Thursday, November 5, 2009

How To Decide Where to Eat When Traveling

We travel a lot; both for business and vacation, and it’s my job to seek out where we’re going to eat on these trips. So, I’m always on the look-out for that perfect place; be it for a quick breakfast or a fancy dinner.

What is my method for picking restaurants?

Let’s take our most recent trip as an example. Last week we spent a few days in Chicago. Having been to Chicago several times before I have a few favorites that I like to re-visit.

1. Return to old favorites

We always seem to have brunch at Gage; which I love for its eccentric menu and good food.

Another staple is L’Appetito for their Italian sandwiches. On this visit we shared a “La Bomba”.

Tomato focaccia filled with Italian meats and cheeses; it’s easy to see where this one got its name.

Of course we had to have dinner at our favorite Chicago restaurant Café Spiaggia. We had an amazing meal of homemade gnocchi with wild boar followed by crispy balsamic glazed pork belly and italian doughnuts for dessert.

Ok, that’s the easy part. Choosing the remainder of the restaurants took a bit more planning.

2. Decide on the type of food.

We knew we wanted to have pizza one night; Cuban and maybe Tapas/small plates another night.

3. Narrow by location.

I always try to stay within a short walk or a quick cab ride from our hotel. This isn’t always easy but I try.

4. Research

By this time I will usually have a nice list of potentials and it’s time to check reviews on sites like Chow or Yelp.

We ended up at Quartino for Italian style tapas. So many things on the menu sounded good; it was hard to choose. This is why I like small plates; you can have a little taste of everything. We had some fried calamari,

veal meatball sliders,

an assortment of olives and a plate of orecchiette with duck ragu.

La Madia for pizza and appetizers turned out to be an excellent choice. The wild mushroom and ricotta bruschetta was delicious. As was the fresh buffalo mozzarella and basil pizza.

Carnivale was our Cubon/Fusion choice and it was also very good. The highlight of the meal was the Ropa Vieja.

Shredded beef piled on top of sweet plantains and drizzled with a spicy mayo. This ropa vieja was like no other I've ever had.

So there you go...that is how I go about picking restaurants in new places. How about any tips or tricks you'd like to share?


  1. Such delicious eats! And great tips! I don't have any except to ask the locals where they eat.

  2. I like the way you think about food when you travel. I always try to choose what type of food I want first and then do TONS of research to narrow down my choices. All the food you got looks so good! Especially that ropa vieja...

  3. Love Quartino's! Have you tried Spacca Napoli yet in Ravenswood for pizza? Yummm!!

  4. Great tips! We used to use Mobil travel guide online search when we went to a new place but it's not available now (hopefully temporarily).

  5. Okay - I'm drooling and want to book a flight! Everything looks so good!

  6. Great tips! I love that la bomba! You live a very exciting life!!!!