Dine from the Menu del Dia in Spain – Dining out tip

The Menu del Dia (menu of the day) in Spain will not only keep some extra Euros in your pocket, it will introduce you to authentic Spanish dishes and local fare.

This dining-on-the-cheap option is offered by many restaurants throughout Spain and is a great, penny-pinching way to fill up on a big lunch, then send you right into a proper afternoon siesta!

A typical ‘menu’ is three to four courses showcasing fresh, local specialties and comes with a glass or a bottle of “house” wine. Suggested use for the cash you save: a shopping spree along Las Ramblas.

Discover the pleasures of slow food – Dining out tip

Food is the soul of every city. So when traveling, try to dine at least one restaurant that celebrates slow food – a grassroots movement that marries the pleasure of eating with a commitment to the community and the environment.

Slow food restaurants use fresh, local, seasonal ingredients to craft their dishes. So as you dine, you’re not only pleasing your palate, but you’re supporting local farmers and fisherman as well.

For the lowdown on slow food, visit slowfoodusa.org. The site allows visitors to search for restaurants by state. It also includes information on local farmers markets, farm tours, cooking classes and events.

Pick a dish randomly – Dining out tip

It’s always great to research restaurants beforehand. But sometimes it’s also fun to leave it up to chance. Be adventurous! Don’t be afraid of picking a restaurant without an English menu… the waiter and other patrons can always help. Or, maybe they won’t. So what?

During your vacation, pick one item randomly off the menu for your meal. One of the most memorable meals we had was in a little restaurant in Japan that didn’t have an English menu. We blindly picked several items, and I ended up with one of my favorite Japanese dishes that I would’ve never ordered if I had an English translation: ochazuke, or green tea with rice!

Pro tip: If you’re concerned about picking an unfamiliar dish, be sure to do it on a night you’re “venue hopping.”

Know the numbers (and the currency) – Dining out tip

The meal was delicious, and the atmosphere was divine, but then it comes time for the bill. As long as you know numbers in the native tongue, dealing with the bill should be no problemo. Perhaps you know your basic, uno, dos, tres… but try learn more numbers in the native tongue.

Parts of Italy are especially notorious for using some fast-talking to try and overcharge for even your basic bowl of penne. Make sure you have no problem asking for correct change or asserting that your meal was trece (13) euros — not treinta (30).

Pro tip: When you arrive in-country, look carefully at the money from that place. Learn what the different colors or sizes of the bills indicate. Later, when you’re feeling rushed — perhaps you’ve been drinking? — you want to feel comfortable with the cash and not throw down the equivalent of $100 when all you ordered was two beers.

Make a game of sampling the specialty – Dining out tip

When we travel someplace, we like to try the area’s specialty in multiple places and then decide which establishment did it the best.

For example, on a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we tried a regional specialty, the pasty (potatoes, veggies, onion and beef in a pastry), at three restaurants during our stay. On a vacation to Maui, Hawaii, we sampled mai tais each night at a different place. We made sure to visit the site of our self-proclaimed “winner” one more time for a farewell mai tai before our enjoyable vacation came to an end.

Making a game of sampling the specialty is a great way to make sure you see lots of a particular destination and enjoy the various “twists” that destination offers.