Last updated: 07:00 AM ET, Sat May 09 2015

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  • Gabe Zaldivar | May 9, 2015 7:00 AM ET

    7 Tips to Guarantee Amazing and Unforgettable Food Travels

    7 Tips to Guarantee Amazing and Unforgettable Food Travels

    Photo by Gabe Zaldivar

    When traveling, every meal is the most important of the day.

    Each, hopefully, is met with awe, reverence and the kind of hunger that could demolish a spread at Joey Chestnut’s house

    Below are just a few tips I have for the intrepid tourist about to embark on a faraway journey. Of course, every culture, country, city and food truck will have its own particular nuances.

    Consider this a nice little guideline to making sure you give yourself the best shot at eating some of your respective destination’s best dishes.

    Now take out the figurative fork and dig in.

    Say Yes:

    Improv’s No. 1 rule also applies to eating in unknown destinations. Now I understand you are a bit cautious about uni (sea urchin) or devouring haggis (don't ask), but you may be missing out on something that would otherwise blow your mind.

    And we are all out to have our minds blown when on holiday. Well, that and to work on our selfie game.

    In either case, it’s best to have tried and regurgitated than never to have tried at all (Trademark pending on that catchy slogan).

    You can pack all the bags you want, but sticking to meat and potatoes and regular American fare abroad means you haven’t really left at all.

    Now pick up your darn chopsticks and learn something.

    Take a Walk:

    I think this rule works so well for general travel amusement—if you can set aside a day and forego all touristy attractions, this really is an amazing way to see the town.

    But my quick tip is to locate a restaurant or diner that is a healthy amble away and just walk there.

    Not only will you appreciate the meal when you get there, but you will have seen a nice portion of the city and the locals engaging in whatever locals do in the area.

    Now the obvious caveat is to make sure the area is safe before you decide on a gastro-inspired sojourn.

    We want you to actually make it there.

    Ask a Waiter:

    Contrary to what “Ghostbusters” would have you believe, there is never a proper gatekeeper hanging about. And, unlike OZ, there isn’t a nice mustachioed man at the door to greet you with warm wishes.

    There is, however, a dutiful guide outside Yelp, Thrillist and, dare we say, TravelPulse that can offer some insight. That is, of course, if you don’t mind basic human interaction.

    Some of the best tips I received have been from asking local bartenders, waiters, waitresses and other forms of people serving me my more immediate meal. 

    If they don’t know of any recommendations of other great restaurants, there is sure to be a chef or colleague who does.

    And, from what I’ve found, they are happy to write a brief list on a piece of paper, which you should hold sacred as if it were some archaic navigation document. (I believe they used to be called maps).

    Stay Clear of Eating in Touristy Areas:

    The beaten path offers little more than overpriced, tough steaks, expensive hamburgers with shriveled ingredients and pasta containing what always tastes like repurposed ketchup.

    Now sometimes you just need to get that hot dog by [insert any common landmark].

    Traveling is an exhaustive business and you need to be well-fed and liquored up, so we understand when you just need a regular sandwich or burger to keep you going.

    But if you are looking for one meal to have, please look elsewhere than near Picadilly Circus, Hollywood and Highland, Times Square or the like.

    There are plenty of places near these locations and other like tourist traps that deserve your travel dollars, but they also demand a bit of investigation and good, hard food sleuthing.

    Keep Rations on You at All Times:

    As I mentioned, sometimes you just need a snack to keep going. A backpack with the essentials is nice, but a backpack with food among the necessities is even better.

    One of my favorite moments was stopping by a bench to have a piece of bread and sip on some whisky as I overlooked Edinburgh. It beat having to stop for a quick bite at some fast-food joint by a sizable margin.

    Carry Cash:

    Yes, this is advisable for pure traveling means, but it’s even more important when you consider the influx of street food that has thankfully taken over the world.

    You don’t want to miss out on tasting cockles for the first time because all you have is a card and, inevitably, a pitiful frown on your now-hungry mug.

    Food Markets:

    If you happen to be in a city with a renowned food market you should make it part of the itinerary.

    Places like London’s Borough Market have a way of rejuvenating the legs and satisfying the stomach.

    It meets all manner of tourism criteria. You mix it up with the locals, get to sample exotic fare and experience what life might just be like if things had been different and you were born somewhere other than your American city.

    But really, your trip and what you eat while on it is all up to you. But if you push past the hesitancy and give yourself the opportunity, you will have more than pictures to take home with you.

    With just a bit of courage and some determination, you will have one unforgettable bite after another.


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Gabe Zaldivar The Main Course

Gabe Zaldivar Born on the rough streets of suburban West Covina, I learned a great many things, some of which has proved useful: knowing the tell-tale sounds of an ice cream truck and crafting a world-class burrito come to mind. You have seen my work on Bleacher Report and possibly my mug on CNN. Perhaps, if you are into archaic modes of entertainment, you have also heard me on the radio. Pop culture is my beat. If it has to do with the intersection of travel, entertainment and pop culture, I'm your guy.
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