Tag Archives: Where to Eat

Where to Eat in Merida, Mexico

La Chaya Maya

Everyone will tell you to eat here when in Merida, Mexico. Everyone, that is, but us.

Pretty much everyone will give you the same restaurant recommendation for Merida, Mexico. It didn’t matter whether we consulted independent blogs, Tripadvisor, or our hotel staff. Almost everyone told us to eat at La Chaya Maya. Everyone but one guy, who we’ll get to in a minute.

But we’re not going to tell you to eat at La Chaya Maya. And not because it is bad, far from it. If you want solid Mayan / Mexican food served in a large Mexican-themed restaurant by people wearing traditional Mayan clothing at tourist-appropriate prices, then La Chaya Maya may be your best bet in town. It is good food and good service at still affordable prices. But once you’ve had your fill of sipping margaritas and being serenaded by roving minstrels strumming versions of La Bamba, you may hunger for something a bit different. Plus, you don’t need us to tell you what everyone else probably will.

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A Long-awaited Rome Restaurant

Trattoria Der Pallaro

Fourteen years.

As we walked through Rome, searching for the Trattoria Der Pallaro, anticipation began to build. After exiting the Campo de Fiori, a modest piazza by Rome standards whose hallmarks are a daytime market and a statue of an excommunicated Dominican monk burnt at the stake centuries ago in that very spot, we took a wrong turn. The often warren-like streets can be challenging even with a GPS for guidance.

But if we had to search every side street in the area and spend hours doing it, we weren’t giving up the quest. This wasn’t just any restaurant we sought. This was a restaurant I had waited to return to for fourteen years. After all this time, I vividly recalled arriving at the trattoria, a haven on a chilly, rainy March night. We sat in a cozy, wood-paneled dining room with friends, one of whom had come across the listing for Trattoria Der Pallaro in a Frommer’s guidebook as the “Best Value” eats option in Rome (it’s still their pick). The wine began to flow and, with barely a word exchanged between diners and servers, platters of food began arriving at the table. 

“Buona sera. Come in, sit down.”

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Why We Love Much-Maligned Siem Reap

1$ Tapas night at Ivy Guesthouse is hard to beat

1$ Tapas night at Ivy Guesthouse is hard to beat

Siem Reap gets no respect. It’s true, it’s a western enclave. There isn’t much to see in town, and it exists mostly as a basecamp for Angkor Wat. And if you’re looking for immersion in Cambodian culture, this isn’t where you want to be. But having said all of that, it’s wrong to conclude, as so many people do, that Siem Reap isn’t “real” or is somehow inauthentic. Siem Reap is very much a real city, albeit a heavily westernized one. I say that because there are plenty of places in the world where people live and work that are very much like Siem Reap. We know, because we used to live in, and still love, one such place.

To us Siem Reap felt like the Hoboken of South East Asia. Now that probably doesn’t mean anything to anyone who hasn’t lived in our former city, but suffice it to say, Siem Reap felt a bit like home to us.

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Where to Eat in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

We owe a huge shout-out to Jodi from Legal Nomads for unfailingly steering us to terrific eateries in Ho Chi Minh City. Her Guide to Saigon Street Food is an absolute must read for anyone serious about exploring the best of South Vietnamese cuisine. But at nearly 10,000 words, Jodi’s guide is a little more than a mouthful. We did the hard work of chewing through her recommendations as well as some others to give you this more bite-sized take on our favorite places to eat in Vietnam’s largest city.

Chi Thong

Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio

The name of Chi Thong’s signature dish, Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio, says almost everything you need to know. Bun Thit Nuong loosely translates to “rice noodles with grilled meat,” which in this case is pork. And Cha Gio is a type of spring roll packed with seasoned meat, mushrooms, and diced vegetables all wrapped in moist rice paper before being fried into golden, crispy tubes of deliciousness.

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Where to Eat in Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An's Central Market

Head to Hoi An’s Central Market for the town’s best Cau Lao

Hoi An, as I mentioned earlier, was somewhat unkind to us. But it wasn’t just the rain. In addition to dodging drops we also had a terrible time finding good places to eat, let alone great ones.

Partly, I think we just got spoiled in Hanoi. It was so easy to find delicious meals in Hanoi that almost anywhere else would seem a disappointment by comparison. And so it was initially with Hoi An.

Don’t get us wrong, Hoi An is a lovely city. But it really is a tourist town. Unfortunately, many of its eateries reflect that. Too many cater to what they think westerners want and serve up mediocre food at inflated prices as a result.

In the past we’ve been able to side-step tourist cuisine by avoiding the places where tourists eat. But in Hoi An, that strategy didn’t always work. We had bad experiences at upscale places as well as downscale ones and everywhere in between.

Through sheer persistence, and a week of trying, we did eventually uncover these handful of standouts.

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