Negative Star Dining

I am going to say something that could seem rather controversial.  (Or, at least it does to me anyway.)  I am not a professional food critic.  Nor am I even a novice food critic.  I am just a lover of food and a lover of travel.  But I have a thought.

I believe local street food or local dining, whatever one wants to call it, can and often does beat a four or five star restaurant in quality and ambiance any day.  What?  Who does she think she is making a statement like that?  I am no Anthony Bordain, Food Chanel critic, or French Michelin star aficionado by any means.

But, I want you to look at a photo for a moment and bear with me.  The below photo of this little boy was taken outside of Maggie’s on Caye Caulker in Belize.  He was trying to be like his Grandmother who owned the restaurant.  He was trying to clean and BBQ his own fish.  He was very proud and showed off his fish cleaning prowess to all of the guests much to their pleasure and his grandmother’s chagrin.  He even got a curt warning when he tried to BBQ it himself.  Clearly he wasn’t old enough to do so per his family.  This little interaction in front of this beautiful view was one of my favorite and sweetest memories in all of Belize.  Small local places often have ambiance that one would not necessarily expect.

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While in Belize I had glorious street food daily.  (See another post on Street Food.) I had meals that were extremely inexpensive, fresh, and local.  But, what’s more the ambiance of these places added to the food experience.  Eating lobster that was no more than four hours old from the sea at a restaurant where the owner’s children were running around barefoot and free is what eating and traveling is about for me.  Additionally one’s expectations for a knock-out experience are far lower than when that same person makes reservations, valet parks their car, gets all dolled up, and orders four courses off of an expensive menu full of items that are hard to understand.  Now mind you, I have had some delicious and memorable meals at fancy places and I don’t mean to discount them necessarily.   Doing so would probably be silly and against the better judgment of people far more knowledgeable than me.

But eating at a local place feels good for a number of reasons.  I feel like I am giving money to people who truly need it.  I feel like I am getting away with something by paying little to nothing for fresh, local, and interesting cuisine.  I feel like I am learning something about the local people and their food history.  Eating at small places often sparks conversation with other locals or the owners of the establishment.  And, I feel like I often have a memorable experience that oftentimes makes a trip.

I would argue that fresh local “negative star” restaurants outshine any four or five star place any day.    I have experienced this over and over again traveling throughout the world and felt like talking about it on the blogosphere.

Tell me, have you ever had a fresh local eating experience that was memorable that you care to share?  Do you share my regard for street food?

19 thoughts on “Negative Star Dining

  1. I had amazing street food in Singapore and in Galapagos, we’ve had so many plates at the local barbecue (only locals over there, not a lot of tourists) and it was so good ! The food was sooo fresh (no menu, just catch of the day) 🙂

    I share your opinion 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love street food! In Singapore they call it hawker stands and I’ve enjoyed eating in hawker stands more than restaurants. In the Philippines, they sell the best grilled meats, fish balls, and fruits in the street. Well in America, we are doing food trucks as our “street food” but somehow it doesn’t feel like street food to me. What do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great question. I’m on the fence about food trucks. There is one near where I work that has the best Mexican food EVAR. There are also some fun new trendy ones with interesting fusion food that is different and fun. But some are boring and expensive.

      We have a weekly food truck mania near where I live where the food tends to be expensive and not interesting so in that case I am not a fan.

      But the new and fresh and fun owned and ran by independent Interesting people excite me for sure.

      Like

      • Austin is “food truck capital” and I really enjoyed eating at food trucks there. But over the years I found it has become more expensive than just going to a restaurant. But yes there are still those that are really fun. Besides, it’s kinda nice to just eat and go or choose from different trucks for your appetizers, main foods and desserts instead of getting stuck in one restaurant. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m still dreaming about the Tamarind Shrimp lunch in Thailand! We watched as the waiter went out the back door, ran a couple of houses down in the village, then came back. A couple of minutes later he repeated the process, returning with our Papaya Salad. One of the best meals in my life.
    Eating local is part of the traveling experience as long as good food is part of the culture. We’ve had such poor luck in the west that we stocked up for our drive across country only to be reminded when hit Texas and Louisiana had good local food can be.
    It’s the appeal to all the senses that makes local dining so good. The sights and smells of different spices; the anticipation of ordering something when you can’t even read the menu; listening to conversations in foreign language that remind you that you’re a long way from home.
    Great article!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You are so right! I usually go to places to eat that full of locals and try local dishes when traveling. We had super delicious noodle in a small stall in HK (we love it so much so we went there almost every day during our stay in HK). It was recommended by a hotel’s staff. I have never disappointed so far 🙂
    I don’t mind at all with street food but my travel companion usually has sensitive stomach, so we had to be careful on certain things. He was suffering from food poisoning for couple days during our travel in India and the Philippines after trying out local dishes from small food stalls 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I fully agree with you post, but I also have to add that for me it is not all about the quality of the food, it is also about the ambience and feeling that you are learning about the places and the food where you travel. Going to a local shop is definitely a more memorable experience and you get to try authentic local food. I love it!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: One Year Blogiversary – Thank you for reading! | Bulldog Travels

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