Reader tips for finding good food in strange towns

"If a cursory glance through the window shows you that a restaurant has laminated menus, keep walking."
"If a cursory glance through the window shows you that a restaurant has laminated menus, keep walking." Photo: iStock

Last week in Good Food, I provided a list of 25 principles designed to help a traveller find good eating experiences in a strange town or suburb. I asked readers to expand the list (or argue with it) and the responses flooded in. Here's a selection of that correspondence.

Any restaurant where the waiters have to shout to be heard over the volume of the music doesn't want your parents there celebrating their anniversary. – Wendy Harmer

A restaurant that lists four meats in one column and four curries in another column, and invites you to "make your own curry combo" is definitely not run by an Indian person. – Tina Sitaram

Avoid any pizza place that serves mayonnaise on its pizzas.
Avoid any pizza place that serves mayonnaise on its pizzas. Photo: iStock

Never eat in an empty restaurant, unless it is 5.30pm and next to a theatre. – T. Scott-Stevenson

Never eat in a restaurant which has a spruiker outside encouraging passers-by to come in for a meal. – James Crawford

If a cursory glance through the window shows you that a restaurant has laminated menus, keep walking. They won't even think of using seasonal produce. – De Ayers

"The brighter the fluorescent lights on the hole-in-the-wall-food stand, the better the food."
"The brighter the fluorescent lights on the hole-in-the-wall-food stand, the better the food." Photo: iStock

Any restaurant which in 2019 only has one vegetarian option (unless it's an actual steakhouse) is not worth going to, as the chefs have no imagination or radar. – Wendy Bevan

[Avoid] any pizza place that serves mayonnaise on its pizzas. – Marilyn Chalkley

The brighter the fluorescent lights on the hole-in-the-wall-food stand, the better the food. – Patrick Quill

Advertisement

If a restaurant can't clean the front windows, it's very unlikely to clean the kitchen. – Tom Gilmour

The quality of the food at a remote out-of-town restaurant is regrettably not proportional to the degree of difficulty in getting there. – Dennis Leman

Simon Grant objected to "tiny serves for two, priced for three, carefully orchestrated to ensure you have to order 17 'courses' to manage an actual meal".

Warwick Mears' bugbears included restaurants that have a "philosophy" (as in "our philosophy is that food is meant to be shared") plus venues that don't take bookings, but if you visit, you are told you have to put your name on a list and wait two hours, which is sort of like a booking anyway. 

Mears also called out establishments "that don't pay penalties and rob their own staff", and menus divided into "small", "medium" and "large" plates – often seen in restaurants with a "philosophy".

David Dale is a former editor of The Good Food Guide.