Even after his untimely passing, Anthony Bourdain still has plenty of wise advice for food lovers. Here are his top 7 tips that will help you find the best restaurants, wherever you travel.
When in a different country, it can be difficult to find an authentic eating experience without falling into a tourist trap. Before you know it, you might find yourself in a fake Italian restaurant in front of a slice of stale pizza.
As the late Anthony Bourdain once said, “Food is the easiest window into a culture and the most direct expression of character and history of a place”. Luckily for us, he left us a quick guide to finding the most incredible restaurants anywhere in the world.
1. Avoid restaurants with photos of the food
The locals do not need an example picture of what they eat, and you want to follow the locals.
“You want to go to a place where there’s locals only. No photos of the food, the menu is not in English and there are people eating there that look like they go there a lot.”
2. Just 3 good dishes are better than a long menu
When looking for a great restaurant, simplicity is your friend.
“My favorite restaurants 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, if they have a hamburger or Asian fusion and it’s not in Asia, these are all worrisome to me.”
3. Do not judge a restaurant by its bathroom
Even if the bathroom is dirty, it might mean all the energy is going into delicious cooking.
“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 they really don’t give a shit about that. They know their food is good and that’s enough.”
4. Go for places that welcome pets
A dog or two in the restaurant might be mean more than you think.
“If you see a dog in a restaurant, they’re feeling pretty confident about their food.”
5. Stay clear of tour groups
Following a tour group is the sure recipe to fall into a tourist trap: stay away!
“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.”
6. Go where the crowds go
Spotting a group of locals in a restaurant should be a hint to go ahead and try it.
“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 [and] you see a bunch of Romans in there [and] 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 it’ — that ensures that you will have a bad meal.”
7. Do not follow the Americans
To find real, authentic local food, it is best to avoid places popular with Americans.
“If there are other Americans in there—in any number—chances are, you’re in the wrong place. If you go to New York looking for a deli, you don’t want to go to a deli with people filled from the Midwest taking pictures of each other. You want to go to a deli that’s filled with New Yorkers. Not because New Yorkers are particularly nice, it’s just that, chances are, that’s a good deli.”
Now that you have some simple, Bourdain-approved tips, you are ready to go and explore new tastes. Your mouth and stomach will thank you.