Tips for eating on the road

December 19, 2013

LESSONS FROM THE ROAD

● In the absence of trusted tipsters, avoid online reviews that use more than one exclamation point.

● Drink what the locals do. Resist the temptation to ask for a fancy cocktail where the culture doesn’t know bitters from barley. Otherwise, you’ll pay for it. Psst: Manhattans go for about $25 in Seoul. And no one with any taste drinks Indian wine in New Delhi.

● Be adventurous, but don’t be foolhardy. The night before I was set to fly home from Beijing, I encountered a food stall serving fried snake and scorpions. I was up for eating them until I walked behind the lean-to and saw the “dishwasher.”

● Who cares what the server’s favorite dish is, or what’s “popular”? Ask what the chef would eat if he or she could order only one or two dishes from the menu.

● Take a counter seat over a table in a restaurant. You almost always learn more chatting up folks at the bar or watching someone make dinner a foot away from you.

● Stellar cooking can pop up where you least expect it. There’s a reason why, when they descended on Cleveland this fall, a gaggle of visiting food scribblers ended up eating multiple dinners at the whimsical and farm-friendly Greenhouse Tavern. (Two words of advice: blood fettuccine.)

● If you get food poisoning (the oysters at lunch did it!) and you’re abroad, CNN is kind of like having Mom in the room: reassuring.

— T.S.

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