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When exploring, either at home or abroad, eating at restaurants can be exciting. It can reveal the roots of a local culture or exemplify someone’s international journey. One of my favorite parts of travel is indeed trying new foods, exploring the cafe scene, and diving deep into the restaurant “scene.”

Along the way, there’s been many meals that were not enjoyed. Perhaps the meal was not ordered right (this is nuanced) or overall the experience didn’t chalk up to what the expectations were. So how to enhance a restaurant experience? After a few years of many meals out, here are 5 tips to change the way you dine in a restaurant.

1. Ask the Chef what he is excited about.
Many times the Chef has dishes that he is particularly teeming with excitement to share. The dishes are often a reflection of his creative pursuits, dishes that he has spent countless hours of love laboring over. This is my favorite thing to do when going to a restaurant.

2. Sit at the bar.
You learn more about a restaurant by sitting at the bar. In fact, some restaurants that I frequent, I will only sit at the bar. The best kind of bar? The one that sits over the kitchen, like a sushi bar. You get to see how the kitchen prepares the food, part of the pleasure of eating out. You hear the chatter between the servers and the kitchen, and get to be a part of the action.

3. Ask your server what he ate for lunch.
Often times staff at the restaurant will partake in a family meal or eat off the menu at the restaurant. Want to know what is favorited by the regulars? Ask the staff!

4. Be aware that many need reservations or require a wait.
The most common issue is indeed, “we couldn’t get in.” Many of the restaurants that are good require a reservation. When traveling or at home, think ahead to book a table to avoid disappointment.

5. Be kind and courteous.
There’s never a need to be rude or demanding. I found a simple “hello” and “how is your day?” goes a long way with a server. Ask something specific and go the extra mile to let your server know that you care, and most times, the kindness is returned.

PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!

These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.

1. Book Your Flights

I use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.

2. Book Your Accommodations

I use for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

3. Book Your Tours & Experiences

I use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

4. Book Your Rental Car

Self-driving is the best way to explore most destinations. I use Discover Cars for our rental cars, select full coverage insurance, and opt for a reputable company like Alamo, Hertz, or Sixt.

5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access

I use Priority Pass to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.

6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.

My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are:



  1. Such good suggestions! I never thought to ask the Chef about what he recommends. I also love sitting at the bar. Sometimes I feel a bit intrusive (which is complete nonsense because if they weren’t happy for you to sit there, then why would they offer it?), but always enjoy how watching the different dishes get made whets my appetite and encourages me to try something I normally wouldn’t go for. Great post!

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