Rule #1. Always. Eat. Local.
With the exception of McD’s on the road for breakfast, and maybe a Taco Bell at lunch, we HATE eating at chain restaurants.
Oh, wait – that’s not true. We have one HUGE free pass card for Zaxby’s – because let me tell you, that IS the best chicken in the world.
So, except for that, we try to avoid chains at all cost. Even at home, it’s usually the last place we go.
The reason for this is simple. No one who owns a chain is all that passionate about the food. If they were, they’d have a unique spin. They wouldn’t just throw out a wad of cash for a cookie-cutter safe-bet eatery.
But even more than just that, we also have a tried and true method for finding really, really cool places.
The first step is google maps. Turn your location on (I leave mine off most of the time, drains the battery). Then simply search for restaurants.
If you were wanting a specific type of cuisine, you can be more specific. For example, when we are near a coast, we usually go for seafood.
Next, sort by rating. We try to stick to 3 star or above.
This is the part that takes a few minutes. You need to quickly scan the good reviews and see what’s so great about the place.
Likewise, you’ve got to read the less than stellar reviews and make a quick call on whether the person had an actual bad experience, or if they were probably just having a crappy day.
This really is the tricky part. We’ve found restaurants that were overall three stars, but the five star individual reviews were so outstanding, we completely ignored the jerks that gave them only one star.
We’ve also tried four star places that were basically all three and four stars, no extremes one way or the other that weren’t that great.
Rule #2. Don’t judge a place by the exterior.
The best breakfast burrito I’ve ever had in my life came from a little place in the back of a gas station north of Fresno, California. My head was all, “We don’t eat gas station food.” But the line up of guys waiting for their order before heading off to work for the day convinced us that we should probably give them a chance.
Same trip, before we flew back to O-H, we discovered a super authentic Mexican place that made us a little nervous when we first pulled up. The menu had no English. The man cooking spoke very little. We let him pick what we ordered, and it was INSANELY good. Yeah, there were a few flies buzzing around. Yeah, the table were a little sticky. But, this guy was stoked about cooking for us and everyone else who came in. His passion was clear.
You’ll notice that we tend to gravitate towards Mexican food. Not exclusively, but it’s definitely a thing.
Rule #3. Word of mouth is basically gospel.
If you keep hearing about a place. It’s probably as good as they say it is.
For instance, a new place Two Bandits Brewery opened up recently here in our town. We kept hearing that it was outrageously good, but we just hadn’t gotten up there yet.
Last Friday, we found ourselves with a kid-less evening and decided to head up town.
We were not disappointed. The food. The beer. The atmosphere. All excellent.
Seriously, best beer I’ve ever had.
So, what about you? How do you pick a restaurant when you are on the road?