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Arts & Culture Cities Food & Drink

The 8 Best Cheap Eats in San Diego

When it comes to cheap eats in San Diego, the options center mostly around Mexican, seafood, pizza, and beer—and that’s just fine. Prices may be low, but the best cheap eats in San Diego earn high marks for authenticity, creativity, and freshness. These are some of the best food stands, diners, and shops in San Diego for inexpensive snacks and meals.

Top San Diego Cheap Eats

Here are nine places to get a delicious meal in the sunny SoCal city without breaking the bank.

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Salud!

[st_content_ad]Salud! is a former food truck that got so popular it’s now a busy and fun restaurant in Barrio Logan, the city’s oldest Mexican-American neighborhood. When you’re looking for cheap eats in San Diego, head to Salud! for its daily taco specials and affordable micheladas. Locals line up for carne asada, carnitas, and street-style tacos, as well as beer, vegetarian options, and Mexican street corn. When you’re short on change but big on hunger, order the giant al pastor taco with shredded pork—this super-filling snack is also super affordable.

Las Cuatros Milpas

If you’re craving authentic Mexican food but can only afford to eat at the cheap restaurants in San Diego, Las Cuatro Milpas fits the bill. There’s always a long line of locals at this iconic Barrio Logan eatery—but these mouthwatering tamales and burritos are worth the wait. Plus, the line moves quickly, thanks to employees who are both efficient and extremely nice. Every tortilla served here is freshly made, and the rolled tacos are juicy and meaty.

Blind Lady Ale House

Blind Lady Ale House is a festive pub in Normal Heights. Its seasonal farm-to-table menu features creative full-sized pizzas, like the one with bacon and eggs. Quirky and down to earth with lots of craft beer—San Diego’s specialty—“BLAH” is a cool, casual, and family-friendly place to grab an affordable meal. For dessert, do a Batch root beer float.

The Crack Shack

For good cheap eats in San Diego, head over to one of the Crack Shack’s two locations—the main one in Little Italy, or the second spot in Encinitas. Both are egg-and-chicken-themed festive lunch spots serving chef Richard Blais’s inventive and affordable dishes like the senor croque sandwich, a fried chicken with pickled fresno chiles on brioche; and Mexican poutine, featuring schmaltz fries, pollo asado, and jalapeño cheese wiz. This is a casual indoor-outdoor eatery, and you can sit by the heater if you get chilly. There’s also a full bar.

Carnitas’ Snack Shack

Carnitas’ Snack Shack is a local favorite with an affordable and mostly meaty menu featuring items with pulled pork, pork belly, pork links, ham, and bacon. There are plenty of non-pork options as well, including beet terrine with goat cheese, crispy chicken, burgers, and a rib-eye steak sandwich.

Hodad’s

This throwback-style hamburger stand with a sense of humor (“Under 99 billion sold!”) is a great place to get cheap eats in San Diego. Hodad’s specializes in giant-but-affordable burgers, including the “Guido burger” inspired by Guy Fieri—it overflows with pastrami, ketchup, pickles, cheese, and more. Hodad’s has three busy but laid-back locations in San Diego: one downtown; one at Petco Park; and the original Ocean Beach spot, where it’s fun to sit and people watch. Besides the traditional beef burgers, there’s a good veggie burger, a giant serving of onion rings, and grilled cheese. 

Phil’s BBQ

Down-home, family-owned, and community-oriented, Phil’s BBQ doles out huge portions from its four San Diego locations, including an always-busy spot in Point Loma. These heavenly baby back ribs come with onion rings, coleslaw, and fries. Phil’s also sells a variety of meaty sandwiches, a cheeseburger po’boy, and even a veggie burger.

Nomad Donuts

These are doughnuts like you’ve never seen—or tasted. The gourmet options at one-of-a-kind Nomad Donut change regularly, but you can expect specialty pastries featuring unique flavors from all over the world, like the dirty chai doughnut and the black currant harissa. The vegan options here are just as delicious and fluffy. Pro tip: Get here early for crullers.

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—Original reporting by Avital Andrews. Follow her on Twitter @avitalb.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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14 Things a Hotel Concierge Can Do for You (And 6 Things They Can’t)

Few travelers think to contact the hotel concierge for much more than directions or restaurant recommendations—but if you don’t, you’re missing out on a wealth of local expertise. A good hotel concierge has impressive powers and can assist with almost any travel problem you might face, so you shouldn’t be afraid to take advantage.[st_content_ad]

That said, a concierge is not a magician. Below are 14 things your hotel concierge can do for you, six more they can’t, and four tips for maximizing your moments at the hotel lobby.

What a Hotel Concierge Can Do for You

Save You Money

The concierge can tell you how to get to the airport for less, where to find nearby happy hours, what the best free sights and activities are, and how much is a fair price for a taxi.

Recommend Fitness Facilities

If your hotel doesn’t have a gym or lacks the equipment you want, the concierge can usually point you to an affiliated hotel with better facilities, recommend a good running trail, or give you a list of nearby fitness centers that offer daily or weekly passes.

Get You a Ride When There Seems to Be None Available

If it is rush hour, raining, or really late, finding a taxi or Uber ride can be tough. The concierge can make this happen with a phone call in many cases. This can even work if you’re not staying at the hotel in question. I once saw a friend walk into the lobby of a New York hotel and offer the concierge a tip; within seconds, we had a ride.

Get Tickets for You

Many concierges are careful to say they can’t get tickets for sold-out shows, but the truth is they sometimes can. They may have relationships with brokers, or know season ticket holders who may not be using their seats, or even have tickets themselves; Michael Fazio, author of Concierge Confidential, started to purchase tickets to certain shows that he would then sell to guests, usually at a markup that matched the secondary market.

Keep You Safe

A concierge can offer advice on whether a neighborhood, park, or activity is safe to visit, and what you can do instead if your idea is iffy.

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Help You Celebrate

Are you proposing to your partner or celebrating a landmark birthday? Your hotel concierge can help with anything from filling your hotel room with flowers and balloons to organizing a rooftop proposal, complete with a photographer to document the occasion.

Help You Do Your Job

A concierge can assist with all kinds of work-related tasks, such as getting materials to a printer, setting up a courier service, mailing packages, and setting up a meeting space.

Help You Look Good

A concierge can get you an appointment with a barber or hairdresser, get clothes pressed, and more.

Fix Sticky Travel Problems

A concierge can help you find an expeditor or make an embassy appointment if your passport is stolen, or facilitate repairs if your smartphone goes on the fritz. They can also accept overnight mail or late-arriving luggage.

Get You a Table

Restaurants will often find a way to fit in customers who are recommended by their preferred concierge contacts. If the restaurant is truly full, the concierge can often get you to the front of a waiting list.

Recommend Local Service Folks

Need a babysitter, an auto repair shop, or a dog walker? Your concierge can help.

Create a Custom Itinerary

If you have a bunch of stuff you definitely want to do but are uncertain how to make it all fit together, the concierge can take your list of attractions and put together a coherent and achievable plan. He or she can also help you avoid pitfalls such as road construction or closed subway stations.

Help with Special Needs

If you are disabled, aren’t feeling well, or have other special needs, a hotel concierge can offer considerable assistance—like calling wheelchair-accessible taxis, finding English-speaking doctors, and recommending restaurants that can accommodate certain food allergies.

Provide Assistance Before You Arrive

The concierge can be a resource not just once you’re at the hotel but beforehand as well. For instance, he or she could help you plan out your first day, including a restaurant reservation for dinner.

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What Your Hotel Concierge Can’t Do for You

Gossip

Discretion is an integral part of a concierge’s job, so they tend not to talk about other guests, including which celebrities might be staying in the hotel.

Illegal or Immoral Activities

You shouldn’t expose a concierge to risk by asking him or her to help with illegal—or dubiously legal—activities such as obtaining drugs, forging signatures, finding “companions,” or the like.

Babysit

A concierge can help you find someone else to look after your child, but he or she can’t actually do the babysitting while on duty.

Float You a Loan

They’ll help you with money concerns, but concierges are not banks; don’t ask them to dig into their pockets for you.

Sell Stuff for You

Concierges are also not your personal eBay or Craigslist; they can’t sell tickets you no longer need or items you don’t want to take home. However, he or she may be able to recommend a place where you can do the sale yourself.

Book Tickets to Sold-Out Shows

Truly sold-out shows tend to be just that; however, you can ask if the concierge has any ideas or contacts to help get you tickets, and he or she might have a strategy for you. If there is truly no way to get certain tickets, the concierge will tell you so.

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Tips for Using a Hotel Concierge

Don’t Be Shy

You might feel as though the concierge is only there for the folks in the penthouse suite, but this isn’t the case; he or she is there to help all guests, so feel free to ask.

Give Them Some Time

Concierges can often pull off difficult tasks, but to do so on very short notice is tricky, and it distracts them from helping other guests. Give the concierge some notice if you need something beyond simple advice.

Present the Concierge’s Card

When a concierge sends you to a restaurant or other establishment, it is often his or her name, not yours, that is the attraction for the proprietor. So if a concierge asks you to show his or her card, do it; these relationships are what makes concierges able to help you now and in the future.

Not All Concierges Are the Same

Concierges at the very best (and most expensive) hotels are notorious for pulling off near-miracles; those at less prestigious establishments typically don’t have the same pull.

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Ed Hewitt is a seasoned globetrotter who brings you a biweekly glimpse into the latest travel news, views, and trends—and how they could affect your travel plans.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated with the latest information.

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Tipping in Greece: The Greece Tipping Guide

A vacation in Greece promises beautiful scenery, fresh and delicious food, and interactions with friendly locals. As a visitor, you’ll find yourself in plenty of situations in which you might naturally think to tip. But should you?

Tipping in Greece is customary, but is by no means obligatory. This Greece tipping guide will help you navigate when/where you can leave a little extra for great service.

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Tipping in Greece

[st_content_ad]Tipping in Greece may be expected in most places, but it is by no means an obligation. There is no set standard for how much to leave when service exceeds expectations, but there are certain times when it’s expected you’ll tip. For instance, some restaurants may round up the bill to include gratuity, so it is wise to look for this inclusion before tipping. Note that it’s also common for servers not to receive tips included on a credit card, so try to leave cash whenever possible so ensure the person you’re trying to tip actually receives the gratuity.

Want to know when to tip for other services? Read on to make sense of where, when, and how much to tip when you’re traveling in Greece.

[st_related]Tipping: How Much to Tip Tour Guides, Taxis, Hotel Maids, and More?[/st_related]

View of a narrow street in the old town of Thessaloniki, Greece

How To Tip In Greece

Cafe Server:

Greece doesn’t have a strong culture of tipping at cafes. But if there is a tip jar by the cash register, it’s a nice gesture to leave a couple of coins. For exceptional table service, round up to the nearest €1.

Restaurant Server:

A tip is typically expected, especially for stellar service, but some restaurants round up the bill to include gratuity. Check the bill first for these inclusions before deciding whether or not to tip. If there is no added tip, leave 5 to 10 percent, and a few coins on the table for the busser. Some restaurants may refuse gratuity for service, so if you’re unsure, you can certainly ask before tipping. There may be a “cover charge” on the bill, which covers the cost of bread and non-bottled water, but doesn’t include gratuity.

Bartender:

At bars, it’s not necessary to tip a bartender, as most do not expect it; but it is considerate to round to the nearest €1 for great service.

Tour Guides:

In Greece, it’s customary to tip tour guides. Tip €2 to €5 per person, per day for a group tour; and €20 per person, per day for a private tour.

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View of Greek Orthodox Church in Monastiraki Square and line of yellow cabs

Taxis:

A good rule of thumb is to round up to the nearest euro. This approach simplifies paying with cash, and it’s not an unusual way to tip without actually tipping. For exceptional service, or if you use a taxi driver for multiple stops, for a longer distance, or as a guide, you might add 5 to 10 percent of the final fare to your total payment.

Airport Shuttle Driver:

It is not necessary to tip your driver, but feel free to give €1 per bag if they help with your luggage.

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Doorman:

If a doorman assists with luggage or hailing transportation, a simple thank you is appreciated. But for exceptional service, it certainly wouldn’t be remiss to offer €1.

Bellhop:

At hotels, feel free to tip the bellhop €1 to €2 per bag delivered to your room, but no more than €5 total. 

Housecleaning:

At hotels, or in vacation rentals that have daily cleaning services, it’s customary to leave €1 per night, especially if the cleaner is doing a great job.

Front Desk at the Astra Suites

Concierge:

If the concierge goes above and beyond with helping you book reservations, giving you directions, and/or providing insider recommendations, it’s considerate to tip €5 to €10. For answers to quick questions, though, you shouldn’t feel obligated.

Stylist:

For haircuts, shampoos, trims, and shaves, it’s considerate, but not expected, to tip 10 percent of the final bill if you’re satisfied with your new look.

Spa Service Provider:

A tip isn’t expected, but you can leave up to 10 percent for anything that goes above and beyond your expectations. Simply ask for an envelope for the tip at the front desk, and then either deliver the envelope to your provider or leave the tip at the front desk.

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The 18 Best Restaurants in Houston

If you’re a newcomer to Houston, you’ll be surprised at its vast international feel—and nowhere is that more obvious than in its restaurants. It’s not just Tex-Mex (though there’s plenty of that, too)—you’ll find all sorts of cuisine from around the globe, from BBQ and Creole to Indian and Vietnamese. Eat your way through the city with this list of the best Houston restaurants.

Brennan’s of Houston

meal at brennans houston.

Brennan’s has been a fine dining institution in Houston since 1967, even after it burned down during a 2008 hurricane and reopened a couple of years later. Its wide-ranging Southern/Creole menu and well-honed service make it one of the best restaurants in Houston for a special evening out.

Uchi

uchi houston.

Foodies familiar with the original Uchi in Austin were thrilled when it opened a second location in Houston in 2012. The restaurant’s creative and beautiful sushi dishes are worth the sometimes-lengthy wait for a table (reservations are highly recommended).

Tommy’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar

pasta dish at tommy restaurant and oyster bar houston.

In Clear Lake, Tommy’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar is your destination for crawfish enchiladas, Louisiana-style gumbo, oysters on the half shell, and seafood platters—with a helping of gracious hospitality on the side.

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Ninfa’s on Navigation

ninfa's on navigation houston.

The original Ninfa’s, on Navigation Boulevard, is where you go to find the roots of the national fajita craze. It began with tacos al carbon created by Mama Ninfa, which are now part of a broader Tex-Mex menu that includes enchiladas, handmade tamales, flautas, and much more.

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

steak at pappas bros steakhouse houston.

Looking for a traditional steakhouse with old-school ambiance and finely aged meats? Try Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, which has two Houston locations. Leave room for indulgent sides like roasted wild mushrooms and jumbo lump crab mac and cheese.

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Xochi

meal at xochi houston.

Located downtown at the Marriott Marquis Houston, Xochi showcases the diverse, flavorful cuisine of Oaxaca, Mexico, from slow-cooked lechon (suckling pig) with plantain molotes (corn pastries) to a full menu of dishes with mole sauce.

The Kitchen at The Dunlavy

kitchen at dunlavy.

This popular spot for brunch is one of Houston’s prettier settings for a meal, with chandeliers overhead and floor-to-ceiling windows offering views of Buffalo Bayou Park and the city skyline. The menu features salads, grain bowls, smoothies, sandwiches, and breakfast dishes.

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La Griglia

meal at griglia restaurant houston.

This River Oaks favorite has been serving up reliable Italian fare in a convivial atmosphere for more than 25 years. Between the fresh fish, wood-fired pizza, and various types of pasta, it’s tough to go wrong with anything on the menu.

Kiran’s

kirans restaurant houston.

Kiran’s isn’t your typical neighborhood Indian restaurant. This fine dining spot serves an intriguing mix of classic Indian dishes (butter chicken, curries), Indian street food (samosas, pakoras), and non-Indian options (foie gras, goat cheese and beet salad) in an elegant space in Upper Kirby.

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Green Seed Vegan

burger and kale at green seed vegan houston.

For a healthy lunch or smoothie between museum visits, try Green Seed Vegan, which started as a food truck but has since expanded into a full restaurant. The all-vegan menu includes paninis, wraps, salads, and tacos.

Benjy’s

benjy's houston dining room.

This popular Rice Village joint offers something for everyone—vegan pasta and baby kale salad for vegetarians, heavenly pan-seared scallops for seafood fans, sticky pork ribs and lamb burgers for meat lovers, and a full brunch menu for those looking for a laid-back late-morning meal.

The Pit Room

bbq sandwich at the pit room houston.

Wondering where to eat some genuine Texas BBQ in Houston? Try The Pit Room. Diners happily wait in long lines to dig their teeth into the restaurant’s to-die-for beef ribs, brisket, and jalapeno-cheddar sausage.

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Nancy’s Hustle

nancy's hustle houston.

This little bistro in East Downtown is relatively new on the Houston restaurant scene, but it’s already popular with locals for its intimate atmosphere and eclectic menu. If you’re dining with a group, consider ordering a bunch of small plates for sharing.

REEF and 3rd Bar

reef houston dining room.

Long one of the best places to eat in Houston for seafood lovers, REEF shut down for nearly two years following damage in Hurricane Harvey in 2017. It’s reopened with an all-new menu that still showcases the best of the sea, including oysters on the half shell, grilled snapper and salmon, and pickled Gulf shrimp.

Bombay Pizza Company

pizza at bombay pizza company houston.

Italian and Indian may seem like an unlikely mix, but it works surprisingly well at Bombay Pizza Company. You can order standard pizzas like cheese or pepperoni, or take a chance on pies topped with saag paneer, tandoori pork, or grilled vegetables with Indian spices. Pasta, curries, kati rolls, and mini-burgers round out the unique menu.

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Bravery Chef Hall

counter at bravery chef hall houston.

Houston is in the midst of a food hall boom, with several opening downtown in the past year or two. Bravery Chef Hall is one of the newest, featuring a variety of stalls overseen by some of Houston’s leading chefs. Options include everything from fresh sushi and heirloom pasta to Vietnamese cuisine and diner food with a global twist.

Indigo

meal at indigo houston.

Ordering a tasting menu at the 13-seat Indigo restaurant isn’t just about enjoying a meal; it’s an educational experience. The staff put the restaurant’s neo-soul dishes into the context of African-American history, explaining how slavery and mass incarceration have influenced the food this community eats today. Reservations are essential.

Rosie Cannonball

baby lettuce with roe at rosie cannonball.

This brand-new restaurant in Montrose aims to serve “European comfort food”—think gourmet pizzas, fresh pasta, Basque-style chicken and fish, and plenty of creative vegetable dishes. There’s a lengthy wine list to match.

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 Sarah Schlichter was hosted by Marriott and Visit Houston. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration. June Naylor contributed to this story.

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The Best Cheap Eats in Las Vegas

In addition to your standard fast food outlets, which are lit-up electrified versions of themselves here, there are plenty more original options for cheap eats in Las Vegas.

The Best Cheap Eats in Las Vegas

These are our 10 favorite places to get an affordable meal in Sin City.

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Krung Siam Thai

Krung siam thai

[st_content_ad]Las Vegas’s Chinatown, a bit off the strip, is a wonderful place to go for an affordable and delicious Asian meal. Krung Siam Thai is one of the best options in that district—prices are quite accessible, and the food is fresh, delicious, and authentic. It comes out quick, brought to you by attentive servers in a casual dining room that occasionally features live musicians.

The menu includes an adjustable heat scale, so order your food spiced up according to what your taste buds can handle. Share a grilled beef sirloin, roasted duck, or deep-fried catfish with chili paste. The vegetarian options here are fantastic, too.

Evel Pie

Mr. mamas

For a fun pizza experience, zoom over to Evel Pie, a hopping Evel Knievel-themed joint decorated with memorabilia and photos related to the motorcycle stuntman’s rip-roaring career. These are some good cheap eats in Las Vegas—order a cheesy New York-style slice (starting at $4) or a made-to-order hot pie. Try the Barry White Pie or Cheesy Rider, and wash it all down with cold beer.

Mr. Mamas

Mr. mamas

For amazing breakfasts at affordable prices, head off the Strip to family-owned Mr. Mamas, a cute diner with a splashy black-and-white floor. Service is friendly here, and portions are large. Customer favorites include pancakes, steak and eggs, and the California omelette. The menu also lists big burgers, wraps, salads, and great coffee.

Halal Guys

Halal guys

For an excellent fast-food alternative, head to the Forum Food Court at Caesar’s Palace and walk right up to the Halal Guys counter to order some of their delicious Middle Eastern fare. Choose between a wrap or a platter—falafel, chicken, or beef gyro, topped with the Guys’ signature spicy white sauce. Service is quick and friendly, everything is wonderfully flavorful (including the baklava for dessert), and the joint stays open until 2:00 a.m. on weekends to fuel the city’s late-night revelers.

Garden Court Buffet

Garden court buffet

If you’re in Sin City, you’ve gotta try a Las Vegas buffet. But while buffets will usually cost you, the abundant Garden Court Buffet in the Main Street Station Hotel is actually one of the best cheap places to eat in Las Vegas.

Its dining room is accented with columns, filigrees, and popcorn lights. The all-you-can-eat breakfast is $9, lunch is $10, dinner is $13, and the champagne brunch is $14. This smorgasbord lets you mix and match your favorites from all kinds of cuisines: Mexican, Asian, Southwestern, pizza, rotisserie, and much more. This is where the locals eat.

Tacos El Gordo

Tacos el gordo

Las Vegas’s three Tacos El Gordo locations stay open (and busy) until at least 2:00 a.m. every night. That’s because the family-owned restaurant’s Tijuana-style tacos are beloved by locals, and prices are so reasonable that you can order as much as you want to satisfy your Mexican cravings.

The tacos are stuffed right in front of you with fresh ingredients going into handmade corn tortillas topped with scratch-made guacamole and salsa. Order off the meat-heavy menu, then wash it all down with horchata.

In-N-Out Burger

In-N-Out burger

In-N-Out Burger has a cult following of devotees obsessed with the chain’s perfectly grilled burgers and oh-so-satisfying fries. These fans will be happy to know that the family-owned company has five locations in Las Vegas, and that they’re all open until at least 1:00 a.m.

The simple, unchanging menu offers the aforementioned burgers and fries, as well as grilled cheese and shakes made from real ice cream. This is very affordable fare, and you can get it via drive-through—but be prepared to wait a while as staffers scramble to feed their hungry hordes.

Rockhouse in The Venetian

Rockhouse in the venetian

You wouldn’t expect to find affordable food deals in the Venetian, but those in the know head to Rockhouse for its weekly specials: $1.50 tacos on Tuesdays and $1 chicken wings and $1.50 hot dogs on Wednesdays.

Frequently, this hard-partying bar will host $1 PBR happy hours, and it always offers plenty of other hard-to-turn-down drink specials. Yes, this is bar food—but it’s good, and it comes with a side of live bands, deejays, and bar-wide drinking games.

Dirt Dog

Dirt dog

Unassuming and minimalist, Dirt Dog serves up some of the yummiest cheap eats in Las Vegas. The street-food-inspired menu options include tasty and unique hot dogs (including a vegetarian option), lobster rolls, and carne asada fries. Its two locations, one at Bally’s Grand Bazaar and one at the southwest end of the city, stay open late, pour tap beer, and serve side dishes like dirty corn, which comes with crema, cotija cheese, and chili powder. The “Filthy Fries” come with guacamole and chipotle aioli. For dessert, go for the deep-fried Twinkie.

Viva Las Arepas

Viva las arepas

Venezuelan fast food? It’s a thing at Viva Las Arepas, where authentic arepas start at $5. You can also splurge on the Arepa Reina Pepiada, which comes with chicken, avocado, mayo, cheese, and a fried egg, for just $7.50.

Its two family-owned Las Vegas locations aren’t immediately obvious but are definitely worth looking up, because you’re guaranteed a memorable and delicious meal. There’s a vegetarian arepa ($5.50), as well as a shredded beef arepa, which is flavorful, smoky, and juicy. Mango juice costs $3, fried plantains are $4, and fried yuca root goes for $3.50.

Perfectly Affordable Vegas Outfit

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–Original reporting by Avital Andrews. Follow her on Twitter @avitalb.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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10 Best Celebrity Chef Restaurants in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is the undisputed capital of celebrity chef restaurants. If you’re a famous cook, you’re not famous enough unless you’ve got a joint on Las Vegas Boulevard. Below, we’ve listed 10 of the best celebrity chef restaurants in Las Vegas.

The Best Celebrity Chef Restaurants in Las Vegas

It’s nearly impossible to choose just 10 great celebrity restaurants in Las Vegas, so do keep in mind that there are plenty more beyond this list, too.

Joël Robuchon

Joël robuchon

[st_content_ad]When it comes to celebrity chef restaurants in Las Vegas, both of Joël Robuchon’s in the MGM Grand are darn near the best. France’s most famous chef operates L’Atelier Las Vegas de Joël Robuchon, as well as the Joël Robuchon Restaurant. In the former, his exquisite recipes are prepared in front of you in an open-exhibition kitchen. Decor is red and black, sleek and classy. Order prix fixe or a tasting portion—you can’t go wrong. The latter, which is purple and plush with elegant decor and linens, is about as fancy and splurgy as you can get. And yes, it’s all worth it.

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Restaurant Guy Savoy

Restaurant guy savoy

Restaurant Guy Savoy, in Caesars Palace, is refined, quiet, and quite excellent. Guy Savoy, a master of a chef, has made sure that his Las Vegas restaurant presents as serious a fine dining experience as his lauded original in Paris, France. His Vegas spot has two Michelin stars of its own, a 13-course tasting menu, a superlative wine list, a caviar room, and a private chef’s table for those who want to see where and how the magic happens. Service here is dignified and highly attentive.

É by José Andrés

É by jose andres

José Andrés was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People,” as well as a James Beard Outstanding Chef. É by José Andres, in the Cosmopolitan, shows off why—it’s a hidden enclave serving avant garde Spanish cuisine; there are just two nightly seatings for eight people each, and the lucky patrons get treated to 21 courses of full-flavored surprises.

This is a bucket-list item for most gourmands, though Jaleo, the restaurant that houses it, is no slouch either. For that one, Andrés created inspired Mediterranean and Spanish dishes, presented beautifully in festive environs. The chef’s two other Las Vegas restaurants are Bazaar Meat, a large-portion steakhouse off the Strip; and China Poblano, serving Chinese-Mexican fusion food in a brightly colored dining room.

Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen and Bar

Guy fieri’s vegas kitchen and bar

Guy Fieri went to college at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and seems to have gotten the town’s spirit infused into his identity—and his cooking. As far as celebrity chef restaurants in Las Vegas go, this may very well be the first that comes to mind. Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen and Bar in the Linq Hotel is very, well, Guy Fieri. It’s casual, busy, and fun, with nice servers and big, bold entrees. Order a Vegas-style burger and fries or share some “Trash Can Brisket Nachos.” Come here for lunch, late-night dining, lots of beer, and views of the Strip.

Fieri also operates El Burro Borracho in the Rio Hotel, right next to the next to the VooDoo Beach pool party—it’s Fieri’s signature take on Mexican food.

Border Grill

Border grill

Beloved Los Angeles chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken rose to national prominence on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters and Food Network’s Too Hot Tamales. Their popular Border Grill chain has two Las Vegas locations whipping up modern Mexican food full of color and flavor.

One is in Mandalay Bay and is great for brunch, which includes bottomless mimosas and unlimited small plates. The chefs’ second local spot is in Caesars Palace, where a ceviche bar lets you try many varieties, including Guatemalan, Peruvian, and Caribbean. Both locations feature quick and friendly service and bold Latin decor.

Bouchon

Bouchon

Thomas Keller is the revered restaurateur best known for having created the Michelin three-starred French Laundry in California’s wine country, and Per Se in Manhattan, which also boasts three Michelin stars. Joining the ever-growing trend of celebrity chef restaurants in Las Vegas, the famous chef transported the menu and ambiance of his much-loved Bouchon Bistro in Yountville right into the Venetian Resort.

Come for the French comfort fare and bistro classics in this high-vaulted space full of warmth, or enjoy the night views from out on the patio. In either scenario, Bouchon Las Vegas presents expert service, extremely flavorful dishes, and hand-painted murals. This being a Thomas Keller joint, there’s an extensive wine list, too.

Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen

Gordon ramsay’s hell’s kitchen

Fans of Gordon Ramsay’s hit show will adore Hell’s Kitchen, which opened in early 2018 at Caesars Palace. It’s Ramsay’s fifth Las Vegas restaurant, but the first that attempts to replicate his studio set. A life-sized video of the intense television personality greets you at the door, and then you walk into an immersive experience whose details will be immediately recognizable to regular viewers.

Ramsay is a Michelin-starred chef, and his culinary talent shines via concoctions like his smoked beet salad, lobster risotto, beef Wellington, and sticky toffee pudding. A huge bar offers craft cocktails, more than 20 wines by the glass, and a 30-option beer list. The vast 300-seat dining room features fire elements, as well as floor-to-ceiling windows that face the Strip and the resort’s fountains. It’s always packed here, so book early.

Rivea

Rivea

Back in 2015, when Michelin-decorated chef Alain Ducasse debuted Rivea, his refined Las Vegas restaurant, he said of it, “Every detail transports guests to those endless summer nights in the South of France.” This romantic sentiment has held true throughout the restaurant’s existence thus far: Its inviting interior is done in cool blues and greens, and Ducasse’s French and Italian flavors, put together with local, seasonal ingredients, are always simple and fresh.

Rivea sits on the 64th floor of Mandalay Bay’s Delano Las Vegas, a sky-high perch that provides breathtaking 180-degree views over Las Vegas. While soaking in the skyline, savor small plates, main courses, and desserts that are highlighted by sommelier-curated aperitifs. Specialties here include beef carpaccio, chickpea crepes, and Provencal caponata. Adjacent to Rivea is Skyfall Lounge, where deejays spin late into the night.

Cut by Wolfgang Puck 

Cut

Wolfgang Puck is one of the world’s best-known chefs, so it’s no surprise that Cut has become one of the most prominent celebrity chef restaurants in Las Vegas. The Palazzo’s fancy steakhouse is modern and vast; rectangular chandeliers elevate the dining room, while expert servers help you choose your cut. Options include Japanese and American wagyu, New York sirloin, a 12-ounce ribeye, and filet mignon. Vegetarians can create a worthwhile dinner by mixing and matching the long and creative list of well-prepared sides. Everything comes expertly plated, as a roving whiskey cart makes its rounds.

Wolfgang Puck fans will want to visit his other Las Vegas restaurants, too: Spago, Cucina, Lupo, and Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill.

Giada

Giada

Giada de Laurentiis’s first restaurant has been a huge hit. Opened in 2014, the 300-seat Giada at the Cromwell Hotel features bright Italian flavors, an open kitchen for those who are interested in watching the chefs cook, and charming white-and-cream decor. With views of the Bellagio fountains, indoor and terrace seating, and an ambiance that melds elegance with fun, it seems that there’s nothing that the Emmy-winning Food Network star can’t do.

The top chef puts her Le Cordon Bleu education to good use here—try the polenta waffles with Nutella for breakfast, the elaborate mimosa brunch, the lunch or dinner tasting menu paired with wine, and all those fresh-baked breads and pizzas. For dessert, the lemon ricotta cookies are sublime. If you’re staying at the Cromwell, you can order food from Giada right to your room. De Laurentiis’s second Las Vegas restaurant, Pronto by Giada, debuted at Caesars Palace in early 2018.

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–Original reporting by Avital Andrews. Follow her on Twitter @avitalb.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Budget Travel Cities Money

New York on a Budget: 25 Ways to Save on Travel

The Big Apple has a reputation as a pricey vacation destination, and that’s not entirely undeserved. The average rate at New York City hotels is a whopping $254 a night, according to a recent Statista report—America’s most expensive average nightly rate. With prices like that, visiting New York on a budget may seem impossible.

But pricey hotels aside, New York City is actually a surprisingly attractive destination for budget travelers, especially if you’re willing to do a little advance planning. Read on to learn how to save money in New York City, including tips for dining on the cheap, getting discount tickets to Broadway shows, saving on public transportation, and finding the city’s best free attractions and events.

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Planning a Trip to New York on a Budget

[st_content_ad]1. Get out the map. Group the sights that you want to see by neighborhood, so that you visit one area of the city each day (for example, visit the Statue of Liberty and Wall Street one day, and Central Park and Times Square another day). This will make the most of your time and save you money on the subway, and on Uber and taxi rides.

2. Expand your reach. Spend at least part of your trip exploring residential neighborhoods like NoHo, Tribeca, and Greenwich Village rather than sticking to the tourist traps. You’ll get to see the real New York without paying out the wazoo.

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How to Save Money on New York City Attractions

3. Purchase a tourist pass. If you know you’ll be packing in a lot of popular attractions into your stay, you may be able to save with a city pass. The New York Pass gives you entry into dozens of attractions over a set number of days for one fixed price. Another option is CityPass, which includes admission to either three or six museums and sights, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Empire State Building, over nine days. Passes such as these not only save you money, but also let you skip the lines.

4. Look for reduced admission. Check the websites of museums you plan to visit to find out whether they offer any free or reduced-price admission days. For example, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is free every Friday between 4:00 and 8:00 p.m. Some museums also offer coupons or discounts on their websites, so make sure to check before going.

5. Take advantage of freebies. Some attractions are free all the time—including Central Park, where there are almost always street performers and musicians roaming around, and the High Line, a public park recently created from an old elevated rail line. The Downtown Boathouse offers free public kayaking programs.

6. Stock up on coupons. For discounts on food, shopping, spas, and attraction admissions, search discount sites like Groupon and LivingSocial. Those who know they’ll be traveling to New York City can stock up on some good deals prior to visiting.

7. Take the ferry. Skip the touristy (and pricey) harbor cruises and take the Staten Island Ferry instead for fantastic views of New York Harbor—it’s free!

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How to Save on NYC Shows and Entertainment

8. Find low-cost events. Travelers visiting New York on a budget should take advantage of the many free or inexpensive concerts, readings, art exhibits, and other events happening all over the city on any given day. The only challenge is finding them. For a start, try the “Free in NYC” page of New York’s official tourist board.

9. Save on Broadway tickets. The popular TKTS booths are great places to check for discounted Broadway tickets, but they’re not your only option. There are often even better deals to be had on discount ticket websites like BroadwayBox.com.

10. Go to the source. Theaters will often sell leftover tickets (for as little as $25) a couple of hours before shows at their respective box offices—but sometimes it’s standing room only, or seats may not be together if you’ve got a group. Some theaters may give discounts to seniors or students with ID; it never hurts to ask.

11. Get a subscription. Theater lovers who visit New York regularly or are planning a lengthy trip should consider an Audience Extras membership. For a yearly fee, you get access to last-minute tickets for local shows and concerts that have empty seats to fill. Tickets are free, other than a small ticket service charge. The membership pays for itself after just a few shows.

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How to Save on New York Transportation

12. Buy a subway pass. If you’re planning a longer trip to the city, it’s often cost-efficient to buy subway passes that give you unlimited rides for a week or longer (depending, obviously, on how long you’ll be in town). This is especially true if you don’t know where you’re going because if you make a mistake and have to redirect, it may involve swiping your card several times more than you anticipated.

13. Consider driving. If you’re coming into the city with a group of people, it might actually be cheaper to take a car (though also more annoying). Say you pay $40 for parking, $15 for tolls and $10 for gas—it might be less than $30 x 4 for train tickets into the city. But be sure to weigh that against the convenience of taking the train.

14. Plan your parking. If you do decide to drive into the city, print out coupons or a parking pass ahead of time that will allow you to park all day for a flat rate, rather than paying horrendous hourly fees. One good option is Icon Parking, which is well known throughout the city and has several locations. On its website, you can enter the dates and times of your arrival and departure—give yourself a buffer of a couple of hours each way, in case you arrive early or get tied up and leave late—and choose your parking garage location using the map. It’ll then give you a printable confirmation that guarantees your flat rate for that time frame. You can either pay in advance online or get a coupon to bring to the site.

15. Use your feet. Manhattan is very walkable and you’ll see a lot more on foot than you would by public transport or taxi. Plus, it’s free.

16. Hop on a bike. Biking is a fun and inexpensive way to get around the city—just be sure to wear a helmet and stick to bike lanes for safety. There are some wonderful cycle routes around Manhattan, especially along the Hudson and East Rivers. New York has a bike-share program called Citi Bike; for a very small fee, you can borrow a bike for anywhere from 30 minutes to three days.

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How to Save on Meals in New York City

17. Follow the young folks. If upscale lounges and fancy restaurants aren’t your thing, skip the touristy Times Square area and eat where the students eat. Neighborhoods with colleges and universities—such as the East Village near New York University—often have unique local eats at fantastic prices.

18. Hit the streets. In a city renowned for its street food, you’re missing out if you eat all your meals in restaurants. From familiar hot dog carts to trucks bearing every kind of ethnic fare you can imagine, you can eat your way around the globe without ever leaving the Big Apple—or paying more than a few bucks at a time. A thorough site called New York Street Food highlights some of the best options.

19. Explore ethnic neighborhoods. Areas like Chinatown, Little Italy, and Little India are a great bet for authentic meals at affordable prices. One of my favorite dining experiences is to get up early on a Sunday and head to Chinatown for dim sum. Locals far outnumber tourists in the busy restaurants there, which offer small tapas-style plates for just a few dollars each.

20. Don’t worry, be happy. To save money at the bar, go out early and take advantage of happy hour prices and less crowded venues.

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Where to Stay in New York on a Budget

21. Stay outside Manhattan. Thanks to New York’s comprehensive public transportation system, there’s no need to pay through the nose for a Midtown hotel when you can stay in one of the other boroughs—or in New Jersey—and take the train wherever you want to go. Even after factoring in the cost of extra transportation, the savings can be significant.

22. Consider alternatives. There are plenty of other options besides hotels, including apartment rentals, home exchanges, couch surfing, and hostels, many of which offer private rooms in addition to shared dorms. For more ideas, see Ditch the Hotel: 10 Cheaper Ways to Stay. (Note that rentals through Airbnb and other vacation rental sites are not always legal in New York City; to protect yourself, read Airbnb and Beyond: Tips for Safe, Legal Vacation Rentals.)

23. Share a bathroom. If you’re willing to sacrifice a little comfort for a better location, consider staying in a hotel or an inn with a shared bath—it’s often one of the best ways to find a truly budget rate in the most popular Manhattan neighborhoods.

Shopping in New York on a Budget

24. Hit the flea markets. Spend your Saturday or Sunday shopping (and haggling) at one of the city’s flea markets, where you’ll always find something unique. Consider GreenFlea in Manhattan or Brooklyn Flea in Brooklyn.

25. Shop in the right spot. If you’re looking for great deals on purses or jewelry, skip the street corner vendors and head to Canal Street, where you’ll find bargain basement prices.

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Carrie Gonzalez, Ashley Kosciolek, Shayne Rodriguez Thompson, Dan Askin, Carolyn Spencer Brown, John Deiner, and Erica Silverstein contributed to this story.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Entertainment Family Travel

10 Best Disney Hotels Around the World

To travelers of all ages, a Disney vacation is a dream vacation. You can immerse yourself into some of the world’s most famous animated films at any of the 12 Disney theme parks, from Anaheim to Shanghai. But once Disney fans have found the perfect park for them, what about the perfect hotel?

For a Disney experience that doesn’t stop when you leave the park, consider staying at a Disney hotel. With themed rooms, character experiences, incredible views, and proximity to the attractions you came to see, these are the best Disney hotels you can stay in around the world.

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Au’lani, A Disney Resort and Spa

On the island of Oahu, this Disney hotel stands out from the rest because it’s not actually located anywhere near a Disney theme park. Instead, the Au’lani Disney Resort and Spa, is the Disney attraction in itself. With characters like Moana and Stitch leading the way (as well as a Mickey Mouse crew in Hawaiian shirts), there’s plenty of Disney fun to be had.

With a spa with an outdoor hydrotherapy garden, a golf course right next door, and a pool that’s basically its own waterpark complete with a splash zone and a waterslide, this beachside Disney resort has something for everybody. Kids especially will love Aunty’s Beach House, a Moana-inspired kids club where ages three to 12 can explore Hawaiian culture through games and activities.

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Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa


With some of the best dining options of all the Orlando-based Disney hotels and a full-service spa, the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is a stand-out. Maintaining its Victorian elegance, the hotel also offers a full-size pool with a large waterslide. While you’re there, don’t miss the chance to dine at the award-winning Victoria & Albert’s restaurant. You can reserve a table for a classic table-service or get a peek into the kitchen with a ten-course meal at the Chef’s Table. And if that’s not enough glamour for you, make sure to spend some time in the lobby to listen to the live orchestra play a mix of jazz, ragtime, and classic Disney songs. 

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Disneyland Hotel


In Anaheim, California, you can have the classic Disney experience at the Disneyland Hotel. With up-to-date accommodations that pay tribute to the classic history of the park and a number of themed suites from pirates to princesses, this hotel is a good choice for anyone looking to make an extra special trip to Disneyland. At this Disney hotel, the biggest benefit is proximity. This hotel is located right next to the park and guests with valid tickets can enjoy early admission as a perk of staying at the hotel and enter the park an hour before general opening. After your day in the park, you can relax poolside at one of the rental cabanas or go for a stroll the promenade in Downtown Disney.

Editors’ Note: According to Disney’s website the Disneyland Hotel pool area will be undergoing refurbishments from January 7 to May 2019.

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Tokyo DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta

Located inside Tokyo DisneySea Park, the Hotel Miracosta is not just a Disney hotel favorite for its direct access to the park, but also scores major wanderlust points for its stunning Italian-inspired architecture. Like a little piece of Italy in Japan, the hotel has three separate sections inspired by different regions of Italy: Tuscany, Venice, and Porto Paradiso. With 502 newly-refurbished guest rooms and an indoor pool that look like the personal bath of a Roman emperor, the MiraCosta is a grand hotel in the middle of a Disney park. Offering rooms with views of the Palazzo Canals and the Venezia pool—some with their own terraces where you’ll have great views of the outdoor shows.—there’s no doubt this is one of the most luxurious Disney hotels in the world.

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Disneyland Hotel Paris

Located a short walk away from Disneyland Paris in the city of Chessy, which is an hour drive outside of Paris, this five-star hotel is the perfect place to set up camp when visiting the European park. The opulent design and special amenities like a steam room and sauna, indoor pool, and kid-friendly bonuses makes the Disneyland Hotel Paris a classic European luxury hotel. And with Disney characters at breakfast, this is a great choice for an extra special trip to Disneyland Paris.

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

 In Orlando, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is the closest you can get to a luxurious African vacation while staying on a Disney property. You can sleep surrounded by over 30 species of African wildlife like zebras, giraffes, gazelles, and flamingoes, which reside on the 43-acre property. With kid-focused amenities like a playground, a large pool, and an outdoor movie screen, there’s plenty of fun packed into this resort experience. But the biggest joy for all animal-loving family members will be watching the animals from their room windows. For large families, consider one of the epic villas at Kidani Village or Jambo House.

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Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel

Inspired by a Victorian Palace and complete with a hedge maze in the shape of Mickey Mouse, the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel is a luxurious place to stay at Disneyland Hong Kong. If you can’t splurge for a themed suite but want to make the trip extra special for your little one, this Disney hotel offers theme room decoration packages, which switch out your room’s touches for something a little more festive.
In addition to being close to the park, there are plenty of fun Disney activities too like Tai Chi class with Master Goofy. For a special occasion, enjoy a meal at the hotel’s best restaurant Crystal Lotus, where you can try dim sum in the shape of all your favorite characters, and representing China’s four major culinary regions.

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Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

For any kid interested in art, there’s no better place to spur natural creativity than Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. From the lobby that’s decorated in sketches to the larger-than-life sculptures around the facility, there are plenty of photo-worthy moments. Not to mention, it has the largest resort pool of any Disney property, which is decorated with Finding Nemo-inspired fixtures and features underwater speakers.* With plenty of logistic-friendly amenities like complimentary transportation and luggage delivery from the Orlando airport, plus free bus transportation to the parks, this Disney resort one of the four pet-friendly Disney properties in the world. Bonus amenities include a mile-long jogging trail, a playground, and regular outdoor movie screenings, there’s lots to do back in the room when you stay at this Disney hotel.

*Editors’ Note: According to a notification on the Disney website, the Big Blue Pool will be closed for refurbishment beginning in fall 2020.

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Shanghai Toy Story Hotel

If your favorite Disney movie is Toy Story, don’t pass up an opportunity to stay in Shanghai’s Toy Story Hotel. Not only is this hotel fully decorated with iconic toy decor, like Etch-a-sketch touchscreens and Rubix Cube nightstands, it also has a well-stocked play room for kids ages two through 12, with slides and toys straight from the Toy Story movies. Guests at this Disney hotel will also have a priority entrance to Shanghai Disneyland, and will be within walking distance to shopping and dining options in Disneytown.

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Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort

If you think you’ll need a break from Disney-branded everything, the Four Seasons Resort Orlando offers the perfect respite without being too far away from the park. Although it’s not an official Disney resort, this hotel offers Disney-themed, in-room celebrations, character breakfasts, and access to the Extra Magic Hours benefit, which means you can still get into the parks an hour before opening or stay an hour after closing. With an elegantly designed splash zone, a lazy river, and movies by the pool, there’s still plenty of fun for the kids and plenty of relaxation for adults from the spa to the adults-only pool and nearby Tranquilo Golf Course.

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Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer who is always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Instagram @jamieditaranto.

Categories
Arts & Culture Beach Cities Experiential Travel Luxury Travel Travel Trends Weekend Getaways

What Americans Need to Do in Brazil, According to Sao Paulo’s Celebrity Chefs

When Americans hear the word ‘Brazil’ they picture Rio’s beaches, rainforests, and Christ the Redeemer. They probably don’t think of visiting the concrete jungle of Sao Paulo—but they should.

The largest city in all of the Americas (yes, it’s even bigger than New York) is a well-known business hub that most tourists miss. But Sao Paulo should be the first place you visit in Brazil—and it likely will be in one capacity: as a layover at the megacity’s massive Guarulhous International Airport, which is the gateway to most of South America. Venturing beyond the airport to experience Sao Paulo, the beating heart of Brazil, is the best way to introduce yourself to Brazil’s many cultures.

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Sao Paulo is known for its arts scene, vibrant nightlife, and especially for being home to one of the most diverse food scenes in the world. From its well-established Italian neighborhood, to local ingredients like Amazonian ants at star Chef Alex Atala’s D.O.M., to traditional Japanese sushi in the Liberdade neighborhood (the world’s largest Japanese community outside of Asia), Sao Paulo’s culinary world is full of surprises. And home to a number of celebrity chefs.

Brazil’s three-to-one exchange rate means Americans can experience the swankiest entertainment and Michelin-Star restaurants for a lot less than you’d expect. And to boot, Brazil’s new eVisas mean entering the country is now just $40, a fraction of the former price.

What Celebrity Chefs Say Americans Need to Do in Brazil

It’s hard to know where to begin in a megacity like Sao Paulo, but who knows the territory better than an award-winning local chef? I asked two of Sao Paulo’s most well-known Brazilian chefs what Americans should do with their newfound affordable access to Brazil, starting with Sao Paulo.

Sao paulo things to do in brazil chefs

Chef Helena Rizzo was named the Best Female Chef in the World in 2014, and is the mind behind Mani, which has ranked fifth among the 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America. Chef Ivan Ralston is behind the two Michelin-star restaurant Tuju, which I wrote about eating at for less than the price of a subpar American restaurant here. Here’s our Q and A:

Editor’s Note: These answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Americans now have easier access to Brazil thanks to eVisas that began this year: What are a few things you think Americans visiting Sao Paulo for the first time should absolutely do?

Liberdade sao paulo shutterstock

HR: There are a few neighborhoods I like: Liberdade, where you can find the Japanese community. The museum Pinacoteca, housed in an amazing building designed by Italian-born architect Lina Bo Bardi. The artsy Vila Madalena and the hip Pinheiros neighborhoods, where you can find some of the best restaurants in the city. Mercado Municipal is the biggest food market in Sao Paulo, very traditional.

IR: Sao Paulo is a multicultural city with many attractions. It’s not obvious tourism. There is no Statue of Liberty or Christ the Redeemer, but Sao Paulo is absolutely enthralling for its cultural wealth. Americans and other tourists should visit traditional restaurants like MocotoCasa do Porco, and Tordesilhas. They should also get to know restaurants inspired by immigrant gastronomy like Italian at Osteria del Pettirosso, traditional Japanese at Kan Suke and Ryo, Korean at Komah, and Middle Eastern at Saite Marie. Our city has some of the best casual restaurants in the world too, like Tan Tan Noodle BarCapivara, and Da Marino. And there are of course high-end gastronomic restaurants like Mani, Picchi, D.O.M, and Tuju.

Q: What Brazilian dishes do Americans need to eat in Sao Paulo, and where?

HR: The tasting menu at D.O.M., for Alex Atala’s pioneering Brazilian ingredients; traditional dishes from the northernmost part of Brazil at Rodrigo Oliveira’s Mocoto. At Tordesilhas, chef Mara Salles is a veteran and one of our biggest chefs, and presents traditional dishes from many Brazilian regions, such as the Amazon; please try tacaca, a very traditional kind of soup from the Para state. At Casa do Porco Jefferson Rueda showcases everything pork, from nose to tail, in both traditional and his own original dishes. Izakaya Matsu, a Japanese bar with top-notch comfort food, is where I love to eat tonkatsu and tempura.

IR: The offering of dishes and restaurants in Sao Paulo is huge and constantly evolving. Each of the places I mentioned have very special dishes: Mocoto’s tapioca, the whole roasted pork of San Ze at Casa do Porco, cacio e pepe at Osteria del Pettirosso, and tasting menus at any gastronomic restaurant.

What’s the best day trip from Sao Paulo to take, and why?

 

Camburi beach sao paulo state things to do in brazil
Camburi Beach

HR: Whenever I can, I visit the beaches on Sao Paulo’s North Coast (a three hour drive away). It’s the perfect combination of sea and mountains with lush forest. There is also a great range of bed and breakfast and restaurants in the area.

IR: A beach called Camburi. It’s a two-hour hours trip from Sao Paulo and it’s as beautiful as the beaches in Vietnam.

What’s your favorite Brazilian ingredient to cook with?

 

Mani sao paulo things to do in brazil
Mani’s black-tucupi-lacquered catch of the day

HR: My favorite ingredient is manioc, or cassava, and that’s where the name Mani comes from. Cassava is a very, very popular ingredient in Brazil, eaten with joy by rich and poor. It is a tuberous root consumed both in its natural state plus in different by products such as cassava flour, tapioca starch and tucupi (fermented cassava root sauce). There are so many different ways to use it: fried, roasted, cooked, glazed, as a thickening agent in stews and soups. Here at Mani we serve different types of farofa (roasted and sauteed cassava flour) as side dishes; we use tapioca starch in our basket of breads; we have tucupi (cassava juice) as the foundation for several sauces and dishes; and cook cassava itself in stews, purees, gratins, gnocchi, and more.

IR: It’s hard to tell, there are so many! I’ll mention one per season: Tomato in the summer, mushrooms from Santa Catarina in the fall, white clams in the winter, and jabuticaba (Brazilian grape tree) in the spring.

What’s your personal favorite thing to do in Sao Paulo as a local?

HR: Watching concerts in intimate venues, like the spots I mentioned above.

IR: Eating, for sure! Sao Paulo has the best gastronomy in the world with less ostentation than other places.

What is your personal favorite restaurant in Sao Paulo to eat at?

sushi

HR: It’s difficult to choose one favorite. Nowadays I go to Izakaya Matsu a lot, because I love Japanese comfort food and it’s near my home—with a three-year-old kid at home that’s a bonus! And also it’s not an expensive place.

IR: Kan Suke, the traditional Japanese restaurant close to Paulista Avenue. It’s a really tiny sushi bar with only six seats available.

What’s the best international (non-Brazilian) cuisine to eat in Sao Paulo?

HR: I’d say Japanese. Sao Paulo is known to have outstanding sushi places and also a lot of hot comfort Japanese food joints, run by families. Brazil has the biggest Japanese community outside Japan, so it’s a very traditional food culture here.

IR: There are SO many international cuisines—this is the advantage of being in Sao Paulo. We have great places for Japanese, Italian, Korean and Arabic food.

If you had to choose between Italian food in Sao Paulo or Japanese food in Sao Paulo, which would you say you prefer?

HR: Japanese, although I come from an Italian family and at the end of the day, when I come home for a hard day at the restaurant, all I want is a simple pasta with tomato sauce.

IR: Depends on the day. They’re very different.

What’s the best city in Brazil to spend time in after seeing Sao Paulo, and why?

HR: I have recently been to Pantanal, in Mato Grosso do Sul state, which is one of the few places in Brazil where you can find the ecosystem still intact. It’s an amazing place to be in contact with raw nature, to see so many birds, alligators, and other wild animals, and also try great fish such as pacu (piranhas) and piraputanga.

IR: It depends on what you are looking for, but I’d say the obvious answer is Rio de Janeiro.

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SmarterTravel Editor Shannon McMahon visited Sao Paulo as a guest of LATAM Airlines and Embratur, Brazil’s tourism board. Follow her on Instagram: @shanmcmahon.

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Arts & Culture Booking Strategy Business Travel Cities Experiential Travel Fashion & Beauty Food & Drink Frequent Flyer Historical Travel Luxury Travel Money Romantic Travel Travel Trends Weekend Getaways

Indulging in Sao Paulo, Where Luxury Travel Is Shockingly Affordable for Americans

Ever since I fell down the Netflix rabbit hole that is Chef’s Table, I’ve had the reluctant dream of eating at a Michelin-star restaurant. I say reluctant because while I’ve become mesmerized by the chefs and destinations on the show, I’ve never had any real desire to pay hundreds of dollars to experience a slew of artfully tiny dishes. For example, a sushi tasting at three-Michelin-star Masa in New York is $595 per person. Experiencing the seasonal menu at Copenhagen’s two-star noma, which was named the best restaurant in the world four times over, starts at $350 per person. And that’s if you can get in.

But that expectation was recently shattered when I ate a five-course meal at TUJU, a Sao Paulo restaurant with not one but two Michelin stars, for less than I’ve paid at many subpar American restaurants: $46.

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Tuju_main dining room sao paulo credit carol gherardi

And like most other things that are absurdly affordable in Sao Paulo, a meal at TUJU is no joke. Dishes like citrus-marinated amberjack ceviche with pumpkin shoots, a warm mushroom and egg-yolk soup, steamed white fish in a rich black sesame sauce, and blackened quail in a lentil curry each arrive more beautifully prepared than the last. An extra $25 gets you sommelier-selected wine pairings for each course. TUJU’s new seasonal menu (for Sao Paulo’s high season) currently starts at $95 for the five-course meal option.

Click on the image below to view the interactive version of this story.

Indulging in sao paulo

In the Lap of Luxury, for Less

Tuju1_Credits gilberto bronko

Somewhere between the soup and Instagramming my caramel apple dessert (served as a gel alongside thyme honey ice cream), I realized that splurging in Sao Paulo is anything but, by American standards. And this special brand of ultra-affordable splurging is a necessary part of embracing the cosmopolitan vibe of Sao Paulo, the single largest city in all of the Americas.

Because 58 percent of its international visitors are business travelers, Sao Paulo has a reputation for the finer things. Shopping on Oscar Freire Street, rooftop bars with sparkling skyline views, a lavish arts scene spanning many museums, and, yes, Michelin-star restaurants all make this metropolis a socialite’s paradise. But you don’t have to spend like a socialite to go luxe in the beating heart of Brazil.

New eVisas and Emerging Flights

The key to Brazil’s affordable luxury is, of course, its advantageous three-to-one exchange rate for Americans (see current exchange rates at XE.com). But a 2018 change in visa requirements for Americans (and Canadian, Australian, and Japanese citizens) will also save you money before you even head to Brazil: eVisas are now available online for about $40 and a waiting period of five days. The process applies to both business and leisure visitors, and visas are valid for two years for multiple visits of up to 90 days.

Compared to the hefty $160 fee and in-person consulate appointment previously required to get a Brazilian visa, getting to Brazil is easier and more affordable than it’s ever been. And while you might think of rainforests and Rio beaches when you hear “Brazil,” the best way to introduce yourself to the massive country is to make a stop in the world-class city you’ll almost certainly have to fly through.

Chilean carrier LATAM Airlines expanded its nonstop U.S. routes to Sao Paulo in 2018, with direct flights to Sao Paulo now operating from Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, New York, D.C., and Orlando. The move is creating price competition for all airlines operating U.S.-Brazil routes through Sao Paulo’s massive Guarulhos International Airport. And while Brazil is, of course, colossal, almost every major tourist city—Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Fortaleza, Brasilia, and more—is just a few hours by plane from Sao Paulo. A weekend here is the best way to break up the journey to any of them.

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The World’s Largest Japantown

Liberdade sao paulo shutterstock

Perhaps the best representation of Sao Paulo’s diversity and culinary prowess is the fact that it’s home to the largest Japanese diaspora in the world outside of Asia. The Liberdade neighborhood offers a taste of Japan in South America with Asian markets, Japanese arches and street art, convenience stores stocked with imported Asian goods, and authentic sushi and ramen restaurants ranging from hole-in-the-wall vendors to high-end eateries. On weekends its outdoor artisan market sells goods like local Japanese art, T-shirts, and jewelry, as well as kitchenware and painted chopsticks. The surprisingly otherworldly enclave is just a few subway stops from both Sao Paulo’s city center and the shopping and food neighborhoods Jardins and Bela Vista.

Bela Vista and Bixiga are another distinct cultural community within Sao Paulo: The Italian populations here make up a Little Italy nestled between the City Center and Paulista Avenue, a main artery closed to traffic on Sundays. The Sao Paulo subway system stretches for 45 miles and is cheap ($1 per ride), clean, and safe. It’s the perfect alternative to sitting in the city’s perpetual traffic jams—though Uber is available if you need it.

True Value in Brazilian Fine Dining

Michelin stars like TUJU Chef Ivan Ralston’s aren’t the only motivation for eating out in Sao Paulo; the city is home to some of the world’s top culinary minds. Celebrity chef and former DJ Alex Atala hails from here, and is credited with introducing the culinary world to Amazonian ingredients to create Brazilian cooking as the world knows it today. His restaurants include two-Michelin-star D.O.M., where hardcore fine diners can try a $250 tasting menu that includes golden Amazonian ants (watch his Chef’s Table episode for the full explanation). Atala was the first Brazilian chef to earn two Michelin stars, but now shares that honor with Ralston of TUJU.

There are also exceptional casual spots in Sao Paulo to try something new, like the innovative pork creations (think pork “sushi” and bacon-caramel desserts) at reservations-free Casa do Porco. Charcoal-kissed vegetables and seafood at Chou, and World’s Best Female Chef 2014 Helena Rizzo’s quintessentially Brazilian ingredients at Mani Manioca (try the open-air patio for a power lunch paired with bright local juices) prove that some of the best food in Sao Paulo is coming from female chefs.

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Where to Stay in Sao Paulo

Stay like a business traveler in the affordable sky-high Renaissance Sao Paulo, where suites guarantee a cityscape view plus access to a top-floor business lounge for free hors d’oeuvres, wine, and beer throughout the day. The Renaissance also has an extensive spa offering an array of massages, plus an indoor hot tub and outdoor pool.

Opting to stay near food-renowned neighborhoods in Sao Paulo like Jardins, Vila Madalena, Bela Vista, or Liberdade means you won’t have to sit in traffic as bad as L.A.’s to eat your way through this metropolis. Sao Paulo’s city center is worth visiting during the day for historic sites like Se Cathedral and the Municipal Market, but it’s an area of frequent unrest that makes the neighborhoods south of it popular among business travelers and vacationers. For value in spending a bit more, the sleek Hotel Unique adjacent to Ibirapuera Park, has an ultra-modern spa and pool deck, a sky bar, and whimsical interiors like sloped floors and an indoor pool complete with a modern slide.

Shopping

Oscar freire sao paulo

Hotels on famed shopping street Rua Oscar Freire, such as the affordable Regent Park Hotel, give you easy access to all the local designer shops. They’re worth visiting even if you’re not looking to spend anything: Free snacks, impressive interior design, and hidden cafes make the most striking stores worth wandering into, like nk store and the always-changing art and plastic-shoe haven Galeria Melissa. For affordable shopping try Riachuelo for H&M-style value and Havainas flagship store for the Brazilian-Japanese flip flops. But also keep in mind that the pricey luxury goods here are a better deal than they appear: They’ll be a third of what their listed price is when you’re converting to U.S. dollars.

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Nightlife

Sao paulo terraco italia

One of the most popular reasons to visit Sao Paulo is its eclectic array of nightlife options, from low-key watering holes to live Brazilian music, along with a vibrant LGBT scene (the annual Pride parade is one of the largest in the world) and sky-high cocktail bars with sparkling views of the seemingly endless urban skyline. Caipirinhas at Terraco Italia’s elegant Terrace Piano Bar (above) are the perfect aperitif (snacks and the view make the mere $8 cover well worth it) to see the city from a cozy armchair 42 stories up.

For live music and churrasco, head to historic Bar Brahma nearby, which has been a watering hole for the city’s musical, political, and academic elite since the 1950s. Vila Madalena is an upscale neighborhood for wine bars, craft beer, art galleries, and trendy eateries. After hours, bars and dance clubs go all night in the Baixo Augusta and Jardins neighborhoods, with cozy options like Guilhotina Bar and MeGusta offering respite from the crowds.

Sao Paulo Art and Free Things to Do

Sao paulo art

You’ve probably seen the work of famed Brazilian street artists like Eduardo Kobra and Os Gemeos across the globe from Boston to Paris, and on the world stage at the Rio Olympics in 2016. So it might not come as a surprise that perusing street art is one of the best things to do in Sao Paulo. On the sides of massive buildings and on Batman Alley’s thickly painted walls, art is everywhere, and it’s free or cheap to enjoy. One of the best views of the city is also free of charge thanks to the free-admission Museum of Contemporary Art, which has an outdoor observation deck overlooking Ibirapuera Park.

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Sao Paulo’s answer to New York’s Central Park, Ibirapuera Park is home to its own world-class museums, like the Sao Paulo Museum of Modern Art, which is free on Saturdays and just $2 the rest of the week. The park is also home to a massive Afro Brazil Museum (also $2 to visit), and Japanese Pavilion with a koi pond and tea house ($3 to visit).

Sao Paulo’s most famous museum is the historic yet modern Sao Paulo Museum of Art (MASP), which sits on Paulista Avenue; admission starts at $4. The main artery of Sao Paulo, Paulista Avenue is closed to traffic on Sundays for live music and vendors—making MASP and its surroundings the place to be on Sunday afternoons. (Editor’s note: All prices are approximate, based on currency exchange rates at the time of publication.)

The boisterous energy of Sao Paulo is best felt in its finest, yet surprisingly affordable, art and entertainment institutions—and they’re beckoning to Americans now more than ever.

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SmarterTravel Editor Shannon McMahon visited Sao Paulo as a guest of LATAM Airlines and Embratur, Brazil’s tourism board. Follow her on Instagram: @shanmcmahon.

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Food & Drink Packing

Coffee to Go: 9 Things You Need to Brew and Drink While Traveling

If you can’t imagine a road trip without a cup of coffee in the cupholder, or a trip to the airport without a coffee stop, you know how necessary a good brew can be to a trip. Save money and time spent waiting in the drive-through line by bringing your own java along. The following nine items that make it easy to brew and take your coffee to go.

Oxo Cold Brew Coffee Maker

[st_content_ad]Perfect for vacation rentals, road trips, or simply making coffee ahead of time, the Oxo Cold Brew Coffee Maker is the easiest way to make cold-brew coffee. Simply add grounds and water, let steep overnight, and then flip a switch to get a powerful and smooth cold-brew concentrate. Despite the name, the Cold Brew Coffee Maker can be also used to make hot coffee or to brew tea.

AeroPress

Check any camping coffee-lover’s backpack, and you’re likely to see an AeroPress inside. The AeroPress is one of the smallest and most portable coffee makers on the market, and it can make a cup of coffee in about 30 seconds (not counting boiling the water). No batteries or power are required for the AeroPress, which makes it great for the outdoors.

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Able Brewing Disk Fine Coffee Filter

The AeroPress is great but requires a disposable paper filter to strain the coffee, which creates a lot of waste (and adds up financially over time). Invest in Able Brewing’s Disk Fine Coffee Filter instead, which is designed to replace the AeroPress paper filter. Made from stainless steel, the Disk is easy to clean and will last a lifetime. Unlike the paper filter, the Disk allows more oils (and flavor) through to your cup of coffee, without being contaminated by any papery taste.

Zojirushi Stainless Steel Vacuum Mug

Zojirushi coffee

Too scared of spills to toss your travel mug inside your bag? There’s no need to worry with the Zojirushi Stainless Steel Vacuum Mug which is legitimately leak-proof. The lid locks and can’t be opened accidentally, but flips open with just one hand. The nine-ounce mug uses vacuum insulation to keep your drink hot for up to six hours, while the outside feels cool to the touch.

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Bodum Travel French Press

The Bodum Travel French Press is a French press and travel mug in one, so you have one less dish to wash after making and drinking coffee. Add your coffee grounds and hot water to the mug, steep, and push the plunger—your coffee is ready and already packaged to go.

Ember Temperature Control Ceramic Mug

Does a cup of lukewarm coffee ruin your day? Get the Ember Temperature Control Ceramic Mug and never let a good cup go cold again. The rechargeable mug pairs with an app on your phone that allows you to set and maintain the temperature of your drink. It will stay at your ideal temperature for an hour, or you can use the included charging coaster to keep it warm all day long.

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UniTerra Nomad Espresso Machine

Coffee on the go is pretty easy to make, but a legitimate shot of espresso? That’s nearly impossible without a professional espresso machine. At least it was until UniTerra’s Nomad Espresso Machine came along. This portable machine can be used anywhere, as it’s hand-powered by a small lever to create enough pressure to make a perfect shot of espresso with a true crema. The eye-catching design looks good on your counter at home when you’re not out making espresso in the wild.

Cafellissimo Paperless Pour Over Coffee Maker

Pour-over coffee is trendy right now, but many coffee shops charge exorbitant prices for it. Do it yourself with no waste, with Cafellissimo’s Paperless Pour Over Coffee Maker. The stainless steel cone is made from a fine mesh that filters out grounds and has a base that fits most mugs, so you can make your coffee right into your cup. Just add grounds and hot water, and you’ll have a perfect pour-over coffee in less than a minute.

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NowPresso

Don’t want to boil your water separately? The NowPresso does everything for you—just add cold water and it will boil it for you as it makes your espresso. It even makes the espresso right into the attached cup, so you can just unscrew it and drink. The NowPresso uses Nespresso Capsules, or you can use your own grounds in a reusable capsule.

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Caroline Morse Teel’s coffee to go order is a double espresso. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for coffee and travel photos from around the world. 

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Cities Experiential Travel Food & Drink

9 Single-Dish Restaurants Worth Traveling For

You won’t be deliberating over the menu or wishing you chose a dish the table next to you got at these nine restaurants. That’s because they all only serve one thing—so you know it’s going to be good.

Oat Shop: Somerville, Massachusetts

[st_content_ad]Some people think of oatmeal as gruel; others consider it a delicacy worthy of opening a restaurant around. The owners of Oat Shop in Somerville are the latter, serving up solely bowls of oats. You can, however, top your oatmeal with a wide variety of toppings, including an espresso shot, kale chips, or bacon.

Rice to Riches: New York City

https://www.instagram.com/p/BdFqi9_AyiL/?taken-by=ricetoriches.ksa

Think rice is a boring side dish? Then you’ve never been to Rice to Riches, a New York City restaurant that offers rice pudding and nothing else. This single-dish restaurant spices up the dessert by offering wacky flavors like Coffee Almond Afterthought, Hazelnut Chocolate Bear Hug, and Fluent in French Toast that can all be topped with even more flavor (including toasted buttery pound cake, seasoned mixed nuts, or espresso crumble). One bite got you addicted? You can join their rice pudding of the month club, and opt to receive an “epic” amount (14 oz.) or a “sumo” size (40 oz.).

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Melt Room: London

You could make a sad grilled cheese at home in your frying pan, or you could stop by Melt Room in London and get a mac and cheese melt or any other of the innovative sandwiches on offer. As a tourist, it’s probably your duty to order the extremely British Fish & Chips Melt, followed by a Banoffee Melt for dessert.

Ichiran Ramen: Shibuya, Japan

One humble type of ramen launched an empire for Manabu Yoshitomi, who started serving his tonkotsu ramen from a stall in 1960. His pork-based soup was so popular that he eventually opened up a store, in which customers had one choice of ramen that could only be customized by adding on extra noodles/egg/pork, and would be enjoyed in solo booths so no one could see them slurp. Ichiran now has over 65 locations across the world, all spooning up just one style of ramen.

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Top Dog: Berkeley, California

Get a dog or get out at Top Dog, where the menu is all meat in a tube (or wheat protein in a tube if you’re vegetarian). Choose from frankfurters, kielbasa, hot link, or other types of dogs, and you’ll get it on a basic bun that you can top with condiments for free.

mac Bar: New York City

Macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food, so when you need to dive into some carbs head to macbar to get it served up any way your heart desires. Purists can order “the classic” (elbow macaroni, American and cheddar cheese), or get a little wild with the “mac’shroom” (roasted mushrooms, fontina, mascarpone, truffled essence) and the “mac quack” (duck confit, fontina, caramelized onion, herbs).

Le Relais de Venise: Various Locations

At Le Relais de Venise, you have just two decisions to make: how you want your steak cooked and which wine you’d like to pair with it. There’s no menu: Each diner is served a green salad appetizer followed by steak frites, and that’s all that’s on offer. The single-dish restaurant started off in Paris in 1959, but the concept was so popular that it’s expanded to locations in London, New York, and Mexico City.

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PBJ.La: Los Angeles, California

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches may conjure up memories of school lunches, but those were probably never made with espresso peanut butter and dark chocolate raspberry jam (and if they were, I want to meet your lunch-maker). PBJ.La takes the humble PB&J sandwich to the next level, offering creations like the Chocolate Haze (chocolate hazelnut butter and dark cherry chianti jam) that justify charging between $5 and $9 for a high-class spin on a classic.

Yang’s Braised Chicken and Rice: Various Locations

You know exactly what you’re walking in to at Yang’s Braised Chicken and Rice, as the entire menu is found in the name. Here, you’ll order braised chicken with rice and you’ll like it or leave, as that’s all they serve. You do get to choose your heat level, as the clay pot dish can be made either mild or spicy. With more than 6,000 locations across China, Australia, Japan, Singapore, and the U.S., Yang’s knows how to do chicken right.

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Caroline Morse Teel would open up a macaron shop as her single-dish restaurant. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from around the world. 

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Arts & Culture Cities Food & Drink Oddities Travel Trends

7 of the World’s Craziest Fusion Foods

Sushi: delicious. Burrito: delightful. Combine the two together in a crazy fusion food mashup, and you’re practically guaranteed to double the amazingness.

Fusion Foods to Try

From sushi burritos to ice cream churros, here are seven of the world’s best hybrid delicacies you need to try. 

Poutine Pizza

[st_content_ad]Oh, Canada, you’ve done it again! Canadian Pizza Huts have proved their superiority to American ones by offering poutine pizza, which tops a regular cheese pizza with French fries, gravy, and cheese curds. Shockingly, according to Pizza Hut’s nutritional information, a personal pan poutine pizza will only set you back 690 calories, so go ahead and try this one without too much guilt. 

Mac and Cheese Waffles

Whether you want macaroni and cheese for breakfast or waffles for lunch, Brooklyn’s Arrogant Swine restaurant has you covered. The restaurant takes gooey macaroni and cheese and puts it in a waffle press, resulting in a gloriously crunchy waffle mac ‘n’ cheese hybrid that’s served with a cup of queso (not syrup) on the side.

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Ice Cream Trdelnik

To understand the majesty that is ice cream trdelniks, I must first introduce you to the trdelnik. This is a traditional Czech cinnamon-flavored pastry made by rolling dough around a cylinder and grilling it, and then topping the hollow treat with sugar. Some geniuses saw inspiration in the hole of the trdelnik and decided to fill it with ice cream, turning the pastry into a cone. Ice cream tredlniks can be found all over Prague, but one of the most famous spots to try this fusion food is the Good Food Café & Bakery.

Donut Grilled Cheese

Donuts are really underrated as a sandwich bookend—wouldn’t you rather have a donut surrounding your fillings instead of boring wheat bread? The Tom & Chee fast food chain thinks so, offering donut grilled cheeses done a variety of ways. Try the Original—two grilled donuts with melted cheddar cheese in the middle—or go even sweeter with the S’More: grilled donuts with chocolate, graham cracker, and marshmallow.

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Sushi Pizza

Is there any food you can’t top pizza with? The answer seems to be no, as evidenced by the fact that sushi pizza exists. Found at Itadaki in Boston, the sushi pizza features a fried rice cake as the crust, topped with tomato sauce, cheese, and a variety of fish.

Ramen Burger

If you think the best part of ramen is the noodles and not the broth, than you’ll love the ramen burger. Order it at Tatsu Ramen in California, and you’ll get a Wagyu beef patty topped with soft-boiled egg and green onion served between two ramen noodle buns.

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Sushi Burrito

The sushi burrito is probably the most popular of the fusion foods on this list—you can find this frankenfood everywhere (I’ve even seen it at Whole Foods). The sushi burrito swaps a tortilla for nori, meat for fish, and salsa for soy sauce—but the guacamole and rice remain the same.

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Caroline Morse Teel will travel for fusion foods. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos of food and scenery around the world.

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The World’s Most Expensive Foods: 9 Things to Try (If You Can Afford Them)

For $25,000 you could feed a lot of hungry people, or you could eat an outrageously overpriced taco. The restaurants on this list are banking on the fact that you’ll choose the latter.

The Most Expensive Food in the World

Here are nine of the world’s most expensive foods you can try, if you can afford them—morally or otherwise.

World’s Most Expensive Taco

expensive taco

[st_content_ad]Some people come to Mexico for the amazing and inexpensive street food, and some come for the world’s most expensive taco at the Grand Velas Los Cabos. Costing $25,000 the taco contains langoustine, Kobe beef, Almas Beluga caviar, and black truffle brie cheese. Even the salsa is extreme, made with dried Morita chili peppers, Ley.925 ultra-premium anejo tequila, and civet coffee.

Of course, you can’t pair a $25,000 taco with a Corona, so the restaurant helpfully offers a pairing of a white gold and platinum bottle of premium tequila to go with it, for a mere $150,000 extra.

Louis XIII ‘Very Expensive Pizza’

expensive pizza

If you’ve ever gotten carried away with toppings on the Domino’s app and thought at the end, “wow, that’s a very expensive pizza,” you were wrong. An actual Very Expensive Pizza exists, and you can order it from Renato Viola, a “master pizza chef,” in Italy, for $9,710.

You don’t have to eat your pizza at a restaurant with commoners, or wait for the delivery person to show up, as the Very Expensive Pizza will be cooked for you at your house (as long as you live or are staying in Italy). And don’t bother trying to order a large pizza—for nearly $10,000, you’ll get a 7.8 inch pie. To justify the price, the pizza is topped with expensive seafood (lobster, caviar, prawns, and more), and served with rare cognac and champagne.

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Golden Opulence Sundae

Serendipity 3 draws tons of tourists eager to get its famous frozen hot chocolate (a measly $12.95) at the restaurant that’s been featured on many movies and television shows, including Gossip Girl and Serendipity. Now you can wait in line and drop $1,000 if you’re in the mood for the Golden Opulence Sundae. If the three scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with 23-karat gold leaf and caviar doesn’t sound filling enough, you can make a meal out of some of the world’s most expensive foods at Serendipity, starting with the Quintessential Grilled Cheese Sandwich for an appetizer ($214), and Le Burger Extravagant ($295) for your main course.

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Fluer Burger 5000

You might balk at paying $5,000 for a hamburger, but Fluer’s (a restaurant in the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas) Fleur Burger 5000 is served with a bottle of 1995 Chateau Petrus 5000 wine, which often sells for that much money anyway. So you can think of the Fluer Burger 5000 as more of a happy meal for rich people who want to eat the world’s most expensive food, in which the toy is an expensive bottle of wine.

Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata

The Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata at Norma’s comes in two sizes: Regular, with one ounce of Sevruga Caviar for $200, and super-size, with 10 ounces of Sevruga Caviar for $2,000. It also comes with a note reading “Norma Dares You to Expense This.” Business breakfast, anyone?

Berco’s Billion Dollar Popcorn

Berco’s popcorn

You may click on Berco’s website, drool over their close-up shot of their Billion Dollar Popcorn, and think “$5 for popcorn isn’t bad”—before you realize…that’s the price per kernel. Buy in bulk, and you can get a discounted 6.5 gallon tin for just $2,500.

Coated with organic sugar, Vermont butter, and Neilsen Massey Bourbon Vanilla, the popcorn is topped off with a sprinkle of the world’s most expensive salt—so it’s probably a little better than movie theater popcorn.

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Black Diamond Ice Cream

Black diamond ice cream

If you get angry when you see pints of ice cream at Whole Foods for $10, you’re not going to like The Black Diamond ice cream, scooped up at Scoopi in Dubai. This sundae costs $816 USD, and is made with vanilla bean ice cream from Madagascar, saffron, black truffles, and 23-carat gold flakes and powder.

On the bright side, instead of being left with an empty cardboard carton when you finish this ice cream, you’ll get to take home the golden handmade bowl and silver spoon that the sundae is served in.

Guinness World Record 24K Pizza

Fortunately for late night partiers in New York City, the Guinness World Record 24K pizza is not something you can order as a drunken snack. You’ll need to request it from Industry Kitchen at least 48 hours in advance. That will give the kitchen time to prep your pizza with Stilton cheese, foie gras, platinum Ossetra caviar, truffle, and 24k gold leaves. The pizza will cost you $2,000 but if that’s simply not enough fish eggs for you, you can add on 1.5 ounces of Almas Caviar for an extra $700.

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777 Burger

If you won big in Vegas but still want some classic American comfort food, head to Caesars’ Burger Brasserie for the 777 Burger, a $777 concoction made with Kobe beef and Maine lobster topped with pancetta, goat cheese, foie gras, arugula, and 100-year aged balsamic. It’s served with a bottle of Rose Dom Perignon Champagne to help you celebrate.

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Caroline Morse Teel has eaten zero out of nine of the world’s most expensive foods. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos of her culinary adventures.

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Beach Island Romantic Travel

St. Lucia Travel Advice: 6 Things to Know Before Visiting St. Lucia

Ready to dive headfirst into the tropical paradise that is St. Lucia? Before you step off the plane, here are a few pieces of St. Lucia travel advice that you should know to help make your trip even better. I’ll even let you in on a secret about access to that ultra-private-looking beach you think is off limits.

St. Lucia Travel Advice: Bring Cash

When I first arrived in St. Lucia, I tried three different ATMs (attempting with multiple debit cards each time) and was unable to get cash. When I called my bank, they told me that there was no block on my card and that there wasn’t even a record of me trying to take out cash. I was finally able to get cash from a machine, but I heard from many people (including locals) that this was a common problem with ATMs. Fortunately, I had brought some American dollars that I was able to exchange at my hotel, but if you don’t want to be stuck without cash, make sure you bring U.S. dollars or exchange some local currency in advance.

The local currency in St. Lucia is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (XCD), but U.S. dollars are accepted pretty much everywhere. (The E.C. dollar is linked to the U.S. dollar, at an exchange rate of $1 USD to $2.70 XCD). If you do pay with U.S. dollars, you should be aware of these caveats:

  • If you pay in U.S. dollars, you may not get as good a price.
  • You may receive change in Eastern Caribbean dollars.
  • Vendors may not accept wrinkled, older, or torn U.S. dollars.

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St. Lucia Travel Advice: All Beaches Are Public

By law, all beaches and waterways in St. Lucia are public. So if you see a gorgeous beach, even at one of the more exclusive all-inclusive resorts in St. Lucia where you are not a guest, stroll right up and lounge on the sand or go for a swim in the water. Note that some resorts won’t allow non-guests to use any of their beach facilities (chairs, restrooms, etc.) although some offer limited access for a charge. You can bring your own chair or towel to enjoy the beach for free.

St. Lucia Travel Advice: Watch for Service Charges 

Most establishments on St. Lucia will automatically add a 10 percent service charge to your bill (which will be clearly noted on restaurant receipts). If the service was especially great, you can add an extra tip on top of the 10 percent, but it’s certainly not required.

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St. Lucia Travel Advice: Think Twice Before Renting a Car

In St. Lucia, drivers stay to the left and the roads are very narrow and winding (with steep drop-offs in some areas). I highly recommend using a taxi or hiring a driver for your stay, which is a much more relaxing way than renting a car to get around the island. If you do choose to drive yourself, go slowly and remember to honk around blind curves. Also be aware that many rental car agencies in St. Lucia have both a minimum age of 25 (or 21 with a hefty surcharge) and a maximum age of 65 for drivers.

St. Lucia Travel Advice: Don’t Forget to Pack Pants

St. Lucia is a laid-back and fun island, but many of the upscale restaurants do have a dress code for dinner, and many require men to wear long pants and closed-toed shoes (women can get away with a dress and fancy sandals). I did see this dress code enforced, so if you’re considering a special dinner out (or are staying at a nicer resort), be sure to pack a few outfits you can dress up.

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St. Lucia Travel Advice: Daylight Savings Time

St. Lucia does not participate in daylight savings time change and remains at UTC -4 throughout the year. This means there’s no time difference between the eastern U.S. and St. Lucia during the daylight savings’ months in the United States (March to November), but that there’s an hour time difference during Eastern Standard Time months.

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Caroline Morse Teel was hosted by St. Lucia Tourism on her visit. Follow Caroline on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from St. Lucia and around the world.