Having travelled through a number of places around the world, eaten badly and well in all of them, and taken my share of food pictures (in places I’ve eaten well, naturally!), I am ready to share the gems found on the way. In no particular order or preference, here is my totally biased food guide for nowhere in particular.
If you happen to be in any of the cities on the list – do take the time to get a bite in these amazing establishments! Several are of the more “fine-dining” variety, but most won’t break the bank, and I can guarantee you will not leave disappointed or hungry.
For those visual types out there, I include the photos of dishes you should not miss. Have fun!
Robert et Louise – Paris, France
Address: 64, rue Vieille du Temple, 75003 Paris, France
Tel.: +33 1 42 78 55 89
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 18:45-23:00; Sat 12:00-15:30 & 18:45-23:00; Sun 12:00 – 23:00
An authentic and long-running family restaurant in the heart of Paris, famous for their meat. A huge open-fire grill in the back, and the mouthwatering smells give away the main attraction the moment you step in the door.
It is not easy to get a table, and the best thing is to reserve (sometimes days or weeks in advance). They speak English, so this should not be a problem, even if your school French is rusty these days. You might, however, get lucky, if you show up 5-10 min before the opening time, as they have several communal tables you can share with other chance-takers.
Order Cote de Boeuf pour 2 personnes (beef rib for 2) – it comes with a salad and side order of potatoes (if I remember correctly), and will definitely feed the hunger of two people. Their wines are lovely, not overpriced, and go well with meat.
Trattoria Monti – Rome, Italy
Address: Via di San Vito, 13A, 00185 Rome, Italy
Tel.: +39 06 446 6573
Opening hours: Mon – closed; Tue-Sat 13:00-14:45 & 20:00-22:45; Sun 13:00-14:45
Tucked safely away from the busy downtown crowds on a side street near Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele II, Trattoria Monti is well worth tearing oneself away from the gems of Roman architecture, if only for their absolutely magical “Tortello al Rosso d’uovo”. These giant tortelloni-like pasta is hand-made fresh every day, and is filled with ricotta & spinach with a runny yolk in the middle, that oozes out the moment you cut through this deliciousness. The Tortello covers a decent-size place, and is listed under starters.
All other food in Trattoria Monti is delicious, and their wines compliment everything perfectly, but it is the Tortello that makes it stand out among the most elaborate dining establishments of the Eternal City.
The place is rather small (with a very narrow inner door – be careful, you might not fit through it if you enjoyed the food a little too much!), and elegantly decorated. Reservations are strongly recommended, and they do speak English.
Katz Delicatessen – New York, USA
Address: 205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002, USA
Tel.: +1 212 254 2246
Opening hours: Mon-Wed 08:00-22:45; Thu 08:00-02:45; Fri 08:00-all night; Sat – open all day; Sun – open until 22:45
Operating in New York’s Lower East Side since 1888, Katz’s has always been popular in the neighborhood, but got country-wide fame with their “Send A Salami To Your Boy In The Army” campaign during the 2nd World War.
World recognition came with Meg Ryan’s timeless fake orgasm scene, in “When Harry Met Sally”:
Katz’s walls are lined with photos of their famous customers, and Harry & Sally’s table is well posted by the sign hanging over it.
No matter, if this is your first, 2nd, or 200th time at Katz’, their famous pastrami sandwich with a pickle is an absolute must! Be careful – the thing is huge, and can easily be shared between 2 medium-sized adults with moderate hunger. You may work up an appetite just waiting for it – on most days the line of people queuing to get into Katz’ snakes around the block.
The pastrami sandwich tastes as amazing as it sounds, and it is well worth the wait!
“Our finished product can take up to a full 30 days to cure, while commercially prepared corned beef is often pressure-injected (or “pumped”) to cure in 36 hours. Yep, you read that right. 30 days vs. 36 hours. Now, which sounds like the better meat to you?”Katz Delicatessen
Chekhov – St. Petersburg, Russia
Address: Petropavlovskaya Ulitsa, 4, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 197101
Tel.: +7 812 234 4511
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 12:00-00:00
You need to know about this place to find it. The sign is nondescript, and the big-door high-ceilinged entrance of the 19th-century classic St. Petersburg building is shared with a dental clinic (of all things!). But the moment you open the restaurant door, you find yourself in a carefully recreated interior and atmosphere of a 19th-century middle-class house. Complete with canary birds in cages in the windows, rows of home-made preserves and pickles on the shelves, and waitresses wearing the starched white aprons of the Anton Chekhov stories.
“Chekhov” is like a time capsule, where you sit down, and don’t want to leave for a long time. Make sure to reserve in advance (they speak English), as there are not more than 10 tables in the restaurant. The food is as authentic and mouthwatering, as it can get.
Start with ordering an assortment of traditional Russian starters (there is no set dish, you need to order each separately): veal in aspic (served with a proper horseradish & cream sauce on the side), salted (not marinated!) mushrooms, the traditional layered beetroot-herring-potatoes cake (aptly named by the Russians as “Herring in a Fur Coat”), eggplant rolls and salted cucumbers will make a great start for your meal and may already leave you sated.
Save some space for Pelmeni – traditional Russian ravioli filled with ground beef & pork and served with a side of sour cream (you can find them under “hot appetizers” on the menu), and have Vareniki with cherries and berry sauce for desert (also on the “hot appetizers” list).
Be sure to order their home-made Kvas and Mors. My favorite game with visitors is make them guess what Kvas is made of. It is a traditional non-alcoholic and very refreshing drink, known to every Russian, and never heard of outside of the country borders. I’ll keep the suspense – you have to try it yourself, and figure out the ingredients (all 100% natural!).
Desnivel – Buenos Aires, Argentina
Address: Defensa 855, C1102 San Telmo, Distrito Fderal, Argentina
Tel.: +54 11 4300 9081
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 12:00-01:00; Sun 12:00-00:00
This is definitely a local place. Those in the know have been coming here for years, but kept quiet about its existence. From the outside, Desnivel does not look like much, and with an abundance of meat places in Buenos Aires, it rarely attracts the attention of frequent Trip Advisor & Yelp readers. Located on a busy San Telmo street among numerous bars and eateries, Desnivel hides its true restaurant self with a meat counter at the front, so it’s easy to take it for something and anything else.
If you squeeze past the meat counter, the restaurant inside is quite spacious, and serves some of the best steaks you’ll ever have. Go for therib eye, accompanied by a bottle of Luigi Bosca Malbec from Mendoza – both will be amazing and very reasonably priced! The staff will speak little English, but you can gesticulate and point, smile and wave, and you will get by – it’s impossible to leave hungry in the meat & wine capital of the world!
The Purple Pig – Chicago, IL, USA
Address: 500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
Tel.: +1 312 464 1744
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 11:30-23:00
A busy and happening spot, with a bar fully stocked with mostly European wines, and a tiny open kitchen, chucking out amazingly beautiful and tasty dishes. If you can elbow your way through, you can observe the delicate and well-orchestrated kitchen ballet. The tiny kitchen of the Purple Pig manages to accommodate at last 7 people, who are permanently cooking, moving over each other’s heads, shouting friendly obscenities at the waiters, and generally looking like they are having a good time
The place is always full, but I will give you a tip: there is a waiting room in the back, where you can order a cocktail and rely on your luck of getting the next free table. Don’t go there! You are much better off just filing into the 2nd [or 3rd] row behind the bar, and waiting there. If you order a bottle of wine (even the cheapest one they have), your chances of getting a spot to sit down will progress exponentially, as the staff will see you for a serious customer you are.
The menu changes depending on the season, but if you are lucky, you might be able to try the octopus with green beans, or crab with asparagus & mushrooms – both will be works of art, and will melt in your mouth!
Harry’s Cafe de Wheels – Sydney, Australia
Address: Cowper Wharf Rd, Woolloomooloo
Tel.: +61 2 9357 3074
Opening hours: Mon-Tue 08:30-01:00; Wed-Thu 08:30-02:00; Fri 09:30-03:00; Sat 09:00-04:00; Sun 09:00-01:00
A Sydney legend, now having several places around town, but originating from Woolloomooloo Cowper Wharf, where Harry’s customers still have to fight for their food with the over-sized hungry seagulls eyeing every bit of food with a disapproving eyes of bean-counting accountants.
Opened in the late 1930-es by Harry “Tiger” Edwards, the place has not only been the home of Sydney’s best pie since, but also a stage for Elton John’s “in-caravan” press conference in 1970-es, and a favorite pie pit-stop for a wide number of celebrities, including Frank Sinatra, Sir Richard Branson, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Billy Crystal and Pamela Anderson, and became the name of Peter Blakeley’s 1990 platinum album.
Harry’s is definitely an institution, but history aside, it’s the food you go to Harry’s for, and it is just delicious. Make sure to order Harry’s Tiger – a simple meat pie with gravy and mushy peas on top. And then another, and, maybe, one more, just to be sure – they ARE that good!
Dim Sum Library – Hong Kong
Address: 124/Level 1, Pacific Place, Admiralty, Hong Kong
Tel.: +852 3643 0088
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11:30-22:00; Sat-Sun 10:30-22:00
If you thought dim sums were those nifty little round dumplings – think again! They come in all shapes and sizes (from round bite-sized thingies to flat envelope-like wraps and fist-size buns), and Dim Sum Library on the underground floor of the Pacific Place shopping mall in Hong Kong definitely took them to the state of art height.
I usually stay away from shopping mall restaurants, as they all seem to have the flavor of a food-court…. Not the “Dim Sum Library”, though. The place is stylish and you quickly forget it is situated in a mall. The restaurant is huge, but fills fast, being very popular with the lunchtime and dinner crowds, so the best time to enjoy the food at leisure is in the odd hours in-between.
Crystal har gau – shrimp dumplings, Crystal blue drunken crab meat dumpling, Black garlic siu mai pork & shrimp dumplings – no matter which one you choose, they will be guaranteed to be absolutely delicious, and will fill your body with fragrant mouthwatering happiness.
The Kitchen – Ko Lanta, Thailand
Address: Moo 3, Klong Dao beach, Ko Lanta 81150, Thailand
Tel.: +66 86 593 0617
A cozy and friendly place with amazing authentic Thai dishes. Watch out – if the menu says “spicy”, it definitely will be! The best way to experience the food is to order several dishes for the table and share them all. They will all be delicious.
The curries (try their Paenang Curry – you will love it!) and soups are amazing, and the salads will be tangy, fragrant, and some (like the spicy pork & onion salad) will make your eyes water.
The Kitchen has a lovely bar, and an assortment of tables, ranging from big communal ones, to tiny intimate seating for two – all with romantic lights among trees and flowers. The place is very popular, so it’s best to reserve in advance – either on the phone, or just by swinging by on a scooter and talking to the staff the evening before.
Trattoria La Fiasca – Sirmione, Italy
Address: Via S. Maria Maggiore, 11, 25019 Sirmione BS, Italy
Tel.: +39 030 990 6111
Opening hours: Mon-Tue 12:00-14:30 & 19:00-22:30; Wed – closed; Thu-Sun
12:00-14:30 & 19:00-22:30
Although a random tourist does find their way to Trattoria La Fiasca (if they’ve been smart enough to find it on Trip Advisor), it’s mostly the place where locals eat local foods, and enjoy their time. Simple interior in a centuries-old building, with checkered red and white tablecloths, amazing local wines, sumptuous pasta, local meats and lake fish dishes – La Fiasca is definitely worth finding in the maze of Sirmione streets and alleyways.
Tagliatelle with rabbit ragout is amazing, and so is their lasagna. Finish your meal with a delicious Crème Catalane, or tiramisu – and your evening will be well spent! All wines are from the area, and if you like the bottle you are having for dinner, you can easily google the vineyard and visit it the next morning to stock up.
Cafe Mela – Worcester, UK
Address: 22 Foregate St, Worcester WR1 1DN, UK
Tel: +44 1905 28989
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 18:00-23:00
Don’t be deceived by the non-pretentious sign over a little door, leading into a tiny lobby with two chairs – like a magic rabbit hole, the place opens up to a huge and elegantly decorated restaurant, joining inside the front building and the backyard covered with a glass roof.
The food is fantastic and very decently priced, the service is excellent, and a great evening will be guaranteed for all! Reservations won’t hurt, but the wonderful staff will do their best to accommodate you even without, and the scent of spices will make your mouth water the moment you step in the door.
The menu is extensive, and makes the choice very hard. The adventurous types go for the triple-spicy Naga Ka, but even if you decide to go for the classics, you will not be disappointed. Their onion bhajees will melt in your mouth, and the tried and tested Tikka Masala or Butter Chicken will fill not only your stomach, but your soul as well.
The Banyan Tree – Gili Trawangan, Indonesia
Address: Jl. Pantai Gili Trawangan, Gili Indah, Pemenang, Kabupaten Lombok Utara, Nusa Tenggara Bar. 83352, Indonesia
Tel.: +62 878 6239 1308
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 07:00-22:00
You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy the beautiful and delicious fare that this modest-looking place chucks out on its tables. Their breakfasts are the best on the island, they have fantastic coffee and cakes, and as if this would not be enough – the food looks absolutely amazing!
Make sure to try the tofu wraps, and if you want a sumptuous but healthy breakfast – go for the smashed avocado toast. Anything you will order in this culinary oasis on the biggest of Gili islands will be made with love, and served with a smile.
The interior is air-conditioned (which comes in handy on a hot Gili summer day), but you can chill out on the open terrace deck as well and enjoy the sunset over the Bali Sea from the beach.
Elephant & Castle – Dublin, Ireland
Address: 18-19 Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Ireland
Tel.: +353 1 679 3121
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 08:00-23:30; Sat-Sun 10:30-23:30
Chicken wings, chicken wings, chicken wings!!!! Served in a basket with the blue cheese dressing and a celery stick, they are absolutely to die for, and will feed you for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. That is, if you manage to get a table. Located in the heart of Temple Bar, this is one of the few places in the area packed not just with tourists, but with locals alike. You may have to wait on a bench at the front for a table, but the wait will be absolutely worth it.
The place gets crazy busy at the weekend, with the brunch crowds of locals travelling across the town for Elephant & Castle’s culinary delights, so reservations are highly recommended.
It’s not just the chicken wings, true – all other dishes are absolutely delicious as well (try the avocado and sheep cheese salad, if you are in for a healthier option), but the chicken wings rival the best of the North American variety, and made the fame of Elephant & Castle spread far outside of Dublin, or the little green island of Ireland.
Osteria Le Vecete – Verona, Italy
Address: Via Pellicciai, 32a, 37121 Verona VR, Italy
Tel.: +39 045 468 0738
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 12:00-16:00 & 18:30-23:30
With walls lined up with dusty centuries-old wine bottles (unfortunately, all empty), and the bar stocked with the best wines of the 20th and 21st (all full), Verona’s oldest tavern will appeal to even the pickiest of wine connoisseurs.
Le Vecete hides in plain sight bang in the middle of Verona, on one of its numerous narrow side streets, and you can be circling around it for hours before finding yourself on its doorstep. Once you do – there is no holding back! You may have come for the wine, but the food is equally amazing. Risotto all’Amarone cooked with rice soaked in the best regional Amarone wine and served with a hearty seasoning of Parmesan will make you fall in love with Verona and its cuisine. The pastas are all seasonal and local, and will delight and surprise you.
If you are not really hungry, but want some nibbles for your wine, they have a wide assortment of finger food – mostly tiny sandwiches with amazing local hams, salamis, pickles, and what not. You will leave happy, a little drunk, and will want to come again!