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What makes a restaurant a "tourist trap" or "touristy"

So often local restaurants, (NOT CHAINS), are pooh-pooh-ed as being too "touristy" or a"tourist trap"; especially in an area that attracts a lot of tourists and conventions. Just what, IYHO, makes a place a tourist trap? If out-of-towners get recommendations from locals to eat at a specific local restaurant, does that then make the place "toruisty" because you show up and (like you can really tell) there are a bunch of non-locals eating there?

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  1. I'm not sure, but if the food is good, i actually like being in restaurants where tourists are in abundance...they always seem to be in a good mood, lively, cheerful. It kind of puts me in a more upbeat mood. And i feel that with many people these days, one of the biggest thrills of a vacation is the food, so surely many tourists are seeking out some of the best places for food when they travel. Some of the best restaurants in our towns must surely be frequented travelers, right?

    1 Reply
    1. re: iluvtennis

      so surely many tourists are seeking out some of the best places for food when they travel.
      ~~~~~~~~~
      Not always. Many tourists also seek out the same type of food they can get at home - which is why they only eat at McDonald's in France or an Applebees in Iowa/Michigan/California. Because they know it will be safe and "the same" as what they already know.

      As to the original question, there are always those restaurants that get labeled "tourist traps" because they're putting out crap food by people who don't care about the food but care more about the money the tourists bring in.

    2. It occurs over time.

      Often it's a restaurant that serves good food at good prices, has great press, and then gets a good reputation. More often though, these restaurants then start to cater to the crowds and service and food often suffers - they aren't interested in the repeat business. They become world famous tourist traps when they are able to maintain the reasonably good flavors and the press (and then they get to raise their prices!) . These restaurants become stuck in what made them famous with their flavors and ambiance while other 'undiscovered' places can innovate.

      Not to say that you won't get a good meal there, it's just less likely you'll see a local or new food/restaurant trends.

      1. Personally, I don't care whether or not there are tourists, as long as the food is good. Some great restaurants in NYC (where I reside) have a bunch of tourists -- ie. Shake Shack, Per Se, Craft, etc. But then you've got those "tourist traps" where a local generally wouldn't go to because the food sucks and is overpriced but where tourists get suckered into it because they read about it in a guide book or there's some sort of history to it, etc. Examples of those types of restaurants would be Tavern on the Green and most of the restaurants in Little Italy. Those are the restaurants I like to avoid.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Miss Needle

          I agree completely. A lot of locals don't like Balthazar b/c it is touristy, but I love it anyway and always enjoy the food. And I'm quite happy to have tourists spending money here, so I'm not about to complain or be snotty about it.

          1. re: MMRuth

            Yikes! I remember that Balthazar thread! Balthazar has good food, whether it's touristy or not. I can see "ambiance" be more relevant when it comes to things like bars and clubs. But I go to a restaurant to eat. If I had to gripe about something related to tourists and Balthazar, it would probably be that the number of tourists makes it more difficult to get a reservation.

            I also agree about your statement of having tourists spend money here. It's great for the city. They are an integral part of NYC.

        2. When I think "tourist trap," I think of a restaurant that offers a fake, low-quality version of whatever food the locale is known for, at inflated prices. There is a legendary Italian tourist trap in Boston's North End, for example, a restaurant that locals know to stay well clear of even if the sort of old-fashioned red sauce Italian they serve is exactly what they're in the mood for.

          1. one of the seven early warning signs that a place may be "touristy" is the big bus parked across the street. nothing wrong with that.

            "tourist trap" has a nasty connotation. it smacks of a place that charges big bucks for crummy stuff. no value returned to the customer.

            i'm a tourist most places i go. i try to fit in, try to avoid the big-bus-across-the-street places but at the end of the day it's just a matter of degrees. doing a little homework, learning a few pat phrases and not being intimidated seem to be good attributes. a self-deprecating sense of humor seems to knock down barriers wherever i go.