After spending four months traveling through various European countries while studying abroad, I learned that restaurants in Europe are far superior to those back in the States. The US could learn a few things from the fabulous restaurants I visited in Europe.
All great American chefs seem to travel to Europe to learn all they know, which in itself provides evidence that Europeans are the true masters of creating and serving food. They clearly know all the secrets. The best restaurants also visit the local markets daily to ensure their food is as fresh as possible each night for their hungry diners. In short, restaurants in Europe are better than those in the US, and here's why:
1. You get more bang for your buck.
For the economically-conscious diner, the dollar and the euro are at about equal value right now, so it's a great time to explore fine dining in Europe.
Even better, I noticed that every nice restaurant served dishes at much lower prices than their equivalent in the US. A pricey entrée at a fancy restaurant in Madrid, where I called home base, averaged between 15 and 20 euro, while the same would cost nearly 30 dollars in America.
2. You can take time to enjoy your meal.
Europeans are not as preoccupied with turning over tables. A nice sit-down meal can be close to two hours long. You can definitely find places for a quick bite, but I was able to sit and savor at each restaurant. In Italy, you sometimes have to chase down the waiter just to get your bill.
Sharing meals is an integrated cultural norm in Europe that's portrayed in their restaurants. I found restaurants in some of the cities I visited that were like nothing I'd ever seen. A rooftop bar in Barcelona, an underground wine cellar in Madrid, and a Michelin-starred spot overlooking all of Rome were just a few of my favorites.
3. You don't have to tip 20%.
Working in the restaurant business is seen as a more respectable profession in Europe, and table servers are typically salaried. You won't have to worry about calculating a tip, because it's often factored into a service charge and sent straight to the waiter's salary.
4. The restaurants are super trendy.
Europeans have also mastered the art of commercial design in their restaurants, as many of them were more stylish than any I've seen in America. The restaurants don't ignore any detail of the dining experience, and the decor is just one element that contributes powerfully to a restaurant's ambiance.
Europe is home to some of the most famous art and artists the world has ever seen. This seems to have transferred into the culinary world, as the chefs in Europe tend to work as artists. I had some of the most aesthetically-pleasing meals of my life in Europe. In Amsterdam, I was served pumpkin risotto inside a pumpkin.
Portions are also smaller in Europe and are always bursting with flavor. Chefs pay more attention to ensure that the plate isn't missing a single touch to make it as pleasing as possible.
The hotspot for brunch in Barcelona, Brunch & Cake, serves the trendy açaí bowl inside a halved pineapple, as well as numerous other stunning brunch items presented in a fashion you've never before see.
5. Two words: Italian food.
I can't discuss European restaurants without referring to my two favorite words in the culinary world: Italian food. From spaghetti to mozzarella to bruschetta and every other word Giada butchers, I can't get enough of it.
I learned so much about Italian culinary traditions during a cooking class I took with an Italian chef in Rome, and I've grown to admire the art of their cuisine even more. Italian food is so strongly rooted in tradition, and they take so much pride in the preparation of all their incredible food, which is evident in the way they run their restaurants.
6. The post-meal will never disappoint.
Europeans also know their desserts. Each country offers its own specialty, while also knowing they must cater to an international crowd, so the variety is endless.From cakes to crumbles to tiramisu, Europeans tie in every unique flavor to take these well-known desserts to the next level. I had desserts like French toast, Nutella waffles, and creme brûlée, all outside of the countries that claim to have invented them. Dessert is an international delicacy, and Europe lets you explore all flavors all over the continent.
To end the meal, a European cup of coffee will always blow you away. The flavors are so strong and rich that they are the perfect complement to top off any incredible meal. Plus, they know coffee is an art, and sometimes take that literally.
One thing's for sure: if you plan a trip to Europe, you won't go wrong with the food. Whether it's fine dining or casual bites on the busy streets, Europeans know how to serve the best food in the best ways. Now is a better time than ever to savor the taste of Europe, so get your bucket list ready for the best food tour of your life.