Have You Tried These Restaurants?

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on April 03, 2018. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.

Today, there are more than a handful of self-proclaimed “foodies” out there. And what exactly is a foodie? As defined by Webster’s Dictionary, a foodie is a fairly new word that means: A person having an avid interest in the latest food fads.  

While enjoying the experience of dining out and spending time with my loved ones, I don’t consider myself a foodie. However, over the past few years, and spending countless hours in restaurants with friends, family, co-workers, and bosses, there were a few places that stuck out to me for various reasons. In most cases, it was due to delicious cuisine – and in others, it was the memorable wait staff or unique ambiance. Below is a top-five list of restaurants throughout the world that were unanimously enjoyed by all of the people I was with. Some are holes-in-the-wall and others are high-end dining spots. As you continue to explore the world, make sure you check out the places below when in the specific cities. You’ll be glad you did.

1. Lisbon, Portugal – Os Bons Malandros

Escape Artist’s publisher, Dan Wilhelm, knows his food. He does his research when visiting new cities to determine the best places to eat, and many times they end up being incredibly delicious Michelin-star restaurants. During my last visit to Lisbon, Dan ranted and raved about a tapas and wine restaurant in the city that we had to dine at.

Upon walking into the restaurant, we were personally greeted by one of the owners, who happened to know Dan from his frequent visits. We chose a handful of tapas, with one of the most delicious being grilled octopus. Since we were in Portugal, famous for their tasty wines, we paired the tapas with some local varietals and had a delicious, leisurely meal.

Have You Tried These Restaurants?

Have You Tried These Restaurants?

Recommended Dish: Grilled Octopus

2. Cancun, Mexico – Mar-Bella Fish Market  

After an eventful 3-day conference in Cancun, my friend Jamie asked if our Belize team wanted to grab a bite to eat together off the grounds of the all-inclusive hotel. Without hesitation, we said of course, and she mentioned that she knew just the place to go. And no, it wasn’t going to be the Hard Rock Café. This place, she told us, served the best and freshest seafood in Mexico. She gave us the directions and told us to meet her upstairs.   

After a 20-minute drive out of the main strip and near the working port, the GPS told us we arrived. We looked around and noticed there was only a white Mini Super and valet parking. Very unsure if we were in the right place, we got out of the car and were ushered into the store. With the inside being a true grocery store, dried goods lining the wall and sodas on display in front of us, it still did not look like the right place.  

Have You Tried These Restaurants?

The facade of the Fish Market.

Regardless, we looked for the stairs in the back of the shop, and upstairs we went. Wow. As we ascended, we were greeted by a large display of gigantic, fresh seafood, dozens of plastic tables and chairs, and an incredible view of the Caribbean waters.  

Have You Tried These Restaurants?

We were seated and verbally told, in Spanish, the menu options. Deciding to do family-style, we opted for 6 large dishes shared between 5 people, with 4 being octopus. With each bite, you could taste how incredibly fresh the seafood was. There is a reason this place is called the “Fish Market.” Check it out next time you head to Cancun.

Have You Tried These Restaurants?

Pictures don’t do the size of this lobster justice!

Recommended Dish: Grilled Octopus (yet again!)

Have You Tried These Restaurants?

Grilled octopus!

3. Rome, Italy  – Ristorante Maccheroni

On a truffle kick during our last family trip to Italy, we tested many truffle dishes throughout the country. On our last night in Rome, we were determined to taste the best truffle dish in the city. And after many recommendations and sifting through numerous TripAdvisor reviews, we found it.  

Although arriving to this small establishment without a reservation, we were able to snag a table near the glass-walled kitchen, and we were instantly gifted with copious amounts of fresh bread and house red wine. We could already tell we were in the right place – yes, Italy in general!  

Have You Tried These Restaurants?

Not the best photo but one of the only ones I have from that night!

While it was obvious that this restaurant was popular with tourists (English menus and fluent English-speaking waiters), the service was top-notch and the homemade flair satisfied the taste buds. After a few hours of enjoying many starters and sharing main plates, it was a unanimous vote that the fettuccine pasta with black truffle was the most delicious.

Recommended Dish: Fettuccine Pasta with Black Truffle

Have You Tried These Restaurants?

The menu.

4. San Pedro, Belize – Beach BBQ

Although this recommendation is not a specific location, you’ll find that the best food you eat in Belize is from the ocean. With San Pedro being on a Caribbean island that parallels the MesoAmerican Barrier Reef, Ambergris Caye, you can expect that fresh seafood is abundant. And the best way to ensure it is fresh? Catch it yourself.

There are many charter boat services that you can commission for the day, with one of the best run by a local San Pedrano named Jaime Guerrero. He and his crew make sure that when you spend your day on the water, you also enjoy a delicious beach BBQ on your own private beach. With ingredients ranging from fresh seafood to just-picked coconuts, you are destined to have one of the best meals of your life (granted you enjoy fresh foods).

Have You Tried These Restaurants?

A Saturday excursion with some of my co-workers and Jaime!

With many delicious fish naturally populating the area around the island, it is common to find an abundance of red snapper, conch, and even lobster during lobster season. In fact, one of our Belize visitors mentioned, “This isn’t fishing, this is catching,” when reeling in snapper after snapper. Providing the cooking materials, Jaime and his team whip together one of the best meals over a wood fire that you have ever tasted.

Have You Tried These Restaurants?

Roasted coconut for dessert!

5. New York, New York – Wo Hop

As a New Yorker, I had to make sure to include the restaurant that made me love Chinese food… Wo Hop, specifically at 17 Mott Street in Chinatown. Introduced to me at a young age by my elevator-repairman uncle, today Wo Hop is still an absolute favorite when going home to visit the family. And the best part? There are many of the same waiters serving today as when I first starting visiting 20 years ago. Quickly navigating through the limited space with mounds of food, these servers wear a light blue top and provide incredibly quick service.

Have You Tried These Restaurants?

Light blue jacket tops are a trademark of Wo Hop staff.

This hole-in-the-wall restaurant is located several feet below Manhattan in a Chinatown basement. Accessible by steep, narrow stairs, the entrance is very easy to miss when strolling by. There are, at most, 50 seats in the entire space, and the Consumer Resource Guidewalls are covered by pictures of aspiring “celebrities.” Chances are you won’t recognize anyone on the wall, but it is entertaining to glance at while eating. Every time we visit, we talk about bringing our pictures to add to the wall collection, but we have yet to do so. Maybe next time.

Why is this restaurant such a big hit? It is open 24 hours a day and offers delivery services, which is, of course, very common in Manhattan. But the real reason is because of the consistency of the delicious, inexpensive food and the quick service. When you head to NYC, be sure to stop by Wo Hop for a delicious meal.  

Recommended Dish: Fried Dumplings

Have You Tried These Restaurants?

My cousins and me during one of our many visits to Wo Hop.

Are there any places you have enjoyed eating at while in a new destination? Send me your recommendations and we can feature you in a “Part 2.” Make sure you include the location, why you enjoyed it, some photos, and the best dish!

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on April 03, 2018. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.