I was picking up a birthday card in my local gift shop the other day when I spotted this among their shelves...
It's a guide to restaurants in the Stuttgart area (pub. 2014), and has lots of "best" lists, including the best maultaschen, best Asian cuisine, best vegetarian, best coffee, and more. I've scanned through the lists, and a lot are places that we've already been (hurray for us!), but there are many more for us to try. The guide is in German, of course, and while my German isn't advanced enough for me to read fluently, my food vocabulary is pretty good, and so I can get the gist of most of the restaurant descriptions with just a few quick consultations with my English-German dictionary.
Buying this book was a complete impulse purchase, and it reminded me that it might be useful to tell others how I find places to eat, especially when I'm traveling.
When I first moved to Germany, my family gave me a couple of nice, thick guides to Germany from Fodor's and Eyewitness Travel. I really love purchasing guide books because I find the information much more succinct than what's on the internet and the pictures are very helpful when I'm traveling to a new place. Of course it's not always practical to buy a guide for every place you visit, but I've found these two particularly helpful in settling into our new home.
Sadly, the Stuttgart section isn't terribly big in either book, and so when it comes to restaurant recommendations, we've had to rely on other sources. Word of mouth is our primary way of getting recommendations. We're lucky to have a fair number of friends who also enjoy eating and drinking, and both Matt and I have enough coworkers who have been here long enough to make some good recommendations.
When we're looking for a particular kind of cuisine to satisfy our cravings for, say, Mexican or sushi, we usually rely on websites like yelp or the restaurant recommendations in travel sites like Lonely Planet. I like to look through the pictures of the food at a particular restaurant, check out the menu online, and read through the recommendations, especially the bad ones. It's good to see what kind of bad press a restaurant is getting, and how recently the bad review was written. If we find a bad review or two from a person who didn't like the heat in an Indian dish or expected the server to do more on that particular occasion, then we'll probably still try the place. However, if the reviews are overall mediocre concerning the food, then we'll usually try someplace else.
When we travel, I like to go into the trip with a couple of reservations at recommended or reviewed restaurants so that I know I'm guaranteed a good culinary experience at my destination. That said, Matt and I also love to roam around and find new places that aren't in the books. I like taking chances on street food or side-street places, especially ones away from the busy tourist streets. Some of my best (and admittedly mediocre) meals have been discovered on a whim. However, Matt and I try to stay away from restaurants that boast "traditional" cuisine in seven different languages, as we've found that these types of places tend to be the most touristy and often (but not always) have the least delicious "traditional" foods. I also tend not to eat at chains as a rule (although when I'm home in the States I love a good Bloomin' Onion at Outback or a McDonald's burger on the 4th of July, though these occurrences are few and far between).
That said, I'm excited to give some of these restaurants in my Stuttgart book a try. I'm also looking forward to revisiting some of my favorites as I prepare for posts on my blog. April/May is a busy time for birthdays in my family, and so I've got two birthday-related meals out tomorrow to blog about. Look for some new posts (and pictures!) this weekend.