Finding your Food Favorite Places While Abroad (in Spain)

This is a place new friends took me to. I might not go back, but I’m glad I tried it!

This is a place new friends took me to. I might not go back, but I’m glad I tried it!

Dear Liz,

Part of feeling like a new place is home (and overcoming the blues of being abroad) is finding places to eat and drink where you sense that you are part of the local culture—places where they know your order or joke around with you. When you are able to to find places where you feel like you fit in, living abroad becomes a little bit more normal. However, this isn’t always as easy as you might like, and that is why today we are sharing our top three tips on how to find your new favorite places abroad.

1.) Try out a bunch of places:

Depending on how long you are going to be in a place, you might be tempted to try the top 5 coffee shops and restaurants on TripAdvisor in your new home and decide that one of them must be your favorite. Now, we think that looking at websites that review restaurants is a great way to get started, but don’t just follow what everyone else tells you! Consider how you can find other local places and give them a go too before deciding which one is going to be your favorite. This will also help you understand better what you like out of a place and can help you avoid going somewhere just because it seems like “the place to be.”

One of the main ways I have found places that I just want to keep going back to is trying out the places closest to where I live. Now, this doesn’t mean that all the places near where you are living will be good (in fact, some of the places I have found are complete dives); however, if it is close, that is usually a good sign that you will be willing to frequent it. Another great way to find your favorite places is by recommendations. Sure, websites that give tourists reviews might be great for food and ambiance, but we tend to look for other things while living abroad. I also really like to just say ‘yes’ for a coffee or beer with friends and acquaintances until I find somewhere I would like to go back alone.

A story: One of my classic go-tos in Granada was actually the bar I lived above for about two years. We met one day because our washing machine caused a waterfall in their kitchen… Not the best way to meet, but it forced my flatmate and I to introduce ourselves and have a glass of wine there later in the evening. The bar is now temporarily closed, but it was a place that I went to so often, my whole family and a bunch of my friends all got used to it as well.

2.) Go for the experience:

There are a lot of different reasons to go out for coffee or food when you could (in theory) just make both at home. While I am not someone to spend a ton of money on eating and drinking, in Granada I had my morning coffee place and certain bars where I would go for tapas on a weekly basis. The reason that I would happily spend my money in these places was two-fold: for the people and the product.

  • People: For me, perhaps the people are the most important factor in choosing a place that becomes your favorite (and feels a bit more like home). These could either be the people behind the bar or the people you find in the place, but when you find good people, it always feels more comfortable returning to a place.

  • Product: I consider myself to be a decent cook and baker and don’t usually find myself without good food at home. At the same time, a couple of years back I decided that I don’t want to make coffee for myself and, instead, would let coffee be my ‘going out’ experience. Now, I am no longer addicted to coffee and when I go out for one, I am perfectly happy to let a professional make me an excellent cup of coffee—as opposed to the average cup I would most likely make at home.

A story: My favorite coffee shop in Granada ranked highly among TripAdvisor tourists. However, it was also a place run by a friend where we (my entire family), over the years made new friends. It was also the place where I could get the best coffee with plant-based drinks (I don’t drink milk). The combination of people and product made it a place I was happy to invest a couple of euros in daily.

Tapas at a local classic in Granada, La Bodega de Antonio.

3.) Be loyal to your places:

Especially if you find yourself at little hole-in-the-wall places or small shops in bigger cities, creating loyalty with the staff/owner will make a big difference in feeling like the place is ‘yours.’ In Spain it is incredibly hard for places to stay alive and running (in fact, the two that I mentioned above have either closed or will close in the next couple of months). That means that these small businesses will go out of their way to remember your order and make you feel like you belong. And, at the end of the day, you will find yourself with favorite places that consider you to be an honored guest as well.

Now, I am not saying you will have to go every day to feel like you belong, but if you can find a way to get to your new favorite coffee shop a couple of times a week or go to your new favorite bar once a week, you will make a big impression. And the more you create the relationship with the owners and staff, the more you will feel like the place is a little bit ‘yours’ as well.


What are you top tips for finding your favorite places to eat and drink when you move abroad? Where do you find you are most comfortable? Let us know what you do in the comments down below!

Sincerely,
Spain