I’m in my fifth year of living in New York City, and I know I still haven’t taken advantage of everything the city has to offer. I haven’t explored the reaches of all five boroughs. I haven’t seen all the landmarks. I haven’t soaked up all the culture there is to soak.
Yet my boyfriend is a born-and-bred NYC local, and while I would have thought that he’s been everywhere there is to go. In reality, I’ve actually shown him some spots that he had never visited before.
It’s almost impossible to be an expert on your home city. There are so many different neighborhoods; new, must-visit locations open every day. Every local you talk to has a different set of favorite places. It can be totally overwhelming.
But if you really want to get to know your urban home, there’s one foolproof way to do it: dining out. Nothing beats the authenticity of a local restaurant.
Here are six reasons dining out is the best way to explore your city:
You need a reason to leave your neighborhood.
In the winter months, we look out the window, and all we can do is sigh. It’s gloomy and cold – two adjectives that are screaming, “Stay home!” We’re inclined to keep to our little bubbles and not venture out of our neighborhoods for anything beyond work.
A good restaurant recommendation can change all of that, though. If you hear that there’s great paella on the other side of town, your taste buds NEED to trek there. If your best friend is stoked about the curry in a different borough, you HAVE to try it.
We will travel anywhere for a good meal. And in the process, we’re walking through new neighborhoods we wouldn’t otherwise see. It could inspire us to find a new favorite street, or even move to a new area.
Visiting iconic establishments makes you a part of your city’s history.
There are certain haunts in every city that each generation of inhabitants has visited.
If you ask your grandmother where to go, she might tell you to try the old Italian place with the 100-year-old Ragu recipe. Talk to your parents, and they’ll send you to the burger place that opened in the 1950s.
Hitting up these restaurants is the best way to connect to older generations, in and out of your family. It also makes you a part of the fabric of your metropolis.
It’s an invitation to experience the different subcultures of your city.
When you cook for yourself, you cook what you know. If you were raised on spaghetti and meatballs, that’s the recipe you’re using at the end of the day.
The beauty of eating out is trying the different cultures your city houses. Mediterranean, Indian, Hawaiian, Ethiopian – it’s all there for the tasting. It’s the most delicious way to expand your horizons.
Restaurants are the best locations for people watching.
Restaurants are the city equivalent of a safari watering hole. Different types of characters come out at night, seeking sustenance. You see them all when you’re eating out.
People-watching is basically a sport when you live in a city. You look around and ascribe fictional backgrounds to the eclectic mix of people you see. It’s a free dose of fun served up with your meal.
Being a regular is the ideal way to be part of your community.
There is no better feeling than walking into a restaurant or coffee shop and the staff greeting you with open arms. If they know your name, that’s a plus. If they know your order, that’s a major plus.
Being a regular connects to your community. You know not only the staff, but also the other regulars. You start seeing them around the neighborhood as you run errands, and you give each other a nod. Knowing how the other takes their coffee has bonded you.
You were hungry anyway.
Let’s be honest: In your life, you’re basically just filling time in between meals. You are stoked when someone suggests it might be time to eat.
So when you eat out, it’s a chance to merge your insatiable hunger with a social activity. Why play a round of mini-golf with friends when you can all break bread together? Especially if you get a good deal on a prix fixe meal.
You and your friends will never regret a night out on the town with a good meal. It’s the best way to fulfill your need to be cultured and fed.