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The Best Part of Travel...... FOOD
September 23, 2015
The best part about traveling to a new country, or even different regions of a country, is being able to try new foods. Unfortunately it's difficult for the typical traveler to find the most authentic restaurants in their new town because these places, even thought they sell the best food, may not have the budget to advertise like the big chains do. So what most tourists end up doing is just eating in restaurants that are no different than the restaurants they eat at back in their home country.
Negril, Jamaica is a perfect example of this. There are dozens of little restaurants, and cook shacks, in Negril that sell some of the most amazing Jamaican cuisine you will ever eat. I lived there for six months, and was at one of these little restaurants every day, and I almost never saw an American or Canadian eating there. I knew where they were eating though because I could see them spilling out of the chain restaurants, and standing two deep at the bar waiting for their food. Out of curiosity I went into one of these restaurants once in Negril. I'm sure you've seen them before, expensive, touristy, restaurants with names like “Gringo Bills”, or “Margaritaville”. On the menu were $14 chicken sandwiches, and $18 plates of meatloaf. And people were lined up out the door. Just a five minute walk away was my favorite restaurant in all of Negril; Buck's Restaurant. Here you could get a huge plate of authentic Jamaican food, more than enough for two people to split, for less than $4. The locals packed the place, yet the only tourists I ever saw there were the ones I introduced to the restaurant. “How in the world did you find this place” they would mutter, their mouths full of jerked chicken, or curried goat. My answer is always the same, “I sought it out”. I looked for a place, any place, that offered an authentic eating experience at a fair price. Buck's took me a week to find. I asked every local I met, every taxi driver, and every hotel worker, “Where do you go to eat when you go out?”. None of them said Gringo Bills. More than one of them mentioned Bucks though. Eventually, after twice trying to find it, I offered to buy my neighbor lunch if he would walk me there. I was hooked after that.
Another great way to find the best food a new town has to offer is to get out of the resorts and walk through town. Every resort town I've been to is the same; right on the beach are the expensive restaurants with bland food. Walk towards town though and things start to change. You'll see small stalls selling amazing food to the locals. In San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua you can buy dinner in any of the restaurants on the beach, spend $20 a person, and leave not very satisfied. Had you been a little adventurous though, and wandered outside of the tourist areas, you would have found such gems as Gaby's or La Lancha where locals pay around $8 for the most delicious lobster dinner you will ever eat. Again, tourists rarely eat there though because most of them won't get off of the beaten path.
Make your next vacation an authentic one. Get out and wander about town a little. While you're out look for where the locals are eating, or ask around. People love talking about their favorite restaurants and would be more than happy to share that info with you. Once you bite into a deliciously prepared meal, in an authentic, locally owned, restaurant you won't look at traveling the same way again.