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One of the most enjoyable experiences in a given day is eating the food we really like. Whether you’re traveling, having lunch with business associates, or simply looking for a quick bite after work, there are a myriad of choices available. Knowing how to choose a restaurant often simply means knowing what is available in terms of cafés, restaurants and bars.
How to Choose a Restaurant
Figuring out how to choose a restaurant can be complicated, especially, if you have fallen into a rut of eating the same things all the time. If you’re somewhere new or just looking for a new experience closer to home, take a look at our collection of tips on the best ways to compare restaurants.
Follow the Locals
The locals know how to choose a restaurant in their own towns. Such people know what tastes good and they know where they will enjoy decent service. They have already done the legwork to compare restaurants, so simply follow the locals to some of the best restaurants a particular area has to offer. If you can’t actually follow them, you can always ask a local worker or taxi driver for a recommendation.
Ignore Tourist Traps
There are many restaurants that exist to give tourists “an experience”. Granted, if you are there for the “experience”, these restaurants are likely a great choice for a meal. More often, however, you can find much better food, a wider selection, and fewer inflated costs by shopping for a meal a bit farther from the beaten tourist path. Tourist restaurants may not have the best food or service as their target customers who leave the town too quickly to leave bad restaurant reviews that might hurt their trade.
Opt for Freshness
Food that isn’t sold very quickly won’t stay fresh for very long. Check out the dishes on display. Do they look fresh? If not, skip them. The best restaurants always have fresh food that not only looks delicious, but tastes that way, too.
Look for Restaurant Reviews
A good restaurant should supposedly have good restaurant reviews. There are multiple places online where customers can share their feedback about their experiences at various eateries, and it’s better to read what others have to say in their restaurant reviews before spending your own money.
You want an environment that is clean and welcoming. Tables should be clean and inviting and the restaurant should smell delicious – not like a heavy duty cleaner. Look in the corners to see if dirt has accumulated and if the kitchen is visible, look for signs of issues with dirty pots and pans, stacks of dirty dishes. Don’t forget to monitor how the food is handled as well. If you can see the food being prepared, are separate knives being used for meat and other items? Are hands being washed before handling food? If you suspect a problem, skip the venue – an interesting new meal isn’t worth it.
Look at the Menu
A restaurant should have a menu available. Look for dishes you want to try and definitely take a look at the prices. The menu should also list ingredients and key nutritional facts including common allergens like shellfish or nuts. Look for indication on the menu of items that are restaurant specialties and specially prepared items for those who prefer or need a vegetarian or gluten-free dish. If you aren’t comfortable with anything on the menu, move on and try a different location. Remember if you are eating in a foreign country, you may not have a menu at all – this might be a sign of one of the best restaurants in the area.
Check out the Employees
Employees can tell you a lot about a food location, even without speaking. Busy servers and bussers who are working together are productive and that’s a good sign. Workers who can barely be bothered to seat you or to take your order are a sign you may be in the wrong spot.
Get Clues from the Environment
Look behind the host or hostess to see what the actual dining experience is like. Do people seem happy and have plates or do they look frustrated with empty tables? Are the servers angry or abrupt? Are patrons complaining or trying to flag down wait staff? There is no sense sticking around if the experience doesn’t look like something you’d enjoy.
Trust Your Gut
If something feels off about a restaurant, skip it. There are too many types of restaurants out there so that to go to one you don’t enjoy. If you don’t feel welcomed and comfortable in an establishment, head somewhere else. Every meal, even fast food or a quick slice of pizza, should be an experience you’ll enjoy and feel confident in.
The 6 Types of Bars You Should Visit
Those who enjoy an evening with the company of a good drink, with or without the company of friends, shouldn’t be limited to the local watering holes. If you haven’t sought out and been to the different types of bars, you may be missing an experience you’ll never forget!
The sports bar is more than a place to watch sports with a beer in mind. This is more of a full restaurant and typically specializes in burgers and chicken wings. Sports Bars are also the sort of places that hire waitresses who wear as little as possible for the enjoyment (and tips) of the male customers. And even though not all of them have scantily clad waitresses, these types of bars typically welcome a loud, boisterous male presence, especially on days with big games showed on the large-screen televisions. Bar reviews will also tell you that some of the sports bars are more like family-friendly full restaurants and may be known for certain menu items.
The Hole in the Wall
No frills. No fuss. No tourists. The hole in the wall bar is truly a spot just for drinking and hanging out with your buddies. It is not a trendy place to see and be seen, but rather a nook to commiserate with others in your neighborhood. It may not look very fancy, and it certainly isn’t going to serve you anything besides pretzels with your drink of choice, but it’s often welcoming, comfortable, and within stumbling distance of home. Tourists leaving bar reviews aren’t going to sing the praises of a hole in the wall bar, but nobody who frequents the bar will care – it’s a local spot anyhow.
The Local Pub
A pub is a step up from the hole-in-the-wall establishment and it is more welcoming to tourists and the casual visitors. It specializes in comfortable tables and stools, moderately priced drinks, and plenty of greasy food to enjoy along with a beer or two. Because this is a pretty low-key establishment, the clientele is generally there to relax with friends comfortably. These types of bars might also function as a more family-friendly restaurant during meal times with heavier drinking happening later in the evening.
The House of Mixology
In this fancy establishment you’re not going to find a bartender. You’ll find a mixologist. If you’re drinking a beer, you’re likely to be the only one. The bar runs the risk of feeling rather full of itself, and sometimes the experience is fun and other times it can be insufferable.
It all depends on how well the bar can convince you that drinking is an activity that is best done with complex cocktails served in tiny glasses while seated in uncomfortable chairs. Of course, these types of bars are excellent places to mix and mingle with an “it” crowd. The bar reviews on this sort of fancy bar will be mixed. Some will love the experience the bar creates and others will feel it wasn’t a good fit. The only way to see what works for you is to try it out.
A Hotel Bar
A favorite for travelers, the hotel bar is easy to reach and even easier to leave, especially when your room is just an elevator ride away. Hotel bars can be a fun place to meet and mingle, especially if there is a big conference or event in the town. They can also be a place to meet someone looking for some drinks and perhaps a discreet elevator ride to one of the convenient hotel rooms.
Live Music and Bar
There are bars that have live music, and there are concert venues that have bars. The bar that has live music occasionally is likely one where you can take pleasures in the tunes and enjoy your drink. The concert venue that also has a bar may be too loud to relish if you’re not there primarily for the music.
Bar reviews for a live music establishment will often be heavily skewed by the shows the bar is featuring. If people like the music, they will leave good bar reviews regardless of drinks. If they didn’t like the show, the reviews for the bar will likely suffer.
Drinking can be, and should be, a true experience. This is just as true for bars as it is for restaurants, and there is no reason you shouldn’t try every type of drinking establishment you can find. Who knows? You may find a new favorite!
Expand Your Palette: 9 Types of Restaurants You Should Try
There are countless restaurants in the world, and unless you live in a very small town, you likely have dozens of eateries in your city. How many types of restaurants have you actually tried? Have you broken out of your current habits to try new things?
Too often we get stuck in a pattern where we eat at the same places and same chain restaurants we’ve been enjoying for years. Maybe this year it’s time to try something new. Here are a few possibilities to add to your list.
Typically all-you-can-eat, a buffet includes a wide selection of foods spread across the serving area of the restaurant. A buffet is a restaurant with all of the food displayed at once and customers can walk along it and take portions of the food that appeal to them. Buffets are of a great value for those who are very hungry or typically eat large portions. They also tend to have a wide variety of foods available, making them ideal for families with different appetites and tastes. Some buffets can include higher end food selections, such as seafood, while others are more budget friendly like a pizza or “home style” buffet with items like beans, rolls, and meat dishes.
While some pizzerias expand to be a full Italian restaurant, others stick to the more typical food items found in a pizzeria – pizza, calzones, and breadsticks. If it’s wrapped or served on a crust, you can find it – usually with plenty of cheese and spices. Some pizzerias have you order at the counter while others seat you at a table and come to take your order.
While they may not be on your typical radar when you compare restaurants, fast food does have some perks. You can get a meal quickly for a very modest sum. You may be able to go through a drive through or you may walk in, but you won’ t have a waiter or a server and your choices will likely be limited to variations of burgers, wraps, sandwiches, pizza and the occasional salad. While some fast food places have food high in salt and sugar, others try to incorporate fresher ingredients.
Only one step up from most fast food burger joints, sandwich shops have fresher ingredients and a bit more customization. You can order a subway sandwich or a hot sandwich with a cup of soup in about the same time as the burger and fries up the road. Some sandwich shops serve both hot and cold foods, others specialize in cold sandwiches.
Incredibly casual, the trattoria is typically Italian and is informal. It’s an example of the paradox that some of the best restaurants are the least likely to stand out. There will be tables and chairs, but there may not be a menu. You order from the menu board, choose from local cuisine and you might be able to enjoy the house wine. The service and seating may be simple, but the food is typically very good.
Snack bars usually serve drinks and casual snacks like popcorn, hot dogs, and the occasional hamburger. But depending on your location, a snack bar can have very good food for a very good price. You won’t likely find a large meal there, but specialty snack bars may have delicious treats, specialty soft drinks, handmade fries or wraps, and sandwiches with local cuisine.
Coffee houses and pastry shops often fit the bill for a café. These are small restaurants that specialize in a particular type of offering – perhaps coffee and pastries or wraps, and basic sandwiches. A café can be an excellent place to meet others for an informal meeting, to do a bit of work on your laptop or to simply enjoy being out of the house without sitting down to a large meal.
If you find yourself in Italy, or perhaps in a town with a strong Italian flavor, an osteria will be an inexpensive place to enjoy lunch. The osteria is a place where they focus on simple fare like pasta and grilled meats paired with wine and other small, but often savory snacks.
A relatively new phenomena, food trucks are springing up in cities and towns across the United States and Europe. Some food trucks arrive in the same places daily, while others travel about and advertise their location via social media. Food trucks may serve sandwiches or burgers or may have a wider variety of food choices like tacos, seafood, Pho, or blends.
Whether they have been around the corner for years or they only drive by occasionally, the best restaurants in your area are the ones you enjoy the most. When you compare restaurants, you should be looking at more than food prices. The variety of offerings, the experiences and the comfort you feel in the eatery are all part of the meal as well. With so many types of restaurants available, it isn’t hard to try something new every time you eat out.