Food

How to Find That Great Vacation Restaurant, and Other Burning Questions

Jenny Rosenstrach's food advice column

Welcome to the first ever Burning Questions, your advice column for all things food and cooking. Wow, you guys have no shortage of things that vex you! Today, I wanted to start with three from readers Emily, Hali and Jane…

Q. How do you find those perfect vacation restaurants? Yelp? Google? I like to do some planning prior to a trip so we eat great meals, but I find the research so overwhelming. — Emily

A. I hear you, Emily! I’ve had no choice but to nail the formula here, mostly because I suffer from Vacation Meal Anxiety, that thing where you feel like every bite of food consumed while traveling has to deliver the optimum experience, packed not just with flavor and hyper-localness, but memories and meaning and joy. The syndrome is not curable, but it’s common and manageable. Here’s how I treat it:

Step 1: If we are headed to a city or a popular food destination, the first thing I do is check out the comprehensive archives at Bon Appetit City Guides. I wrote and edited stories for BA for years so I know how rigorous they are about vetting restaurants. They curate a tight list, and are generally pretty democratic about price points and vibes. After a quick cross-reference with an Eater Heat Map, I hand over the short list of names to my 15-year-old daughter, who plugs them into instagram. It’s kind of incredible how fast you can get a sense of a restaurant’s vibe and food from the photos and their followers (i.e. probably a good sign if, say, @inagarten is liking a place left and right). We examine the restaurant’s feed, but pay more attention to its tags, which offer more candid moments from customers.

Step 2: Enter whatever makes the cut into Resy or OpenTable and pray to the summer vacation gods that at least one of them takes reservations. If they don’t, call ahead and get the download on eating at the bar (if you are sans kids) or the best hours to avoid a long wait. Remember: It’s the same menu at 5:00 p.m. as it is at 7:30!

Step 3: When in doubt, ask a local. Not just the people you meet at the playground or on the beach, but insiders embedded in the food culture of a town, i.e. the barista at the coffee shop or the guy in the food truck making your bulgogi. I never would’ve discovered the migas tacos at Austin’s Veracruz if I hadn’t asked the server at a different restaurant for his must-eat list. And that would’ve been tragic.

Q. Our Dutch oven is terrifyingly splattered and stained. Is this normal? How to clean? How to prevent? Why did this happen? — Hali

A. Never trust a cook with a clean Dutch oven! Your pot’s gunky grease sheen — I mean, its patina — are evidence of the best kinds of food: stews and soups and braises that infuse your home with warmth and love and aromas that instantly announce THIS IS A HAPPY PLACE to whatever lucky person walks through your door. The 40+-year-old oval Le Creuset I inherited from my mom is many things — well-loved, well-worn, well-functioning — but clean is not one of them. Don’t fight it, embrace it.

Q. Would love some summer recipes that won’t make my house 15 degrees hotter. We don’t have a grill either. — Jane

A. The most obvious answer here is, of course, to not turn on your oven. Weeknight sushi bowls are a godsend if you have access to a good fish market — rice is the only thing requiring heat; Caesar Salad with seven-minute eggs (instead of chicken) is the current MVP of our warm-weather rotation, as are cold sesame noodles, best made in the morning while the sun is still low and kind, then chilled all day and topped with cool cucumbers and cilantro; I swear that on a July night in New York, cold soups like Martha’s avocado-cucumber-yogurt number drop your body temperature by at least five degrees, and the whole thing can be made with one knife and a blender. In a few weeks, of course, all of the above suggestions will be irrelevant because the tomatoes will be singing, and these sandwiches will be the only recipe you’ll want or need.

Hope this helps! What other burning questions do you have?

P.S. Dinner party tips and three Trader Joe’s hacks.

(Photo illustration by Maud Passini.)

  1. Nan says...

    Vegan meals my kids will eat? Trying to go more plant based without making three or four different dinners….

  2. AG says...

    Jenny, I used your daughter’s tip from your Sicily road trip post on DALS while I was traveling in Molise, Italy last month. We pulled up google maps, searched nearby restaurants, then judged by the pictures! It served us very well! Many thanks!

  3. Alec says...

    I love this column!

    Okay – what’s your best, just-back-from-a-trip, everything-in-the-fridge-is-bad, too-late-for-a-grocery-trip, gotta-make-something-from-the-pantry meal?

  4. Chelsea K says...

    This is so so timely! Currently planing our European honeymoon & restaurant recommendations were high on my search list. Any additional recs for Krakow & Porto (our other stops London & Paris are well covered) would be greatly appreciated.

  5. Andrea Cline says...

    So glad to read Jenny’s writing!

  6. Claire says...

    It would be amazing if there was a post that asked the COJ community to post the best/their favorite restaurants in their city. The comments here are always incredible, and it would be so great to be able to have a list of spots to try when planning a trip wherever!

  7. I know there have been a couple of posts on CoJ about family meals, but I would love to see MORE! We always get into a rut with a repetition of easy weeknight meals the kids will eat. I need more inspiration! (Chicken Katsu, from your “Dinners we have loved to death” post has joined our regular rotation, but we’re not sick of it yet! :)

  8. Renee says...

    I like to ask the locals where to eat. While traveling solo in Jordan last year, I asked a local where to go. He recommended a low-key neighborhood place about 10 minutes from my hotel. I was the only non-local in the place and ended up eating there multiple times during my holiday (it was always packed). The food was delicious and a great value. The restaurant would likely never show up on a “best of” list, but it couldn’t be beat.

  9. kate says...

    I hope Jenny will answer every questions she posted in her initial plea for questions. I was nodding so vigorously on everyone my head nearly rolled off.

  10. Julia says...

    I was thinking about this column last night as I reheated some amazing mac and cheese and watched it turn to oil. I even added some more milk and cheese and then things got weird. I would love to know how in the world to reheat creamy cheesy dishes.

  11. I love Bon Appetit’s city guides and I’m always surprised that they’re not necessarily highly ranked on Google since they’re such a great resource!

    My favorite way to search for restaurants when I’m in a hurry is actually within Google Maps. I type in “best cozy restaurants” and select the *top rated* and *open now* filters, and usually am rewarded with some hidden gems. I also tend to avoid restaurants with thousands of reviews, as they are usually oversaturated.

  12. Melissa says...

    Our goal with vacation restaurant planning is to do a lot of advance research, but then go with the flow while we’re there. We do this by making and saving a Google map with all of the places (food and drink) we’ve researched. We try to at least find something near all of the other things we want to do and see so that when the mood strikes for food, we can consult the map to see what’s nearby. It prohibits a lot of the in the moment anxiety about choosing the perfect place but still allows for flexibility, which is critical on vacation!

  13. Maria Smit says...

    We had a few hot days here in Amsterdam and my go to ‘too hot to cook’ recipe is Panzanella! I make a very large bowl so we eat it two days in a row :). It’s even better the next day.

  14. Nicola says...

    In summer I like to do cold soba noodles with a lime-fish sauce-soy sauce dressing with lots of fresh herbs and crunchy veg (add hard-boiled egg or tofu for heft.)

    Jenny, thank you for reassurance about the patina on my Le Creuset. I mean, I clean them, but there’s a certain amount of cooked-on grease that just refuses to budge. I remind myself it’s because these pots and pans are workhorses and I use them all the time—it’s a sign of good home-cooked meals with my family! They’re like my own wrinkles and scars, marks of a life being lived!

  15. KK says...

    THANKS, ALL!!!!

  16. Angela says...

    Jenny, I just love love love your posts! You are relatable and approachable and full of great ideas! Thanks to Cup of Jo and Jenny!

  17. Ellen says...

    We don’t have AC. We’ve been leaning on the Instant Pot heavily the past couple of summers. (We even take it out to our porch & plug it in there.) We take our rice cooker out to the porch, too. It’s great to be able to cook without heating the house up.

  18. Lisa says...

    I have another topic you could cover – how to stock a pantry / freezer. Amelia Diamond did one based on her mom’s recommendations that is ace (and I actually used it when I moved home last year). Essentially different things you can have in your pantry / freezer to make tons of different meals.

  19. Lisa says...

    I was very sceptical about the tomato sandwich, but decided to give it a try as the local fancy deli has had this display of fancy tomatoes for the last few weeks and I was curious to try. I made with a fresh challah roll – amazing. I made a second one within a few minutes it was so tasty.

    Another no cook summer meal – gzazpacho. Just blend all the ingredients together and eat a few hours later / next day (the flavours need time to combine)

  20. Dee says...

    Ok, I just came from Tokyo and will now torture myself by going to the BA Tokyo guide. How did I not know this before my trip???

    The other thing I want to ask is, how do people manage touring/sighseeing and eating at the right places? Usually what happens to us is that we have a list of places to eat at, but completely miss them because by the time we are hungry, we are on the other side of town! We then end up eating at overpriced tourist traps :(

    • Jen says...

      My boyfriend saves a bunch of restaurants in Google Maps before we leave for a trip, so we have somewhere we’d like to eat in pretty much any neighborhood!

    • I love the app pinbox for mapping out places to eat and visit traveling. You can color code (I do red for restaurants, green for shops, purple for bars, brown for coffee shops, blue for sights to see and the one black dot for where we are staying so I can get my bearings) You can save notes and photos on each pin and can separate maps by trip or city. Highly recommend!

  21. Re restaurants: the one place I don’t look is online. Ask your AirBnB host or hotel concierge. Ask other locals (wine shops are good places). In France, look for menus on chalkboards that clearly change daily vs. laminated menus that have too many dishes and are translated into several languages–those are tourist traps and you won’t get great food. I wrote about this here: https://francetaste.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/restaurants-in-france/

  22. MozartsGirl says...

    The ‘vacation meals’ question is one that I take really seriously as eating out is a huge part of visiting new places for my husband and I. Jenny’s tips are great and I would add a few…if researching on Trip Advisor, I often choose a restaurant based on the BAD reviews! You get a sense of the person who has written them, and if they have very different views to me (for instance, they complain that the food is ‘too eclectic’ or the decor is ‘bare and minimalist’) then I know we’ll probably like it! If you’re winging it and coming straight off the street, then any restaurant (in an English-speaking country) that has glaring spelling mistakes on the menu posted outside is out for me. So easy to rectify with a bit of thought – how much care do they take over everything else? I also (if we have a choice) don’t usually go to places that have laminated printed menus…this usually indicates that the items don’t change very often…ditto over-long menus as that often means lots of bought-in or frozen items. Sometimes you just get a ‘feeling’ when you walk into somewhere that it isn’t going to be a great experience…I never overrule my instincts, always make an excuse and leave. This may sound a bit picky, but honestly these simple rules have stood me in very good stead over the years and rarely let me down!!

  23. Wow. People ask me for advice on finding food in Boston all the time and I talk my way the long way around this answer. Jenny just totally nailed the perfect formula, and put it simply to boot.

  24. Lucy White says...

    Vacation meal anxiety is horrible! We honeymooned in Barcelona last July and the dread of eating a bad meal was horrendous. Thank you for these tips! I also use Instagram to look up the places. Currently searching researching Bangkok – but street food stalls are a whole other ball game.

    Also, one of the best food items I ate in Spain? Yogurt covered rice cakes from the supermarket. You can probably get them everywhere (not NZ though!) but man, I went through multiple packs.

  25. Emma says...

    LOVE sushi bowls as a great oven and stove free summer dish! I like to use cauliflower rice because it just tastes and feels that much more fresh and light. If I’m feeling reaaaaaally lazy, and who isn’t when it’s 90+ outside, I use chilled, pre-cooked shrimp and steam-in-bag cauliflower rice.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that sounds so good!

  26. Ashley says...

    I 100% recommend asking a local! During a recent trip to Paris, my dad struck up a conversation with a local on the train ride from the airport into the city. (My dad is the kind of person who loves meeting new people, anywhere, anytime.) The man we were talking with recommended an amazing fondue and raclette restaurant. One night, we showed up right when it opened and were lucky enough that there had been a cancellation and we could get in. It was an AMAZING meal of French cheese. The kind of meal that makes your mouth water just thinking about it! Within half an hour of arriving the place was packed, and we were the only tourists. It was such a fun adventure!

    • Jeanne says...

      Yes! I always ask my taxi or uber-type driver. Those guys know what’s up.

  27. Lorena says...

    Hi Jenny!
    I love this new feature on Cup of Jo!
    My burning question is all about cast iron frying pans. I have read they are essential in the kitchen and I haven’t yet taken the plunge.
    How many should a home cook have?
    Is it okay to go with some of the cheaper alternatives or does price make a difference?
    How do you properly clean them?

    I guess those are three questions. Thanks for considering answering!

    • Meg says...

      We received a regular Lodge cast iron pan as a gift. For YEARS, we had no idea what to do with it. Finally, in the last several years, we’ve used it almost every night! (We have a small cast iron skillet that I may grab if I only need to toast nuts or something quick/small/light.) To clean it, we throw a cup or two of water into it after use, bring to a boil, gently scrape, swish and toss the water. That’s pretty much it. It is HEAVY but I’m so glad we’ve learned to use it and love it!!

    • After washing the skillet, take a little cooking oil and rub in it to keep it from rusting, that is what we do to ours. If you have a dutch oven that is cast iron, it can be done the same way. Happy cooking.

    • Laura says...

      When I had a gas stove (our new place has electric) I used my cast iron mainly for cooking meat, especially steak, or things that needed to be finished in the oven. I would recommend a Lodge- inexpensive, accessible and lots of sizes- but you’ll want to season it first by heating your oven up to 500 degrees, oiling the pan up (I use veg oil on a paper towel) and leaving it in the oven for a bit. I don’t think you need more than one, but you might also want a cast iron grill pan (if you don’t have an outdoor grill they are an excellent indoor option). We use salt and water to clean them. Do not use soap or scratchy aluminum sponge things

  28. Carly says...

    I used to love Mark Bittman’s The Minimalist column in the NYTimes and he published this list https://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/18/dining/18mini.html of 101 simple summer meals. I printed it out and kept in my kitchen the summer it came out and it’s still a great resource.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that list!!!!!! i forgot about that :)

  29. KATHLEEN Sanderson says...

    A year ago I was travelling to a conference in Orlando and wanted to get out of the Convention centre area to eat so I wrote a note to the Food editor at the local paper and asked for a recommendation..she generously replied and sent me a list…we landed on a Sunday evening and went to a pizza joint she recommended…we then asked our waiter what other places to try as we were there for a week…turns out a lot of chefs from other restaurants were eating there and they took care of us with all of their fabulous recommendations!

    • Tracey says...

      I’d love Orlando recommendations! Can you share any?

    • Tracey – as a former Orlando resident, I highly recommend 4 Rivers for barbecue, Black Bean Deli for casual Cuban food, Se7en Bites for a unique twist on Southern soul food as well as fun bakery items (it’s only open for lunch and breakfast though), and Hawker’s for amazing Asian street food small plates :) I’m actually headed back to Orlando for a visit this week and am planning on stopping by all of these spots!

  30. Capucine says...

    Jaw drop here over the steps to find a restaurant while traveling…so.much.work.

    Somewhere in the last fifteen years of annual trips with my kids to family in France, I surrendered all control into the hands of the universe and let magic do it all. Those days where we’re cursed at every turn, capped off with a dreadful restaurant, tell me I’m out of the flow and pushing too hard on everything, including perfect restaurant hunting. The bad restaurant is the red flag!

    That said, we’re there for weeks, at the whim of the tidal movements of relatives, with kids – if I had just a single week with adultish people to plan my own way, I might spend an enjoyable 2am research session overplanning the heck out of eating.

    But if I’ve learned anything, it’s to surrender and let the universe take over, and if I do that well, I’ll end up at that little cafe on a side road near Baux where all was so, so right in our world and our table.

    • Karin says...

      Totally agree. I’m type A at home and all about the perfect setting and vibe for eating out, but on vacation I just let go of it all. We’ll do a little Yelping for about 3 minutes, but just as often we find something on the spur of the moment walking around and looking in windows. Even if it’s not the best food ever, it’s usually a great memory!

  31. I didn’t know I had these questions but I did and I’m so glad they’re answered! I’m loving this series!

  32. Linda says...

    What can I make for a child’s birthday celebration at daycare or school that’s allergen-friendly AND will be enjoyed by the kids? Because I recently bought vegan coconut-carrot muffins to my 2-year-old’s classroom, and this cute little girl held hers up with a hilarious “WTH you call this a birthday cupcake?” look on her face. It brought back memories of my mom making raisin muffins for my 1st grade class and being mortified by the kids’ reactions, and I swore I wouldn’t do that to my children. Except that I totally did! Ah!

    • Andrea says...

      Skewered fruit.

    • Jess says...

      What about Rice Crispy treats?

    • Anna says...

      Popsicles!

    • Linda says...

      Thanks all!

    • Jennifer says...

      Jelly is allergen friendly! Make it yourself with fruit juice and gelatine or from a sugary box with no shame.

    • Caroline says...

      Also, at my kids’ preschool coconut is a no-go because of allergies. I find that rice krispy treats are good. You can dress them up in all sorts of festive ways, and make them vegan if that’s a concern.

    • Erica says...

      We recently made mini strawberry muffins and watermelon chunks for my son’s birthday celebration at his preschool and both were huge hits. (I used whole wheat flour in the muffins and no one seemed to notice. I also routinely use much less sugar than baking recipes call for, not because I’m anti-sugar – I fully support kids enjoying birthday cake and Halloween candy, etc.! – but just because I find many American recipes too sweet.)

  33. Mari says...

    Well, I’m a chef and anything that is not spotless, it’s not inside my kitchen. Le Creuset sells their own cleaning product for dutch ovens and it’s amazing. One minute cleaning and the pot is brand new. I have dutch ovens that I inherited from my grandmother and all of them are pure cream heaven. No major work required. Just the right tool (like all things kitchen).

    • Emily says...

      Agreed! This stuff is MAGIC. You can purchase directly from Le Creuset.

  34. Emma says...

    Hey! I love scrolling through the comments to see what the writers and editors are commenting back. Would it be possible for Jenny Rosenstrach to get a color like Joanna and Caroline? It would be extra awesome if people featured like in Week of Outfits, Home Tours, etc. could get a temporary color. I can’t be the only one who scrolls to see what they reply! No worries if this can’t be done!

    • Katherine says...

      I noticed this same thing! Kelsey’s recent post didn’t have a color attached to her name when she replied to comments, and I wondered why that was. I always read the comments on CoJ and appreciate the time and effort y’all take in responding.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, for sure! adding those for kelsey and jenny. they work 1-2 days/week, so we hadn’t thought to give them staff colors, but they really should have them! thank you for the feedback!! xoxoxo

  35. Ally says...

    I am in graduate school so I don’t often have time to cook every day (I usually make a batch meal on Sunday that I eat every night of the week), but I’m looking to change that a little next semester and try to cook a new fun recipe one night during the week. My question: any recommendations for the best cookbooks for a semi-experienced cook who can’t afford (or find) extremely exotic ingredients. Would also like something with a variety of cuisines for inspiration. Alternatively, would just love a general list of cookbooks that are worth the investment to own. Thanks!

    • Abby says...

      Hey Ally! I got really into cooking after purchasing this cookbook by Ina Garten. It’s full of her friends and family’s favorite recipes. Seriously, every recipe I’ve made from this book has been a hit and my friends rave about my cooking now lol. I try to tell them, it’s not me! It’s Ina!! The recipes are straightforward and I’ve converted many of them to be vegetarian and they remained fantastic. She also has has cookbook for make-ahead foods, which seems up your alley, ally! I will link both :) Happy cooking!

      – Abby

      https://barefootcontessa.com/cookbooks/barefoot-contessa-family-style
      https://barefootcontessa.com/cookbooks/make-it-ahead

    • Sheel says...

      1. Half Baked Harvest – the cookbook and Instagram feed are life changing
      2. The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook: Fresh and Foolproof Recipes for Your Electric Pressure Cooker – for the student who makes batch meals

    • Hillary says...

      Not that you asked me :) but I personally love Bon Appetit’s magazine/website. There’s definitely a variety of cuisines and practically everything I’ve made turned out delicious and flawless without taking a ridiculous amount of time. Occasionally there’s a somewhat difficult to find ingredient, but it’s usually possible to substitute/omit.

    • I absolutely ADORE Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark. Every recipe I’ve tried (and that’s a long list at this point) was delicious. Sometimes they seem fussy, but once in the kitchen, it turns out they’re really not. There are ideas from the world over in there, all with Melissa’s magic touch.

    • Julie says...

      I second the Melissa Clark book and honestly, I learned to cook from The America’s Test Kitchen cookbook in binder form. It. Has. EVERYTHING.

    • Linda says...

      When I was interviewing for grad schools, I stopped in a bookstore and happened to pick up “The Working Parents Cookbook” on sale. I wasn’t a parent but figured it would help a grad student, which it totally did. It’s straightforward and simple, no pics tho, but I’ve liked all the recipes I’ve tried. https://www.amazon.com/Working-Parents-Cookbook-Recipes-Family/dp/0811836851

    • Ally says...

      Thanks y’all! I’ll have to try these out!

  36. Kelsey says...

    These are such helpful tips! I love to host and cook and have people over but I am TERRIBLE at judging how much food to make. Usually I have way too much food left over because I’m worried there won’t be enough to feed everyone. Any tips?

  37. I agree with Jenny that we don’t need to obsess about a clean Dutch oven. That said, there is a fool-proof way I’ve found to get my enameled cast iron pans to *almost* new! It doesn’t cost much or take a lot of time, and it doesn’t damage the enamel. I do it once a year with every pot of that kind to maintain them.

    “Add about 1/2 inch of hydrogen peroxide to the pot. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of baking soda. Heat until it starts to bubble up. It needs the heat to start the reaction. Simmer for about ten minutes and brush with a scrub brush. Repeat as needed.” I use a worn wooden spoon and rub it around while it’s simmering. When the brown comes off as I scrape the wooden spoon on the edges, I know it’s done and ready to scrub.

    I found it here:https://food52.com/blog/11463-best-of-the-hotline-how-to-clean-an-enameled-cast-iron-pot

    • Vanessa says...

      Also boiling rhubarb can clean a pot nicely, that is if you have some growing in the back yard, as I do!

  38. Jen says...

    I just love your writing, Jenny R.! Thank you for this series.

  39. Laura says...

    A specific travel question: My husband and I are planning a road trip to the islands/ Western coast of Scotland. We did a similar trip in Ireland last year and loved it except for the food- which was overall very bland, mostly boiled or fried and lacked fresh veg. I’m worried that Scottish food won’t be any better. Any recommendations or tips?

    • Louisa says...

      Waterside Seafood in Kyle of Lochalsh! The only great restaurant I found on my trip last summer.

    • Becca says...

      If you like seafood, you’re in luck — the coasts/islands of Scotland have world-class seafood. We got married on the Isle of Skye and found tiny cafes serving veggie filled sandwiches and veggie soups, fresh cheeses from the sheep and cows we saw out our windows, and scallops, salmon, and oysters that had been caught/harvested that morning.

      I would recommend finding a home base for several days where you can find a local cafe you like, starting there each morning and touring the area before returning for dinner to your B&B — we found we liked trying everything on the menu at a few favorite places, instead of trying to find a huge range of places to try once. Also, when booking where you’re staying, ask them where they eat, noting that you’re excited to try local seafood, local veg, and local cheese and they’ll point you in the right direction!

    • Teresa says...

      Ubiquitous Chip in Glasgow lived up to the hype!
      Ice cream at Mary’s Milkbar!

    • Jen says...

      I can’t give any specific recommendations, but my sister goes to Mull etc. every year and has amazing seafood each time.

      Generally, avoid pubs (especially chain pubs). There might be exceptions, but pubs are generally stodge with a token salad. All mass produced.

      Don’t be afraid to look at a menu and walk out if it doesn’t suit, or you can ask to see a menu before you sit down if you can’t see one in the window/on the wall.

  40. Yeah, love that new column.
    1: Go where the locals go. Flee from any touristic spot, you’re more likely to eat poorly and pay a lot.

    2: yes, totally agree, I’ve stopped caring about what my Dutch oven looks like. If you wash it, it’s clean. It does not have to look new. Work for teapots too.

    3. thanks for the tips and the links. We’re experiencing a heat wave currently in France, and I can’t bear to cook anything.

    Looking forward to the rest of this new series.

  41. Mims says...

    go to hot day dinners: spring.summer rolls: rice paper with mint, basil, cilantro, shredded carrot, cabbage, jicama, green papaya, mushroom, tofu, green beans, lettuce, avocado, cucumber, red peppers. And dipping sauces: peanut butter or rice vinegar based. No two are alike.

    • Jeanne says...

      Another +1 for Bar Keepers which does a bang up job on my dutch ovens and anything with those type of stains.

  42. Sarah says...

    Yes to the Eater heatmap! This might be harder for international travel, but one thing I like to do for smaller towns or places for which BA City Guides don’t exist, is to look at local newspapers or publications for annual awards. I live in Boston and have tried about 3/4 of the BA City Guide places here, and love many but certainly not all of their recs … however, the “Best of Boston” awards just came out and (rightly) recognize many other places that are super great but haven’t made it to national/BA-level recognition. Another thing that really helps me is to just exhale and remember that I don’t need to pressure myself to have the best meal of my life, just enjoy where I am and who I’m with. We are planning a trip to Italy right now and I’m in the throes of perfectionistic planning paralysis :)

  43. Jill says...

    Ditto to the recommendation of cleaning dutch ovens with Barkeepers Friend (the gritty old fashioned kind not the creamy cleanser). It is also great for removing tea /coffee stains from mugs and dishwasher cloud from clear glasses and a zillion other things. It is my cleaning workhorse.

  44. kk says...

    When my husband and I are out for a night in a new city, we walk around and pick the first bar/pub based on the vibe/scene we see inside from the street. From there, we have a drink at the bar, then ask the bartender where we should go next. Then off we go. It’s so fun! And, it’s so nice to say, [bartender from previous bar] told us to come here. And, they smile, sometimes looked surprised, but they love it – a recommendation to your bar from a local bartender. Then, they are very thoughtful about where they send us next for a drink. And so on, and so on…

    • Meg says...

      Good idea! I’m going to try this on my next trip.

  45. Julie says...

    Jenny, I went to Rome with my husband in late April through early March, and I IMMEDIATELY went to your travel diary to get some tips on gelato and pizza. Our AirBnb host at all three spots (Venice/Florence/Rome) gave us their recommendations as well and every single one of them was a knockout.

    My Dutch oven is stained on the inside, greasy on the outside, and I like to think that all of those boeuf bourguignons and lamb stews over the years have infused it with flavor and character.

    And a favorite cooler dinner option for me in the summer is panzanella salad. Just a few minutes in the oven to make the croutons and the rest is cool crisp veggies, diced mozzarella, and a vinaigrette made with red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, and oregano.

  46. Alyssa says...

    Is the tip about the dutch oven for the inside or the outside? Because the outside of my older Le Creuset is funky but the inside is perfectly clean. I’m super anal about that.

  47. Jennifer says...

    Any Nashville food recs? I’m headed there next week for the first time!

    • Emily L says...

      Jo did a couple of trips there so search for them in the archives! Mas Tacos, for sure.

    • Elizabeth R says...

      Family or couple or single? Want any more tips? I have Nashville ideas for DAYS.

    • Jennifer says...

      Elizabeth R – yes! thank you :) I’ll be there with a friend for four days over the holiday weekend. We’re staying at an airbnb in east Nashville.

    • Foodie from San Francisco over here– was there in April and I thought Butcher and the Bee (went there for lunch); Rolf & Daughters; 5th and Taylor. All wonderful. Also stood in line for 40 minutes at Hattie B’s in Midtown for the fried chicken. WORTH IT.

    • Hanna says...

      -Rolf and Daughters is the best restaurant in this city, hands down. The same chef opened another restaurant called Folk, which is also great (but not as good as RAD!)
      -Urban Cowboy for drinks and people watching (dumb name, cool spot)
      -Mas tacos is the best cheap food in town. Cash or check only, worth the line. Get the pineapple cilantro agua fresca (free refills!). Everyone raves about the chicken tortilla soup, but I actually prefer the tacos.
      -High Garden – get a tea (or let’s face, it Kombucha, bc it’s summer in the South) and feel like you’re on a harry potter set. Also great people/celebrity watching :)
      -Germantown – this is the same neighborhood that RAD is in, and there are so many great restaurants here, plus new ones popping up all the time (City House & Henrietta Red are my two faves other than RAD). Bearded Iris is my favorite brewery in the city.
      -Jeni’s has the best ice cream…it may not be a Nashville-born institution, but it’s still worth waiting in line for!
      Alright, those are my top recc’s. There are are LOTS of other great places, but these are my top pics.

    • Nina says...

      Agree with the others. This is my list: City House, Rolf and Daughter, Henrietta Red, Dozen Bakery, Folk, Prince’s or Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, Mas Tacos, Marche, and for an old Nashville “meat and three” Arnold’s. Have fun!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes to rolf & daughters!

    • Kay says...

      I like the Pinewood Social for a drink. It’s a coffee shop/bar/bowling alley/working space. Very unique. Haven’t ever ordered food.

      Also, I’d HIGHLY suggest driving down to Chattanooga. It’s a beautiful two hour drive and some of the best meals I’ve ever had have been in that city. Main Street Meats, for example.

  48. Mckenzie Cunningham says...

    Bar Keeper’s Friend works wonders on dutch oven stains!

    • Meg says...

      I was just coming to sing Bar Keeper’s Friend praises. There ain’t nothin’ that stuff can’t shine-y up like new! It’s magical. And chemically. But magical nonetheless.

  49. Your tomato sandwich ‘recipe’ changed my life. The best thing I eat every summer. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!!

  50. My two cents: There is something to say about doing all this curating for restaurants when abroad. You find yourself in a place where there is a bigger tourist ratio and you realize everyone looks like you, dresses like you, etc…I find it sometimes to be a vibe killer :( The best meals and experiences I’ve had is when I ask a local where to go or what places they frequent. Or when we try to get lost and pick a place…of course this does come with a dose of fomo, but I think that’s inevitable when on vacation. I think a healthy dose of research with some improvisation is what works for us best.

    • Andrea says...

      Yes! Any restaurant experience abroad where people are ig’ing their food is a lost opportunity. All these recs drive people to the same places. Trust serendipity more. Get to a place and then look around for a place with a good vibe.

    • Lizzie says...

      Agreed! We had this experience recently in a place that shall not be named but is on every list published about Mexico City. I looked around and realized everyone was a hipster American and no locals were eating there – plus the food was not that great and it was so overpriced. Our dinner at the taco cart on the street that locals recommended was so much better!

  51. alle says...

    Yes to asking an insider: A few years ago I found a great casual place, when our chosen spot (Delancy in Seattle) turned out to be closed that day, by asking the kitchen staff there what they recommended (Revel) – and it was shockingly good!

    Also second Eater’s Best lists – so helpful!

  52. Adrienne says...

    “…the tomatoes will be singing…” What a lovely, summer-y phrase! :)

  53. Alison says...

    My dutch oven is cast iron—so it hides its secrets. ;)

  54. AK says...

    For the second question on cleaning dutch ovens, I have three words: Bar Keepers Friend. It’s a powder with an oxalic acid base which will literally make your dutch oven sparkle. It works almost instantaneously. Oxalic acid is found in many foods and is tons better than using any toxic sprays. Wet the pot, sprinkle BKF and scrub. I haven’t tried it on a pot with years of gunk but I used it on my Le Creuset when it was about 2 years old and it looks good as new. You’re welcome ;)

    • Anna says...

      I have read so many of these suggestions and have tried them all! (mostly recently, bar keepers friend, but also magic eraser, baking soda etc etc). They always promise to return my Le Crueset to new and nothing has ever come close to getting the stains out. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong!! Is there some kind of cleaning service for Dutch ovens, because I need help.

  55. Elizabeth says...

    Question and answer #1 is so helpful! The struggle is real. Thank you for doing this series.

  56. Katherine says...

    I read a tip years ago (pre smart phones) from Phyllis Richman about how to find a restaurant you will like without going on line. She said to ask the owner of a shop you liked what they recommended. Presumably if you liked their goods and the way they displayed them you might also share their taste in food.

  57. KK says...

    I didn’t see Denver listed in the Bon Appetit City Guides, and I’m heading there in mid-July. Any recommendations from anyone? I’ll also check out Eater…

    Also, Jenny, would love to know where you’ve had the best fried chicken sandwich?

    • Greta says...

      I used to live in Denver and could go on for pages, but some top highlights:
      Bar Dough for amazing pasta and pizza
      Linger or Root Down for a fun and interesting dinner
      Little Man for the best ice cream ever!
      Rosenberg’s for great bagels
      Pinche Tacos for tacos of course :)
      Denver Biscuit Company for everything!

      have fun!!!

    • Amanda says...

      Hello from this proud Denverite! I can’t say I am a super foodie when it comes to this city (I certainly don’t venture downtown very often) but here are a few of my favorites!

      Chook Charcoal Chicken – near the Louisiana-Pearl light rail stop so it’s fairly accessible even without a car! Delicious charcoal rotisserie chicken and amazing sides (the delicata squash is a MUST) in a bright and friendly fast-casual environment.
      Park Burger – a few locations throughout the metro area, and one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. Insider tip: they’ll give you a basket of half sweet potato-half parmesan truffle fries if you ask :) Also a great selection of local beers on tap.
      Root Down – in the LoHi neighborhood, great menu with a wide range that can easily cater to many food allergies and sensitivities. They also have a killer cocktail menu and a nice side patio.
      Good food halls with multiple food options are Milk Market (LoDo) and Avanti Food & Beverage (LoHi)
      Best ice cream is at Sweet Action or Hill Top Creamery
      For a good cup of coffee, go for Kaladi Coffee!
      I haven’t tried it yet but Super Mega Bien (in RiNo) is supposed to be awesome Latin American dim sum – yes you read that right!!
      Good breakfast spots are Snooze (multiple locations), Denver Biscuit Company, and Sassafras American Eatery.

      Let me know if you have any questions, and I hope you enjoy Denver, KK!

    • Christina says...

      KK – yes! So many. Hop Alley, Root Down or Linger, El Five, Safta, Comal. Fire on the Mountain (wings). Nocturne (live jazz club with the best chef in town). If you’re downtown, check out Milk Market (lots of little shops in one big block) or Larimer Square. Besides Larimer Square, stay away from 16th Street Mall (it’s terrible), and instead make your way to RiNo, LoHi, Highlands, Berkeley.

      If you can make your way out to Golden or Evergreen or Boulder rather than staying in the city the whole time, you will also be so happy. Idaho Springs’ Beau Jo’s pizza is the best of the Beau Jos locations because of the higher altitude and clean air. Hope you have a great trip!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Fried Chicken sandwich: Most recently, I’d say Leon’s Oyster Shop in Charleston. Not for the faint of heart! http://leonsoystershop.com

    • Abbe says...

      I’m also going to Denver in mid-July so thanks for asking this KK! Greta and Amanda, I’m noting all of these spots — can’t wait to try. :)

    • I live in Denver! I agree with the great recommendations on Eater, but here’s my local’s take too: Try Machete for tacos (El Taco de Mexico is famous but really just a counter); Machete has great tacos with crazy-good sauces AND a great bar. New Saigon is amazing for Vietnamese and so is Ba Le bakery on Federal, which is worth the trip for their Bahn Mi sandwiches on homemade baguettes. In terms of the “hot” restaurants, my favorites are Acorn, ChoLon, and Mercantile (the newly renovated Union Station is definitely worth checking out; all the restaurants in there are great, but Mercantile is the best IMO). Sushi probably not what you’re coming to Denver for, but Sushi Den has been around forever and is consistently ranked one of the top places in town. Their sister restaurant, Izakaya Den is amazing as well. The Wynkoop Brewery was started by our ex-mayor and governor who is now running for President, John Hickenlooper, and it’s a very popular locals’ place. Bistro Vendome has a beautiful garden and great French standards. Oh and, we have a really fun place called Ace Eat and Serve. It’s a ping-pong hall with surprisingly delicious Asian-influenced food. Have fun!

    • kate says...

      Annette is the best!

  58. Beth says...

    Question from Chicago. What constitutes a “good fish market”? I love the idea of weeknight sushi bowls but rarely buy fish and don’t know what to look for. Also, what makes fish sushi-grade? Any tips?

    • Sarah says...

      Someone else might be better able to answer the technical/ health components of this question, but I live in Chicago and my favorite “local” source is actually sold frozen (most seafood is frozen at some point anyway and the blast freezing kills a lot of parasites) through the Sitka Salmon Shares. You can get the CSA delivered to your home or buy it from the booth at the Bucktown Farmers market.

    • Jenny says...

      Hi Beth! I can’t help with all of your questions, but one thing I do look for when buying fish is that it’s sustainable. One easy way is to look for a blue Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label. It’s a non-profit that helps you find fish that won’t further deplete our overfished oceans. I LOVE seafood, but love the ocean more, so it’s where I start when purchasing seafood. More info here: https://www.msc.org/what-we-are-doing/our-approach/what-does-the-blue-msc-label-mean

    • Rachel says...

      Sometimes, the fish is advertised as sushi-grade. Other times, if you ask the guy behind the counter, he might be able to tell you more about the quality (like if the fish isn’t labeled as sushi-grade, but he’d still eat it raw because he knows how the supplier handles it, etc.). If my husband and I are dying for some sushi though, and nothing in the cold case is marked as sushi-grade, we occasionally have luck with the open-top coolers nearby. If a frozen slice of tuna DOESN’T tell you “Cook thoroughly before consuming,” it was likely flash frozen right after it was caught. Take that home, let it thaw in the fridge the next day, and then slice for sushi that evening. #lifehack

      All of this comes with the caveat of eating at your own risk, etc., BUT above all, never ever eat fish raw if it smells like fish. Fresh fish should have no odor.

    • katie says...

      I don’t know if it’s sushi-grade, but as far as grocery store fish, you can’t do better than Whole Foods. Their fish people really care about what they’re doing. One day, we were buying mussels and the guy picked through them to get us good ones (mussels he thought would open), put them over ice, etc. Another time, we wanted a pound of I can’t remember what was on sale. He took a great looking piece of fish, cut off the ends and oh my gosh, it was delicious.

      I’m in Chicago. We don’t like the meat/fish counter at the Whole Foods on Illinois/Faibanks. The one on Halsted is top notch.

      There used to be a great fish market on Fulton/Halsted, but I think it’s gone now.

    • Laura says...

      So the thing with raw fish is parasites- sushi or sashimi grade means that it’s the highest quality and freshest (safe from parasites) OR was previously frozen to kill any. Salmon is the one you have to worry about- tuna is unlikely to have parasites. You can look up local fish markets with good reviews, but Whole Foods and even sometimes Costco will sell fish that’s safe to eat raw. Or you can buy frozen fish and let it thaw.

    • Amanda says...

      Hi Beth! I’m in Chicago as well, and I agree with the above comment from Katie about Whole Foods. They do have sushi-grade salmon (and probably tuna) just speak to the people at the seafood counter! I live in Edgewater and the folks at the Whole Foods there are super helpful and it’s always well stocked.

    • Beth says...

      Thank you all! Man o man, do I love this comment section. Special shoutout to the hot tips for Chicago specifically. Can’t wait to master at-home poke.

  59. Charli says...

    Just popping in to say YES TO THE MIGAS TACO AT VERACRUZ

    It deserves all-caps, it’s that good.

    • Lindsey says...

      i second this and only commenting to say that theyre the best!

  60. celeste says...

    Thanks! What would a Dutch oven do that a slow cooker or stovetop soup kettle would not?

    • Katherine Coplen says...

      You can go from braising / crisping on stovetop straight to over! I love it — I make a hearty ribollita on the stove, then cover the top in torn bread + olive oil and crisp in the over for 5 min to create an instant mega soup crouton!

    • Wendy says...

      I don’t really know what a stovetop soup kettle is, but a Dutch oven is heavier and takes more heat than a slow cooker, so you can put it on the burner to sear and build flavor without steaming, and then go low and slow in the oven afterwards. A dutch oven is a workhorse for stews and pot roasts and stuff.

  61. Julie says...

    As far as travel eating goes, google let’s you make your own maps so we create maps for wherever we’re going. That way, if we’re in a part of the city and hungry, we can pull up our map and see what food we want to try that’s around. It makes it super easy because then you’re not ping ponging across the city for food and activities. Plus, if you’re plans change, you still have access to where food in that area is. Also…sometimes if everyone is just hangry, it’s best to just grab some food versus trecking to something that’s supposed to be amazing while everyone is crabby and moody.

    • KL says...

      solid tip!!!

    • Andrea says...

      Yes! My husband does this and is the best person to travel with. He plots out restaurants, bars, and coffee shops so that we can always stop somewhere good. He even did this for me when I was travelling without him – true love!

    • Suzie says...

      My husband and I do this too! We tend to just wander around new cities and stop when we’re hungry, so it’s perfect for our vacation ‘method.’ It’s especially great on return visits to the same city because you can just add a few new things you’ve found and call it a day rather than having to redo all your research.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Yes to this! Just made a “my map” for the first time last summer when we went to Rome. And plotted everything, not just food. It really made things easier.

  62. tam says...

    So for the dutch oven… Are we talking dirty on the outside? We just moved and I realized mine has a ton of blackened grease on the bottom. I put baking soda on and scrubbed some of it out, but it’s pretty stubborn. Wondering if I can feel less embarrassed about this based on the advice above… :) Thank you!

    • Try Easy-Off Oven Cleaner! It works for lightening stains on the inside too! Tip: Spray the pan and then put it in a plastic bag. Tie it up and let it sit for a little while. It’s the fumes that actually do the heavy lifting.

    • Erin says...

      I love Bon Ami! It’s shockingly effective and because it’s non-toxic, I have no qualms about using it on cookware. I always wash out the pot with regular dish soap after a scrub with Bon Ami (it can leave a little bit of a gritty residue if not totally rinsed). Also works Wonders on grimy stainless steel sinks.

    • Payal says...

      I use Bar Keeper’s Friend on my dutch oven and it works wonders.

    • Kelly says...

      softscrub!

    • lynn says...

      I definitely don’t agree with Jenny on this one. Scrub with a non-scratch scrubber and Bar Keepers Friend on the outside and inside. Wash it afterward with normal dish soap to get the grit off. My dutch oven is pretty much sparkling–even with tons of use.

  63. Lucy says...

    I have made that Martha Stewart soup many times, and I can attest that it is very, very delicious :)

  64. jules says...

    This is EXACTLY how I find restaurants: Bon Appetit and then Instagram. Another Instagram tip: find a public profile from someone in the city (or who has visited) the city you’re going to – make sure it’s someone whose vibe you’re into. Then see where they posted pictures from. Ive found great restaurants, coffee shops, bars, parks, etc this way!

  65. Hali says...

    About the chillest answer I could have hoped for! My house is a happy home! I put ice in my white wine and my dutch oven is gunky! It’s fine!

  66. Alexis says...

    Where to eat in Bismarck that isn’t super heavy / fatty food? Any hidden gems? The locals seemed dubious the last time I was there and asked about farmer’s markets. Are there any?

  67. katie says...

    Question #1 … I love food. I’m always thinking about my next meal. Most vacations are planned around food. I like to have some ideas of where to go while on vacation and maybe one or two reservations and the rest I leave to chance. Similar to Jenny, I:

    1. I research Eater Heatmaps. I compare that to what people I know have said as well as blogs I read. I now need to add Bon Appetit City Guides to my artillery.

    2. I ask locals once I arrive. And when I say locals, I don’t mean the concierge who will likely point you to overpriced tourists spots. I ask our cab/rideshare drivers. I ask shop owners. I ask bartenders or servers.

    3. I rarely use Yelp or Opentable unless I’m in a bind.

    My husband, friends and family have rarely had a bad experience while traveling with me. In my city, among friends who live here and coworkers or friends who travel here, I’m usually the go-to for food events. Did I mention I love food?

  68. ale norris says...

    i feel like such a loser for not knowing about the BA city guides. how did I let this happen???

  69. Lauren E. says...

    I love a good cold pasta salad in the summer, too. All it really requires is cooking the noodles on the stovetop, and then there are a million different ways to spice it up. Veggies, oil and vinegar, various cheeses, nuts, seeds, etc. And you can make a giant batch and leave it in the fridge.