How do you find out about those great, local restaurants? It might be more about where not to look instead of where to look, but if you follow The Professor's guidelines here, you might find that magical place where you can't wait to get home and tell everyone about it.
Here is What Not to Do:
Stay Away from the Main Piazzas, Squares and Touristy Areas: I would even take it a step further and say stay away from the major cities, I think you have a better chance of finding a good meal in a small city. But anyway, just a few blocks off the beaten path will probably yield a smaller, family-owned place that works hard to serve a good meal based on the quality of their food, not the location.
Ask the Hotel Staff: The desk staff at a hotel is constantly barraged with the question of "where is a good place to eat?". Restaurants know this and have offered "favors" to hotel staff for delivering customers to their restaurants. So in some cases, the recommendations are based not upon the quality of the dining experience, but for something else. It doesn't happen everywhere, but it happens. But in any case, I'm not sure if I ever had someone at the hotel ever recommend a really good place for me to eat.
This is What You Should Do:
Ask the Locals: How do you find a local who is going to tell you where to eat? One of my main sources is from people in the food industry itself. Ask the waiter at the place where you are eating one night as to where to have another meal. Of course they don't expect you to eat every meal at the same place, so they may not have many reservations about telling you about their favorites.
Ask Your Guide: This is probably the best resource. When I think about it, guides have recommended to me places like Kopar in Reykjavik, La Tagliata in Positano, Hanz in Cusco, and Heuer in Vienna. Rarely does a guide give me a bad pick for a restaurant.
Food Markets: A trend over the last few years, especially in European cities is to open large food halls like Mercato Centrale in Florence or Hlemmur Food Hall in Reykjavik. The Time Out food hall in Lisbon is enourmous! Lots of these food halls are located adjacent to or in working food markets. We have also had good luck in dining on farms that also have restaurants.
Read this Book: My friend Andy Herbach writes a series of books, "Eating and Drinking" for many of Europe's best destinations. Andy has never given me bad advice. For instance, look at his book, "Eating and Drinking in Paris" available on Amazon.