Asking someone for dining advice seems like an easy way to be in the know about the best places to eat are, but in practice it’s a bit tricky. When giving advice, locals tend to tell you to eat where they think a TOURIST would enjoy eating.
Like that tacky cafe right in the main square. Or that old fashioned place that supposedly serves typical food but really is only frequented by tour bus crowds. Locals may have the best intention when giving you their advice, thinking you would not be interested in their neighborhood restaurant with a very casual vibe, packed every night and with great food and cozy atmosphere. Yes! This is exactly what we are interested in!
Fear not! we have perfected a 3-step approach to getting someone to tell you all about their favorite spots. To illustrate let’s reminisce over my first time in Nice, France. I was there for a work conference with Vito joining me for the weekend. I knew that we’ll be packing in lots of sightseeing and after a full day of walking around you don’t want to take chances on not finding the perfect place to cozy up for dinner. Nice however, is full of restaurants, so how do you pick the right place?
I did not have much time during the conference to understand the lay of the land, so I marched over to the concierge, a charming man in his fifties, and asked him for a restaurant recommendation. I explained that I’ll be taking some clients out for dinner and if he can recommend: “Something nice, butnot too fancy.” He wrote the name of the place down for me without missing a beat. This was probably a pick from his list of restaurants to recommend to hotel patrons. I then asked him for a second recommendation. This time I leaned in and told him that my guy was coming for the weekend and I wanted to go where you eat really well and not pay a lot. The Concierge looked up puzzled, I could see he understood that I did not want a restaurant from the “list,” I was looking for something really special. “What is your favorite place to eat?” I added to really drive the point home.
I’m not sure if it just seemed that way, but he gave a quick glance around the room as if making sure no one was watching him break a rule. He then looked at me and said in a lowered voice: “Well, here is a place you should try. It’s a bit out of the way, but the food is great.” He wrote it down for me, then added: “I go here with my girlfriend.” The way he said it sounded like he was either asking me not to tell anyone about this restaurant, or not to tell his wife about his girlfriend. (Though before I go spreading vicious rumors about the nice concierge, just for the record, I did glance at his hands and there was definitely no wedding band so probably he was not married after all.)
• • •
So here is the 3-part approach to getting a local to give you the best recommendation:
1 – Bait and Switch
Ask them a question, let them answer you then give them a different scenario and ask for one more recommendation.
2 – Magic combination: I want to eat GREAT FOOD and NOT PAY A LOT.
This particular one works really well in Italy, Spain, Greece…well pretty much all of Mediterranean and the Middle East, where getting a good deal for high quality is a sport.)
3 – Ask them what their favorite place is.
Now in case you’re dying to know what that secret place in Nice was, I have to confess that I don’t remember the name! This was after all five years ago and it is possible that the place may not even exist anymore. This is my point exactly, ask a local for the most up to date special location!
But we’ll hold your hand a little bit, just this once, and give you three restaurants that fit the perfect dinner location after a day of frolicking in Nice…authentic, cozy and romantic. But don’t take our word for it, ask a local yourself!
• Chat Noir Chat Blanc, 20 Rue Barillerie
• La Merenda, 4 Rue Raoul Bosio
• Le Maquis, 7 Rue de l’Abbaye
• • • LESSONS LEARNED • • •
Spontaneous romance requires meticulous planning.
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