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5 Ways To Tell If A Restaurant Is A Tourist Trap

According to the experts.
5 Ways To Tell If A Restaurant Is A Tourist Trap
Jacqueline Parisi

You just spent the last five hours on a tour bus. You’re sweating, starving and pretty sure there are blisters on every single one of your toes. And all you want is a delicious, authentic meal. And then it happens. You’re either too hungry, or too tired, or too sunburnt or too all of the above to notice that you’re stepping smack-dab into a tourist trap.

It happens to the best of us. After all, it’s called a “trap” for a reason.

When you travel with Journy, your trip designer will make sure you only eat at the good spots—from hole-in-the-wall hidden gems to Michelin-starred restaurants. But what about when you're not traveling with us? What should you look for? Anything you should avoid at all costs?

To find out, we turned to the experts. Here's what they had to say.

1. Avoid restaurants with old plated food on display at. all. costs.

According to Michael Bonadies, cofounder of Nobu

“A tourist trap is when a pretty girl or guy stands outside hawking the menu and showing a plate of food that should have been tossed an hour ago. An amazing place is when locals are packed at the bar either eating or waiting for a table. And if you do find a cool place, ask the staff where they like to hangout, drink and eat.”

2. Be careful eating in neighborhoods with big tourist attractions

According to Lindsey, food and travel blogger behind Lindsey Eats LA

“Sometimes, tourist traps are in busy areas that are bustling with other tourist attractions and landmarks that relate to the city. There are some little gems in these busy areas, but that’s mostly where I would tend to stay away from unless I did research or heard it’s actually good.”

3. Steer clear of TripAdvisor rating stickers

According to Zach Houghton, founder of Passion Passport

“The telltale sign of a restaurant that is a tourist trap is a TripAdvisor rating displayed prominently in the window. As a traveler, I’d rather seek out places that are catering to locals first and not to travelers. The best dining establishments are true to their culture and ecosystem. Institutions that display TripAdvisor ratings as a matter of great pride (rather than domestic/local press clippings) are essentially saying that they care more about visitors than their local community.”

4. Whatever you do, don’t listen to the free guidebooks

According to Sara Quiriconi, the jetsetting yogi behind Live Free Warrior

“Whenever you see those FREE guidebooks found in most airports, rest stops and tourism boards—any restaurants that are advertised in there I tend to steer clear of. Instead, ask a real guidebook: a local.”

5. Once you arrive, don’t just look at the menu. Look inside, too.

According to Marlene Lee, travel photographer and blogger behind Chocolate Cookies & Candies

“Take a peek inside the restaurant. If it’s bustling and filled with locals dining, I’d happily wait for a table.”

4 February 2019
2 min read

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