The 10 Most Touristy Restaurants (and Where to Go Instead)
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Skip the lines, or at least wait in a line where the experience will be worth your time
Touristy restaurants are part and parcel of tourism, but you don’t have to fall into their traps — certainly not when there are so many authentic experiences just around the corner. If you want to be a traveler, rather than a tourist, be wary of restaurants that are geared toward making you feel a little too comfortable. We’ve gathered 10 of the world’s most tourist-frequented restaurants, and have some suggestions for where you can go instead for a more authentically local experience.
The 10 Most Touristy Restaurants (and Where to Go Instead)
Touristy restaurants are part and parcel of tourism, but you don’t have to fall into their traps — certainly not when there are so many authentic experiences just around the corner. We’ve gathered 10 of the world’s most tourist-frequented restaurants, and have some suggestions for where you can go instead for a more authentically local experience.
Botín, founded in 1725, is said to be the oldest restaurant in the world. It is mentioned in such specific, beautiful detail in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, in which characters enjoy their roast suckling pig and sopa de ajo (chicken broth laced with sherry and garlic and garnished with a poached egg). The restaurant knows this all too well: they have quotes from the novel on the wall (with English translations), and their prices are exorbitant. One blogger reports that some neighboring restaurants put signs on their doors that read “Hemingway does NOT eat here.” Reviews on TripAdvisor complain that the food is mediocre and the service is rushed in order to make room for more tourists, who often line up outside. We can’t think of a thing Hemingway would have disliked more. If you’re looking for a storied restaurant with good, traditional food, go to Casa Lucio, just down the street, which opened in 1933. Mario Batali says it is where he often starts his visits to Madrid.
Café des 2 Moulins (Paris)
This Montmartre café gained international fame for being the workplace of Amélie Poulain, the titular character of the famous 2001 movie Amélie. While the café might have once been a quiet spot where locals could smoke grumpily, complain about life, and be moved by small acts of kindness, it is now covered in Amélie kitsch, and bears almost no resemblance to the movie version. Die-hard fans would probably enjoy the experience of crème brûlée and a glass of red wine here, but otherwise, skip the line and go to the nearby Le Fourmi (“The Ant”), whose quirky name is très Amélie.
Geno’s Steaks (Philadelphia)
The bright neon lights all along the façade of Geno’s Steaks, as well as the tourists outside it, almost make you think you’re in Vegas. Their "This is America; When Ordering, Speak English" sign isn't too appetizing either. Instead, go where nobody would expect and order the cheesesteak at John's Roast Pork, which comes in a delicious, sesame-sprinkled hero bun — and go back later for their pork sandwich.
Besides an occasional walk through the hat section, Harrods is really not where Londoners go to shop, and it is certainly not where they go to eat. While the décor in the iconic department store's famous Food Halls is beautiful and the displays are a sight to behold, such high prices for only decently good food is not worth it, especially when London is full of so many other food markets, like Brick Lane’s UpMarket and Borough Market — a tourist trap that’s actually worth your time.
Pink’s Hot Dogs (Los Angeles)
In a city where parking is notoriously difficult, especially on a corner like Melrose and La Brea, waiting in line for a hot dog at a place that’s more famous for the fact that it names its dogs after celebrities than the food itself is not worth your time. You may want to walk or drive by, but you’re better off enjoying a hot dog at Vicious Dogs, with their very long menu that celebrates regional American hot dogs as opposed to celebrities’ favorites.
The Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel (Singapore)
Even though the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel is responsible for inventing the Singapore Sling, it is not really the best place in the world to enjoy that famous cocktail. The 28 Singapore dollar ($21 USD) drink is served so often that many TripAdvisor reviewers note that there is a “tired” air in the place — which makes sense, as the drink was invented in 1915. It is also made from a mix and served in a souvenir glass that you can keep if you pay extra — is there anything more touristy? The Long Bar is not technically a part of the hotel; it is located in a mall right next door. Try this classic drink at Loof, a rooftop bar right across the street, instead.
Serendipity III (New York)
It’s crazy to think that a place so touristy was once the stomping grounds of Andy Warhol, although, arguably, the restaurant’s decision to serve a $1,000 sundae and a $295 burger is quite bold — not unlike the artist himself. While their frozen hot chocolate is certainly a sight to behold, you’ll have a better time in the speedy line at City Bakery, where you can witness the silky flurry of their decadent hot chocolate as it’s being made.
The ‘Original’ Starbucks (Seattle)
There is an inherent irony about waiting in a very long line for a drink that is basically the same all around the world, albeit in many different flavors. Explore Pike Place without the Pike Place roast. Instead, go to one of Seattle’s many artisanal roasters, like Analog Coffee or Milstead & Co.
Tangier Restaurants (Tangiers)
We’re not referring to specific restaurants, but the many restaurants right on the waterfront; the ones you see as soon as you get off the ferry from Gibraltar. These restaurants are usually included in the offensively named “Africa in a Day” packages. Rick Steves cites them as one of Europe’s Top 10 Tourist Traps. For an authentic experience, get away from the waterfront and go to El Club de Morocco, a Moroccan restaurant located in the kasbah.
Tao Restaurant and Nightclub (Las Vegas)
While Tao Las Vegas remains one of the city’s most popular nightclubs, the food at its restaurant pales in comparison to the restaurants of many celebrity chefs throughout the city, such as Mesa Grill and Joël Robuchon Restaurant.