After returning from an east coast road trip through New York and Boston, I have mostly been doing one of two things. One, trying to recuperate from a week’s worth of eating out. And two, reflecting on the planning process that I went through to make sure that this road trip happened. Here are some tips I found helpful while making my (food) itinerary.
1. Use Yelp and other online guides—but with a grain of salt
Obviously my go-to when looking for highly recommended restaurants was the internet, and I found cross-checking between sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon was really helpful for narrowing down the extensive list of top-rated restaurants in cities like New York. However, it wasn’t all about picking the restaurants with the most stars.
- Some restaurants have less than 100 reviews, while others have more than 1,000. Keep in mind that after the stars get averaged out, the restaurants with more reviews and more stars are probably a safer bet.
- Some reviewers are more picky than others! While some people give glowing reviews after only having a slice of pizza (and well, it’s pretty hard to find bad pizza), other people will nitpick over every last detail, tearing apart a restaurant even though the food might have been decent. Read reviews carefully and evaluate how comprehensive each diner’s experience was. But don’t rely too heavily on them either!
- Remember that some types of cuisines tend to rank better than others. Bakeries and ice cream joints tend to get higher reviews, while fancier and more expensive restaurants tend to score a bit lower on the scale. Just remember the clientele for each place—chances are, people will be less furious with their mint chocolate chip scoop than with their $30 scallops.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask while in the city
While planning is important to make sure you get the most out of your trip, there’s a lot of value in stopping locals on the street and asking them what their favorite joint is. Locals often know where the hole-in-the-wall treasures are found—more so than the thousands of tourists that flow in and out of the city.
3. Strike a balance between hole-in-the-wall cheap eats and pricier places
When seeking out a new city’s food destinations, it’s important to keep a wide variety of cuisines and price ranges. Work with your budget and allow yourself one or two splurges, but be sure to check out cheaper eats in town too. Each city will often have little diners, food trucks and family-run places that are more wallet-friendly. It’s also another good use of Yelp and Urbanspoon, which will separate the restaurants by price range.
4. Make reservations
If there’s one thing I regretted in planning out my food trip, it’s that I forgot to make reservations. I had been so excited to check out this Italian place in Boston that I had even figured out what I wanted to order, but once we arrived at the restaurant, we were told that the wait was roughly two hours long. It’s easy to remember to make reservations in your hometown or when planning a friend’s birthday dinner, but once you get caught in the whirlwind of road trip plans, it can be easy for reservations to slip your mind. It’s especially important for those higher priced destinations, especially at nights and on weekends.
5. Take advantage of the three meals of the day
Often times when people look for restaurants to check out, they look at the dinner menus. Even though there’s nothing wrong with that, don’t forget to check out bakeries and diners for great breakfast options and places that have cheaper lunch menus. It’s a great way to save money and explore other great food destinations all in one go.