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Question: My family and I are going to travel cross-country this summer, but while my wife doesn’t care if we get every meal at a fast-food joint, I’d rather look a little harder and try and find the best dining option in every town we pass through. What’s the best way to find a good restaurant when you’ve never been somewhere before? —Jake
Answer: Unfortunately, finding good food while traveling often risks misdirection and outright fibbing. The auto association’s travel guide is no good—you can be sure each one of those stars costs $5,000 a year. You could stop and ask for a recommendation, but who’s to say you won’t find someone with an off-the-chart tolerance for MSG, or somebody who’d order oysters in July? That leaves you foraging for food by instinct alone, which means there’s only one person who can help—today’s foremost expert on travel and dining, Rachael Ray. Her best advice, though, is the stuff you won’t see on TV.
—The best places in town are—wouldn’t you know it?—usually the busiest! A great way to beat the crowds is have your producer close down the restaurant before you get there.
—Most restaurants have a funky twist that makes them fun. Usually you’ll be seated in front of the restaurant’s logo and have your food served by three different waitresses and the owner of the restaurant.
—Did You Know? In Europe the VAT, or “value added tax,” means no tipping. Isn’t that cool?
—This Chagall is awesome. My friend Anne back in Saratoga does fabulous paintings, too.
—If you want to find a cool—but cheap!—place for lunch, ask some college kids. Students always know the best spots in town to eat, and I always keep a case of the Beast in my trailer!
—Looking for a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience that’s a local secret? Log onto the internet.
—When visiting New England, go to a Mexican restaurant; when in New Mexico, order clams. That’s what I’m talking about!
—All that kite flying left me famished! A great place to pick up some grub on the run is from craft services.
—College parties are chill—and usually have awesome snacks! Jello shots are a great way to combine food and fun—and they’re a blast to eat!
—Ever find yourself in a restaurant and EVERYTHING on the menu sounds so delicious that you can’t decide what to get? Check the script and see.
—Fun Fact! When you eat at the bar instead of a table, you don’t have to tip as much! How European!
—In a new town and looking for a thick and juicy steak? You can often find the best steaks—where else?—at local strip clubs! Plus, they usually have half-off deals for us ladies!
—All that wind surfing really worked up my appetite! Time to find some college students!
—If you’re traveling on a budget, wine tastings are a fun—and inexpensive!—way to enjoy an afternoon drink. If your appetite is still raring, check the local weeklies (they’re usually free!) to find out which watering holes have a 50-cent well that night.
—Heading out for a night on the town and not sure what to wear? Jean jacket.
—Whether you’re in Dallas or Dublin, the locals love it when you try their accent on for size! (Who knows, they may even charge you local prices!)
—So your grandfather opened this pub and it’s been passed through the generations and now you run it? Wow. I used to manage a Friday’s back in Saratoga.
—Don’t even think about finishing the famous agave margarita on-camera without applying extra, gin-blossom-obscuring makeup!
—Did You Know? Rachael’s nickname in high school was “Manta.”
—Because you aren’t charged for your room’s mini-bar until check-out time, anything you take counts toward tomorrow’s $40.