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Mar 11, 2008 11:46 AM

As a tourist, do you plan your trips around food?

I'm curious as to how many of you plan your vacations around food/restaurants. The reason I ask is I see a lot of threads where NYers recommend Difara's in Midwood, Brooklyn for tourists to NYC. Being from NY and having eaten (and loved) Difara, I can easily say that if I was a first-time visitor to NY for about a week, I would not be schlepping my butt there because I feel that there are so many other things to do and a trip to Difara would just not fit in my schedule. I'd gladly go to a lesser quality (but still good) pizzaeria if it's more central or near other tourist destinations.

Many things drive me, and food is definitely one of them. One of the reasons I've held off so long visiting Costa Rica is that I've heard the food is pretty bland. However, I don't find food to be the most important component of my vacation (and life) -- probably not the most chowish statement to make. Food's up there, but I like to find a balance between food and other things. What do you guys do?

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  1. I wouldn't say that I plan my entire vacation around food/restaurants, but I would have to admit the food plays a large part. I have found myself in some very out of the way places in search of that perfect meal. And not just restaurants, but markets, specialty food stores, wineries, etc. I have been known to plan the day's activities around the restaurants I want to get to. I don't think I would exclude a destination that I want to visit because the food is supposedly bland, but I would definitely spend as much time as necessary to find the best they have to offer.

    1. Always,

      I research for months ahead of time, making a list, and doing a rough schedule of where we are eating for what I consider the important meals of the day(lunch & dinner). Breakfast is a rarity, since on vacation I rarely am up in time, and typically recovering from the previous nights festivities.

      7 Replies
      1. re: swsidejim

        What are a few of your favorite food destinations?

        1. re: Snaps

          I have liked Honolulu, San Francisco, & London. I also crave fresh fish, & seafood so Sanibel Island Florida, as well as Marco Island Florida. I also like Hilton Head South Carolina.

          Living in Chicago I can get all the ethnic type foods and prime steaks I can handle, but fresh seafood is lacking

          1. re: swsidejim

            You hit a few of my favs. along the way. Have not done Sanibel & Marco Island, but still have wonderful dreams of Fernandia Beach and also Charleston. To the list, I'd add New Orleans, Paris and also the current crop in Las Vegas. Considering that I dislike that town, and have yet to drop $0.25 in any machine, I've spent many, many $ for great food and wine, so I have helped make their economy.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              How could I forget New Orleans..? one of my favorite cities for food.
              I also enjoyed some of the food I ate in Las Vegas. I have not been to NYC since I was a kid, so I have no recent food memories of there.

        2. re: swsidejim

          Sounds like my house. I end up with a spreadsheet of the restaurants for each trip. Unfortunately, most are for business, so there are always the "events," that we must attend. Still, every open night goes into the spreadsheet, with a copy in my briefcase, so I do not forget what time, how many diners, and where, we'll be dining.

          The trips are, for the most part, not directed at food, but include dining for every one.

          For example, we have a conference in New Orleans and I filled every free moment with reservations, including brunch, the day we fly out. I would not have it any other way.


          1. re: Bill Hunt

            New Orleans is definitely a place I would travel to just for the food. I've been trying to figure out when i can next get there. When Uglesich's was still around, we went back three times in 5 days, and would have been there all 5 days, except that they were closed on the weekends. We had the cab driver stop there on our way to the airport so we could pick up yet another soft shell crab po-boy for the ride home. I still dream of that wonderful sandwich... although Uglesich's is no more, there are still so many special foods there that it is a must- do place.

            1. re: moh

              I think somebody purchased Uggie's as it's still around. Yeah, they were the best.

        3. Why else would you go somewhere?

          Don't be afraid of Costa Rica, yes, there's beans and rice with every meal, but they have a great variety of simple tasty foods.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Scrapironchef

            I don't exactly plan our vacations around food although when we go to Maine we basically visit all the best lobster places and try to find new ones. Wandering the roads sort of fits our way of exploring. If I have the opportunity to visit a local grocery store, I jump at the chance. I was stunned to find fresh peach juice on Nova Scotia. And I usually include some food/condiments in my souvenier shopping.

            1. re: dfrostnh

              Ah, that's a really good point. I love wandering around a city or town and getting lost with just some loose idea of finding a place for lunch. I suppose in some cases, food is just an excuse to wander. That's my favorite way of getting to know a place.

              1. re: cimui

                This is pretty much exactly what I do also.

                1. re: cimui

                  I'll do this in many cites, while wife is in a meeting. Grab a map from the concierge and walk, until I find a place that tells me I need to eat there. Dinners are always reserved and usually months out, but lunch, or breakfast is done by wandering. Some cities, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, New Orleans (which I know very well) are better, than some others for this endeavor. One just has to trust the look and the feel, and I have only had a few mistakes in many years of doing it this way.


              2. re: Scrapironchef

                I kind of agree with the sentiment "Why else would you go somewhere?" Hee. And I'm not that crazy about going around viewing tourist attractions in general, so having a food destination in mind often gets me into interesting neighborhoods. But that said, I'm actually heading to Costa Rica next month for non-eating-related reasons. What do you recommend? I imagine the coffee is good ...

                1. re: BostonCookieMonster

                  I loathe the whole "church and castle" tour standard and avoid tourists like the plague, so food is what usually drives me anywhere. I don't get why you would travel to somewhere and not be interested in the food.

                  As to Costa Rica, I'd hesitate to make specific recommendations as it was a couple of years ago, but if you smell chicken roasting just follow your nose. The coffee is wonderful and, touristy as it is, if you want to learn about the whole process take the Britt tour. We had wonderful seafood down near Manuel Antonio Park and didn't have a bad piece of fruit the whole trip.

                  See pictures for one meal shot, the ubiquitous chicken roaster, the view from our room and the security guard outside.

                  1. re: Scrapironchef

                    Thanks! A hammock, a cup of coffee, and a roast chicken sounds pretty good to me.

              3. I have planned the occasional trip around food, solely for the food. NYC is one of those kinds of destination. But for the most part, I go to a destination for a conference or to see friends, and then once I know where I am going, I plan out a lot of food-related stops along the way. I will definitely schlep out to a distant part of town to get something special (like donuts, fried chicken, soup dumplings, chocolate, etc), and I often find that I discover new fun places on the way. The food may be the destination, but there are always other things to look at too.

                I also love stopping in places that look interesting or good. Some of our favorite eats have happened because we happened to drive by, and I made my poor hubbie stop and go back. We've had some really great tacos and pupusas, soul food, Asian meals, pastries, candies, etc. this way. My hubbie claims I have a sixth sense for places to eat. I must say, we've been awfully lucky so far.

                I have posted on this before, but I really love the fruit tourist thing, where you travel to a destination in time for a fruit season, like peaches in the South, cherries in B.C. There is nothing like tree-ripened fruit. Again, there are always other things to do along the way, but the fruit is the goal.

                1. I think food is a legit, motivating reason to visit a place. Sometimes, I plan my vacation destinations around the best rock climbing or the best skiing or the best beaches; other times, I go for the best food.

                  My most recent vacation involved a long excursion in Singapore. There aren't a lot of reasons to visit Singapore other than for the food, if you're not going for business. (BTW, it did not disappoint: I got to try fresh mangosteen for the first time and sample an almost infinite variety of fantastic street fare.)

                  And all those weekend trips my then SO and I made down to Baja California when we were living in L.A.... He thought we were going for the cheap booze and neverending parties; I was going for fish tacos, eaten on the beach the next morning to salt air and sun.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cimui

                    Ditto. Used all the American Express points after the marriage broke up and took the kid to Singapore. The market food did not disappoint. Nothing like having a kid who recognizes the smell of durian (we were there in the season) from afar and had to point out to me that domes of the Esplanade were modeled after durian. Also Baja in the early 80's before fish tacos wantabes were everywhere- seafood in Rosarito and Ensenada was clearly the reason for going. Margaritas in those heavy pale green glasses with the blue rims may have played a part as well.