Whenever my travel plans take me to one city for at least two days, I love to uncover interesting places to eat. While I used to rely on word-of-mouth endorsements for new places, I learned quickly that most people are used to what I call the “old reliables” – chain restaurants that everyone knows, are where everyone goes, are on the main drags, and are “safe bets.”
I find safe bets are boring. And when I’m out and have the opportunity to experience the flavor of a location, I want to go where no one goes. Forget the franchises! I want the local, independent restaurateurs who diverge from the beaten path.
My attraction for finding the gems in the local restaurant scene comes from my upbringing. My grandparents ran a café in my hometown for 30-plus years, so I have an affinity for family eateries. To add to that, my dad also raised me with the travel attitude of “I bet there’s a hole-in-the-wall restaurant down that way.”
My tastes haven’t gotten much more complex. But my method for finding great places to eat has definitely stepped up a notch.
Why I love it: It’s simple to create a free account, I can set up a reservation at a time that works for my schedule, and I can see a variety of restaurants in nearly all of the areas that I travel frequently. It shows a price range using $ - $$$$, and the restaurant posts a brief profile, so you can get a feel for the place. What I also like is that there’s a section for user feedback, so if anyone dined there recently and rated it, I can get an idea of what their own accolades or issues were. There’s even a “noise level” indicator – so if you need to find a bit of dining serenity, you can read the reviews and find out if the ambience is for you. Hands down, it’s one of my favorite websites for travel dining.
The issues I’ve had: The only problem I’ve had with OpenTable.com is modifying a reservation. On the rare occasions that I’ve had to drop a person off my reservation, it won’t allow me to select the same time that I had reserved. I would understand if I were adding people to a reservation that it would need to search for a new time, but in subtracting people – that’s a little mystifying.
All in all, OpenTable.com is a solo traveler’s best friend. Do check it out!