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How Can I Find Great Meals on the Road?

Food is a huge part of why I travel, but dropping into a strange place and seeking out its best meals can be a crapshoot. Do you have any apps, tips or tricks to help a hungry traveler?

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I live in the Yukon, a remote, food-limited place, so I’m in the same boat: When I’m on the road, I crave memorable meals. To get the best advice for both of us, I contacted Jodi Ettenberg of the foodie travel blog Legal Nomads. She’s a food-obsessed blogger (and author of The Food Traveler’s Handbook) who’s been roaming—and eating—her way around the world for the last five years.

Jodi uses a mix of web research, word-of-mouth, and good old-fashioned boots on the ground to figure out where to chow down.“I tend to ask food-obsessed friends first, then look at sites like Chowhound or eGullet to see if there are posts about the places I want to visit,” she says. “In North America, I use Find Eat Drink as it is a people-powered recommendation engine from those in the hospitality business. A general blog search tends to turn up interesting options as well.”

But she also has a routine when she lands in a new spot. “My go-to whenever possible is markets,” she says. “I’ll start out at morning markets and figure out what dishes I want to focus on, then I’ll ask around from the people selling the ingredients or dishes as to where else they can be procured in town.”

Ettenberg emphasizes that technology alone can’t do the job. “The problem with apps and with books is that the places I love are often places with fast turnover. A stall might move locations, a family might start selling something else,” she says. “That said, for many restaurants in Europe and North America, apps can be fun ways to discover a place you’d otherwise miss.

Complicating things, Ettenberg has celiac disease, so she has to eat gluten-free. For GF travelers (and others with dietary restrictions) facing a language barrier overseas, she recommends buying translated cards explaining their needs. (The quality level can vary, so asking a friend who speaks the language to confirm their contents isn’t a bad idea.) Beyond carrying the cards, she also does some pre-trip research about the typical ingredients in a region’s signature dishes to get a general sense of what should be safe.

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