This Is How Smart Travelers Find Hidden-Gem Restaurants (Nope, Not the Guide Book)

Hint: It involves actually talking to strangers.

Let’s be honest: A chunk of the satisfaction of traveling comes from discovering hidden-gem spots at your destination. (And that’s where the bragging rights come from, too.) But how do travelers discover those amazing, under-the-radar restaurants and bars in places they’ve previously never been… and where they don’t know anybody?

Well, underground chef Russell Jackson and food documentarian Liza De Guia from Bravo’s new series Going Off the Menu have some solid answers to that. 

Jackson says in-person interaction with in-the-know folks on the ground — yes, strangers — is the best approach. “The biggest thing is you have to get up off the couch and interact with people,” he says. “Yes, you can ask the concierge — but they’re going to give you the place they’re in the pocket of.”

So who’s better to ask than an employee at your hotel? “Ask the taxi driver,” he says. “I always end up asking the most random people. Cab drivers, Uber drivers, Lyft drivers — they know where the good food is.”

Liza echoes that the key is to, “meet the locals. It’s not that hard,” even if you have to stretch outside your comfort zone. “Be brave!” she says.

Russell sums up the whole fool-proof approach this way: “In the end, it’s about being social and getting back to hanging – I don’t want to go to a place where I sit down at the table and everyone’s having a meal by themselves with a phone. I want to go someplace where it’s just about the people.”

But if the actual in-person human element doesn’t do it for you (or you're limited in the foreign tongue)? Try hacking sites like Yelp. “The simplest tip is to go onto the search engines like Yelp where they aggregate everything and there’s always someone that will write something like, ‘Hint, hint, there’s an off-the-menu item here,’ or ‘There’s a secret menu here,’” Liza says. She says the information is fully available, “but no one knows to go in the search box and search ‘secret menu,’ or ‘off the menu.’”

Liza also suggests tweeting at top food writers in the area — and you’ll be surprised when the helpful answers roll in. “Just a quick tweet, and make it really sincere like, ‘Is there anything extra special that no one knows about that I can do?,’ because food people actually want to share their food information!”

She added, “We’re not hoarding it all to ourselves, because food — you want people to eat it. It’s not like this private thing, so if I just ask and ask in the right way, I find that almost everyone will answer me. [Just] be a little persistent.”-Reporting by Jocelyn Vena

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