Explore Local Restaurants And Eat Like A Tourist In Your Home Town


Eating in local restaurants in your own home town is a great way to get the taste of travel without a long flight. Trying a great new local pizza joint can feel like a trip to Italy. And there are plenty of wonderful neighborhood restaurants in towns big and small that can’t wait to help you eat like a tourist in your own town. Or you can even become your own local restaurant for a night!

Maybe the word tourist turns you off. You think long lines, so-so food, and screaming kids. Guess what? We’re not a fan of those things either. With a little planning and research, you can find exciting new bits and the flavors of the world close to home in no time.

Lotus Root Eat Like A Tourist In Your Home Town
Lotus Root

Try New Local Restaurants

Stop looking enviously at all the food porn out there and try some new neighborhood restaurants. Even if you live in a small town, there are probably some local restaurants you haven’t yet tried.  Maybe there’s a spot you’ve driven by a zillion times and haven’t stopped in. Never had Peruvian food? There’s no time like the present. Get in there and try it. You may be pleasantly surprised. Even if you just go to the same place you often go, order something different next time. You might find a new favorite!


Homemade tapas
Homemade tapas

Neighborhood Restaurant For A Night

Bring the food culture of a favorite destination home by creating one of your own ethnic local restaurants for a night. Try a new recipe or use new ingredients to give an old favorite a new twist. Afraid of branching out by yourself? Invite a few friends over and have a collaborative dinner party. Assign a course or ingredient to each of your invited guests. Together you can whip up something delicious. You can even create some special cocktails or add some wine, beer, or spirits from the region. Add a little music to enhance the mood and you’re all set.


Try One Of These Ideas

Here are just a few ideas. Create a tapas restaurant for the evening. It’s very easy and incredibly fun. Make a few simple tapas dishes or have each friend bring one for pot luck. You can buy Jamon Iberico and slice some Manchego cheese for an easy show stopper. Mix up some sangria and you’ll beat the competition of neighborhood restaurants for a fun and cost-effective evening of Spanish flavors.

If you don’t feel like cooking, you can easily order local pizza from a few different neighborhood restaurants. Be sure to get different types like thin crust, deep dish, hand-tossed, and Neopolitan so you can compare and contrast. Mix up the ingredients too so you’ll be able to try a variety of flavors and tastes. You can even add a  ballot and have everyone vote for their favorite.


Best Croque Monsieur Eat Like A tourist in your Town.
Best Croque Monsieur in Town.


Crawl Your Neighborhood Restaurants

Is your town know for some special drink or food? Plan an evening or day exploring the different versions of your favorite. If you can get a few folks to join you, make a list of everyone’s favorite local restaurants and order items you can share so you don’t have to worry about getting full too early. If you’re doing your own burger crawl and split the burgers in quarters just think how many little gems you’ll be able to try. Or do a local pizza crawl and try different styles and types of pizzas. For example, Chicago Pizza Tours are a fabulous way to taste local pizza from various neighborhood restaurants, great for visitors and locals alike!

Make it a game and rate the places you try. Being a food critic for a day will make it that much more fun. If you’re tasting cocktails make sure you have a designated driver or cab plans at the end of your journey. Don’t know where to begin? Many cities have food or beverage tours already going strong. We’ve enjoyed a lot of food or beverage tours like Rhode Island RED Food Tours in Providence, Rhode Island, Indulge Boise in Boise, Idaho, and the Brew Bus in St. Petersburg, Florida. Google for the tours available in your town and find one that sounds interesting to you.


Outdoor Music Festival
Outdoor Music Festival

Be A Tour Guide To Local Restaurants

Got a spare room or empty couch? Invite a friend to visit.  You can rediscover great neighborhood restaurants in your town by showing someone else around. It’s a great excuse to try local restaurants you’ve never tried or to get something new at one of your favorites. You can show off all the highlights of your town when you look at it through the eyes of a visitor. Not only can you find new treats to eat but also new places to go and things to do. Sometimes it takes us getting out of our routine in our own town to look at it with fresh eyes.

Take some time to check the calendar for events and festivals. Local restaurants, clubs, and attractions often post what’s coming up on a city page like Choose Chicago or Destination Madison. Other general sites like Eventbrite and even Facebook Events will give you some great ideas on what’s happening when. If there’s a festival or special event in town that’s a great reason to invite someone to share the fun and really make the most of their visit.


Plan To Eat Like A Tourist

Give yourself a goal. If you try just one new neighborhood restaurant every month it will be like taking 12 mini-vacations. You can plan your budget and decide whether you really want to splurge or if you just want to try something new, exotic, or tasty.  Some towns have the best food coming from food trucks, stands, food carts, and little holes-in-the-wall.

Wall Eye At the Statehouse

Try takeout from that amazing Cuban stand that everyone’s talking about. Try the latest food truck that always has a line in front of it. Visit one of the local restaurants in the ethnic neighborhood you pass through while you’re on your way to somewhere else. Have fun! Talk with the servers, ask for their recommendation or what is popular with their customers. Make it special by ordering something you’ve never tried and explore new flavors.

What’s Happening In Your Neighborhood Restaurants?

Some of the best resources available to help you discover the many tasty options in your town are your friends and neighbors. They may know about the best Vietnamese restaurant, tastiest Chinese takeout, or new Laotian spot that’s really a hidden gem. Spend some time asking those around you for some ideas about their local restaurants.

Even if you don’t know too many people in your neighborhood, it’s an easy conversation to start and just about everyone loves to chat about food! Maybe you’ll even find a new dining companion. You can each pick a place that you enjoy and share a meal there together then give your opinions. Then you’ll be able to share those ideas with others. The important thing is to take the time to get out there and give something new a try. It will give you lots of ideas for friends and family when they come to visit from out of town too.


Try Local Restaurants At Neighboring Towns Too

When we lived in Chicago so we were really spoiled. It’s a huge city with whole neighborhoods of authentic ethnic cuisines. Tastes from Chinatown, Greektown and Little India around Devon Avenue just to name a few. If you live in a large city you may also find an incredible number of choices for local restaurants offering the taste of travel once you start looking around.


Gino's East Chicago style Deep Dish Pizza Jon Porter The Pizza Man
Gino’s East Chicago style Deep Dish Pizza


But even if you live in a smaller town, you’ll likely be able to find authentic cuisine carefully prepared by those who know it best. We’re now in Madison, Wisconsin, a town with about 250,000, which is much less than the millions in Chicago. But that doesn’t limit the many options for delicious flavors of the world to experience when we want to eat like a tourist in our own town.

There are Nepalese-Himalayan, Laotian, Greek, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Mexican, Venezuelan, Korean, Japanese, Ethiopian, Jamaican, German, Indian, Middle Eastern, Indonesian and many more ethnic local restaurants, trucks, and carts in Madison.

Mr. Kimchi Madison WI
Mr. Kimchi Madison WI

If you live in an even smaller town, whether you have a lot of choices of neighborhood restaurants or not, you can always scoot over to visit neighboring towns. Chances are within a pretty small radius, you’ll open up your options for tastes of the world only a few miles down the road. Even though Madison offers us a wonderful array of options, we sometimes pop over to surrounding towns of Verona, Middleton, Fitchburg, Waunakee, Sun Prairie, or Stoughton. For example, Stoughton is a town with a strong Norwegian heritage. We can enjoy the distinct flavors of Norway and get some delicious Norwegian specialties from the Fosdal Home Bakery.  And we’d never want to miss the German flavors and Dachshund Dash in nearby Waunakee at Wauktoberfest each year.

Let Your Imagination Soar

So as you can see, it’s pretty easy to explore local restaurants and eat like a tourist in your own town. With a little creativity and planning, you can taste the flavors of the world in your neighborhood or branch out to neighborhood restaurants nearby.  From new local pizza to exotic Ethiopian, you’ll be amazed how fun and easy it is to discover a world of tasty treats and maybe even some new favorites.


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18 thoughts on “Explore Local Restaurants And Eat Like A Tourist In Your Home Town

  1. I love it! How often do you just get into a groove in your home town and just eat at the same places all the time. This is a great way to really experience your home town in a different way.

    1. Thanks! It was delicious. Just a little cafe in Paris not one of the usual stops just a bit off the beaten path. Don’t even know if we could find it again.

  2. Great idea to plan even once a month to try a new restaurant. People from around the world call Calgary home, and I think we’re pretty open to new tastes, so we are spoiled for choice. I just needed a reminder to get out of our rut and do it!

    1. You’re right Shelley! If we put it on the schedule we’ll do it otherwise we just get caught up in the day to day chores and routine. I haven’t been to Calgary but I’ll hit you up for some recos when we do! Thanks for stopping by.

  3. That’s a great idea when it’s a dreary day and nothing sounds appealing. We are surrounded by ethnic restaurants in Salt Lake City and have tried some interesting mom and pop places that were fun to try. We will take your suggestion and try some more new ones.

  4. This is really a great idea. I’m a strict vegetarian, but I bet there are many restaurants with good veggie dishes that I haven’t found yet and this would be a fun way to 🙂

  5. I’ve been meaning to do a food tour in Philly. We are so guilty of eating at the same old, same old restaurants time after time. It’s partly because most of our eating out planning goes something like, “What’s for dinner?” “Um, I forgot to defrost the chicken. Let’s go out.” “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know.” We tend not to plan ahead to make eating out the evening’s event. We are even guilty of not planning when traveling. I definitely need to remedy this. If I can figure out what museums to visit, I can find interesting places to eat. Thanks for the push.

  6. Great post. We talk about this a lot ourselves, even have a post called GypsyNesting in your own back yard. There are so many great things to see and do everywhere, and so often we miss the ones right under our noses.

    1. A cocktail tour of San Francisco that sounds like so much fun! Thanks for stopping by Carole!

  7. Great new take on the eat like a local posts- which I’m guilty of. I eat like a tourist all the time as I blog about my hometown and have to be up on the tourist experience as well as the restaurants that locals frequent more.

    1. I haven’t been to Santa Fe and will definitely reach out to you when we do! Thanks!

  8. You are so right. Even though my little city of 12,000 has few alternatives, an hour away are several excellent restaurants I have never tried!!

    1. You’re so right Marilyn! Sometimes a quick trip is all we need to reset and rejuvinate ourselves.

  9. I like playing tourist in my home town – visiting attractions and trying out restaurants. This summer I took a food tour that was fun. My sister-in-law and a group of friends used to go out once a month to a new restaurant. For those who prefer to stay home, organizing themed dinners can be fun. I belong to a dinner group. There are 11 of us and we take turns hosting the dinner. The host selects the theme and supplies the main course. Others sign up to bring appetizers, soup, salad, and dessert consistent with the theme. We had several wonderful ethnic meals.

    1. Donna, I love the idea of themes dinners at home too. We’ve had ingredient dinners where everyone brings an ingredient and we all cook together. But having the host make the main dish and the guests bring the sides works nicely too. Thanks for stopping by.

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