Read more Mad Dog on the Road!
Rules for Eating on the Road
by Mad Dog
Mexican restaurant in Paris shouldnt be staffed by Parisians wearing sombreros and
serapes. Not unless you want a crepe disguised as a tortilla.
|| Theres a
reason foreign food is called foreignits not like what youre accustomed
to eating. To me eggs that have been buried in the ground for ten years or eel brains
qualify as foreign food. Especially since I didnt know eels had brains as I
understand them. But to someone in, say, Chiang Mai, Spam and Reeses Peanut Butter
Puffs cereal probably seem at least as incomprehensible. Hell, they are to me too and I
But this doesnt mean
eating while on the road has to be left up to fate, good fortune, and the gods of
salmonella and Maalox. You just have to know where to look and what to order. Whether
youre in another country or another state, finding a place to eat and choosing your
meal can be a challenge. Im here to make this a little less daunting.
1. Avoid restaurants filled with Americans, even in America. For
that matter, avoid any place filled with tourists of any one nationality. Unless, of
course, its their country youre in. A roomful of Germans doesnt signify
a great place to eat in Prague. It probably does mean overpriced gulas with more
bread dumplings than meat. Go find a little shop that makes and sells chlebícky,
the open-faced sandwiches that are as close to free as you can get and still have
to fork over money.
2. Watch out for ethnic restaurants that dont have people of
the same ethnicity working there. A Mexican restaurant in Paris shouldnt be staffed
by Parisians wearing sombreros and serapes. Not unless you want a crepe disguised as a
tortilla. Which brings us to....
3. Make it a point to eat as much of the local food as possible.
Dont order a hamburger in Katmandu, chicken salad in Sao Paulo, or a pizza in
When in England, if you dont like Indian food, consider going on a fast. If you
dont you should consider going on a detox fast as soon as you leave the
|| 4. If you point to something
youve never seen before and the clerk or waitperson raises his or her eyebrows like
youre completely insane for even thinking about ordering it, get it. As a matter of
fact, get a couple of them. Chances are its a local specialty and it will be
5. In the case of #4 above, dont under any
circumstances ask whats in it. There are times when you should be grateful you
dont understand the language.
6. Restaurants that say theyre the best usually arent.
In San Francisco every restaurant has a sign in the window proclaiming that it was voted
Best Something-Or-Other in some weeklys poll sometime since the Great Earthquake of
1906. Youll have better luck trusting a place like the Clubhouse which has a sign
that says "We may have the best hamburger in town."
7. Do trust a restaurant named Mamas. Not Moms, but
Mamas. That way youll get great fried chicken livers in Memphis and incredible
dirty rice in Lafayette, Louisiana, though its true the rice may just taste better
because youre eavesdropping on those two Cajun guys flirting with the girl behind
7. Small windowless cinderblock restaurants with a full parking lot
are almost a sure thing. Especially if they serve burritos, barbecue, or fried chicken.
8. If the food is being cooked in a stall on the street and you have
to fight your way to the front to get some, it will be worth the battle and wait. And it
will be cheap.
9. Never eat in a Chinese restaurant in Winslow, Arizona. Just trust
me on this.
10. Dont use the word cuisine to describe a countrys
cooking when the best meals you eat there arent of local origin. For example: When
in England, if you want good food, eat in Indian restaurants. Except, of course, if you
enjoy bland, greasy, poorly prepared food. Youd think after a thousand years as a
nation someone there would have learned to cook. When in England, if you dont like
Indian food, consider going on a fast. If you dont, and you eat a lot of sausage
rolls, fish and chips with mashed green peas (now theres a concept!), and Cornish
pasties you should consider going on a detox fast as soon as you leave the country.
If youre not used to the currency, dont be afraid to pay for your meal by
holding out a handful of the mysterious change and letting them take what they need.
Before you know it theyll expect this from everyone who comes in wearing green
shorts and having a camera hanging around their neck.
|| 11. The longer the line, the better
12. If it looks good, eat it. If it doesnt,
pass it up.
13. If they put it on the table, try it. If you dont like it,
dont eat anymore.
14. Drink the local liquor. Order wine in France, ouzo in Greece,
and Old Milwaukee in....okay, there are exceptions to this rule. La Cecilia in Havana may
make the worst margaritas on the face of the earth, but what did I expect in a country
that makes and drinks rum? Theres a handwritten testimonial by Ernest Hemingway on
the wall of La Bodeguita del Medio, "My mojito en La Bodeguita. My daiquiris
en el Florida." Theres a reason for this.
15. Dont ask why the Latin Quarter in Paris isnt called
the Greek Quarter since its filled with Greek restaurants. It just is.
16. If youre not used to the currency, dont be afraid to
pay for your meal by holding out a handful of the mysterious change and letting them take
what they need. If you think theyre taking too much just close your hand. If they
look peeved, open it and let them take more, laughing as it its an American custom. Before
you know it theyll expect this from everyone who comes in wearing green shorts and
having a camera hanging around their neck. Think of it as helping your fellow traveler.
17. Order any dish named after the city, region or country. For
example, when in Havana make sure you eat a Cuban sandwich so you can try the real thing.
Of course the difficulty here is that theyll call it a media noche, but if
you try one of everything on the menu or see someone else with one and point, youll
get to taste it. Hey, if you want easy find the KFC.
18. And finally, do make it a point to stop in a McDonalds in
every city you go to, which at this point isnt difficult. Dont eat there, for
Gods sakeuse the bathrooms. Theyre always clean. And free.
©1998 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. They
may taste better than some of the food.