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How To Find Great Ethnic Food

The availability of great ethnic food is no longer a unique quality of big cities.  You can eat tasty, inexpensive, and authentic Mexican, Korean, Greek, Somali, and other regional cuisines in cities big and small throughout the globe.  The trick is knowing how to find them. 

Several tips in Tyler Cowen’s book “An Economist Gets Lunch” changed the way I seek out great food in my recent travels, and how I eat out at home.  By using a mixture of common sense and thoughtful research, you too can find great food when you travel.  Here’s how: 

Ask The Right People

The best way to find great food is to ask a foodie, not your average eater.  Covey suggests that if the person doesn’t light up when asked about where to eat, ignore him.  While traveling, ask cab drivers, sales people, or those who are mobile and used to eating out. I’ve found great success by booking a food tour early in my trip and asking the guide for suggestions around specific food interests.  Avoid your hotel concierge.  He will likely suggest average places that tourists frequent.  If the concierge is your only option, ask for specific recommendations outside of tourist areas, or where he would go for the best meal.  

Do Smart Web Searches

The internet has a wealth of information.  But generic searches will give you generic results.  Use specific searches like “best Vietnamese restaurant Chicago” instead of “best restaurant Chicago”, or “banh mi Chicago”.  You might want to search for a cuisine you’re not interested in, but use the source for other food recommendations.  Sometimes searching the uncommon can lead you to a source of good and reliable information.

Head to the Suburban Strip Mall

Most great ethnic food isn’t found in city centers, tourists areas, or up-and-coming districts.  Low-rent areas where ethnic communities live are often the best places to find great food.  Why?  Because owners can invest in food quality instead of rent.   

Pay Attention to People 

This will seem strange, but Covey suggests avoiding restaurants where people are having fun, where the waitstaff is overwhelmingly attractive, or where the restaurant is a social scene.  You want to go where eating means business.  Places that draw you in for socializing are generally not focused on food (beware of drinks specials or restaurants with a large bar or lounge).

Order Outside of Your Comfort Zone

When you find the right area, pick a restaurant that specializes in one cuisine or menu item.  Specialization often equates to higher quality food.  If a restaurant is known for its goulash, order the goulash. If you have a broader selection of menu items, choose the one that seems the least appealing.  Popular items can often be below average quality because they are produced in larger quantities.  Unusual items like pigeon or goat will most likely be prepared to order, so yours will likely be fresh.  Plus the chef may take greater care in preparing it because he doesn’t do it often.

Finding great food just takes a little bit of research and an open mind. 

Once you’ve figured out how easy it is to find delicious and inexpensive ethnic meals, you’ll rarely want to eat in a fancy, mainstream restaurant - even in the city where you live.

For more ethnic dining tips from Tyler Cowen, visit his blog at Tyler Cowen's Ethnic Dining Guide.

References (5)

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  • Response
    Ethic food is so many delicious foods. People really like and eats such types of foods. Many restaurants provide this food. When people go to the restaurant they see many kinds of food that so delicious. There are foods having print book and there prices sequence vise in a menu or ...
  • Response
    Amazing food making guide in the above post you shared and thanks for it.
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