Last updated on May 9th, 2016 at 08:17 pm

How do you pick a good restaurant in a new country? Do you follow the usual route of going to TripAdvisor or just “eye ball” it? Would you want to have a 85% guarantee of success when going out in a new country? Then read my tips on how to pick a good restaurant without reading the reviews on sites or asking for recommendations.

This post is about both how to and how not to pick a restaurant in a new country. It might even work for restaurants in your home city since these tips are universal.

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Please let me know if they are useful in the comments down below.

The most important thing to remember is that if the place where the food is served does not feel right do not eat there! Using these tips, I found myself standing up and leaving more often now than ever. I do feel guilty in the process, do not get me wrong. I also realize that I will regret it more if I stay. Whether a high price, an awful or musty smell, questionable or unsafe aesthetics, or a rude service, I am free to decide on staying or leaving. I like how I always have that freedom! You do too, by the way. 🙂

food cafe restaurant

Here are my 7 tips on how to pick a restaurant in a new country (collected from more than 20 countries):
  1. Run away!

If there is a waiter or a host standing in front of a restaurant offering you a menu, run away! No self-respecting place is going to have a hustler outside. It only means that there is something wrong going on with either food, service, or their prices. Notice how it is especially true in touristy areas where food is usually not that good and prices are ridiculous.

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2. The staff should be from the country you are visiting.

In Italy, if it is an Italian restaurant it needs to have an Italian chef and Italian staff! If the restaurant is in New York, the chances of having a good meal just doubled. The same thing goes for Japan and Japanese sushi.

3. The 50/50 rule.

When walking into a restaurant notice if there are people in there at all. If the place is less than half-filled, try to find another one.

4. The 65/25/10 rule.

If the place is filled more than 50% then with whom? If it is filled with locals then your chances of having good food just doubled. If it is filled with tourists, then continue looking. My golden ration is 65% locals and the rest is either empty or filled with fellow expats. I am not discriminating against fellow tourists. It is a lot easier to fool a newcomer than a seasoned pro who knows what local cuisine is all about.

5. Food or the lack of it.

So, the place is filled with my golden ratio, menu looks nice, and prices are attractive. Next question: How many people have food on their tables? If I see that 40%-50% out of 100% are served then I will go away. Chances are that the restaurant is not able to keep up with the demand and is struggling to deliver plates on time to its customers.

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6. Tourist spot avoidance.

It may sound obvious, but do avoid tourist spots at all costs. They operate on high volume and high prices. The quality might be good depending on the place but it is seldom. I am all about stretching that dollar anyways. Going five minutes away from the tourist spot proved in significant reduction in prices and increased food quality.

7. The grading system.

And the last one. In North American cities there is a grade system for every restaurant. A government official comes and inspects a restaurant.

“Inspectors check for compliance in food handling, food temperature, personal hygiene and vermin control.” To learn more please click here.

It ranges from A to C and then “Grade pending” and “Closed”. Next time you crave famous New York pizza think twice before entering if it has a letter B in the front window.

Exercise your freedom to leave at any time! If you haven’t ordered yet, it is ok to get up and leave, and not to feel guilty about it. If the restaurant is too expensive, smells funny, or loud, it is not worth your nerves, money, and time. I usually ask for a menu to assess the situation from the inside. While looking through the prices and plate selection, it gives me enough time to see and feel the place out.

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What tips do you use when picking a restaurant? Let me know in the comments down below I would love to learn more!

Every comment counts and makes butterflies in my stomach fly like supersonic jets!

By the way, would you like to know how to open oysters hustle free and keep your manicure in check? Stay tuned! This post is coming up next week!


Always improving one's surroundings.

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