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When You've Had Enough Of Local Cuisine...

Well, I didn't think it would happen, but in every place we stayed for more than 3 nights--Paris, Florence, Salerno--at some point we just had enough of local food & found ourselves craving...something else. Didn't much matter what, just NOT McDonald's.

In Paris, we found a neat Vietnamese place called Hanoi Restaurant in the Latin Quarter near our hotel. Figured we were in pretty good shape because the French used to occupy Vietnam, and heavily influenced their cuisine. Best crispy egg rolls I've had to date, and we have some pretty good Viet joints in Chicago in comparison.

We only stayed in Lucerne, Switzerland for two nights, so the pretzel roll sandwiches and fresh perch were just fine. Did not hit saturation point there.

In Florence, it seemed that every restaurant had these items on the menu: ribollita (Tuscan bread soup with greens), bisteca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak), and tagliatelle alla cinghiale (wild boar). We did shop at Mercato Centrale and picked up prosciutto, cheese, honey, rolls for our apartment, and that helped somewhat. But still there was a sameness about it all. So after seeing David at L'Accademia, on the way back to the apartment we found Turkuaz, a Turkish falafel storefront--it was delicious, really hit the spot.

Then finally, even though Salerno in southern Italy had cuisine more up my alley with more fish and lighter fare, we still had to call audibles twice, once to Mythos, a lively & informal Greek place that served smashing gyros & souvlaki, and then to Geisha, one of the weirder Japanese restaurants at which I've ever dined. The food was OK--good California roll and decent chicken teriyaki, but it was more a 'to be seen' Salerno nightlife hotspot for the younger crowd, that didn't start filling up until after 10:00, with European techno-chill music wafting through the modernistic décor.

I really enjoyed experiencing these non-indigenous places & wondered if anyone has done the same thing?

Posted by
40 posts

This sounds weird, but in Florence, one of my favorite places to eat is Eby's on Via dell'Oriuolo, 5. They serve... wait for it... burritos. I used to stay at the Sanctuary B&B every time I went to Florence, and Eby's is right down the street. I became seriously addicted to their burritos... so much so that one night after Sanctuary's 11:30 curfew had come and gone, I actually contemplated tying bed sheets together and scaling down the walls just to get one. YUM.

These burritos are truly something special. They make their own tortillas on their crepe maker, then you choose your filling from a case filled with different salads (Greek, vegetarian, chicken, beef, etc.). I always choose chicken, which is cooked beautifully with some greens and a delicious sauce.

Great street food... grab a burrito and wander. Also great to sit and eat and enjoy a sangria or a cold beer on a hot day. Definitely my favorite "non-local" cuisine... at least in Florence. :o)

Posted by
16883 posts

Trying not to judge, but I'm considering you a lightweight, Jay; I used to go about 30 days on national cuisine before switching to (often disappointing) Chinese food. (Best Chinese recently was at a small place on Via del Viminale, between Hotel Sonya and Roma Termini train station.) France and Italy have many more regional variations than Greece, and Paris is the melting pot of France, but a city like Florence does tend to focus on the local specialties. I think all of Europe is moving toward more international variety than you could find in the past. Eat what you want to eat!

Posted by
1350 posts

My husband worked in Siberia for six weeks. I met him in Rome on his return journey. He said "I don't care what you say, I'm going to McDonald's", and we did!

Posted by
1831 posts

'Lightweight'?! Geez, Laura, if you weren't working for Messr. Steves, I'd consider them fightin' words! :)

If I had to, I could go indefinitely in one place without going off the local food grid. But here's the deal, and it started in Paris. The first few days, I was trying to sample the best of the best. Steak frites, foie gras, croque monsieur, washed down with great Cotes du Rhone and café au lait--you get the picture. Oh, and add some Nutella crepes, and some of those magnificent 'Paris-Brest' desserts, and you can understand why I hit critical mass early on in the trip. It was not exactly what I'm dining on in Chicago at my home. I think Paris was the first example of human spontaneous combustion...

I am absolutely thrilled that Europe is moving towards more international variety. I was rapping with the owner of that Japanese restaurant in Salerno--a real character by the way--and he was telling me that a similar restaurant with his backing and 20,000 square footage is opening soon on the Via Veneto in Rome. I responded that he'll make a killing. I'm not alone in this yearning, you know.

Call me crazy to search for 'other' cuisine when I should be waxing poetic about the crepes in Paris or the Vera-approved pizza in Naples. But I wanted to know the owners' stories, and often would end up talking with them about this very subject. It fascinated me to find out about--much like here in the States--immigrants carving out their culinary niche without knowing in advance whether there would be a market for what they cook. And in most instances, they were a success.

So that's my story, Laura, and I'm sticking to it.

Posted by
5786 posts

One of my better meals after a short week in Paris was lunch at a Chinese restaurant on our last full day in Paris.

After a week of traditional Norwegian "frokost, lunsj og middag" in the mountains, we head for Oslo's Mamma Rosa's for a plate of pasta. Traditional Norwegian winter dinners seem to include a lot of boiled roots - carrots and potatoes. The alternative to Mamma Rosa's is Peppe's Pizza where the beer cost more than the pizza.

Posted by
1893 posts

"Eat what you want to eat!" ?

You people are crazy. There are rules. There's a right way and a wrong way to dine whether you're in your home stadium or at an away game, and rule violations should be punished both legally and by social/emotional ostracism.

Next you'll be coming out in favor of dressing how you want to dress, and doing the things you want to do.

Kids today, am I right?

Posted by
1831 posts

The ONLY ostracism I was dreading, avirose, was the thought of being lumped in with those 'ugly Americans'--and I saw plenty of 'em in Florence--that were there visiting their semester-abroad college students, and were craving peanut butter and Kraft Mac-and-Cheese (well, maybe not now...)

After a Sunday morning flea market visit in the Oltrarno, we ended up near Piazza della Signoria, and decided to have lunch at one of the surrounding touristy restaurants, because it was close. The fare was surprisingly quite good, but I spent a lot of the lunch observing a 60-ish group of six Americans dining a few tables over who were cackling at the waiter who had dialed up the clichéd Italian--I kept hearing the word 'bellissimo'. Argh. And then they left all the crusts on their pizza...

Posted by
5669 posts

I once had Tapas in Edinburgh. Doesn't look like the place exists anymore, but it was really good! Then, of course, in the UK you can always go out for a curry. I almost think that in the UK that counts as indigenous. : ) Had Turkish one time as well. I think that this is the place. They were a really nice change from what I had been eating for two weeks.

And then there was the time I had Scottish food in Paris....I am pretty sure it was the Auld Alliance. Of course, the Scots have been drifting about France for hundreds of years.

Pam

Posted by
16883 posts

I'm glad that Jay packed a lot into those three days in Paris and had some rewarding conversations with residents. I'm not against more variety, except that it make my decisions harder!

Posted by
484 posts

I think trip length matters and convenience issues. Budget, time, and children can matter as well. I don't mind going non-local every few days or so. I try to balance rich meals with more basic fare. I will even - HORRORS- go to a Mc Donald's. Funny, because I don't do McD.s at home. It can be a little fun to compare the fast food joints and grocery stores in new locales. With the whole world going global - differences are disappearing between cultures - for better or worse.

Posted by
12895 posts

I eat what I want in Europe more or less if health and money factors are not of immediate concern. You determine the rules yourself.
So, Jay, when I've had enough of local cuisine, then I turn to Chinese food, even though most of the time the Chinese food is admittedly tailored to German or French tastes. The difference is noticeable. There are restaurants that pride themselves on not doing exactly that in Germany, esp in Berlin for genuine Chinese tastes on Mandarin and Shanghai cuisine.

Posted by
2319 posts

I always make a point to eat the local cuisine when abroad, so far my favourite country for food has been Hungary, followed by Estonia. My rule, since I travel solo, is to have one good meal at a sit-down local restaurant every day, if I need anything else it's a snack from a street vendor or picnic-type foods from the grocery. There are times when I am overjoyed to find a McDonald's--cool on a hot day, bathrooms and free Wi-Fi, plus food that tastes the same no matter what country I'm in. Second favourite is Subway. Here at home I never eat McDonald's and only rarely Subway, so it's kind of a treat.

Posted by
1834 posts

I don't know what local food is. It seems to me that every country I've been in has a selection of international food if you want it. In my opinion if you don't want local food, don't go.

Posted by
8985 posts

The only place I've ever had KFC or a Krispy Kreme is overseas. When I travel I take Rick's advice and do what the locals do, so I do patronize the "Scottish Embassy" in my travels;)

Posted by
12040 posts

When I lived in Europe, there was little US food that I missed...with the exception of American-style Chinese food. Because Chinese food adjusted for German, Belgian, Swiss and Austrian tastes is, quite simply, awful.

Posted by
6642 posts

OK maybe I'm the exception, but I've visited a McDonald's in just about every foreign country I've been in, often just to see how different it is. And contrary to what many assume - I find they are usually full of - locals. I think it is a romanticized notion that all Europeans only eat at 4-star bistros and only artisan pate with family heirloom olives. The grocery store shelves there are full of convenience foods and jars of marinara sauce too. Like it or not, McD's, KFC, etc., amy have originated in the US, but they are part of the worldwide cuisine now.

Posted by
12895 posts

That Chinese restaurant "Good Friends" on Kantstraße in Berlin made sure the customers were offered a choice of authentic, genuine Chinese food or those dishes tailored to German tastes, ie, eingedeutscht, by color coding their menu pages, one set for the German taste dishes, the other for what bus loads of Mandarin speaking tourists would order. I've only tried Chinese food in Austria once, in Vienna, hardly evidence to make a judgment . It was all right, certainly not great, much rather prefer the Chinese in France and Germany.

On the McDonalds in Europe, at least in London the coffee is much better. I've heard of the same in Budapest.

Posted by
1831 posts

Fred, can you elaborate more on the authentic Chinese taste vs. the German-tuned version? I can't comprehend what spicing or taste differences there would be. We did not have Chinese anywhere in Europe, although as stated upthread we did enjoy some Vietnamese fare in Paris, and that was pretty spot-on with the authentic version.

Posted by
12895 posts

@ Emma...I agree with your view. The most authentic Chinese cuisine I've had in Europe when compared to SF and Calif. is that in London, certainly not in Germany or in Vienna or France. In Germany it's basically the same, tailored to German taste. I like the Germanized taste but it's not authentic. (and it's different from what you would get in London). You're correct in saying the taste one finds in London is primarily Cantonese, which were the places I went to in London, not as you say Szechuan or Mandarin.

In Berlin-Charlottenburg adjacent to Savignyplatz are restaurants of different cuisines, including Chinese, in particular that from Shanghai. If you want something different from that Cantonese taste, try Shanghai cuisine, a distinct difference.

@ Jay...hard to explain. You'll know it when you come across it. This one is prevalent in Germany: when the menu says "mushrooms with chicken" (Hühnefleish mit Pilze) as the entree, that's not what you get, very nice white meat chicken, yes, but not the black mushrooms. Not even close, it's something else. I would suggest that next time you'll in Berlin, try that "Good Friends" restaurant, on Kantstrasse, straight down from Bahnhof Zoo, ca 15 mins. Tell them you don't want the German-tuned version...nicht eingedeutscht. The waiters there all speak 3-4 languages, I've heard them.

Posted by
5786 posts

Fred's note ' "mushrooms with chicken" (Hühnefleish mit Pilze) as the entree, that's not what you get....' reminds of a group dinner in Helsinki at a Chinese restaurant. Wait staff spoke Finnish and Chinese (Cantonese or Mandarin?), menu in Finnish and English.

Our one friend who didn't share family style was a sort of vegetarian and ordered the "lentils" dish. He got a very nice plate of snow peas and mushrooms. Snow peas are technically legumes but our friend had a rant about the snow peas not being the legumes he had in mind.

We ate his snow peas, gave him one of our vegetable dishes.

PS. Incident occurred during Easter weekend where all the Helsinki restaurants were booked, leaving the Chinese option. Sort of the SCOUS Justice Kagan holiday dinner story.

Posted by
5786 posts

Fred's note ' "mushrooms with chicken" (Hühnefleish mit Pilze) as the entree, that's not what you get....' reminds me of a group dinner in Helsinki at a Chinese restaurant. Waitstaff spoke Finnish and Chinese (Cantonese or Mandarin?), menu in Finnish and English.

Our one friend who didn't share family style was a sort of vegetarian and ordered the "lentils" dish. He got a very nice plate of snow peas and mushrooms. Snow peas are technically legumes but our friend had a rant about the snow peas not being the legumes he had in mind.

We ate his snow peas, gave him one of our vegetable dishes.

PS. Incident occurred during Easter weekend where all the Helsinki restaurants were booked, leaving the Chinese option. Sort of the SCOUS Justice Kagan holiday dinner story.

Posted by
484 posts

I am glad most of you are not "villifying" Mc.Ds. I have a funny memory of McDs. I was in London for my first European trip. I kid you not - McDs was my first British experience. We arrived in early morning and dropped off our luggage - but could not get our room yet. So, we strolled London around 6 am or so. Almost no one on the streets - good time for photos. Well, it started raining - husband wanted breakfast and I needed a bathroom. McD.s was our only option. I laughed that this was my first English site to see.
BTW - German Riesling goes very well with Teriyaki. I wonder if German Chinese food includes sauerkraut or red cabbage. Perhaps, some rabbit.

Posted by
5669 posts

Anyone remember Wimpy's? When I was a student in Europe there were very few McDonalds--one was on the Champs-Elysees in Paris and I think that there was one in Munich. This was in the early 1970's. I was in Germany and my friends in London did go to Wimpy's for hamburgers. Wikipedia has a page and there is a great article here on the current status.

I have vowed to avoid anything Italian in British Pub after a wretched experience with Lasagna in Dunked one year. I was craving something familiar and let's just say, it wasn't. :)

Pam

Posted by
12895 posts

All the times I was in a German Chinese restaurant in various cities, I don't recall seeing any Americans, (otherwise I would have noticed that); the guests were almost exclusively German. The only except is "Good Friends" (listed above) on Kantstraße in Berlin. No red cabbage or sauerkraut, but you can find dill sprinkled over the Chinese food in Poland by the time you are served the dish.

Yes, I recall Wimpey's. I went to one in (West) Berlin the first time I was there in July 1971, a good place to get the hamburger fix.

Posted by
1831 posts

I peered in a McDonald's right across from the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, and witnessed kiosk-ordering from a touch screen. Probably should have ventured in to find out how the food was obtained, but it looked pretty cool. Also saw the same thing near our hotel in Lucerne.

If they have these newfangled deals in the States, that tells me I have to get out of the house more, because I do like McD's...

Posted by
1831 posts

Off-topic, the chip & pin MasterCard we had just gotten before the trip worked famously in Europe, no problem whatsoever.

Posted by
2534 posts

I travel to the Czech republic several times a year and find after a few days of heavy meat based dishes I just have to have a day of eating fruit salad and pizza.The Czech food is very good but it is very light on fresh veg.
as others have said in most places international cuisine is easily available though may differ from the style you are used to. I don't use fast food places at home so never use them when travelling apart from once.
Kuwait Airport , 7.00am 3rd January 2010 needed breakfast before a flight back to the UK and McD's was the only place open......................needs must.

Posted by
5033 posts

Two of the places we most enjoyed eating during our recent trip to London were non-local, in a sense. There's a good Polish restaurant "Daquise" in Chelsea, and an equally good Italian restaurant "Sapore d'Italia" on Queensway Road in Bayswater. I say "non-local in a sense" because London seems to be full of European immigrants, especially Poles and Italians. In fact, we noted that the most common language we heard on the streets was Polish, the second Italian, and the third --- English! But both restaurants were very good. We also ate at a South American steak house in Queensway, which was okay but not as good as the others. And yes, we ate at pubs several times, and enjoyed them as well. So spread yourself around; try what everyone else is trying.

Posted by
1345 posts

Emma and Pam, you have gotten my drooling for my childhood with the talk of Wimpy. I loved the 'bender in a bun', at the time when McDonald's was still a distant dream for most of us! And the Mr Wimpy mascot. Remember him?

I do like to try McDonald's in other countries to see if there is a difference in the menu, and sometimes on a journey a McD, a Quick, a BK is just what the doctor ordered.

One thing I find is for some European countries it is worth looking at where our colonial empires were. As Emma mentioned most Chinese food in the UK is Cantonese, ditto for Portugal, because of Hong Kong and Macau. France held SE Asia, NW Africa and Lebanon/Syria in the Middle East so is good for Vietnamese, Lebanese, Moroccan etc. The Netherlands had Indonesia. I never had knowingly had Szechuan food before visiting China, virtually all our restaurants are Cantonese to the extent the guide joked about it.

In addition to Cantonese, because of the Raj, we have a lot of Indian (a melange of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, mainly Bengali (West Bengal in India and Bangladesh) or Punjabi. To the extent that chicken tikka masala is battling fish and chips to be the UK's national dish. Glasgow claims to be the originator of chicken tikka masala!

Posted by
12895 posts

What I've seen in London Chinatown is that the cuisine is Cantonese, unless I missed a place totally different, such as a Szechuan or a Mandarin place. First, one would know just by the aroma of the food, which you could pick up as you're passing by, whether the restaurant is offering Szechuan or Cantonese.

Posted by
11450 posts

Jay.. like others I would be hard pressed to find myself bored of local cusine after on a few days.. maybe a few weeks at least.. since one can not have possibly given local foods enough fair trial in only 2 or 3 days..

The absolute worst "foreign" food I have had in Europe was Chinese ( they called it Szechuan.. but it was not ) in Paris.. it was BLAND,.. Szechuan is not bland food.

And I don't think hitting a "Scottish Restaurant" ( mickeys!) is the worst thing one can do on a longer trip.. would hate to think someone went to Europe for only a week and ate there three times.. but for a longer stay .. why not a quick pop in I say. My 13 yr old son wanted protein for breakfast in Paris.. where the usual easy fare is bread/buns and hot drink for breakfast.. so off we would go to McDonalds for Egg McMuffins.. he could have 2 and a hot chocolate for less then 5 euros.. nothing wrong with that at all.

Posted by
1831 posts

I know, Pat, and of course now that I'm home I can hardly believe I felt like that! Maybe it's just that I was eating a lot of rich foods and desserts in Europe and at home I don't necessarily eat like that. So...do I have to 'train' for my next trip by going that route? :)

Seriously, the responses have been great here, and with so many European cities having international cuisine, I think it will provide a service for those traveling going forward.

Posted by
12895 posts

I'm willing to bet that the Szechuan cuisine you've had in Victoria was way more authentic than what was served in Paris claiming to be Szechuan. But I have as yet to be in Victoria....on the bucket list.

Posted by
80 posts

Local food is what you make of it. Isn't the "rice table" meal in Amsterdam considered to be a local tradition, even though it was based on Indonesian food? Having said that, when I went to Athens for my study abroad in the 90s there was a Kenny Rogers' Roasters on Syntagma Square. I had never seen one in my life, but there it was next to the McDonalds. I did hit McDonalds a few times over my year in Athens, especially when I was feeling homesick (big coke with ice and a straw and fries that tasted like home) but I never even went into Kenny's!

By the way, they make fantastic pizza in Athens!

Posted by
233 posts

While researching traveling by ferry from Dublin, I learned that there is a KFC in Holyhead, that for some strange reason has made it onto my "must do" list.

Posted by
565 posts

Most of my friends thought I was nuts when I told them I only had sushi once in Japan. Japanese food is much, much, more than just sushi. Tempura, ramen, katsu, and yakitori all deserved to be eaten repeatedly because they were more exotic to me. It would also be a huge disservice to the city of Tokyo to never try one of their fast food chains. The Japanese have absolutely mastered fast food and have even tailored items at McDonalds to meet their tastes. I would venture to say fast food has become part of their national specialties, much like curries in the UK or doner in Germany.

Posted by
430 posts

We love eating the local cuisine of the country we're in, but sometimes you need a change.... just like at home. We had great Japanese and Greek meals in Vienna. We love exploring the various non-indigenous restaurants when we travel as you get different variations where-ever you are. Different regions within a country seem to emigrate to different parts of the world, so you get different variations on "indian" or "greek" cuisine. It's great fun to explore.

Posted by
37 posts

In Toledo, we had a McDonald's ice cream cone. Tasted really good, when you just want some soft serve, nothing fancy. It was considerably cheaper also.

Posted by
4473 posts

Local Food: We took a cooking class in Rome and found out their real definition of "local food" - fresh ingredients in season and local to their small region. Umm, remembering that wonderful meal! Our chef laughed at everyone's meal as he asked what we ate the night before: "frozen wild boar", "not local", "not in season", "only made for tourists because they expect it in Italy", etc.

My husband & I have a tradition of having pizza the first night we arrive any place, and I had the worst fish & chips in an Irish Pub in Paris once. Otherwise, we try to eat the regional specialties for dinner....unless our nose points us elsewhere.

Posted by
56 posts

Once in Hungary we were in the mood for Chinese food. The eclectic menu had "szechuan goulash"...and for dessert you could buy a variety of cigarettes listed on the menu...15 years later we still laugh about that dinner.

Posted by
103 posts

My favorite local cuisine story was while staying at an inexpensive hotel in Amsterdam a number of years ago. When we asked one of the owners to recommend a place serving traditional Dutch cuisine for dinner (not kroketten on a bun, pannenkoeken, or rijsttafel) he had a hard time thinking of anyplace. We finally did end up at a neighborhood cafe where most everyone was speaking Dutch and the food was very good. Our best non-Dutch meal there was at an Argentine steak house.