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How do you get good recs from hotel, taxi staff on local/non-"tourist" places to eat?

How do you get good recs from hotel, taxi staff on local/non-"tourist" places to eat?

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Old Feb 18, 19, 10:23 pm
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How do you get good recs from hotel, taxi staff on local/non-"tourist" places to eat?

Question for group input here --

When you're in a foreign city (and not on business), aside from looking on some app / blog, what question can you ask a hotel staff, or random person that will point you to some good "authentic" places to eat?

And I guess I mean:
- not the tourist place they think you want to go
- not the expensive place they think will be "good" but only because it's expensive and you look like an unadventurous hotel guest
- not the place they get a referral fee from

but rather what you want:
- the hawker centre
- the hole in the wall neighborhood izakaya
- the family restaurant that will serve you food as soon as you sit down, with no menu

Are the right questions things like:
- "Where would you go with your family?"
- "Where would you take friends to have a good meal?"
- or what?

And for that matter, who is good to ask these questions of? Do you have some "rules" for seeking this kind of advice that have been successful? Sometimes hotel staff are just so unreliable when it comes to these things...
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Old Feb 18, 19, 10:37 pm
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First of all, unless it's a really good hotel, a good boutique hotel, or some small family run place, I would never ask the hotel staff. If the hotel insists on doing a booking or gives you some piece of paper to give to the restaurant (or if you notice the taxi driver going into the restaurant when patrons are dropped off), this means that there's a well established kickback system, so run in the opposite direction. It's even worse if the hotel "concierge" offers to arrange a "free" ride to the restaurant. For fine dining restaurants, the AmEx fine dining restaurants would be a starting point in places not covered by Michelin or Gault Millault. (Ignore AAA book listings for restaurants unless you just want a handy list of a few addresses and phone numbers.) I often do well just walking around and observing restaurants, including any posted menus. Some people swear by the theory that if you see a line, it must be good, but this can just mean that it's cheap or is a well known tourist trap and I don't like waiting for a table.

For a real local place, one rule would be to ask in some unrelated shop that seems to have locals, for instance ask about a local Chinese restaurant in the neighborhood by approaching the person who works in the newsstand.
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Old Feb 19, 19, 4:40 am
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I usually don't ask at the hotel, but will occasionally ask at a store. That said, I have no problem wandering in to restaurants that look interesting from the outside.
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Old Feb 25, 19, 10:37 pm
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It's worth asking the hotel staff for recommendations, but always take the answer with a grain of salt. No matter how carefully your explain what you want, it's still possible you'll find yourself at a restaurant that the staff member enjoys, not what you enjoy. And no matter how shrewdly you word your question or how genuine the staff seem in their recommendation, you may find yourself in a place they recommend only because they get a kickback. So go ahead and ask, but pair the recommendation with what you've learned via your own research.
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Old Feb 26, 19, 7:31 am
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TA - just use TA

TripAdvisor has been an excellent source of info on restaurants. You can find ones nearby, sort by type of food, expense etc. Look for spots w/ lots of reviews, and those that are reviewed in a foreign language. There are many other restaurant review sites, but have been happy using TA.

Remember being in Athens, in a hotel near the Acropolis, and found a hole in the wall across the street from my hotel which was excellent, tho not fancy. Later found a lunch spot w/in 2 blocks of my hotel that sold meats grilled on sticks - they stayed open until they sold out around 2 or 3 pm. Both were highly rated on TA, both had mostly locals eating there.

Happy travels
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Old Feb 26, 19, 9:28 am
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The Destinations section of FT is a great resource. An example is the Italy Forum where there is a wealth of information on dining destinations
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Old Feb 26, 19, 9:40 am
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The key is to be specific about what you want. In many countries, the presumption is that foreign visitors want restaurants which cater to foreigners. If you want local, ask. If you want seafood, ask. If you have a price point be very specific about what you mean by "expensive" or "cheap".

In some locations, everyone from the concierge to the car service get their palm greased. It's part of the local economy. The key is that you get the experience you are looking for.
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Old Feb 26, 19, 12:12 pm
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I am seriously into local food (of any locality I visit) and have learned to never ask anyone at the hotel for restaurant recommendations. You either get overpriced, underseasoned “tourist” food or someplace that is giving kickbacks. I also roll my eyes when anyone says “oh, just ask the cab driver where to eat!” Considering most cab drivers where I live are pretty happy eating at fast food joints, I’m not sure how cab drivers got this reputation as discerning diners.

I do a lot of research before visiting new places (local newspapers and food blogs, travel guides, message boards like FT or TA, etc.). On the ground, I have actually found Yelp to be a pretty decent resource in some places too. And my general rule is that if a restaurant has a menu that is printed in more than two languages—the local language + English—stay away. (Even having English translation is suspect if the restaurant isn’t in a place that gets regular visitors from other countries.) Obviously, it is a good sign if there are a good number of people in the place, with the smallest possible proportion of foreigners; and it is a bad sign if there’s a line outside, unless you’re at a hawker center in Singapore
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Old Feb 26, 19, 1:20 pm
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Think about the people you know in your city. How could a visitor know which ones to ask for restaurant recommendations? It's almost impossible. But your odds are probably better if you ask people in the food industry, such as butchers or waiters (e.g., if you like a waiter in one restaurant, you might ask them to suggest other restaurants). And it doesn't hurt to ask anyone; often you can assess their judgment by listening to how they talk about the places they recommend. The same goes for reading crowdsourced reviews, of course.
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Old Feb 26, 19, 1:28 pm
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Originally Posted by darthbimmer View Post
It's worth asking the hotel staff for recommendations, but always take the answer with a grain of salt. No matter how carefully your explain what you want, it's still possible you'll find yourself at a restaurant that the staff member enjoys, not what you enjoy. And no matter how shrewdly you word your question or how genuine the staff seem in their recommendation, you may find yourself in a place they recommend only because they get a kickback. So go ahead and ask, but pair the recommendation with what you've learned via your own research.
I remember once asking a concierge (young kid, not a real professional concierge) in a big city USA chain hotel for a good restaurant and being told Olive Garden or TGIF.

Some bartenders are good for restaurant suggestions, for example in an upscale hotel lobby bar. In some cities, I've done well with asking very upscale department store concierges or very upscale mall concierge/information desk staff. If you're shopping in a store like Tiffany, you could ask any luxury goods salesperson, especially someone who appears to be more mature/professional or is a manager, for fine dining restaurant information. Some car service drivers would be good too, assuming that the driver is a real professional and that you make it clear that the driver or company will not be taking you to the restaurant--for example, ask about restaurants within walking distance of your hotel.
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Old Feb 26, 19, 4:44 pm
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I have received great suggestions by asking in-flight cabin crew for recommendations. Pick a quiet time during flight to destination, and discuss inquiry with a senior crew member who has demonstrated passenger service attentiveness.
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Old Feb 27, 19, 5:48 pm
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Yes, you can ask and may even get good recommendations.

We were in Kinsale, Ireland, and asked the hotel concierge about a good restaurant. All the tourist books recommended Fishy Fishy, and several guests inquired about getting reservations. However, the concierge directed us instead to Supper Club (a Bib Gourmand recipient, it turns out) and was able to get us in with the last slot of the evening. It was a fantastic meal, and as a Bib Gourmand selection, turned out to be a great value, too. We got another good one in Dingle, Ireland, from our hotel clerk (though it was also a place in a couple of the guide books), as well as reservations... and we apologized to the wait staff when an obnoxious American lady showed up without a reservation and launched into a tirade when they turned her away, about "you people" (the Irish) and how they will "never be successful" etc. because of their "attitude."

Chatting with FAs can work, particularly for overseas destinations where they likely have spent time having fun vs. just hitting the crew hotel and a nearby chain restaurant. We got several good recommendations in BKK that way.
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Old Feb 28, 19, 6:07 am
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I find this to be an almost impossible task. I have more luck researching area restaurants on my own. If I even bother asking at the hotel any more, I try to be very specific -- "where would you go around here to get a great burger?".

I enjoy food that's unusual, spicy, exotic, etc. Most people you don't know (not just at hotels) will recommend a place that's boring enough for everyone, and average price, such as the local Italian restaurant, which is unlikely to be the best option...and I'm not knocking Italian, just that they aren't often the most unique option when traveling.
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Old Feb 28, 19, 9:22 am
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I wouldn't dream of asking hotel staff. I don't use TA as I find it to be very unreliable (although, oddly, I find Google reviews to be more useful but still not great). If I don't know a city, I aim for a nice residential area, away from the tourist and business hotels, wander around and look at the establishments and their menus. I find that works well in more staid cities, but not so well in dynamic cities where areas are changing rapidly. In those places I look for the up-and-coming area and aim for restaurants in those places (eg in London, I'd head to Hackney or London Fields perhaps, in NYC, the Lower East Side, in the Bay Area, I'd head for Oakland. Once you find your area, the rest is easy. I'm not saying that there aren't good restaurants in those cities in tourist-heavy areas, but it's too easy to get seduced by a tourist trap and, even if you can avoid those, you probably won't find the more adventurous establishments.
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Old Feb 28, 19, 11:26 am
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Originally Posted by JBord View Post
I find this to be an almost impossible task. I have more luck researching area restaurants on my own. If I even bother asking at the hotel any more, I try to be very specific -- "where would you go around here to get a great burger?".
I agree, it's important to be specific in your request. I know if the situation were reversed-- if I were offering a recommendation-- I'd hate to have to start with being asked, "What's a good place to eat around here?" The answer is, "Depends on what you're looking for." If I were busy or not in the mood to play 20 questions to ferret out the type of cuisine, style of service, price range, and geographical area you're interested in, I'd probably just give you a simplistic answer like "I like X", or "Visitors really enjoy Y." Describe what you want up front and you'll get a better answer.
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