Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Fri May 29 2015

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  • Tom Bastek | May 29, 2015 9:00 PM ET

    How to Narrow Down Your Choices Of Where To Eat On Vacation

    How to Narrow Down Your Choices Of Where To Eat On Vacation

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    You know exactly what we are talking about here. You are at a resort destination and you are putting the family’s heads together to figure out where you would like to eat. The problem: with 3,276 places to get something to eat in the Greater Orlando Area, where the heck are you going to have dinner? Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to make a decision that will give you a story to tell your friends when you get back.

    Time for a Family Meeting

    Before you leave, or better yet while you are traveling to your destination with nothing to do, have a family meeting of the minds. Let everyone pick a night where they get to choose where to eat. There is nothing more fun for a kid than being in charge of mealtime, even if only for one night.

    If you don’t have enough nights for everyone to make a choice, at least get a favorite dish from everyone. Plenty of resort destination restaurants know they're going to have to please a crowd, and have adjusted their menus accordingly. In Destin for instance, McGuire’s Pub serves traditional Irish fare but also has seafood, pasta, steaks, chops and burgers to boot. It is tough not to find something for everyone there. If you have really picky eaters in your family, it might not hurt to put the list of “don’t wants” together as well.

    Eat Local

    This is probably the best advice for a number of reasons. This is the time to seek out the non-chain restaurant and support the local economy. If you are on the coast or on an island, seriously consider seafood for dinner (most menus will indicate if it is locally caught). Are you in Texas? Steak is probably the way to go. If you are in Memphis, ten feet off of Beale, barbecue better be in your diet. 

    Even better, if you can find a restaurant that sources its food locally you know you are getting the freshest food possible. Not to mention that the carbon footprint of locally grown food is considerably smaller than what comes in from across the country.

    Related: 5 Reasons To Eat Local On Your Next Vacation

    Go Exotic

    There are few of us who are making Beef Wellington or Beef Bourguignon at home. These are the types of dishes that require a decent amount of skill and more so than that: time. One of the best things to do when you are out for a meal is to choose something you never get at home. Are you not very good at poaching eggs at home?  No worries, Eggs Benedict is on a lot of breakfast/brunch menus in many restaurants. This is the perfect time to have it. Vacation is meant to be a break from your normal routine, so don’t be afraid to give yourself something that you don’t have normally at home.

    Online Reviews

    Now that you have a pretty good idea of what you want, the question becomes where to go?  Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way: Online reviews need to be used properly in order to be helpful in your search. Getting word of mouth from people who you don’t know, might not have anything in common with, and might have an axe to grind is never a smart thing. 

    However, there are a few things that online review websites are really good for. If you know you want to have a steak dinner tonight, you can bet that the review site is going to have a very comprehensive list of steak restaurants with current addresses, website links to menus and other pertinent information. Even the jaded reviewers can’t muck that up. 

    Also, if you haven't seen a review in a while, they may not be open any longer so check it out with a phone call to be sure. Make sure you cross check the number of reviews with the score of the review. If you have a five-star-reviewed restaurant with only 15 reviews or a 4.3 star-reviewed restaurant with 1,500, there might be a decision to be made there.

    See Also: 7 Things To Know Before Reading A Review Online

    Ask Around

    The locals in most places are going to be your best bet for finding little roadside treasures and off-the-beaten-path places that are awesome. Asking front desk agents and concierges is fine, but keep in mind that many of those people are wined, dined and even compensated for their recommendations. 

    Think about asking bartenders, bus drivers, or attraction workers where they like to go. Your answer is liable to be a lot more sincere. If you like to have a drink, get yourself to a locals bar first, make some friends and then ask for a good bet for a bite for dinner. Now that is where the rubber meets the road.

    There is nothing worse than sitting around the house, asking everyone where they would like to go for dinner and being met with a chorus of shrugs. Then you spend an hour trying to narrow it down from all the choices, or worse drive around until you are so sick of waiting that you just go to T.J. McChainRestaurant's for their triple dipper guac'n'bacon nacho shooters. 

    This is your chance to venture off the grid and eat somewhere that is so unique that when you get home, you can’t wait to spread the news. Mangia!


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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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