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Anthony Bourdain Shares the "Key Tipoff" You're Eating at the "Wrong Place" While Traveling

It requires some crowd profiling.

So Anthony Bourdain would eat street food from a cart in the middle of a cholera epidemic in Haiti, and perhaps you wouldn't. But when it comes to lower-risk culinary propositions, Bourdain is definitely the type of insider you'd want to ask for a recommendation about where to eat while traveling.

His first suggestion, according to an interview in The Boston Globe, is to be flexible — and at least a little fearless. "Don’t have a rigid itinerary — and don’t be afraid to make mistakes," he suggests.

On a more practical level, "Don’t go anywhere the concierge suggests," he says. "Experience has taught me, that no matter how hard you maintain that you want a real and authentic local experience, what you really want is a clean bathroom and to feel comfortable. So they’re going to send you someplace where there are other Americans."

Hey, what's wrong with other Americans, you might ask? Nothing, per se, but an abundance of them eating in a place is a telltale sign the food is likely bad.

"You don’t want to eat in a place with other Americans — not that there’s anything wrong with other Americans. Rome is a perfect example: It’s maybe the best example. The overwhelming likelihood going out to dinner in Rome is that you’re going to have a bad meal," he says. "A key tipoff: If [staffers] are outside with pictures and the menus are in English and Italian, and there are Americans there, you’re at the wrong place."

(And this coming from the guy who cops to eating American fast food while traveling... even though it's "disgusting" and "shameful!")


So if you want to make sure you're at the right place, here's what you do, according to Bourdain: "You want to go to a place where you’re the only English speaker in the place and the waiters and owner look like they’ve been there for 30 or 40 years, the customers are all Italians — all Romans, eating specifically Roman food. That’s the place to be."

Originally published August 17, 2017

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