When you’re new to a city and just want to try the food as the locals do, it can be hard finding a place that lets you experience the true authenticity of the city. Tourists normally get caught going to restaurants with no locals and no local food purely because of the lack of information.
These restaurants are normally a cheaper version of something you could easily get from where you’re living, so the originality that tourists are craving is unfortunately not there. While most of these places don’t have much to offer, a few of them are so good that even locals decide to get a bite.
Of course, those hidden gems within any city are irreplaceable, and the internet, in a lot of cases, just doesn’t know about them. While we always push foodies to try the local cuisine in any place that locals frequent, if you do find yourself in a ‘tourist trap’ restaurant, it’s always best to try the ones that are considered amazing by the locals as well.
Here are some that even locals don’t miss because they’re just that good:
20 Franklin BBQ – Austin, Texas
Meat-lover’s heaven = Franklin BBQ. That’s essentially all this place is, but they do it well. Unfortunately, everyone seems to know it. These lines go round the block every single day of the week, and don’t even get me started about the weekends. Thankfully, it’s worth it. The best ribs in the country await you at the end of that very long line served in traditional BBQ style: no frills. A couple of slices of bread on the side along with three different sauces from the joint accompany these tender, juicy ribs. You’ll be coming back for seconds.
19 Journeys Sandwich Bistro – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The Subway of Vietnam, Journeys Sandwich Bistro may be European cuisine, but it can win just about anyone over. With an extremely cute setup and some of the most gigantic club sandwiches the world has to offer, we’re loving Journeys Sandwich Bistro, and we aren’t the only ones. You also get some local Saigon craft beer while you’re there. Each sandwich is accompanied by their traditional chips and salad. All we can say about their take on chips is that Lay’s has a hell of a lot of competition coming its way. Your only problem at this restaurant is going to be trying to finish those mammoth-sized sandwiches.
18 Thip Samai – Bangkok, Thailand
If you’re looking for the best Pad Thai Thailand has to offer, well, look no further. Located on Maha Chai road, Thip Samai has been up and running since 1965 with no end in sight. The restaurant is constantly busy, and your eyes cannot take it all in in most cases. The cooks are moving their hands faster than ever, and you can watch vehicles whizzing by outside. The restaurant is to the point and simple—a list of different Pad Thai dishes along with their signature orange juice. The original Pad Thai and the Superb Pad Thai are among their list of bestsellers. Expect to spend about $2 here.
17 Canter’s Deli – Los Angeles, California
You just gotta love a good deli! So, here’s another one. Canter’s Deli is a Los Angeles Jewish Deli that you have to dress down for, if anything. It’s comfortable, cozy, and tasty, so trust us when we say the tourists are on the right track with this one. What a lot of people cannot get enough of is the variety of bread available and how original they all are. You can pick between rye, pumpernickel, bagels, and challah, and then top it up with some of the best meats in the game. With an overload of meat in every sandwich, you cannot help but love this place.
16 Shake Shack – NYC, USA
Big burger fan? Shake Shack could be your new favorite place. Their curly fries are out of this world, and the line of people know this. Even the chilly weather cannot keep the hoards of people away from this place. The patties in the burgers will make you refuse McDonald’s forevermore. Their frozen custard shakes make you want to cry with happiness, but there’s also alcohol available if you want some. While Shake Shack is 100% a tourist trap, it’s still the best kind possible. Try their Hot Chick’n if it’s your first time visiting one of their outlets!
15 La Gatta Mangiona – Rome, Italy
Pizza, pizza, pizza! This isn’t just any old overpriced pizza joint. This right here is the real deal. Much like some of the other places on our list, this one’s another ‘classy meets street food’ kinda joint, and we’re here for it. Self-proclaimed ‘pizza engineer’ and owner Giancarlo Casa ticks all the boxes when it comes to a good pizza, and the part that he’s best at is originality. The ingredients at this place are like no other, and the restaurant also uses special flours in their dough that have been fermented for longer than usual. Edible flowers are one such ingredient that you can find on these pizzas and that we highly recommend.
14 Geno’s Steaks- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The neon signs that welcome you into Geno’s steaks are the first of many signs that you’re in the right place. ‘Best cheesesteaks in Philly’ they say, and boy, are they right. With some fries in a plastic cup, this place is everything you could possibly ask for. The sliced-up meat is so juicy that it melts in your mouth, and when paired up with melted cheese, um… well…do we really have to say anything? You should also try their cheesy fries at least once if you have the chance. Another bonus about this restaurant is the fact that it’s open 24/7, so you could try and pop in when it’s not as busy.
13 Somtum Der – Bangkok, Thailand
This restaurant has evidently gone as international as it can go, but that doesn’t mean locals have stopped giving it their stamp of approval. Branches across NYC, Ho Chi Minh City, Tokyo, and more are available, depending on where you are if you want a taste of local Thai cuisine. It’s the best place for Som Tum in the whole of Thailand, and you have a list of varieties to choose from that exceeds twenty. The head chef, chef Korn, is a Thai native and brings with him not only some of the best cooking abilities the world has to offer but also his Thai roots. This cozy little joint has nothing we wouldn’t recommend, but these are our favorites: Tum Pla Tu Khao Mun, Tum Suo Sakhonnakorn, and Tum Muo. You’re going to be spending between $2 to $4.
12 Hudson’s Seafood House On The Docks – Hilton Head, South Carolina
If seafood is your kryptonite, this place is going to be your new go-to. The evenings are packed, so lunch is a better time. There are also a couple of vegan options if that’s what you’re looking for. Ever heard of hush puppies? The South’s biggest gift to the world and all that? Well, you’re going to have some of the best available. Along with this and the waterside view, you can also try their amazing shrimp. Their steamed shrimp and crab cake have the highest amount of takers, though, so get ready for… another line. Hudson’s also has a menu that’s long enough to keep you going there for a while, so that’s good. You can also grab some pancakes in the wee hours of the morning.
11 Katz’s Delicatessen – NYC, USA
Located in the Lower East Side of NYC, Katz’s Delicatessen has become pretty famous among tourists, and that takes a lot in a place like NYC, which is a place that’s essentially tourist central as well. Tons of celebrities through the times cover the walls of this quaint little joint, making it the type of place you feel at home in. The crisp-skinned all-beef hot dog is a great way to start the meal off and is known to be one of the bestsellers. This place is not overpriced by a long shot compared to some other NYC places, so get ready to eat till your stomach bursts. Also, we cannot exaggerate enough how important it is to try their chopped liver sandwich (like grandma’s but better)!Just take Meg Ryan’s cue, this place is worth screaming about.
10 Roscioli – Rome, Italy
This Roman deli restaurant is all you could ask for and more. It’s nothing fancy, and it’s mostly college kids who frequent this place—but god… is it good. Much like Indy House, it’s a total hole-in-the-wall kinda place, so don’t expect the Four Seasons. But what you can expect, though, is Four Seasons treatment. The right-hand side has a deli counter with everything from smoked salmon to salami, and the left-hand side has bottles of wine pilled high. In between these walls are a couple of chairs and tables that are normally taken, so be ready to wait or stand, but it’s 100% worth it. There’s also a downstairs dining area, but it just cannot compare to the atmosphere you get upstairs. The restaurant is run by two brothers, and as we’ve already understood, family-run joints are always the best.
9 Wattana Panich Restaurant – Thailand
Wattana Panich has been running for more than sixty years now and just keeps getting more and more famous. Thai beef noodles are basically what this place is all about, and it focuses primarily on this dish as its cash cow. You can also get goat stew if you so prefer. The dishes are boiled for long periods of time before they’re served, tender meat and all. You can also pick between a variety of noodles that include flat and medium-sized thin. Steamed rice on the side is also on offer. If you want to finish your exceptional meal at the restaurant itself, try their famous coconut ice cream.
8 J.G. Melon – NYC, USA
A little pricy but tasty nonetheless, Melon’s burgers are some of the best in town. Red onion and pickle as garnishes along with some juicy meat make for a delightful lunch or even a snack if you have the appetite. Your only problem is going to be if you’re a slow eater because the juice from the patty soaks through the buns pretty quick. The place has been open since 1972 and maintains a certain charm that’s almost impossible to recreate. Located on Lenox Hill, J.G. Melon has some must-try dishes like the cottage fried potatoes and the Salad Nicoise. End the meal with their vanilla bean cheesecake.
7 Makis Restaurant – Siem Reap, Cambodia
It has a very big name, and you may have to dress up a bit for this one, but it has some of the best food. Run by local celebrity chef Luu Meng, the place has a menu full of local Khmer food so that you can understand their culture in the best possible way. The outdoorsy, riverside restaurant is essentially amazing for a date night or even an anniversary. After a tiring day of visiting the famous Angkor Wat, this could be the single best way to end the night. There’s also another joint located in Phnom Penh if you prefer. Try their
6 Boudin Bakery- San Francisco, California
Boudin Bakery is famous for their sourdough bread in California—and even around the world, very evidently. If you’re a tourist, everyone is going to recommend it, and if you’re a local you’re going to hate the tourists for making the line so long. Either way, fighting that line and dealing with the elbowing from fellow diners is well worth it in the long run. Some of their sourdough bread with the classic soup du jour will convince you to come back and do it all over again. The flavor and texture of the bread have no worthy competitor, and you can honestly eat it plain and be as happy. The fluffiness is out of this world. They’re open from 7:30 am up until 6:30 pm, but getting there early is probably best.
5 Indy House – Phnom Penh, Cambodia
This is one of those ‘hole in the wall’ restaurants that have the best waitstaff and the best food while also having a cozy feel. Indy House has become pretty famous across Phnom Penh for being the go-to place for anyone who loves steak. The prices aren’t inflated like a lot of other tourist trap restaurants, and you can get a chicken steak with fries, dipping sauce, sticky rice, and fries for as little as $3. While beef and pork are also available for slightly higher prices, most people go for chicken their first time in. It’s the type of place that has a line that goes around the corner, and it’s no secret that such places are a force to be reckoned with. You also get unlimited iced tea for your whole time there! Great prices, great food, and a comfortable set up—yes, it’s 100% a tourist trap, but it doesn’t get much better than this.
4 Nha Hang Ngon- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
This restaurant is literally in tourist central, but having said that, it does have some great authentic local cuisine. It’s just a very refined version of the local food, but the prices are still doable. Locals frequent this place all the time, so we have the much-needed stamp of approval. As is in many high-end restaurants, there are gluten-free and vegan options as well. Much like Indy House, dishes here start at about $3 as well. You have options galore when it comes to Nha hang Ngon- China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Korea are all represented on the table, so if you love Asia but only have the time or money to visit one country, this restaurant could be your sample introduction to a few others. According to The Independent, the interior is very airy and comfortable with high ceilings and tall potted plants.
3 Armando Al Pantheon – Rome, Italy
This family-run restaurant has some of the best local food you could ask for. The wood-paneled dining room sets the perfect tone for a good, hearty meal as well. It’s the perfect blend of classy and local, so you’re getting the best of both worlds with this one. Armando Gargioli, the creator of this restaurant, is an exceptional chef, to say the very least, and his talents didn’t stay hidden for very long, considering people from across the globe come to have a taste. This is your classic Roman restaurant with a small international aspect added in. The restaurant is now taken care of by Armando’s children all handling a certain aspect, depending on their preference.
2 Nhu Lan Saigon – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Frequented by locals, tourists, backpackers, and just about everyone, Nhu Lan Saigon is one of those ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ kinda places. The restaurant is not for visual appeal, but the food sure is. Their pre-packaged banh mi sandwiches with pork filling sell like hotcakes on a daily basis. This place is open 24/7 on a daily basis and is located in District 1 of the city—tourist central. While the restaurant does have a dining area, the best way to enjoy it is on the roadside or while walking down the street discovering the countless amazing things the city has to offer.
1 Blue Pumpkin – Near the Angkor Wat, Cambodia
This fusion of cuisine from Europe and Asia is divine. Located close to the Angkor Wat, Blue Pumpkin serves up a range of baked goods as well as sweet treats including but not limited to ice cream. The small, quaint little place is just outside the entry point to the famous temple, so you can finish off your visit with some good food. Try the Mega Hearty Platter Breakfast or the Toasty Baguette to start your day on the right note. Their fried wonton ravioli and crispy chicken wings are pretty great as well. Be warned, though—lunchtime is extremely busy.