule. Again my thoughts turn to a road trip we took to Spain and the Los Caracoles restaurant in Barcelona. They were known for their Snails (what caracol means), which arrived in a big bowl and had to be extracted out of the shell with a toothpick. They were also known for their Suckling Pig, cooked on a spit; both were delicious. Even the bread at this place was in the shape of a snail!
3. THE DIRTY-BATHROOM TEST
“I used to say a dirty bathroom was a sign you should not be eating in a restaurant. I’ve learned the opposite is true. Some of the best food experiences I’ve ever had are places where they don’t care about that. They know their food is good, and that’s enough.”
FOODIE IN MIAMI’S TAKE:
Of course, this was written Pre-Pandemic and our views on cleanliness and health have changed enormously, but I will say this statement proved true at a Miami restaurant I used to love- Hy Vong. The bathroom in this now-closed restaurant was located outside the restaurant and not the cleanest, but the homemade Vietnamese food, particularly the Pumpkin Soup and the Steamed Rice Noodle Rolls with crispy fried shallots, live on in my memory.
4. THE TOUR GROUP TEST
“If there’s tour groups in there- even if you’re in a tour group- abandon them because they’re going to the wrong place. Just find an excuse, feign a stroke or an attack of violent diarrhea, but get away.”
I have gone to eat with Tour Groups while on vacation a couple times and, while the restaurants aren’t usually bad, they’re never great. I would say the exception to this rule would be a boat tour my sister and I took through Windstar Cruises to an island in Romania that housed a convent and rectory. The nuns served us a homemade Romanian meal of their specialties, sourced from animals they’d raised and vegetables from their garden. That was a special meal.
5. THE BUNCH OF ROMANS TEST
“You’re never going to get that magical meal if you’re not willing to take a chance on a bad one. Walking with zero preparation into a place, you see a bunch of Romans in there, they seem to be having a good time- try it. Maybe it’s not good, but if you go to the place that the concierge says ‘all the Americans seem to like’- that ensures you will have a bad meal.”
While I’m a die-hard Yelper (and an Elite writer on Yelp) and tend to research restaurants before I travel, I do agree with this advice. It actually even happened to my sister Kelley and I on our first night in Rome, years ago. It was a Sunday night (the night we usually eat pasta at home) and happened by this restaurant, packed with people. We thought there was no way we would be able to get a table, but we did and had a delicious and memorable meal. If we hadn’t taken that walk, it never would’ve happened.
Likewise, when my husband and I went to Maui for our honeymoon, we went to the Front Desk at the Grand Wailea and asked them where to eat.
I don’t mean one of the restaurants in this hotel, or another place where tourists go, but a place where you would go to eat.Zeke said.
That recommendation led us to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in a strip wall where we had Loco Moco, one of our favorite meals of our trip. Known as a Hawaiian hangover cure, Loco Moco features white rice, topped with a hamburger patty , topped with a fried egg, all of which was smothered in gravy. A hangover cure indeed!
I’m planning a couple Road Trips in the U.S. this summer, and will knock off two more states (Ohio and Rhode Island) from my list of 50 states to see. The last one I have left will be Alaska, but cruises to Alaska aren’t happening this year. I just heard that Greece and Iceland are opening up for tourists with proof of vaccination. But, before that, there’s Maine!
Food is the easiest window into a culture and the most direct expression of character and history of a place.Anthony Bourdain