Food poisoning! What to watch out for in 2012

For many people–myself included–one of the most enjoyable aspects of travel is experiencing how other cultures eat. Even if you’re only traveling as far as the other end of the state, chances are there’s a regional specialty, street food, farmers market, or restaurant that’s a destination in its own right.

Sometimes, however, the pickings are slim, or no matter how delicious the food, the odds are just stacked against you. As Anthony Bourdain put it on a recent episode of his new series, The Layover, “…if there’s not a 50-percent chance of diarrhea, it’s not worth eating.”

Gross, perhaps, but gluttonous travelers know there’s truth in those words. Bourdain happened to be referring to a late-night drunk binge at one of Amsterdam‘s infamous FEBO fast food automats (above), so with that in mind, I present this photographic homage to the things we eat on the road, despite knowing better. Walk softly, and carry a big bottle of Imodium


[Photo credit: Flickr user .waldec]

10 restaurants that let diners pay as much as they wish

Hate searching around for the perfect restaurant to fit your budget? What if you could eat somewhere that allowed you choose how much you paid for your meal? If you eat at one of these ten restaurants, you can.

Denver, Colorado

SAME Café is a unique restaurant that came to be from community service. After spending time volunteering at food banks and shelters, the Birkys, the creators of SAME Café, decided they wanted to create a place that could assist those who were having financial trouble. Not only are there no set prices at the restaurant, there is no set menu, with daily selections being made with fresh, organic ingredients and being funded by patron donations. There is no cash register, but instead a donation box where people can pay what they feel is fair. If a person cannot pay, they are encouraged to volunteer for an hour at the eatery.Karma Kitchen
Berkley, California; Chicago, Illinois; Washington, D.C.

Karma Kitchen doesn’t put a price on their bills, but instead a message: “Your meal was a gift from someone who came before you. To keep the chain of gifts alive, we invite you to pay it forward for those who dine after you”. The eatery serves lunch on Sundays (each restaurant schedule varies) and is run completely by volunteers (anyone is welcome to give some of their time), and sustains itself through the generosity of others.

A Better World Café
Highland Park, New Jersey

A Better World Café serves seasonal and sustainable fare, offering patrons an array of payment options for their meals. Diners can choose to:

  • Pay the suggested price (or give a bit more to help feed someone else)
  • Volunteer an hour of their time instead of giving a monetary payment
  • Enjoy the complimentary meal of the day if payment and volunteering cannot be done

With a focus on eating locally, patrons can expect fresh, healthy ingredients and meals such as soups, breads, salads, sandwiches, and desserts.

Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen
Red Bank, New Jersey

Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen is run by the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, which aims to combat issues that force individuals and families into economic crisis. Patrons can expect a 3-course, American-style meal beginning with a soup or salad and followed by an entree and a dessert. Ingredients are fresh and locally produced, and diners are encouraged to socialize with the people sitting next to them as they eat. While diners can pay what they please, donations of $10 cover the meal. If a patron cannot pay, they are allowed to donate some of their time to helping out at the restaurant in exchange for the meal.

Comfort Cafe
Denver, Colorado

The Comfort Cafe is a not-for-profit gourmet restaurant serving local, fresh, organic cuisine as well as vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free items. The menu is all about simplicity, with few items containing more than six ingredients. Patrons choose the food they want to eat, with sampler plates also available. While all food is free, donations are appreciated.

Vienna, Austria

DER WIENER DEEWAN is a Pakistani restaurant that allows patrons to eat as much as they want while paying whatever they please. The buffet includes daily choices such as lamb, chicken, curry, vegetarian dishes, and delicious desserts such as mango-semolina pudding.

Pay As You Please
Killarney, Ireland

Pay As You Please is a laid-back restaurant offering patrons free Wi-Fi and modern approaches to classical fare created by a trained chef. Delicious dishes include vegetarian, vegan, soul food, and pizza, and at the end of the meal diners can pay what they please. It is a good idea to make a reservation here, as it can get crowded.

Seva Café
Ahmedabad, India

Seva Café thrives on the belief that the people who dine there are not customers but guests and family members. While the menu changes daily, diners can expect vegetarian Indian and continental cuisine. After eating there is no bill, but instead an invitation to become part of the Circle of Giving, meaning that someone before you paid for your meal and it is nice to return the favor.

Indus Valley
Auroville Puducherry, India

Indus Valley is an open-air cafe set amongst the trees that runs on a gift economy philosophy. There are no prices listed, but instead patrons are asked to make donations to keep the eatery up and running. The restaurant offers simple Indian cuisine and even allows diners to place takeaway orders. On the weekends, there is also a bazaar at the cafe that sells local products including batik art, handmade soaps, naturally dyed fabrics, and more.

Lentil As Anything
Melbourne, Australia

Lentil as Anything has various locations in Melbourne and is a not-for-profit community organization. Their restaurants offer hearty and healthy vegetarian cuisine and ask that patrons donate what they think their experience was worth, from the food to the company’s philosphy and community.