When I moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas, I was hardly what you would consider a foodie, but I knew enough to invoke what I call the “Amarillo Rule” – I do not eat at restaurants I can find in Amarillo. Not to pick on my hometown, but Amarillo is not known for its culinary scene, unless you count watching people attempt to gorge themselves on a 72 oz steak dinner in an attempt to get free food, and I do not. Even as a naive 18 year-old, I knew that I should explore the unique things Austin had to offer and save the chains for my visits home.
Twenty-six years later (stop doing the math or I won’t be able to lie about my age), I still invoke the “Amarillo Rule” in Austin and when I travel, and it has served me well. Eating locally on the road means I have to get out of my comfort zone which can be a challenge when I’ve had a bad travel day. It is much easier to hit up a known quantity when I’m exhausted than find something new, but a rule is a rule. It also means that I have to be willing to experience some duds. Ask the wrong person for advice and dinner at Chili’s starts to look pretty inviting.
The extra work and occasional miss are worth the effort and can result in a lasting food memory from an otherwise unmemorable business trip. I’ll never forget a perfectly spiced bowl of posole from a diner in Flagstaff, Arizona or the beautiful Moules Frites (mussels & fries) from a French bistro in a Montreal suburb. I’m currently preparing for a twelve day trip to Connecticut and New York and researching where I’ll eat is high on the list of priorities.
I recently wrote an article for Edible Austin about some of the tools I use and interviewed TV food personality Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods) about his strategies for finding great meals on the road. I thoroughly enjoyed Zimmern’s insights on why learning the food culture in other places is so important and how to find the best bites in an unfamiliar place.
How do you find great meals when you are on the road?