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Restaurant tourist traps

What are they?

I would define them as:

- The restaurants that are in every guidebook and on every tourist site that may have been good or even great at one time but the glory is gone and like the aging beauty queen they rely on long faded reputations ... We're so thilled to make your aquaintance, Miss Desmond.

- Restaurants in every guidebook and on every tourist site because tourists are just not familiar with the local cuisine and go there because they are told to and the food is exotic to them so they think it is good and recommend it to others.

- Restaurants near local tourist attractions that just don't have to try. The food may be edible and ok, but the prices are all about location, location, location.

In the latter category would be most of SF Fisherman's Wharf, anything near the Bridge of Sighs in Venice and any joint with a barker in front. If you go to something like that, you deserve what you get.

Category two is a lot of what is in Chinatown in SF. There's good stuff there, but there's usually better elsewhere. It is most of the places recommended in Guatemalan guidebooks. I'm going to virtually slap the next person who tells me they visited GT and it doesn't have good food. Eat otuside the tourbook. LEARN something about the cuisine before going.

In the first category would be La Fonda de la Calle Real in Antigua, GT. I'll do a separate report on that on the Central American board, ripping it in little pieces, chewing it up and spitting it out, but it got me thinking about the subject.

That's not to say there's not gems amid the detritus ... you'll find diamonds if you look hard enough at your local dump.

So what restaurants or areas should have eating travel advisories issued?

No actual reports .... you can do that on your local board. Just name names and give a brief reason why it qualifies.

BTW, for your gratuitous pleasure, this was almost a $10 (USD) breakfast at La Fonda de la Calle Real. For perspective, a dinner entree can be had for that at most nice (and delicious) restaurants in that city. The black blob to the left is refried beans. That little dry, black turd next to the egg was chorizo.

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  1. My personal guideline for avoiding the tourist trap is:
    (these are generalizations and there's a chance of missing something good)
    Avoid restaurants in high tourist traffic areas, hotels, shopping centers or with a "view".

    When in a city I'm unfamiliar with I ask several "locals" where they like to go (get a consensus if I can). I might even go to the rec'd place and look through the window at the food being served before I make a decision.

    I'd rather eat a McDonald's Big Breakfast than pay $10 for what you got or a $10+ breakfast at a 4 star hotel if I have to foot the bill.

    25 Replies
    1. re: monku

      Seriously I had a typical Guatemalan breakfast at Burger King at 1/3 the price that was better than this. It actually was pretty good.

      Yeah ... fancy restaurant hotels are a good one. I'll never forget the instant Folgers coffee I got at the Waldorf Astoria in NYC when I stayed there. I think I paid over $5 bucks for it. Whatever the price, it was outrageous. They should have sent Juan Valedez up to my room and had him personally roast the beans and brew my java for the money they charged.

      Seriously the quality of room service food seems be at the other end of the spectrum the better the place ... five star hotel = one star room service food. The ultimate gouce. Sinceoom service food is always obscenly priced, why can't they give you a decent meal?

      Looking is good as well. We were one of the first tables at La Fonda and my friend noted that two women had walked in, looked at what was on the tables and walked out,

      1. re: rworange

        Part of the fun is in the "hunt".
        A great way to meet people and never met anyone who gave me a hard time.

        Wasn't there a commercial many years ago where they served Folgers at some fancy hotel?

        1. re: monku

          Yes - here's that commercial. Weird how the background music turns all ominous: http://www.hulu.com/watch/4154/saturd...

        2. re: rworange

          I disagree about the fancy restaurant hotels being "tourist traps" (although with generalizations there are always going to be counter examples). By that definition about 95% of the restaurants in Vegas would be labeled "tourist traps" and certainly do not think that is the case.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            I was going to disqualify LV because I realize the large casinos are probably giving the big name players a break on their leases to get them there.

            Knew someone might bring that up.

            1. re: monku

              I think there are other less obvious examples than Vegas. Phoenix comes immediately to mind, although generally speaking the Phoenix metro area reminds me of that opening scene in Mad Max -- just a vast dessert wasteland.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                No. I didn't say that. I said for the most part room service food at good hotels is tourist trap food. I don't understand that because some of these hotels have great restaurants. It just doesn't seem to get to the rooms. Breakfast is an especially abused meal because ... seriously ... you are kind of trapped ... it is so much easier to order in when just waking up with the chow being delivered bedside.

                1. re: rworange

                  This is just one data point, but I must admit the room service breakfast at the Four Seasons in Mexico City was stunningly perfect in all respects.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      One more datapoint. I've found the Four Seasons does an exemplary job om breakfasts all over. At least palo alto, Denver, Taipei and a couple others I can't recall right now.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    ipsedixit: "Phoenix metro area reminds me of that opening scene in Mad Max -- just a vast dessert wasteland."

                    I'm guessing you meant DESERT wasteland.

                    When was the last time you were there? 1965? You are clearly misguided here. Certainly downtown Phx leaves a lot to be desired, but Central/Biltmore area and Scottsdale offer exciting restaurant options.

                    1. re: globocity

                      Yes, "desert" not "dessert".

                      Actually, nowadays there's probably more exciting downtown options than there are in the Biltmore area. NOCA might be the only noteworthy place up north (and maybe Delux), but short of that almost everything there seems to be bad copycats of the glitzy Scottsdale dining scene (e.g. Crush, Stingray Sushi), part of the ever expanding Fox restaurant group (Zin Burger), or a chain (Capital Grille, Ruth's Chris).

                      At least in the downtown area you've got new places like Bliss & reBar, Nobuo at Teeter House, The District, and yet to open places like Silk Sushi, LGO, as well as old standbys like Pizzeria Bianco, Gallo Blanco, PastaBar, etc.

                      But, lets be clear. I'm not saying that there are no good dining options in Phoenix. In fact, I'm on record as being big fans of Kai, Elements, Posh and Quiessence.

                      But some of the better restaurants in Phoenix (e.g. District, Kai, J&G, T Cooks, etc.) are part of hotels and resorts, and not something I would consider "tourist traps".

                      Just sayin.

                2. re: ipsedixit

                  Maybe I'm strangely lucky, and only moderately experienced, but I've found hotel restaurants and hotel room service food to be excellently done almost always--just pricey. That's based on perhaps a dozen experiences.

                  I'm not counting many more ho-hum or worse breakfasts at middle-level hotels for our many roadtrips. That's always forgettable. The only memorable hotel breakfast I've ever had was at Le Parker Meridien in New York City.

              2. re: monku

                If I had a dime for everytime I asked a "local" for where they like to go, and got told about their favorite all you can eat buffet, I'd be 512curtains.

                1. re: 512window

                  Of ocurse it's important to 'read' the reaction of the local you just asked. The ideal response is:

                  "Oh I have this favorite place with the best ______, but you probably won't like it."

                  1. re: Steve

                    An unexpected new strategy I discovered in Guatemala. Take the locals out to dinner at a place recommended by a tourist guide. They take pity on you and show you the real food. As a result of that surprise strategy, I have had outstanding dobladas, amazing atoles, fabulous tacos china (egg rolls ... Chinese is big here), the most wonderful sandwiches (thumbs up Pan Freddy) and been led to the tastiest dives. Seriously, the food at this joint for $3 with drink was so superior to La Fonda ... and the people were nicer too.

                    Ain't no local going to recommend you go there if you ask. I scored that one after dragging someone to yet another mediocre Guatemala City tourist restaurant.

                    My trip to La Fonda scored me a recommendation to a local lady who makes dinner for workers every day. My friend is going to keep me informed on the menu and when she cooks some of her best stuff, he will give me a call and she will deliver to my door.

                    So the trip to La Fonda wasn't a total waste

                    Actually, that strategy works with me in SF. Someone from out of town goes to or drags me to some dreadful place and I feel compelled to take them to places that are really wonderful and where real people eat.

                    But ... yes ... when you ask people where they eat that is exactly the response you usually get
                    "Oh I have this favorite place with the best ______, but you probably won't like it."

                    1. re: Steve

                      Servers and bartenders are often good recources for restaurant recs. They know the good food joints and they know the staff. I'll have breakfast and ask my server where I could find a good locals lunch/dinner spot.

                      1. re: lynnlato

                        Another classic technique is to ask a taxi driver where he eats.
                        Or if you want something classier, ask where he takes his wife for her birthday.

                        1. re: DC in DC

                          Cheesecake Factory for the Mrs. Birthday.

                          Why the assumption that all cab drivers have good taste?

                          1. re: DC in DC

                            Don't ask them to take you to a strip club in Las Vegas.

                            1. re: monku

                              I actually (drunkenly) asked a cab driver in vegas for a local hole in wall off the strip. I had meant food. I may not have been that intelligible.
                              He dropped us off at a stripclub.

                              1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                Cabbies in LV get a bounty for taking people to certain strip clubs. Maybe the only word the cabbie knew was the word "strip".


                            2. re: DC in DC

                              i personally know 5 cab drivers.
                              not one of them has any real sense of taste.
                              would avoid going to cab drivers for recommendations.

                              a cabbie that i knew when i lived in NY was taking cash pay offs from some of the touristy delis and from pizzerias to bring tourists to their establishments for "genuine" ny deli and "genuine" ny pizza.

                              another guy was getting free food and coffee to bring tourists to specific restaurants and fast food places.

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                Out here near Dulles Airport in VA, I'd ask a cabbie where to get some good Afghani food. Nothing else!

                                1. re: Bob W

                                  Great point, thought the answer would likely be "at my home."


                    2. The most egregious example I can think of was on our way to see the Bayeux Tapestry. There is no parking at the Tapestry, and everyone is directed to the car park, a few blocks away. The places along the street are completely unappetizing and pricey for what you get. We stopped at a place that featured cold meat salads and an English menu - both designed to appeal to the British. The staff is openly contemptuous - in French- of the food and the clientele. But you stop there or go without because nothing will be open after you see the Tapestry. If I was alone, I would have preferred to go hungry....

                      My favorite strategy now to avoid tourist traps is to plot out the Chowhound recommended places - usually not at a major tourist destination- but many times on the way from one to the other, and I make an extra stop.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Steve

                        I was there 2 summers ago, traveling solo with a tour group. We broke for lunch and everyone was in search of a galette. I wondered around the town on my own and found a wood burning pizza place. Instead of wine and galette, I ordered pizza and beer. The funny part was that a group of six from another bus sat down next to my table. The women were going on and on about ordering galettes. One of the guys turned to my table and looked at my lunch. It was pizza and beer for the whole table:)

                      2. The partner I frequently travel with likes to ask the hotel front desk for recommendations. I would say most of those turned out to be tourist traps in the area (with some exceptions especially if we asked a five-star hotel), and so if I am not too tired or desperate at the time, I would usually try to gently steer us away from those recommendations, even if it means taking a risk looking for the local gems, because I often have no clue and can only rely on gut feeling.

                        26 Replies
                        1. re: tarteaucitron

                          My family and I visited New Orleans in the late '90's. While we were checking in we asked the front desk clerk where he ate lunch. He directed us to a very small hole in the wall off of Canal Street (IIRC it was the opposite end of Canal from the French Quarter) called Two Sisters. It was one of the best of several great meals we had on that vacation. I've retold this story many times and everyone assumes I mean the very famous "Court of Two Sisters". This was a very tiny place that made everything from scratch to order. I remember it was off of a dirt road. I wonder if it survived Katrina.

                          So maybe a better question to ask the staff is "Where do you eat?"

                          1. re: amethiste

                            That is a lucky instance (and I have been to some memorable hole-in-the-wall places in New Orleans myself)! And yes, that question is a great way to approach it.

                          2. re: tarteaucitron

                            Sometimes the front desk and concierge are in cahoots with the tourist places.

                            1. re: monku

                              Yes--not just hotel people but other business people. We were directed to about the worst dimsum place I've ever been to that way and the person highly recommended it--note to self: if they have a stack of business cards from the restaurant, they're likely in cahoots.

                              1. re: chowser

                                Yes and if they give you a card that entitles you to a free appetizer that should tip you off as well!

                              2. re: monku

                                Yes, that is what I always suspected! But sometimes it is hard to say to someone: "I know we are very hungry now but why don't we just ditch those recommendations, and walk for a few blocks to try find something else?"

                                1. re: tarteaucitron

                                  hotel concierges get cash and drink-tab kickbacks from tourist trap restaurants, strip clubs, etc. for funneling out of town customers to them--often a $5-$10 "bounty" per head. the better food is almost invariably elsewhere.

                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                    I suppose I'll try to ask a friendly bellboy next time, and maybe give them a small tip instead then!

                                    1. re: tarteaucitron

                                      Better to ask a cab driver, or housekeeping.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        Cab drivers in LV are known to steer customers to certain strip clubs good or bad for a price, you think they wouldn't do the same for restaurants?

                                        Nothing against housekeeping personnel, but I don't think they're going to be much help.

                                        1. re: monku

                                          At a motel in Carpinteria, California, I overheard a housekeeper placing a telephone order in Spanish from a taqueria. I asked her about it, and she started to wax eloquent about the food - but she warned me it was just a dive. Ah, heaven. One of the best meals of my life.

                                          1. re: monku

                                            Every generalization has exceptions.

                                            RE: cab drivers. I always extend a tip beforehand for a good restaurant recommendation, or anything else they can provide me info on ... So, yes, I do pay "more" for a restaurant rec from a cabbie, but in the long run I think it's worth it (most of the time).

                                        2. re: tarteaucitron

                                          Better to ask your bartender or the first server you encounter. They are in the know and work in the industry - tell them what you want (casual, upscale, hole-in-the-wall) and they will point you in the right direction most times.

                                          1. re: lynnlato

                                            I'd be leery of asking the bartender or server I encountered if they were serving me at a tourist trap.

                                            1. re: monku

                                              Well yeah. But the idea is to avoid the tourist traps, no? I wouldn't trust the opinion of anyone at Joe's Crab Shack or Bob Evan's... I meant that if you find a place you like, you can trust that the staff there knows of other quality places.

                                              1. re: lynnlato

                                                Just tagging this onto yours but it could be others also. I find often that their intentions may be good but they don't know how adventurous I am (which is PLENTY) so they play it safe. I've found it better to ask where do YOU go and to really hammer home that the divier (or whatever) the better.

                                              2. re: monku

                                                I agree. Bartenders and servers know about and care about food just as little as any other random stranger. Skip strangers. Go to sources you trust. The notion of "asking locals" is absurd. I'd just as soon ask a random local in Boston as I would ask my neighbors where they eat.

                                                1. re: tommy

                                                  Works for me more times than it doesn't.

                                                  1. re: tommy

                                                    There's always another way to avoid getting burned; as soon as you arrive look at the menu (hopefully conveniently posted outside, or better yet look it up online before heading out).

                                                    Big red flags include things like: phony food from all over the place (Mexican here, Italian there, Thai on the next page...), a full page of California roll variants, a menu that looks straight out of the TGI Friday's playbook, kids menu on the back page, etc.... See such a warning sign, turn and leave. Problem averted.

                                                    1. re: TexSquared

                                                      Weirdly enough, I ate at just such a place today. And to up the ante, it was in a shopping mall ... not a tourist trap thingy, but usually not a good sign.

                                                      I kept reading they had a good burger, and they did.

                                                      The exception to every rule. Then again it was not in the US ... so that may explain it.

                                                      Weird place that looked so much like an American chain I had to ask if they were US-based. Nope. They sort of did American so well that they out-Americaned American joints.

                                                      Seriously, I'd eat there if they were in the US. It was an example of what a good chain could be ... only three locations so far though.

                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                        why the reticence to tell where and what the place is?

                                                        1. re: thew

                                                          Wrong board and the name was irrelevant here as it is NOT a tourist trap.

                                                          If I had posted on the Central American board I would have linked to the report. As it is, I just downloaded the photos to my pc and it will be a while before I post. I want to post about the fabulous Cafe Saul first. I love you and your perfect crepes Saul E Mendez.

                                                          Anyway, I just thought it was interesting that someone mentioned this since Skillets set off all those warning bells for me as well.

                                                          I first saw the joint when I was at the restaurant next door, Nais Aquarium ... which IS a tourist trap ... but the food is acceptable enough and actually the prices aren't bad. Their hook is having the largest indoor restaurant aquarium in the world with hundreds of fish from huge sharks to tiny brightly colored tropical fish (which I guess aren't tasty to the sharks ... or they restock a lot). My report

                                                          I knew what I was getting into there, but watching the fishies is pleasant so the gimmick is ok for me. I probably won't eat there again, but a drink would be nice.

                                                          When I saw Skillets on that visit nestled next to a toney Pizza Hut (there is such a thing) my thought was ... "Like I'll ever step foot inside THERE".

                                                          Then it kept coming up with good burger references when I was looking for more info on the Oakland Mall.

                                                          To set up even more warning bells, their thing is that all the menu items and all the slogans are in English. A good part of the staff speaks good English. AND they own The Bagel Factory in the same mall (haven't got that far yet ... it is a HUGE mall).

                                                          One menu item cracks me up ... a breakfast pizza called Sophie's Choice ... now doesn't that fire up your appetite.

                                                          Actually there were a lot of intentionally funny names (I hope). Horny banana - bananas Foster, Hibachi pupu - s'mores, flying buffalos - buffalo wings. There are sweet pizzas such as a peach cobbler or Strawberry Fields, a pizza with strawberries, of course.

                                                          There's even "Mom's apple pie". Danger, Will Robinson ... warning, warning... run in the other direction.

                                                          Kid's can have regular, chocolate, vanilla or strawberry milk ... not milkshakes ... milk.

                                                          It's part 50's with photos from that period on the menu. The staff uniforms have a 50's Gene Kelly sort of look to them.

                                                          By all conventional rules, it should have stunk to high heavens, but it was really good.

                                                          Here's some untouched photos straight from the camera (except for resizing).

                                                          The burger below had onion rings, bacon, bbq sauce and a thick slab of melted cheese that had been browned under a broiler which was a brilliant concept.

                                                          I'm not a French fry person usually, but these were fabulous and I scarfed them all down with my Heinz ketchup.

                                                          However, look at that breakfast menu ... does it scream Denny's, TGI Friday's, etc

                                                          It is one of those exceptions to the rules.

                                                          And ... the irony of the day is that I finally ate at this street cart I've been salivating over every time I've walked by. It had all the signs of greatness, delicious aroma from the plump longaniza flecked with herbs being cooked on a charcoal grill. The bun was burnt, the longiza under-cooked and the rest meh.

                                                          Rules are meant to be broken.

                                                          They are working on the website, but here's the Skillets facebook page with lots of photos from their menu. En espanol.

                                                          Hibachi pupu (s'mores)

                                                          Lunch specials that include shrimp a go go, Iberiica pizza and a Bahai burger with beef patty and shrimp.





                                                          Far, Far East salad

                                                          French onion soup

                                                          Baked eggs florentine ... ignore the bread ... it's a Guatmalan thing.

                                                          Boston pina colada pizza ... what? Why Boston ... not a place for pina or colada?

                                                          Matilda's ciabata

                                                          Flying buffalo

                                                  2. re: monku

                                                    I've never asked a bartender for a reccomendation. But I was once visiting Chicago and after talking to the the old Irish bartender at some fancy downtown after work bar, he told me about some local bars where the beer was better and the crowd would be friendly and local. He was right and it wasn't a tourist trap bar.

                                                2. re: tarteaucitron

                                                  the bellboys at mid-priced hotels are not normally making enough money themselves to
                                                  1) actually eat at a variety of decent restaurants
                                                  and, often
                                                  2) don't have the leisure time to drive around town to check out many restaurants.
                                                  (too many people giving them a "small tip" like you were intending to do for them to be going out to decent restaurants)

                                                  at the santa monica fairmont the parking managers was going to college at night. he wasn't living the high life, just working, studying, and going to class.

                                                  in another one of the local high-end hotels the bellman is an avid surfer. the last thing he'd know about was where to get good grub.

                                                  the concierge basically only recommends "safe" restaurants within two blocks of the hotel (i.e. restaurants that are main stream). basically as long as he recommends something within the desired price category most people are satisfied.

                                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                                    Good points about the "palates" of those, who might recommend a restaurant.

                                                    I have had great results with hotel concierges, but also some, sort of like the references to the "cabbies" above.

                                                    I try to talk-up the concierge, before going for their recs. I can often tell if they know good food, and good restaurants, or just "phoning it in."

                                                    Before a recent trip to Sydney, I did a half-dozen e-mails with the concierge group. Soon, I found that they were on the same page, as I was. We had a few restaurants, and they filled in the blanks. One of mine sort of bombed, as did one of theirs. Otherwise, everything was just great!

                                                    Oh, and the "bombs" came highly recommended by CH, and several other such Web sites. Maybe we hit those on their "bad night?" Still, with 10 recs, 8 were excellent, and 2 just were not. I could not have done that well, if I had just looked at a bunch of travel books. Also, those 8, that WERE excellent, were so at ALL levels, so those made up for the "bombs."

                                                    Such is life.


                                        3. Latter category, Mi Nidito in Tucson. Thirty-five years ago it was heaven in the Sonoran desert. They became famous, and you had to wait outside for a really long time just to get in the place, then President Clinton ate there, now you have to be there a few minutes before it opens to get in right away, longer on Sunday. Last two times I went I was discouraged to see that the cheese oozing out of my chile relleno wasn't real queso or cheddar and probably not real at all. Didn't taste real, either. A lot of their food is still wonderful, but it kills me to see those types of changes in what a lot of locals used to consider a mecca for Sonoran Mexican.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: EWSflash

                                            You make a good point. There are "tourist traps" and then restaurants that are very popular with tourists, but which may have superior food. And, overtime, one can evolve into the other if the outsized demand is such that the owner chooses to allow its standards to slip.

                                            Certainly there are chow-worthy restaurants that are tourist-popular, and, with the proliferation of media -- like this Site and TV shows like Bourdain's -- the tourist-popular restaurants are developing very large followings. Here in Chicago, for example, Hot Dougs has developed such a reputation that the line is often 90 minutes. A similar frenzy is developing for the Girl & the Goat, the restaurant recently opened by Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard. Similarly, the "buzz" on this site for Chez L'Ami Jean in Paris, has contributed to a frenzy of people trying to eat there (I passed up 2 years ago when they offered me a reso at 5:30 but said we'd have to be out by 7 pm.)

                                            To return to the original poster's question, I agree that restos with a view -- especially if at the top of a high building -- rarely have good food. Go for drinks there, and eat elsewhere, unless you've done your research and have it on reliable authority that the food is good (thinking of Everest, here in Chicago, which despite the view, is great).

                                            1. re: masha

                                              I'll add a caveat--if the place is way off the beaten track and has a nice view, it could have great food.

                                              1. re: chowser

                                                Good example is that place in Emigration Canyon, up in the hills overlooking Salt Lake City. The locals endorse it, and it really is quite good. What is it called, Ruths? Nice view, good food, way off the beaten path (or actually, literally on a beaten path, heh).

                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  I live in a resort area, and of the two 'waterfront' restaurants I'll recommend to others, one of them involves an extended drive through a military reservation and the warning to not hit the owner's free range chickens in the parking lot when you get there.

                                                  A good number of the other places I'll recommend tend to be unassuming looking storefronts located in a strip mall anchored by a grocery store.

                                            2. Most places around high-traffic tourist areas (no duh) - Oranienburger Str. in Berlin-Mitte, Friedrichstr., Potsdamer Platz, Kollwitzplatz, Kudamm. Couldn't pay me to eat anywhere in most of the places there. There are exceptions, but you really have to know about them, or venture into a side street.

                                              Oh, and having Quentin Tarantino, Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie "like" a place is a sure way for the resto to be über-hyped, and subsequently sub-par. Meh.

                                              1. thank heaven for chowhound, urban spoon, yelp, etc. I do find chowhound to be the most reliable for recommendations (fewer people complaining that the potato soup was served chilled and the wine wasn't) but not always as comprehensive.

                                                1. When I am in Europe, and cruising for a place to eat, my general rule of thumb (or fork) is to avoid completely those places with a multilingual menu in the window. Especially if you speak food in several languages, the translations of the same item can be hysterical, of course, but mainly it says to me they're trying to lure non-locals. And mostly the rule has served me well.

                                                  But there have been a couple of exceptions. One was in Florence, where the only place I could find with a couple of specialties I was looking for (sorry - too long ago; can't recall what they were) was such a joint. I swallowed hard and went there for dinner. Was treated like a queen dining alone, even a complimentary post-prandial drink. And the food was good. Maybe it had something to do with ordering "local" food.

                                                  The other was in Venice around the same time, and I could find nowhere on my first couple of days that didn't have the darn multilingual stuff posted prominently. I rationalized it finally but telling myself they've been hosting tourists for four hundred years, and having another language is just a business skill like using a computer or being a fry cook. But Venice still isn't one of my favorite food cities.

                                                  22 Replies
                                                  1. re: lemons

                                                    As someone who translates hotel & restaurant websites and menus for a living, I can honestly say that a menu available in English doesn't have ANYTHING to do with the quality of food served.

                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                      Overseas, I would avoid anything that features American food. Pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs.

                                                      I enjoy roadside stands, places that don't have seating, and places that I'm not even sure what it is they serve (it just smells good).

                                                        1. re: limster

                                                          but not in rural Germany. wasn't bad just sort of a very different take on what a combo means.

                                                          1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                            I've had the best cheeseburger of my life in Berlin. Just sayin' --

                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                              I had the best fried chicken in the Cook Islands--sitting amongst the chickens.

                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                  Even meaner is my husband saying, "Don't eat Uncle Joe, please don't eat Uncle Joe!!!" Thanks.

                                                                2. re: chowser

                                                                  Ohfunny I had some great fried chicken there too.

                                                                  1. re: Island

                                                                    Funny--I was there about 16 years ago, maybe. Good memories.

                                                            2. re: linguafood

                                                              I don't think anyone is saying it's cause and effect. It just happens (in my experience, too, at least in Europe) that large, multilingual menus seem to go with mediocre food.

                                                              In France I like to look for a place with a chalkboard (w/other criteria, but it's a start); did the same in Austria but it was a mimeographed typed copy displayed in a glass box by the door, which I'm sure has now been surplanted by something computer generated. I knew it was alwas a red flag to see shrimp-filled avocado as an appetizer!

                                                              1. re: kleine mocha

                                                                "large, multilingual menus seem to go with mediocre food."
                                                                You got it....that's the "bait" for a tourist trap resto.

                                                                1. re: kleine mocha

                                                                  I like the chalkboard also, the sloppier the writing the better.

                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                    Chalkboard with a *small* seasonal selection.

                                                                2. re: linguafood

                                                                  Well, that is true, but if you find your meal mediocre and the menu also in English (when in a foreign city), you are in a tourist trap by definition.

                                                                  1. re: tarteaucitron

                                                                    Ummm... not necessarily. As I said, I do this for a living, and MANY restaurants in Europe or Germany realize the need for a menu in the most common idiom: English.

                                                                    Those can be good restaurants, and they can be mediocre. Hell, I have customers in the middle of nowhere, where tourists are probably hard to come by. Who am I to say that by definition, their food is going to suck? Because they have a menu in a language spoken by a HUGE number of people, compared to German? Mos def not.

                                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                                      Note that I did not disagree to your initial point (that foreign restaurants that offer English menus can have good food as well). In fact, my recent favourite restaurant in Paris where I loved the food have an English menu, but so did another place that served mediocre food. I thus decided that Restaurant Two is a tourist trap, but not Restaurant One.

                                                                3. re: lemons

                                                                  Funny, the multi-language thing is the tip-off for me too--I avoid anyplace that has the menu in more than two languages. Some have three, four, even five--that's the kiss of death in my opinion. I agree with linguafood that "native language + English" can still be OK, given how useful English is in most parts of the world for basic communication.

                                                                    1. re: travelmad478

                                                                      exactly. in india, for example, if a gujarati wants to speak with a tamil, chances are they'll speak in english to each otehr......

                                                                      1. re: travelmad478

                                                                        I think much depends on the area.

                                                                        If I go to a large industrial town in Spain, I would generally expect to see a menu only in Castilian. Go to a town on one of the costas and I'll generally expect to see the languages which represent the tourist population.

                                                                        If I go to Belgium, I'll expect to see a menu in Dutch, French and, often, English. As few who are not native to the region speak Dutch, I find folk tend to speak in English rather than French (reflecting the country's cultural issues).

                                                                    2. Tourist trap - almost anywhere that uses mits marketing to suggest that it is "authentic" or "traditional".

                                                                      By way of example, the streets of London are littered with restaurants with names suggesting that they sell "Scotch Beef", "Aberdeen Angus", etc. They'll be packed with foreign tourists not Britons. And they're really shite.

                                                                      1. Yikes! Still can't figure out what the item in the middle of the plate, directly below the salsa is, but I'd not eating it!

                                                                        I have had dim sum at least three times at Kan's in San Francisco's Chinatown. I haven't eaten there in about four years, but each of the times I ate there it was definitely an exception to your rule about places with barkers out front...

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: susancinsf

                                                                          There's always an exception to every rule.

                                                                          That item in the middle was meatl. I really couldn't tell you what type ... hopefully chicken, pork or beef. Looking at that menu online, they just call it .. meat ... and don't identify exactly what type. In life it probably creted the sausage turd.

                                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                                            I've decided it is a pork chop. yuck.

                                                                            1. re: susancinsf

                                                                              Damn, you are right. Good eye. Even after looking at it in person and eating it I never would have guessed pork.

                                                                              I was looking through a few more online Guatemalan restaurant menus and that preparation seems to always be pork.

                                                                        2. a few people have touched on this, but how does one, as the local, gently steer visitors who are treating to something better? case in point, once when I lived in SF they were insistent on going to Scoma's (which is fine, but I can think of better places for the same price point) but they were paying and I had no idea where they got the advice and if it was a friend, I didn't want to be the one to tell them exactly what their friend was full of. on another occasion (as a tourist) I was with friends in Key West and 'most everything on Duval Street immediately sent red flags up in my mind. a gullible friend and her complacent spouse asked our bartender for advice and really wanted to go there. and yes it was crap. I mean they are suppossed to actually put conch in a conch fritter cause other wise it's a hush puppie right? I went along and didn't care, it was KW and I was there for the boating and later drinks really. I went later to a few great places off the main drag and had my revenge. (as a sidebar a few days later was Thanksgiving and they ordered the turkey dinner and were completely dissatisfied - duh batch made food, and New Englandy in the Keys? in a definite trap? I went along as not much was open that night)

                                                                          14 Replies
                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                            Well, sometime you just have to let them do what they want to do.You can suggest better, but if they don't take you up on it there's nothing to be done.

                                                                            I can't tell you the number of visitors on the SF board that are determined to eat crap .. often they like it.

                                                                            And if my friends had not let me go where I wanted to go in GT, I would always be wondering.

                                                                            If, like me, they go and say ... well, that sucked ... then you can suggest better eats as my friends did. I'll keep a warm spot in my heart for La Fonda de la Calle Real. It got me the reccomendation of the local lunch lady. The pepian was fabulous.

                                                                            On the other hand, this guy loved the same breakfast I had ... except the sausage turd and he blamed his lack of sophistication on that ... and just raved. The service sounds like it was just as lousy back then. This was 2005 and prices were lower and, who knows, maybe it was decent back then

                                                                            Let's just say for some of the same restaurants I tried ... our tastes differ, I don't believe every restaurant in that list took a dive in five years. So, for this type of person, if you are a local ... let them be. They are having a good time and enjoying the food. They probably wouldn't like the better joints you take them.

                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                              You dont need to tell them the friend is full of it. Several alternatives: you could say it was great until about a month ago, but you hear they are having issues right now and you'd rather stay away until they are resolved...or you could say, 'oh ordinarily that would be a great choice but lately I've had a terrible time parking around there'.

                                                                              but if they are set on something, they are treating, it isn't the end of the world, if it is your city.(because you can always go where you want to go some other time). I think the harder one is where you are the guest in their city and they want to take you to something they think you'd like, ie like you'd get at home. I remember being in Lincoln, Nebraska once and being taken to a place, 'because it is the best seafood in town, and we know you must like that, being from San Francisco and all..". Huh? Please, all I wanted is a steak! In that circumstance, I definitely speak up: 'you know, someone told me Y place is great, and typical food of your area: I'd really love to try it, what do you think?'. (the 'someone' of course is Chowhound, if possible. Best to come well armed with suggestions.

                                                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                I've learned the hard way... I spent a lot of money to go across the country and my vacation doesn't come around every day, so I'm going to be more insistent, even offer to pay if they don't like it.

                                                                                I went to L.A. and my hosts asked me what I wanted, I said Mexican, and they took me to Cha Cha's (a chain). The next night even though our rental car didn't have lifters we enjoyed local food in East L.A.

                                                                                1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                                  No lifters? You must've stood out!
                                                                                  A few years ago I was leaving one of the area Mexican grocery stores, and as I was waiting to turn right, a guy in a beautifully restored 1965 Chevy Impala (2-door) pulled into the left turn lane across from me. It's my all-time favorite beautiful car, and he'd put a lot of work into it- it was metal flake emerald green and the body looked spotless. It was the time of year when everybody has their windows down. He was pretty mean-looking, but i had to tell him- I hollered out "I love your car!" and his mean vato face dissolved into a great big huge smile. I looked left to see what traffic looked like, but when I looked back the car was bouncing up and down in a fabulous lowrider display. I applauded, being extremely flattered at the display for my sake.

                                                                                  I feel so lucky to live in an area with a lot of Hispanic culture and a lot of Sonoran Mexican food.

                                                                                  1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                                    I want lifters.

                                                                                    and yes the best anything in LA is usually found in nondescript strip malls.

                                                                                    1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                                      there is this expectation that just because someone is a local that they can actually taste.

                                                                                      a fun clip to watch was donald trump taking sarah palin and her kid to a "genuine new york" pizza joint.
                                                                                      the pizza joint was part of a chain owned by a foreign restaurant group.
                                                                                      the appearance of the pizza was horrid
                                                                                      trump himself took a plastic fork and ate the melted goop leaving the crust completely.
                                                                                      palin kept gushing to her kid about "this is REAL new york pizza."

                                                                                      just because trump has money and lives in new york doesn't necessarily mean that he has any appreciation of good food.

                                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                        Besides all that, it can be said that Trump does pretty well for someone who has obviously had a charisma bypass operation.

                                                                                        1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                          <<it can be said that Trump does pretty well>>

                                                                                          it's much easier to do "pretty well" when you are born into money.
                                                                                          his FATHER was an extremely wealthy real estate developer.
                                                                                          he started working for HIS FATHER.

                                                                                          when you start out with that much of a head start. . . .

                                                                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                            You may have missed the sarcasm in my post. I believe that Donald Trump is a total blowhard and a charlatan. He is also totally devoid of any kind of charisma, with a hairdo that looks completely like some kind of roadkill. Moreover, he has gone into bankruptcy so many times that his abilities in business are far into question...but I appreciate your concern on my comments.
                                                                                            I am sure that both of us would certainly decline a dinner invitation from such a creep.

                                                                                  2. re: hill food

                                                                                    My response is usually to say "Sure, we can do that if you want. Though, to be fair, I think that X, Y and Z have better food."

                                                                                    1. re: Terrieltr

                                                                                      all good responses (seafood in Omaha? heh.) I just don't do tact well when speaking off the cuff.

                                                                                    2. re: hill food

                                                                                      How about responding, with feigned delight and surprise, "Oh - great! So I guess they got that health-department issue cleared up and reopened?"

                                                                                    3. WHat I do when I go on vacation, is to check with "Roadfood.com" and see if there will be any good places to go where I'll be camping.

                                                                                      Otherwise, I can sort of just sniff out a place by the way it looks, sort of a gut feeling. I go for diners and supper clubs over any fancy fare. And most of the time, my gut is spot on!

                                                                                      1. In Paris, there was a seafood restaurant in the same building as our little hotel. and while a bit fahncy it was very good, and the service was fine. Around the corner, facing the Porte Maillot Palais de Congres, there was another restaurant that looked to be at about the same level. One night the seafood place was closed, and we dined at the one around the corner. Surly, slow service, boring food and they put us by an open window overlooking a busy construction zone...but at least it was expensive.

                                                                                        We actually braved a few tourist traps that trip and had swell food and pleasant dining. The one restaurant in Pisa that had billboards everywhere, Albergo da Bruno, was quite affordable and very good (though its tourist-trap status is compromised by the fact that Bruno himself was the only English-speaker in the place!). The Cafe Europa, smack on the Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence, also had real food at fair prices, as did that place facing the cathedral at Chartres that's in my profile.

                                                                                        As for local traps (L.A. area), all I can say is the locals are suckers for them too - just look at the ever-present line at Pink's!

                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                          ah but Will, every one needs to eat at Pink's just the once (granted shit-faced at 3 AM, but still)

                                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                                            hf, if I want a bad hot dog I'll get a package of Farmer John's and cook it at home. No driving while shitfaced, no waiting in line, and a hell of a lot cheaper!

                                                                                            My 3 ayem (actually 4) SF experience was at a White Castle in Louisville. Fortunately I wasn't driving... that was about thirty years ago. I don't do that anymore.

                                                                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                              Will, I haven't either really (of course not owning a car for 20 years or caring to go out carousing certainly helped acheive that status)

                                                                                        2. In the Outer Banks, where we vacation, we are wary of two things:

                                                                                          1. "All you can eat" seafood buffets.
                                                                                          2. Any place that has a coupon in the "Sunny Days" tourist magazine.

                                                                                          15 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: jmckee

                                                                                              Ditto for "Calabash style" AYCE places in Myrtle Beach and "Pennsylvania Dutch/Amish" AYCE places around Lancaster PA. There might be some good food to be had at these places, but I'm not going to pay the $$ to find out.

                                                                                              1. re: Bob W

                                                                                                Those Amish AYCE sound so good, too--all the basic foods they offer. I haven't tried them either but am always tempted. I agree w/ you that I just haven't been willing to spend the money. I've yet to find a good AYCE buffet anywhere.

                                                                                                1. re: Bob W

                                                                                                  Well I would say Calabash style outside of Calabash is often a mistake. But that's just me bein snarky. Though, come to think of it, sometimes it's been better up at Holden Beach or Ocean Isle than in Calabash in recent years.

                                                                                                  1. re: Bob W

                                                                                                    Been to Myrtle Beach once on a trip to America. Ate one night at one of the Calabash buffets - not a pleasant experience - seafood does not take well to being kept warm on a buffet. Doesnt push my buttons as being a "trap" as it made no pretence to being other than what it was.

                                                                                                    On the other hand, on another trip, went to a so-called Amish style place near Lancaster, PA - not "all you eat" and there was every pretence that this was going to be good quality (as well as a very large selection of food, served "home style"). It wasnt. Thereby pushing said buttons.

                                                                                                  2. re: jmckee

                                                                                                    99% of ayce places are lousy.
                                                                                                    always avoid them when i'm in unfamiliar territory

                                                                                                    1. re: jmckee

                                                                                                      The same could be said for many "tourist" magazines, where the "reviews" SEEM to be predicated on the advertising bought.

                                                                                                      When I have booked Restaurant X, and then see it in the in-room magazine, I feel fear - real fear!


                                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                        goes for airplane magazines too. if there's a review or an ad for a place in one of those, it is definitely off my list no matter much an independently sourced reference is found.

                                                                                                        1. re: hill food

                                                                                                          Yup. I've had that sinking feeling en route to a destination when I see an ad, or especially the ad/story (please note the difference between a story and a review, but in this case, they get equal billing), for a place I'd planned on visiting. There's just something about it....

                                                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                                                            <goes for airplane magazines too.>

                                                                                                            You have inspired me to share the oddest example of this I've ever encountered. There's a little neighborhood pizza place near my house. It is like a thousand other little neighborhood pizza places in Manhattan. There's nothing wrong with it, but neither is there any reason to patronize it unless you happen to be nearby. And yet, it is mentioned in American Way as the Phoenix Suns go-to slice joint whenever they play Madison Square Garden (second to last item on page):


                                                                                                            Is this a paid placement? If so, how many AA passengers are likely to be swayed by this information? And are the Phoenix Suns known for their discriminating pizza palates? I have wondered about this for years.

                                                                                                            1. re: small h

                                                                                                              Makes me wonder where the Knicks go for tacos in the Valley of The Valley of the Sun.

                                                                                                              1. re: bbqboy

                                                                                                                small h and bbq - good questions, both of you.

                                                                                                                1. re: bbqboy

                                                                                                                  Next time you're on a plane, check the inflight magazine. Might be some valuable info there.

                                                                                                                2. re: small h

                                                                                                                  <<how many AA passengers are likely to be swayed by this information?>>

                                                                                                                  Someone is hoping many, many potential diners are.


                                                                                                                3. re: hill food


                                                                                                                  Most have spreads on the "Best Steakhouses in America," or similar, and most are horrible recommendations, IMHO.


                                                                                                            2. This one might be too harsh a generalization, but any place that uses "great view" or "romantic atmosphere" as their first selling points before barely touching on the food quality (if they even do that), probably deserves to go on your "tourist trap" hit list. You're paying top dollar for the view and the decor, while served mediocre food.

                                                                                                              Another generalization: steakhouses. They seem to advertise the heaviest in tourist magazines and put ads in hotel lobbies, and it's not just the usual chains (Ruth's, Morton's) either. Geez, you're far from home, you can get steak anywhere in the world, go eat something different...

                                                                                                              1. Bad food at famous places. There are restaurants that are tourist attractions all by themselves...

                                                                                                                Cheers in Boston

                                                                                                                There are plenty in Times Square in NYC:
                                                                                                                Bubba Gump, Carnegie Deli, Russian Tea Room, BB King's

                                                                                                                Hard Rock Cafe - I enjoyed looking at the museum pieces, the food sucks.

                                                                                                                9 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                                                                  Much as I usually enjoy eating in America, one of the worst meals of my life was in a diner sort of place on Broadway, a few metres away from Times Square. Vile, simply vile.

                                                                                                                  1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                                                                    In line with the idea of restaurants that are tourist attractions...

                                                                                                                    Restaurants with the name of an athlete. Wilt's, Elway's, Marino's, Shula's - not always a warning sign.

                                                                                                                    If you've enjoyed this thread, see this terrific article:

                                                                                                                    1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                                                                      Great article about usually good and bad signs for evaluating if the food is worth trying. Not tourist-trap related, but still good stuff. I loved this line ...

                                                                                                                      "I knew the Director and I were in for a long night ... the second we stepped inside and I saw the slogan on the back of a server’s T-shirt: “Got lasagna?” Faux-snark swiped from an ad campaign that had long since been borrowed to the point of grinding cliché did not bode well for the freshness of the dining experience

                                                                                                                      It occurred to me then that outside of roadhouses and shacks—clam, BBQ, burger, and otherwise—cheeky T-shirts might be an indication that the powers that be were putting the style cart before the substance horse."

                                                                                                                      Nice mention of Chowhound too.

                                                                                                                      "It's an old Chowhound adage that deliciousness turns up where you least expect it. I am still routinely surprised to find great food in places I figured would be awful, and bad food where I expected joy."

                                                                                                                      So true.

                                                                                                                      Some points for zoning in on good grub
                                                                                                                      - lack of English
                                                                                                                      - a complete lack of signage
                                                                                                                      - a list of rules that owners expect their customers to follow (Almost fool proof)
                                                                                                                      - A chef-owned place that closes when the chef goes on holiday
                                                                                                                      - paper plates, plastic forks and Styrofoam cups (big ones).
                                                                                                                      - a staff that shares the same genetic makeup
                                                                                                                      - a big white canopy tent in a parking lot next to a restaurant
                                                                                                                      - bootleg CDs and DVDs being sold on the street.

                                                                                                                      Living in Guatemala, this one point really cracked me up ... For a special bonus, does the owner let people come in off the street and peddle stuff inside of the restaurant itself?

                                                                                                                      Yeah, you got yourself a gen-u-ine Latino place.

                                                                                                                      I didn't agree with all the points. Once I got over the novelty of meals on wheels ... taco trucks, gourmet roach coaches ... they are good and bad like everything else.

                                                                                                                      Beware, beware
                                                                                                                      - Bouncers
                                                                                                                      - female servers in tight, revealing uniforms
                                                                                                                      - A floor show
                                                                                                                      - those little pre-printed cardboard pyramids on the table promoting a drink special
                                                                                                                      - An insert for specials looks older than the regular menus
                                                                                                                      - A menu with photos of the food (Only appliies to joints serving American chow)
                                                                                                                      - In Italy, picture menus ... accompanied by the words "Menu Turistico!"
                                                                                                                      - No ex-pats dining in a restaurant serving their traditional cuisine
                                                                                                                      - A glowing review posted in the window (check the dates)
                                                                                                                      - “They love us on Yelp!” sticker
                                                                                                                      - A full parking lot or a line stretching down the sidewalk

                                                                                                                      I have my own criteria for that last point, not just the Cheesecake Factory referece. It often applies to tourist traps ... Sears Fine Food in SF.

                                                                                                                      However ... it also applies to the latest hip upscale joint that opened. People are often there because it is the thing to be there. While there are exeptions, if you have to wait in line ... forget it ... ooohhh and places with little flashing light gizmos to let you know your table is ready. So skip those. The one in a million that might be good, just are not worth the other 999 999 you will eat at.

                                                                                                                      Anyway, good tips and lots more. I only gleaned some of the points I agreed with.

                                                                                                                      One tourist trap tip and how to avoid it ... restaurants that are rarely mentioned in guidebooks and travel sites. They fall under the tourist radar because they aren't in either. There is usually a reason they are doing a thriving business with locals.

                                                                                                                      Some of my most memorable meals were at joints like these ... that great cafe near Notre Dame, the place near the Florence market that had killer steak. In fact, if you see anyone who looks like you, leave. What attracted that non-local? There are too few Chowhounds in the world.

                                                                                                                      My top find in Antigua is a place that gets little play on the web ... only 42 search results, mainly just the name and address of a list of restaurants in Antigua. A few of those mentions are mine. I found it oddly, when searching I came across an article by the chef (yes, in Spanish), with some recipes. Only his name was mentioned and not the restaurant ... just that it was an Italian joint in Antigua ... oh yeah, also the fact that a restaurant he opened in Italy had earned a few Michelan stars. So after a little sluething and tracking it down, I gave El Pescador Italiano a try. Fabulous.

                                                                                                                      So don't dismiss a joint if it doesn't get much attention. It might be a good thing. That even worked at home in the Bay Area. One of the best restaurants in Wine Country, Vineyards Inn, gets no attention in the press. It has been serving fabulous meals for quite a few years.

                                                                                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                        “They love us on Yelp!” sticker

                                                                                                                        i've seen that sticker on some of the best, very much local-not-geared-to-tourist places in NYC. that "rule" seems to me to say more about a prejudice against yelp than anything about the restaurant per say

                                                                                                                        1. re: thew

                                                                                                                          i think the name of the resto is "per se"


                                                                                                                        2. re: rworange

                                                                                                                          What's the cafe near Notre Dame? I'm going to Paris for the first time in 3 weeks and I'm staying in that area. I want some good chow while I"m there.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Avalondaughter

                                                                                                                            It was the late 90's and I never caught the name. I just was wandering around the streets and it had one of those menus of the day that include wine and was bustling with the French lunch crowd. Nobody spoke English. This should help ... there was an art gallery across the street. I bought a painting there. How many art galleries can there be in Paris?

                                                                                                                          2. re: rworange

                                                                                                                            rworange, your beware list really hits the bullseye on tourists traps and eating/entertainment places to steer clear of.

                                                                                                                            While there are few destination restaurants there are destination eating towns like NYC, Boston, SanFrancisco and New Orleans. The one possible good point about New Orleans is that one can stay in the French Quarter and spend a week walking to a number of good restaurants and only having to take a cab or streetcar if they want to go to some near but outlying places. And many of the good French Quarter restaurants, while they depend on tourists, are also full of locals.

                                                                                                                            The local NOLA CH board gets requests "not where the tourists go" but a place like Emeril's is where the tourists go and where the locals go because it is good.

                                                                                                                            For a reverse on some of the earlier parts of this thread, there are some restaurants in New Orleans that if the menu is not in English, i.e., it's in French and English, beware.

                                                                                                                          3. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                                                                            Graydon: Shula's - I KNEW my new boss (2006) was bad news when in DC her idea of a really good lunch in the Foggy Bottom/West End area was Shula's. yeah ok it's around the corner, but Shula's? in a town full of ok to superlative steak houses? I could name maybe a dozen places that were more interesting in the same radius. Shula's doesn't even get reviewed in the Post and the critic is no snob.

                                                                                                                        3. Traps: coupons in tourist magazines for free appetizers. Usually means expensive entrees and hoards of people coming for free apps. Places with very large statues of Paul Bunyon, Jolly Roger, etc. out front. Especially if there is sign close to the statue that reads "kids eat free".

                                                                                                                          Advisories: In and around places like Disneyland. I lived in Orange County as a kid and remember eating a large breakfast on the way to Disneyland and eating dinner when I got home. My folks loved eating out, but drew never near Disneyland and rarely in the park. I hear very little has changed from friends who recently visited from N. California. There are still few choices and it's expensive.

                                                                                                                          Tip: Ask the friendliest customer or staff member in an independent bookstore. Which is fun because you have to search out the bookstore first.

                                                                                                                          1. ITA...
                                                                                                                            we're going to Aruba in 2 weeks and I hope to 1) avoid the hotel restaurants for the most part and 2) eat where the locals eat!
                                                                                                                            one of the best meals I had last time we were in St. Lucia was from one of the food stands in the mall. chicken curry, rice and peas, plantains, and more for about $6 US, IIRC.

                                                                                                                            23 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                                                                              avoiding traps on Aruba? good luck, in Oranjestad avoid LG Smith Blvd. like the plague (predictably) and wander a block or 2 inland and there are some mom n pop places serving traditional caribe-style food. it was sort of sad, there was a packed "island theme" place on LG across from the cruise ship port and around the corner just a few doors down was an undecorated hole-in-the-wall that was half the price and awesome. there is a brilliant grocery store up LG towards Divi. I heard there's a couple of good riistaffel joints, but my traveling companion took ill (non-food related) so I didn't go.

                                                                                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                How about Caya G. F. Betico Croes, also called Main Street, Aruba's main shopping street in Oranjestad?

                                                                                                                                1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                                                                                  does that run parallel to LG? I certainly had a better feeling gut feeling (so to speak) around there. the place I was trying to describe (god only knows if it still exists, it's been a few years) was across a side street from a small freestanding museum with an unlikely collection of buttons or something, sorry I can't remember street names. I just wander.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                    hmmm... didn't see a button museum, but there is a money museum. DH collects coins, so that could be a fun stop. i'll have to google the location and see what's around it.
                                                                                                                                    we've gotten recommendations for Madam Jeanettes, Que Pasa, and moomba beach bar (but for breakfast).
                                                                                                                                    yeah. any place where the cruise people go we're going to avoid like the proverbial plague. thanks for the info. :)

                                                                                                                                    1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                                                                                      "Madam Jeanettes, Que Pasa, and Moomba beach bar"

                                                                                                                                      Two of those three sound a little too trendy. That doesn't mean they aren't really great, don't get me wrong, but in terms of attracting tourists, a name says a lot, doesn't it?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                                                                                        coin sounds like it may be right, something small and circular.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                          kewl! we leave Sat morning... minor complication, the museum moved... we'll have to go ask them about restaurants near their former location, lol. :)

                                                                                                                                          1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                                                                                            and they'd be able to give a better review of the food than my dim memory.

                                                                                                                                            enjoy the beach, and while it qualifies as a "trap" there is (was?) a Brazilian churrasco type place, maybe part of the Fogo de Chao chain, up by the big resorts at the NorthWestern tip of the island. a trappy type of place, but good steaks.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                              Good to know. DH always "needs" a good steak on vacation! :)

                                                                                                                                          2. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                            well, the numistmatic museum is now closed instead of moved, but we ate across the street from it's former location, at the Old Fisherman. WONDERFUL, fresh, local.
                                                                                                                                            there are actually 3 brazillan places on the island now, we hit amazonia, which was fantastic.

                                                                                                                                            i'll be posting a trip report this week... had some great food. :)

                                                                                                                                            thanks for the recommendations.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                                                                                              glad my vague words didn't steer you wrong.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: jujuthomas

                                                                                                                                    Since you're mentioning tropical places, make sure you aren't in one of these phony "villages" owned and operated by cruise lines:


                                                                                                                                    I'm sure the food will be overpriced dreck....

                                                                                                                                    1. re: TexSquared

                                                                                                                                      Agree with the posters who have said avoid "view" restos. I've often lamented the fact that it is impossible to get good seafood in Vancouver in a restaurant that has a view of the water from whence the dish came. I just can't think of one.

                                                                                                                                      I wish Chowhound had existed when I travelled to Guatemala. Actually, I wish computers had existed then :-). The only good food we ate was what we cooked over our charcoal "bomb" that we brought from Mexico. And we were NOT using guidebooks, or eating anywhere fancy. Sounds like things have changed for the better.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: grayelf

                                                                                                                                        >>>, I wish computers had existed then :-).

                                                                                                                                        Yeah, searching has been an invaluable tool in some leads and info about what it is I'm eating. I really can't thank Rudy Giron at Antigua Daily Photo enough for the insight and tips I get there not only for food, but that city in general and even beyond. That site is a goldmine.

                                                                                                                                        Many of the blogs have been a help as well.

                                                                                                                                        I don't think anything has changed much in Guatemala. If it has, it probably was for the worse.

                                                                                                                                        I think it is a difficult cuisine to understand. Who would guess that chow mein, Swiss and German food figured into it ... and btw I had a mind-blowing chow mein the other day ... it is not at al the glop served in the US.

                                                                                                                                        But even so, even with a chowhounding spirit, it really was family that zoned me in on the good stuff ... the stuff that ... well, Americans really wouldn't like. It is still like pulling teeth to get info about these places from them. I wonder what bad restaurant I'll take them to next to have them counter with 'real' Guatemalan food.

                                                                                                                                        And a tiny portion was just dumb traveler's luck which I think most of us have experienced by walking into the right door.I think all of us have memories of that wonderful cafe in xxx, the supurb seafood shack near the ocean, etc, etc, etc. For me that was Dona Gavi and her fabulous ice cream. She wasn't totally unmentioned on the web and guidebooks, but it was really low profile and for me it was just walking in the door. I learned the rest after the fact.

                                                                                                                                        I do hope that with people using the web more that they will start recording their food eating experiences whether through blogs or sites like Chowhound. It is always nice to have that extra guidance.

                                                                                                                                        Not that everyone has great finds. I've seen people dismiss even Dona Gavi because ... well, she is too expensive Then in the next sentence they complain about all the other food in the country. She charges $2.50 for two huge scoops of handmade organic ice cream. If you want paleta prices go elsewhere, but don't expect the same quality.

                                                                                                                                        There is this little Italian joint I have high on my list because it was dismissed as great food, but too expensive for what you get. Um, it has many of the flags for greatness about it. The chef closes the place when he is out because he says he worked too hard for his reputation to turn it over to someone else. There are only three dishes a day and they are never the same. It depends on what is good at the market. You have to wait (yep, complaints about that), because everything is made to order ... and on and on, That joint is glowing so brightly with all the right beacons that I need sunglasses.

                                                                                                                                        So you have to use Chowhounding skills online too Just like often that one line mention buried in a long post is a gem, it is the same elsewhere on the web

                                                                                                                                        Also I have time ... a year here ... so I can afford to make mistakes and get into the local vibe. I'm sure by time I leave here my Chowhounding instincts in Gautemala will be as good as they are in SF.. Also my level of experience. Some stuff I thought was outstanding when I first arrived may be outshined by uncovering much better versions.

                                                                                                                                        I think people get into tourist frenzy where they must pack each day with wonderfullness and that a lot of times leads to mediocrity. The best visit I ever had in Europe was after being exhausted after a 4 month intense work assignment in Taiwan.

                                                                                                                                        I had one goal and one goal only ... if I could sit at a cafe and relax with a cup of coffee for a few hours ... the trip was gold to me. I had no plans and no lofty aspirations. The one plan ... the cafe ... turned out to be lousy ... but the rest of the trip was just pure joy. Wandering and not being obsessed about finding 'the best' ... well, it was the best. I ate some pretty terrific food and had other great experiences

                                                                                                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                          "I wonder what bad restaurant I'll take them to next to have them counter"


                                                                                                                                        2. re: grayelf

                                                                                                                                          >>>, I wish computers had existed then :-).

                                                                                                                                          I was searching CHOW the other night and found a post from 1999. It appears this board has been around since at least June, 1999. It provides a very interesting history of restaurants that people recommended and yet have gone out of business. That illustrates the difference between good taste and popularity.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                                                                                            There was a different mindset about food in 1999. It is quite likely that those were great joints that went out of business and not just popular. Popular on Chowhound is, for the most part, different than popular period.

                                                                                                                                            The focus here has always been on the most delicious ... whethere that is a 33 cent taco from a truck or a $500 dinner at some top restaurant.

                                                                                                                                            Thanks to efforts from sites like Chowhound and some adventurous food writers who opened up new food worlds, people are more accepting to walk out of the 1999 comfort zone.

                                                                                                                                            Eating at a taco truck was not something anyone outside that particular culture might try. The concept of a gourmet food cart or truck would have probably not worked.

                                                                                                                                            Hmmm ... how about that ... yet another plus for Chowhound ... all you creme brulle, clandenstine street corner cupcake vendors ,.. the fact that you have social acceptance and can make a living is probably due to this site making people more accepting of that type of business I'm not saying it is all this site, there's a lot else that has happened in the meantime, but Chowhound sure didn't hurt.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: grayelf

                                                                                                                                            I'm in the Toronto area and the two places I was referring to when panning the "view" places (damn, bad bad pun there) would be 360 at the CN Tower, and Toula Restaurant on the top floor of the Westin (coincidentally both are revolving restaurants). However, Canoe (top of a skyscraper) and Scaramouche (top of a hill that looks towards downtown) are two other "view" places in Toronto which always get good reviews and have been in business for years.

                                                                                                                                            To answer GraydonCarter's post, I get the same feeling when I find old copies of Toronto Life magazine or Zagat Survey. Open an issue from the 80's or early 90's and you'll have a hard time finding reviews of places that are still open today, other than of course the tourist traps. Just goes to show, tourists with money to blow will keep you in business a lot longer than positive reviews from foodies.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: TexSquared

                                                                                                                                              I've eaten at Canoe - it was superb cuisine and possibly the best restaurant view I've experienced anywhere in the world - not a tourist trap by any usual definition. Perhaps evidence that a "tourist trap" is more than a single element.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                I agree, my point was that Canoe and Scaramouche do not fit the "tourist trap" mold despite having great views. I took my fiancee (now wife) to Canoe for our engagement dinner and I treated my parents to dinner there for their 25th anniversary, it's definitely a special place for us.

                                                                                                                                                But there's no denying 360 is a tourist trap - the tourists try to "kill two birds with one stone" by getting a trip up the CN Tower elevator plus a high-end dinner for one price.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: TexSquared

                                                                                                                                                  And I agree about revolving places. When we visited Ontario, I much enjoyed dinner at the place at Niagara but it certainly fitted the tourist trap model.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                    So the view criterion does appear to have the odd exception to it :-). But just not in Vancouver, or at least the view restos I've tried here, which I should have been more clear about.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: grayelf

                                                                                                                                                      another exception is the John Hancock Tower in Chicago, you can pay for an elevator ride or go up for free to the bar and get a drink for about the same price, same view and far fewer annoyances.

                                                                                                                                      2. The Lady and Son's Restaurant in Savannah, Georgia. The restaurant has experienced great success due to Paula Deen's popularity on Food Network. Tourists line up in the morning to get a ticket that allows them to come to lunch service at the restaurant.

                                                                                                                                        This restaurant is a buffet for $21.95 per person. It features dishes like fried chicken and collard greens. Any other restaurant in the tourist area of Savannah would have trouble selling this buffet for $11.95. Any other area, this kind of buffet would get $6.95 per person.

                                                                                                                                        I think you can add this restaurant to the list of "tourists traps".

                                                                                                                                        1. I wonder if any restaurant has had mass tourist appeal and still maintained quality. You see all these "best of" type shows, instant popularity. If the restaurant had been good to begin with, has any maintained it over time? Can anyone think of one?

                                                                                                                                          The other question to the second question--is it possible to eat well near a big tourist attraction, if you're spending the whole day there? Or, do you just assume you'll pay high prices for bad food and live with it?

                                                                                                                                          18 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: limster

                                                                                                                                              I had been thinking there are destination restaurants like that, Inn at Little Washington, etc. that serve smaller number of people that remain top quality. I don't think of them as appealing to the masses of tourists, which is a distinction.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                Yeah, a destination restaurant is not the same as a tourist trap. Not that they can't evolve into a tourist trap. I may not particularily like FL, but I would not think of it that way.

                                                                                                                                                I did find this hilarious though. I can't figure out if limster is being subtly funny because I've never found him intentionally flip on Chowhound.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                                  Nope, not trying to be funny or anything, but just looking at things plainly. Largely responding to: "I wonder if any restaurant has had mass tourist appeal and still maintained quality."

                                                                                                                                                  I mentioned FL as a possible example of a place that serves mostly tourists, but has maintained quality. In terms of number of people trying to get in, it's probably more than most restaurants. Certainly harder to get in than the vast majority of places.

                                                                                                                                                  Plus, "is it possible to eat well near a big tourist attraction, if you're spending the whole day there?"

                                                                                                                                                  Napa is a pretty big tourist attraction and I think FL makes the case that it's possible to eat well there.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: limster

                                                                                                                                                    That's an interesting point about Wine Country. It has some of the best places to eat in the Bay Area and there are really extremely few places that would be considered true tourist traps. Maybe because it is so spread out and not concentrated in a specific area. Also, it still has a function. Fisherman's Wharf has long ceased to be the place to get fish off the boat.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: limster

                                                                                                                                                      Calling Napa a tourist attraction is like called Washington DC a tourist attraction. It's a large area and not self contained, like Disney or Fisherman's Wharf.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                        Agreed. The French Laundry analogy doesn't work, on several levels. It's not a tourist trap, and the question is, "what defines a tourist trap."

                                                                                                                                                        We all know the answer: mediocre food from restaurants that survive on tourists' money. Nothing more, nothing less. Making the question and answer bigger than they are perhaps makes for a discussion, but that discussion, to my mind, isn't very helpful. We all know the answer. If we don't, we wouldn't be responding, as we probably wouldn't be reading a food-centric website.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: tommy

                                                                                                                                                          Wasn't calling FL a tourist trap. Was responding directly to:

                                                                                                                                                          "I wonder if any restaurant has had mass tourist appeal and still maintained quality. You see all these "best of" type shows, instant popularity. If the restaurant had been good to begin with, has any maintained it over time?"

                                                                                                                                                          If a the definition of a tourist trap is mediocrity, then tourist trap would not be a place that maintained good quality. The criteria listed by chowser indicates that the question was not asking for a tourist trap.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                          I would argue that Napa is more self contained than DC, and that it is the general features of Napa that draw in tourists rather than a whole bunch of disparate features.

                                                                                                                                                          But if you disagree, it's still simple to substitute Napa for any specific location that attracts tourists within Napa and still say that it's possible to eat well near a tourist attraction.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: limster

                                                                                                                                                            I guess my analogy is about area covered, not the type of attraction(s) available. Napa covers a large area and if you traveled as far to get to the French Laundry as you would from parts of Napa. you could hit some pretty good chow that distance from Fisherman's Wharf.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                      Maybe we call a place that we might visit a "destination restaurant" and a place others might visit a "tourist trap"? Perhaps isnt much difference.

                                                                                                                                                      I was recently at the Fat Duck (third best restaurant in the world and, without doubt, somewhere I'd happily call a destination). I reckon that many of people there had travelled sufficient distance to be regarded as a tourist. Certainly we had. If Heston Blumenthal had to rely for his profit on local diners, he'd be bankrupt within a few short weeks. I wouldnt call it a "trap" but maybe it fits a description.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                        I think of a destination restaurant as a place you'd plan an entire trip around. A tourist trap is a place someone visits because they happen to be vacationing in the area and heard xxxxx is good.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: bbqboy

                                                                                                                                                            Worth every penny!

                                                                                                                                                            (and I include the cost of the overnight hotel, two lunches and the petrol for the 400 mile round trip, as well as the £400 restaurant bill)

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                          Those places do have mass appeal -- they're internationally known, and are in tons of guidebooks. The reason most people don't eat there is the price, not the lack of appeal.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                        Well, there is always going to be restaurants that serve great food in every tourist area. Unfortunately, most will be very expensive. in most tourists areas, there are restaurants that seem to do the impossible. New Orleans, for instance, has some excellent seafood restaurants right on the Pontchartrain. There are always great restaurants within about 20 miles of a tourists area.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                                                                          A "good" restaurant in Branson? Somehow that may be the exception that proves the rule.

                                                                                                                                                          And we need to distinguish between tourists and travelers. (We, of course, are always the latter - right?)

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                          As ever - it depends.

                                                                                                                                                          There's a very popular tourist resort in Spain, that I know well and visit often. In amongst the very many restaurants catering for those tourists (not "traps" as such - at least by my definition of one), there's an absolute cracker of a place. It is Michelin quality without doubt and I am sure it would have a star by now if it was in the regional urban centre and not next to the cheap steak and pizza places.

                                                                                                                                                        3. As much as I hate to agree with Rachel Ray, It is best to ask the locals. They know where the good restaurants are.

                                                                                                                                                          16 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                                                                            Not so sure about that. Locals can have some pretty crappy taste, too.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                              Again I agree. Just think of how many bad meals you'd get if you stopped random Americans on the street and asked them what their favorite restaurants were. There is a reason that Outback Steakhouse does fantastic business--because most people don't care about what they put in their mouths, or just have no imagination. And that goes for people the world over. (I am not slamming Americans, since I am one of them; I am saying that only a minority of humans really care deeply about food.)

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: travelmad478

                                                                                                                                                                I understand what you're saying travelmad, but I think it's a bit more complex, I think a lot of people (around here anyway - STL) equate 'value for quantity' and 'not rancid' with 'good' and I dunno, if a stranger asked me I probably wouldn't steer them to the amazing Mexican tortas in a so-so neighborhood or the incredible VN banh mi found in an area that is only recently happy to not have too many drive-bys. I'll go there and so do my friends, but I don't think I'd send an out-of-towner there. Not that I'd send them to a chain either, just maybe not the absolute best. plus it's hard to gauge what spirit a person has in a few moments of exchange.

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                                                                              I've rarely found a decent place just asking any locals off the street. Last time I was directed to the "best" area in town for food--PF Changs, Cheesecake Factory-central.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                It depends how you ask.

                                                                                                                                                                A friend and I were looking for a restaurant that seemed to have vanished

                                                                                                                                                                So after asking someone on the street about it, he says "My friend is visiting from the United States. Do you know any good restaurants near here?"

                                                                                                                                                                Needless to say, I wouldn't even consider the joint recommended and I clued my friend in that that was exactly the wrong thing to say.

                                                                                                                                                                If I'm looking for a blind rec from a stranger, I try to chat a while first before asking.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                                                  Yeah, there is probably an art to finding out whether the person knows the best places to eat or will recommend a generic place. I'm not big on chatting on the street w/ strangers which is why I appreciate CH. Even locally, I rarely ask my friends for advice on good places to eat since most don't really venture beyond Cheesecake Factory.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                                                    "It depends how you ask."

                                                                                                                                                                    So true.

                                                                                                                                                                    Sometimes the local person you are asking may think you are expecting to be directed to a tourist trap as if "Where is a good place to eat for me" is actually code for "Where is the nearest Hard Rock Cafe?"

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                                                      Ouch. We ate at the one in Lahaina- to my eternal embarrassment. Wasn't good, either.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                    And sometimes there is no good local option in a given restaurant category. If someone's looking for Korean food, I can send you over to a perfectly nice hole in the wall over by base with the menu written on the wall, and your new Korean grandmother back in the kitchen. Same goes for Filipino or Thai.

                                                                                                                                                                    But if you want Chinese, well we've tried a lot of different places, and PF Chang's is actually a pretty decent alternative to the usual buffet glop.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                      Good point, and the same carries over for the hotel concierge. Who comp'ed them last night?

                                                                                                                                                                      Now, once one establishes a relationship with the concierge, I find it just perfect to ask them "what's new?" once they have some clue what I am looking for.

                                                                                                                                                                      Otherwise, in general terms, CH has never let me down, and most concierges have.


                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                        Exactly--I don't know if that was brought up in this thread, or another, but if the person who is recommending the place has a stack of business cards from that restaurant, it's a good hint that they're in cahoots (for lack of a better word--I never use that word normally). I've had up and down advice from CH but overall, the highs are much better than the highs I'll get elsewhere so I'm fine with the few lows.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                          Yeah - same for the concierge. Some have had great suggestions, and some seem to be just shills. If I use a certain hotel often, they usually know what we are looking for, and if need be, I can remind them of the pluses and minuses. I also try my best to report back, just to let the really good ones know.

                                                                                                                                                                          While I do have a few problems with some of the common CH recs., most of that is personal tastes and personal experiences. In very general terms, I will trust CH's for recs. out of my normal realm. Very few have been let-downs, hence my requests on many boards here. CH is my "first line of defense," and then I will usually do a bit of due diligence elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                                                          The "handful of cards" is usually a tip-off to me too.


                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                            Gone are the days when I could stay in a hotel that has a concierge. However, in large cities the doorman often serves a similar purpose. I'll ask him for walking directions and for recommendations on local dives, but not for fine dining.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                            Tangentially related, we were at a restaurant for breakfast the other morning (doing a house exchange in Ventura, CA). While not strictly Mexican food, that's what we were having, the staff and all the other customers were Hispanic. Was talking to the server about tortillas and she told us about a market that makes their own corn tortillas. After breakfast we headed over there and, boy oh boy, did we get the most pleasant surprise. Yes, we got tortillas (30 for under $1.50) but they also have carnitas, birria and other prepared foods, all sorts of seafood, unbelievable meats, wonderful Mexican cheeses. We bought about three feasts worth. All because a local recommended them for their tortillas. So, yes, Virginia, sometimes there really is a Santa Claus.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                              Definitely--which, as someone said, is why it helps to strike up a conversation with the person and not just ask. And, I'm still the optimist that I can ask and might find that one special place like you mentioned. What's a few bad meals to get that one REALLY good one?

                                                                                                                                                                        2. Some of the best meals we've had in Puerto Vallarta came from asking our taxi driver where he would eat. Unfortunately, those places are either gone or very difficult to find on the next visit. One of our favorite seafood places with a beautiful view of the ocean and Malecón became a Hooters. Needless to say, we've never been back to that location.

                                                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                              Is that what the kids are calling them now?

                                                                                                                                                                          1. The Maine lobster pound*. An over priced bottom feeding crustacean, cooked by a 16 year old high school drop out, devoured by the side of a busy road w/ the eau de methane from passing autos. The "pounds*" often use slab wood to fire the lobster kettles and toursts will rave about the smoked flavor or a boiled lobster. Impossible physics here. The roadside lobster pound* is another symbol of the herding instinct.
                                                                                                                                                                            * pound is short for impoundment, the blocked off cove where lobsters are kept until sold to wholesalers. It was used in the 1930s-50s as a way of making a little extra cash from passing tourist. It is a living anachronism as now no lobster retail shacks are real pounds.
                                                                                                                                                                            Impoundment photo near Petite Manan:

                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                                              Oh, yes I forgot to mention paying more than 20 bucks for a lobster dinner that can be had for less than half that.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. In Italy: avoid a) picture menus and b) signs that advertise "turistica" menus.

                                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: tatamagouche

                                                                                                                                                                                Although places like this are common in most European tourist areas, they are not, IMO, inherently "tourist traps" but often simply "tourist restaurants", catering to a customer base of many nationalities. .

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                                  And therefore not as focused, hence generally not as good. I mean maybe they make good french fries! But why go to Italy for those? If I'm in, say, Umbria, I don't want to be catered to as a "nationality," I want Umbrian food. Personally.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. Just wanted to comment on what you said about 'anything near the Bridge of Sighs in Venice '

                                                                                                                                                                                One of the best restaurants I have ever eaten at was near there, sure it was expensive, but it was amazing and therefore I wouldnt call it a tourist 'trap' in fact I doubt many random tourists could find it/afford it.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. Since it hasn't been mentioned yet:

                                                                                                                                                                                  Bavarian Inn and Zehnder's Restaurant in Frankenmuth, Michigan.
                                                                                                                                                                                  Across the street from each other, owned by the same family, serve the same food.


                                                                                                                                                                                  Outside of chain restaurants this is as extreme a tourist trap as you can get.... the whole downtown is a tourist trap!


                                                                                                                                                                                  14 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: TexSquared

                                                                                                                                                                                    I felt that way this summer about the main street in Breckenridge, CO. but there didn't seem to be a lot of other options w/o driving to another town!

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                                                                                                                                      There's gotta be something decent in Breck...check Culinary Colorado next time. (Or the Mountain States board.)

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                                                          one of the ladies in our group made us green chile, it was awesome. i gotta find that recipe, she wrote it down for me... mmm!

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: tatamagouche

                                                                                                                                                                                          thanks, Tatamagouche, not sure I'll be going back, it was kind of a fluke of a trip. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                                                                                                                                            Not a huge fan of the resorts myself, at least in high season.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Passa can give you a green chile recipe for sure.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: tatamagouche

                                                                                                                                                                                              Ninety pounds of roasted Hatch green in the freezer!

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                                                                would love your recipe for green chile, if you don't mind, Passa! i'll put my email address in my profile. :) My DH would LOVE it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Tatamagouche, we actually stayed at a private ski lodge and it was July. I don't think I"d be at all interested in the winter! ugh.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Done! Check you email. Shrimp green chile stew for supper tonight.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                                                                    if only i'd gotten it before i went to the store, lol! thank you SO much! :) I can't wait to make it.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: TexSquared

                                                                                                                                                                                        I am positive that many, many years ago, Zehnder's was listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the biggest restaurant or the biggest-grossing restaurant or something like that.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Bob W

                                                                                                                                                                                          According to their website:

                                                                                                                                                                                          "Zehnder's is the second largest independent restaurant in the U.S., and America's largest family restaurant.
                                                                                                                                                                                          On weekends, we often serve over 10,000 guests, for a weekly total of 20,000 people... about a million diners a year."

                                                                                                                                                                                          No boasting of any Guinness claims but yeah, clearly they make their money on volume... tourist volume of course...

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: TexSquared

                                                                                                                                                                                            Wow, never even heard of it before. Gross.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: tatamagouche

                                                                                                                                                                                              I doubt they're well-known nationwide or worldwide, just known to people who have been to Frankenmuth (which I have). Bronner's (the big Christnas-themed tourist-trap store in town) buys huge billboards on I-75 all the way down to Florida, which draw people to the town, and once there, sure, you'll do some Christmas shopping at Bronner's then head into town where you'll find Zehnder's and Bavarian Inn across the main street from each other.

                                                                                                                                                                                              It's the classic tourist-trap main street with almost a carnival atmosphere -- fudge shop, candy shop, sausage shop, cheese shop, touristy T-shirt shop, etc.... with all the employees dressed in lederhosen for that German themed look....

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. When I check into a new hotel, the first thing that I often do is look through the in-room book, and check OFF almost any restaurant that appears in that book.

                                                                                                                                                                                        CH can do so much better.


                                                                                                                                                                                        15 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                          yes, if they have to buy an ad it's not a good idea. what was even worse was United Airlines used to run local ads during the last few minutes before final landing approach in SF and I'd overhear visitors making comments about needing to try that place, I held my tongue. 'cause sure I guess the novelty of tranny servers is something they don't get back home (much, openly anyway) but never heard anything good about the food.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                            The various ads can be a real "turn off" for me, but there have been exceptions.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Some of the same can happen with "newspapers" in resort areas. I often wonder how those "reviews" got in there. What was exchanged?


                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                              We live at Lake Tahoe and the reviews from the local "paper" is always over the top positive. And I guess I understand that they want to promote the local businesses. But I learn nothing when everything is "wonderful."

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                that's what turns me off Zagat's, where everything is "SUPER!" and "LUSCIOUS!" and ONE OF A KIND!"

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                                My resort-area newspaper has a rotation of three different restaurant reviewers. Two love everywhere, and the third is actually pretty critical of a restaurant's strengths and weaknesses. At one time, the third actually did all the restaurant reviews, but got put into the rotating role a few years back. Why I'm not sure, but she's still generally alternating brutally honest about which restaurants are worth fighting the tourist crowds over and then gushing about ethnic mom and pops with low advertising budgets when her week for a review does come up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: beachmouse

                                                                                                                                                                                                  For the two that love everywhere, are the restaurants they review advertising in that paper?

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Maybe the negative digs by the other is about restaurants that won't advertise.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Sorry to be cynical, but I briefly wrote for a small weekly and left when they said I could get free meals at places that had ads in those papers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I've seen Colleen (the good reviewer) give a pretty negative review to a restaurant that's part of one of the biggest resorts (and biggest advertisers) in the area. As well as great compliments to another restaurant in the same resort complex. And she loves to promote the kind of hole in the wall ethnic mom and pops that aren't likely to be advertising buyers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I wouldn't be surprised if they put her 'in rotation' in order to add on two people who would softball the reviews in their weeks, but her opinions have been extremely consistent in the columns she's produced over the years. (tends to expect utter perfection from expensive places, loves to find the one place in town that serves X just like they do in city Y, is in general very Chowish)

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Her latest hole in the wall fave:


                                                                                                                                                                                                    From Tourist Trap Central:


                                                                                                                                                                                                    Instead, you should head to the strip mall for:


                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                                                                                      You make some good points. Does advertising yield better reviews? Does not advertising yield pans?

                                                                                                                                                                                                      One needs to know the source of the reviews, and then base their choices on an abstraction of them.


                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: beachmouse

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I understand the gingoesque take in some publications. OTOH, I would take brutally honest from a knowledgeable reviewer any day. I do want a real person, and not some dolt, trying to prove that he/she has dined on the truly "authentic" version of ___ in ___, and this version, 8000 miles away might have been off by a degree, or two.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      In very general terms, I really like CH. Yes, some folk do have favs., but with a bit of research, one finds the real gems. On a few of my "home boards," I have issues with some of the "sacred cows," and offer a counter-point to an out of town poster. Also, if several folk really like restaurant ___, who is to say that my three trips were truly representative of their fare? Maybe I just hit a few of these on there only bad nights.


                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Similarly any restaurant that has brochures in the tourist info rack in the lobby, or worse, the ones that are in the rack of business-card ads that sits at the end of the check-in desk.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I wouldn't completely disqualify places that are listed in "Where" magazine or equivalent, I've seen the Toronto version and many of our top places are listed in it -- when you say "in-room book" you mean the one that tells the guests where to find vending machines, check-out time, room service phone number, etc.... and not the "Where" magazine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  But I wouldn't blindly trust CH either. I've been disappointed by some of the recs in here in the past, wasting time and money going. It's to the point where family/friends/wife cringe if I say that CH recommended a place I want to take them to. If CH says it's "the best" and when I go there it sucks, it's hard to keep blindly trusting the forum. I want to read multiple thorough reviews and preferably one neutral or negative one, before I consider a visit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: TexSquared

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I've had great success using Chowhound. I use it to find out of the way places and explore unusual offerings. I find it's always an interesting experience at the least and have used it as an excuse to visit untouristed areas that I would otherwise pass by.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Sometimes my wife likes the places much better than I do. When you're on the road, it sure beats opting for the easy allure of the chains.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Steve

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Yup. We're out of town right now and every meal out has been a CH rec and they've ranged from very good to amazing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                          If you get as far north as Carpinteria, go to Rincon Alteno, a dive taqueria next to a 7-11. Satellite to the one in Santa Babara, I believe. Carnitas, cabezas, tripas, al pastor, each better than the next. This tip from a housekeeper at a motel. I overheard her on the telephone talking about tacos de lengua - and I just had to ask.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: TexSquared

                                                                                                                                                                                                        For "in-room books," these are usually hardbound, or semi, and feature the art galleries, the main restaurants, and the tourist excursions. "Where" can have some good places, but then can be filled with the "usual suspects," and mostly of the "tourist" variety.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        As mentioned up-thread, I am much more inclined to go with CH recs., if I have never dined in that city. I give the criteria, plus some examples, then my geographic location, and what I am looking for - usually fine-dining and a great wine list. To date, I have never been steered wrong by CH, though I do have some issues with a few very popular restaurants, especially on the Phoenix and New Orleans boards.


                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Pea Soup Andersen's...


                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. When I was working in the restaurant business, I followed the local restaurant industry in my town pretty religiously. I also knew some of my coworkers provided better recommendations than other.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I could send people to the local Turkish restaurant that was off the beaten path, head them towards the great brunch spots, and the Indian market with the great cafeteria.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Although I know other people in the business who didn't pay as much attention to the local food scene as I did. So, yeah, it is a crap shoot. But that is life.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I loved it when people asked me for recommendations. Once I ended up taking some Swedish economic students out dancing at some of the local spots.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: adventuresinbaking

                                                                                                                                                                                                          When working with the various concierge service providers, I always try to give as many details, as I can. Then, knowing that they are armed, will rely on their recs..

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Some are better, than others are. Recently in Sydney, I had recs. from elsewhere, for several nights. I specified what we were looking for, and our concierge picked up the ball, and ran with it. His recs. were spot-on, and only two (came from CH), were weak. Along with a personal thank-you, he got a nice tip for his efforts, plus a full report. The trip was a solid 90%, through no fault of his - he had one miss, but CH had another, plus went with his one poor choice. Stuff happens. The rest? Well, they were stellar!

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Heck, I just gave some great "foodie friends" five recs. in Honolulu. Four were winners, with extra kudos - but one bombed for them. I had warned that there was a new chef, and that we had not dined there, since that change. We will dine there next month, so that we have an updated report - taking one "for the team" there. One cannot possibly be 100%, 100% of the time - it will just never happen.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Good points,


                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                                            True re 100%. It's not a perfect world we live in. Even in a great meal, I'm pretty surprised if there's not one thing that I wouldn't order the next time around.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                              And, sometimes it comes down to "personal tastes." He/she might like things one way, where I just do not appreciate it. Same for items that might not be to their liking, but might turn me on.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              That is one reason that I hesitate to offer a bunch of restaurant recommendations to friends, unless I know their palates well. When I review, I try to report on what I encountered, and let the reader make up THEIR mind, whether it will be to THEIR liking.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I have great friends (mentioned above), with whom we dine often. However, in Hawai`i, I have bombed on two recs., and then discovered that they really enjoyed a restaurant, that I had warned them off of. Such is life. Still, I am holding my own, with about an 80 - 90% rate. Now, their one rec. for Rome, some years ago, was outstanding, so their "average" is better, than mine... [Grin]

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Now, individual dishes are something that I try to catalog. When returning, I will first want to "branch out," but if nothing catches my eye, then I hope to have some "old favs." to fall back to.


                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. Getting good food depends on the city, of course. Internet (like Chowhound) is a great resource if time allows.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          But I find that I get the worst tourist food when traveling with companions who really aren't discriminating about food. To get great food--even cheap, casual great food--you usually need to pay attention to times and you usually need to get yourself to some place that isn't near where you happen to be when people just get hungry. You need a plan, that is. But many city visitors just wander about.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I realized on one recent trip, to Chicago, that about half of my family pays as much attention to where they have lunch as they do to what brand of gas they use to fill up their cars. It's just going to be whatever's handy when the need strikes. They're literally just filling the tank in each case.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Agreed. Bob and I are super compatible traveling and dining companions We're in Seattle right now and he read about a thing to tour. He said "I'd rather spend the money on food and wine." What a guy :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. I have mixed feelings about this. Some of my favorite meals were at places some would tourist traps.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Cafe du Mond - in NO
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Brennan's - in NO
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Acme Oyster House - in NO
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Central Grocery - in NO
                                                                                                                                                                                                            DJ Clam Shack - Key West
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Conch Republic Seafood Company - Key West
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Schmidts Sausage House - C-bus OH
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Thurman's - C-bus OH
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Katz Deli - NY
                                                                                                                                                                                                            ess a bagel - NY
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Papaya Dog - NY
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Zingerman's - Ann Arbor

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Really, I just look at the menu ahead of time and ingnore the hype or haters.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Crockett67

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Good post. The CDM is totally touristy, but the beignets and chicory coffee are so good. You can get the exact same stuff out in Metairie at the Morning Call (which started in the FQ), but it's a much quieter place. CDM is fun!

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Brennan's, Central Grocery, and Acme are all perfectly fine for what they are. They are tourist traps in that they are in one of the most touristy neighborhoods in the US, but you can certainly get much, much, much worse food in the FQ than at any of these places.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Bob W

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Had an absolutely awful dinner @ Brennan's 18 months ago - DH wanted to do the evening meal instead of breakfast, which I recall as being warehoused in, seated, fed and warehoused out, a room at a time. Are things better?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Bob W

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  CDM is a rare topic. Yes, most times it IS a very "touristy" coffee/beignet stand, BUT it is a local treasure. So is/was Morning Call, which moved out to Metaire.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  We go back often, but do so at odd hours, to beat the tourist crowds. For me, the times are early, or very late at night.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  For decades, I have dined there (or at the old Morning Call, just down the block), but at "odd hours."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I go for the beignets, the coffee, the history, and the ambiance. Give me a fog, rolling in from the Mississippi River, the smell of the French Quarter (once, that was the brewing at the JAX Brewery), and again, history. Life could not be better.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Way, way back when, I would pick up my wife from her 3-11 shift at Ochsner Foundation Hospital, and drive down to the CDM. We'd park up front (one could do that then), and walk into the restaurant for an order of beignets and Cafe-au-Lait, around Midnight. The fog was nearly always there, as were the aromas of the JAX Brewery. Lovely evenings, and not too far from Paris, FR, at least in our humble opinions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Going way back, I ended up sharing a table (they were almost totally empty, but the exact table held some allure) with Tennessee Williams.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Obviously, CDM hold memories for me, that a recent tourist would never understand. Such is life.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Once upon a time I was in NO a couple of times a year. When someone did the DCM tourist trap thing with me, I was reminded of the time I went in the wee hours and there was the guy who'd been the waiter two nights before @ Antoine's when I'd had dinner w/ Fitzmorris (when the world didn't have his photo).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Crockett67

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Reading this, I can't help but feel that some cities are just more prone to "tourist traps" in a negative sense, as opposed to being restaurants that attract tourists.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  As an Ohio native - and with all due respect - I have a hard time thinking of Columbus being capable of having a true tourist trap given the nature of the city as not having a heavy tourist flow. On the other hand, I sometimes feel like 90% of restaurants in Jeruaslem either are tourist traps or primed to become one within a week. Just completely different flows of tourism traffic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: cresyd

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    While not a tourist town, they have all the makings of it. Tour buses stop there. Always a wait. There once was a time you could walk into Thurman's and sit down. Not anymore. Featured on both Food Network and Travel Channel. In every visit Columbus brochure.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I wouldn't be surprised if they sold apparel now.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Crockett67

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I get that - but I'm from Cincinnati originally. Graeter's and Skyline both sell apparel. They're both very popular on a tourist food radar. Oprah loves her Graeter's. But they're also hugely popular amongst "natives". Are they tourist traps or just food places the city is well known for?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Jerusalem on the other hand (a city I've lived in for 5+ years) has so many restaurants that feel like if Disney ran them the only difference would be an improvement in service. Meaning that they're already hugely tourist focused.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I understand that in a generic sense in trying to define "tourist trap" a basic definition can relate to a city like Paris and a city like Columbus. But I think the truest sense of the term "tourist trap" has to imply a city with a character for such a restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In cities like Aswan or Luxor Egypt (from my experience, pre-Arab Spring) - all the restaurants a tourist will visit will end up as "tourist traps" as no matter how far off the beaten track you go, unless you're traveling with a local. Otherwise, they have an Egyptian menu, a "Saudi" (aka from another Arabic country) menu, and a foreigner menu. Regardless of whether or not you speak Arabic and can read the Egyptian menu. Are those places tourist traps or just the reality of being a tourist in these cities as a tourist? Similarly - Columbus (or Cincinnati) has great food places worth visiting - does that make them "traps"? On the other hand if you're in Jerusalem and want a restaurant that is truly devoid of tourists, you risk ending up in a place with bad food and atrocious service.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Some cities (restaurants included) are tourist traps - and best to just roll with the food best suited to the traveler. Other cities have heavy tourist areas, but also have great off the beaten track options that aren't hard to find. Other cities simply aren't tourist areas, but also have their own food gems and travesties.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cresyd

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        heh - this all reminds me of a tightwad character in a book by Jonathan Ames who declares that the Times Square Zbarro is the BEST pizza to be found in all Manhattan.