Eat Better, Pay Less: 5 Foodie Hacks For Travelers

When all else fails, there’s always DIY. (Mike Lintal photo.)

By Ariana Arghandewal

Half the fun of traveling is trying new restaurants and sampling local fare — but dining out constantly can take a big chunk out of your travel budget. However, you don’t have to sacrifice quality or skimp when it comes to trying new foods on your next trip. Here are five tips for eating well on a budget:

  1. Culinary schools. Some culinary schools have their own restaurants where students can hone their skills and patrons can enjoy  fine dining for less. The Culinary Institute of America has several restaurants around the country, including the Wine Spectator Greystone in Napa. Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu is another renowned culinary school that offers a gourmet dining experience for cheap. For every city inbetween, a quick Google search for culinary-school restaurants should turn up plenty of options. (If you’re looking for even more culinary-school restaurants around the globe, this photo essay from Fodor’s runs down their 10 favorites, including a school in Basque country, the Institut Paul Bocuse, and the International Culinary Center in New York City.)
  2. Food trucks. Food trucks are more than just greasy fast food on wheels. They’re award-winning mobile powerhouses, serving up hearty portions of comfort and gourmet food at prices that reflect the trucks’ low overhead. Cities like San Francisco and New York are renowned for their food-truck scenes. You can pick up a profanely named breakfast sandwich, a chicken tikka-masala burrito, or gourmet mac-and-cheese – all delicious and unique offerings, all for less than $10. It’s restaurant-quality food minus the restaurant. Simply take your culinary delights to a local park and enjoy a nice picnic. It’s much better than being in a dark, noisy restaurant at the mercy of a temperamental wait staff – isn’t it? (Editor’s note: See our previous posts on the food-truck scenes in Los Angeles and Portland.)
  3. Ethnic restaurants. Ethnic restaurants often deliver large portions of hearty food on a budget. Middle Eastern restaurants are especially ideal for carnivores with big appetites, while vegetarians can often find a variety of options at Indian restaurants. Ethnic restaurants are great for dining out with a large group; ask your server if you can order and share family-sized platters, which allow everyone to sample unique food without breaking the bank. (Editor’s note: See previous posts for the lowdown on great ethnic food, vegetarian and otherwise, in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.)

    Ethnic restaurants remain a great place to get a lot of delicious food relatively cheaply.
    Ethnic restaurants remain a great place to get a lot of delicious food relatively cheaply.
  4. Group buying sites. Sites like Groupon, Living Social, and Travelzoo offer discounts of up to 50 percent on restaurants worldwide– and these deals aren’t just restricted to low-end restaurants with bad reviews. With their huge databases of deals, these sites always have some top-notch Michelin-starred restaurants in the mix. Even if you end up being disappointed with your meal, you can find relief in the fact that you paid half the normal price for it. The Groupon mobile app makes it easy to find restaurant deals near you, making it easy to quickly research and purchase a voucher for your next meal.
  5. Restaurant.com. Similar to group-buying sites, Restaurant.com sells discounted dining certificates valid at participating restaurants. Gift certificates come in denominations of $15, $25, $50, $75, and $100 and can be purchased for roughly 40 percent of face value. Most participating restaurants are locally-owned proprietorships, giving you the added bonus of supporting a local business.

These are just a few ways you can eat well while traveling virtually anywhere, without having to worry about cost. Got tips of your own? Feel free to share them in the Comment section.

Ariana Arghandewal is the creator of http://www.pointchaser.com, a fun and informative look at travel deals across the internet and around the world.