Last updated: 03:00 AM ET, Tue May 12 2015

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  • Tom Bastek | May 12, 2015 3:00 AM ET

    5 Reasons To Eat Local On Your Next Vacation

    5 Reasons To Eat Local On Your Next Vacation

    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

    There are plenty of people who take comfort in knowing that when they go away, there will be chain restaurants when they get there offering the same meal they receive at home. These are the people that breath a sigh of relief when they see a Burger King win Europe, signaling that they are not going to be stuck eating all of that, “strange foreign food.”

    There are many who are the exact opposite; the ones who seek out the new and different. These are the people who can’t wait to try something local. Although I feel like the experience of stepping outside of your comfort zone is part of traveling to someplace new, and that should be reason enough to leave your safe, no frills, chain restaurant behind, here are five more reasons why you should seek out local cuisine on your next trip.

    Infusion And Inclusion Of Local Flavors And Recipes

    When you step into Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Atlanta, Georgia, and order Pot Likker with cracklin’ bread or homemade pimento cheese, those recipes aren’t coming from the Betty Crocker Cookbook. They are coming from the same recipes that were started there in 1945. When you travel to Market 17 in Ft. Lauderdale you are getting the fish and seafood caught by local fishermen, the meat and poultry produced by local ranchers and the produce provided by local farmers. When you are dining at your favorite chain restaurant, most of the time you know that the food is coming in on a tractor trailer from somewhere a long way from wherever you are.

    More Seasonal

    There is a reason that menus change with the seasons at local restaurants: they can’t get certain foods at certain times of the year. This not only creates a menu that provides the freshest fare available, it also gives the adventurous diner a chance to shake it up. Fall roasted vegetables and spring greens just taste better when served during the season. Even some chains like Seasons 52 are of the understanding that is you want to offer fresh and unique, you need to have a seasonal menu. 

    For some things, like local oysters, safety is another reason that they are only available part of the year. Safety for the supply of oysters, that is. The break in the months that don’t have an “R” in it allows time for the little guys to reproduce. And let’s be honest, we want more oysters, so let them have their time.


    Ever get a potato from the grocery store and in less than a week it is starting to go bad in the pantry? If you were to pull that potato from your garden, you could get up to six months out of it. Makes you wonder when that rotten potato you have in your hand right now was harvested, doesn’t it? 

    It has been proven that the older food in general gets or the longer it sits, the more nutrition it loses. Steam up some fresh broccoli and some frozen and look at how much deeper the color of the fresh is. The brighter and deeper the colors, the more nutrients are in it. When your local restaurant is pulling out of their own or a local farmer’s garden, they are bringing you fresher and therefore healthier meals.

    Money Stays With The Community

    This is a big one for a lot of people. They want to shop local when they are at home, but when they go out on vacation, they are not seeking the same opportunities. The tourist towns around the country live and die by the money being spent in them by tourists. 

    Sure, when you eat at the national chain level, a small portion of what you pay stays in the community, but when you eat at the local level, you are helping the staff, the owners and the suppliers directly. And if you like going to Carmel, California and would love to see it thrive, continue to eat at places like Carmel Belle and you will be keeping that money close to home.

    More Community Minded

    I am going to be very fair here. More and more chain restaurants are figuring out that they need to be proponents of community in each of their locations. However, it is truly the local places that donate to school auctions, hold dine-ins as fundraisers and put together events that inspire and support the community. 

    And there are few things better than walking in the door of the local coffee shop to be greeted by everyone wearing Special Olympic nametags and letting you know that 10 percent of your purchase today is going to the Special Olympics. Well, if that’s the case, let me have something to go.

    So go my friends, and explore. Get out there and get to a restaurant that you have never heard of. A place that might look scary or small or just plain different. You are in for a real treat.


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Tom Bastek The Main Course

Tom Bastek Tom is a writer in the Atlanta Area. He has traveled to all 48 continental states and almost every stop in the Caribbean. In addition to Traveling, Tom geeks out on bowling, craft beer, trains, pinball, comic books, sci-fi and playing the tuba. You can get him at and @TravelWriterTom.
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