So, with all the traveling I’ve been doing lately I’m constantly eating out, and it can be easy to fall into going to the same places over and over again. This is what I call the safe bet. You know what to expect whether it be appetizing or not. Another word for this is B-O-R-I-N-G! Now, I will be the first to admit that traveling for work and eating out alone can absolutely suck, and many times you simply end up picking up something to take back to your hotel room, leaving you with the stank smells of cooked onion and grease filling your room for the remainder of the evening. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you have to be stuck away from home and family, why not at least make dinner time a tad bit more exciting? How about trying some of the local favorites and some of the goodies that make each town or city unique? But how do you find these places? Well, I’m about to share three of my favorite techniques and put them to the test to prove a point and to determine which one is the best.
First, before I walk you through my top 3 sources for finding great places to eat, let me walk you through how I’m going to test them. As I started my journey to Columbus last week, I had my all too familiar craving for meatballs. Never mind that my craving started at 9 am, the important part of the story here is that I was traveling to an unfamiliar city with a craving for meatballs. So, I pieced together a plan as any rational-minded person would. I decided to eat nothing but meatballs for dinner over the course of the next week, on a search for the perfect Columbus meatball. Now at this point, I envision you reading that last sentence and saying out loud “God bless America” or screaming “Yes” while wiping a tear gently from your cheek. So, with my heart burning with a sense of adventure I decided to sacrifice my body in the name of science and the greater good of my blog readers everywhere.
So as not to confuse anyone, let’s start with an easy jump-off point. I went with the tried and trusted Google search. Based on where my travels take me this is many times the easiest and most convenient since you have better control over where the recommendations are geographical to you. To accomplish this, I started with a simple query of “meatball places near me”. What I like about this simple search is that Google will pull up a map along with 2-3 different options that include links, star ratings, distance, and even price range. The bad part is that you may not always get that “local” “unique” vibe that you are going for. In fact, when I tried this in Columbus one of the results was Spaghetti Factory. Not that there is anything wrong with Spaghetti Factory, but if I’m strictly searching for places different and unique, that’s not going to be one of them. With that being said, Google did come through for me and came back with Palle by Moretti. A meatball bar!!!!! I had struck gold on my first at-bat! Palle can only be described as an adventure in meatball. So many variations, specials, and combinations of traditional and far-out meatball masterpieces. Located not far from OSU campus and in the heart of a hip and trendy area, I wasn’t sure this spot could be beaten. But, for the sake of science, I had to keep an open mind – and stomach.
Another favorite of mine and a site that will absolutely show up somewhere in the google result listings you just search for will be TripAdvisor. Again, you will get the same name listings, review ratings, price ranges, etc. However, you will also see far more descriptive written reviews, along with links to menus. The range of locations also happens to be more broadly spread out. This can be both good and bad depending on your willingness to drive. However, If you are willing to drive a few extra miles, you may be in for a treat. In this instance, I found Marcellas – a spot with a 4.5 / 5-star rating with incredible written reviews and pictures that looked off-da heezie- fo sheezie. When I arrived, I told my server about my quest to serve my readers and without an ounce of hesitation he recommended the spaghetti with meatball. With the review s of fresh pasta still fresh in my mind, I threw my carb-free diet out the window and I went for it! All I can say is what a great decision! Perhaps just off the mark from Palle, but in normal circumstances a slam dunk!
And for the final test, which could perhaps be the ringer of the group – word of mouth / social media! This is actually a twofold approach that could probably be broken into two techniques. First, talk to people. If you’re traveling for work there is a good chance that the store, business, location, etc that you are visiting has people working there. Guess what? Those people probably eat once in a while. How about asking them “what’s good around here?” In today’s day and age of technology, I realize this is a novel approach – but come on really????? TALK TO PEOPLE!!!!!! If you can’t bring yourself to string a sentence together verbally how about at least asking online to your social groups!!!! It’s not quite the same, but if you have a few followers you can at least come up with SOMETHING!!! Best of all, since you have hopefully made a personal connection with the people in your social circles, you may know each other’s tastes better than the general internet at large. With a slight pinch of luck, this little bit of knowledge-no matter how small that might be will provide a breakthrough of gargantuan proportion leading you to the holy grail of all meatball nirvana. And, as the planets come into synchronicity with longitudinal lines, you may be lucky enough to stumble on a place such as I have……. Carfagnas! The place where you might wait in line for 45 minutes on a Weds night simply because it’s $1 wine night. The place where there is a menu item entitled the “meat combination plater”, or the place where you tried a meatball that made an Angel sing. Carfagnas – the meatball champion of Columbus. The Gran Pooba of all meatball establishments. The Great meat-bino……..
In summary my friends and readers, there is no silver bullet when it comes to finding that gem of dining travel. It may actually require using a combination of all three of these techniques. Keep an open mind, an open heart, and an open internet connection. Combined, you will find a soul filled with laughter and good flavors. Be open and willing to try new things. Turn the travel suck into travel adventure and share that with your friends and family. Peace.