While Applebees, The Outback Steakhouse to the Cheesecake Factory (overated and overpriced, yeah I said it) may attract tourists and locals alike. That doesn't mean you should just eat at the chain restaurants if you're visiting the US (or on any holiday in any country if we're being honest). This post came about after yesterdays #lbloggers chat and all the recommendations for the aforementioned chain restaurants if you ever happen to be visiting the USA, to be despair of myself and Joe.
Even as a non tourist, in the two and half years of America being my home, I've barely eaten in chains (about twice in Applebees - nowt special, couple of times in I-Hop - urgh, Red Lobster - s'alright) and i'll openly admit to liking US fast food chains (Taco Bell, Culvers (great concrete mixes) Wendy to Steak n Shake (mmm milkshakes)) but the majority of the places we eat in are local, independent restaurants, take outs and cafes.
Why? Because that's were you'll find the variety, the local cuisine, the food that makes America run. Ya know what us locals eat. All those tasty looking foods in that photograph? Yeah all eaten and enjoyed in our local Detroit places (Slows, Grand Trunk Pub, Treat Dreams, Comet Burgers).
To visit the real America you need to experience the local places. You need to step into the Mexicantowns, the Polish bakeries, you should dine in mom n pop restaurants, the diners, eat on the streets from the food trucks or in the 1950's slider joints. They might not necessarily look as smart or as well polished but you'll be treated to huge portions, local cuisines and by heck, cheaper and better food because they specialize in their customers tastes, the local produce probably using recipes that go way back.
This is why I pour for hours through reviews on Trip Advisor, and add in my own. I want to know the best independent places whether it's for a date night down the road or a weekend away in Bay City or Pittsburgh. Local food varies between cities as it varies between states. But local always wins with us, every time.
For me food is all part of the travel experience. It's about filling the senses whether it's sightseeing or tasting the local grub. So the next time you plan that holiday to Orlando or New York, hunt out the independent restaurants, find the local places and you'll eat like a local - step outside your comfort zone. You'll find the real America not just the tourist one.
What about you? Local places or the chains?