It’s nearing the end of summer and you may be bummed you didn’t take a single vacation or getaway this year. While your vacation window may feel like it’s closing, you can still eat like you’re enjoying a trip to a far-off locale by destination dining in your very own city. Ever notice you’re more experimental with food and actually treat yourself while you’re on vacay? Well maybe now’s the time to start applying that same mentality to your own city.
The Chew co-host and Top Chef alum Carla Hall shares her own fun tips for getting the most out of the restaurants closest to you and even how to save a little cash while dining out.
OK!: The idea of destination dining at home is really clever—what does it mean to you?
Carla Hall: I think that when you are traveling and visiting a different city you tend to be more adventurous. I think you take that same attitude and bring it into your own city and explore your city and the city opens up so much more than it does normally when you’re going to work, going home, going to the usual places. You plan to be adventurous.
OK!: How best can someone research to find the right restaurants to feel good about the money they’re spending while eating out?
CH: We’re in a day and age of everyone reporting online so you have Grub Street, you have Eater, you have Yelp where you can get an idea about a restaurant. I use all of these sites to kind of cross reference the restaurants and what people are saying about them. Also, I love go out with my friends. There have been times when I want to try a new restaurant and I want to eat around the menu but it’s only my husband and I and I’m like, “Ugh, we can’t get as much food as I want to try,” so when you have friends you can treat the menu like small plates, whether they have small plates or not, because you’re sharing everything.
OK!: Let’s say you’re ordering from a new place but just getting takeout, how can you make that a more fun experience?
CH: I have done that, too! You can have an indoor picnic, you can bring out a table cloth. Even if you’re eating with disposable plates you can get them in a fun color with your disposable cutlery and just make it feel like an indoor picnic. I did that last night, too! It’s something about bringing the outside in. The thing is with something like the AARP Credit Card from Chase, you’re getting 3% cash back so you have that little incentive where you feel like you’re getting something back and it’s exciting. Whether they’re giving you a discount or not, you’re carrying your discount with you wherever you go.
OK!: What’s been your favorite restaurant find recently?
CH: Oh wow, these chicken and dumplings at The Reserve in Grand Rapids. In Leland, Michigan I had some of the best fish and chips. The fish was so light and the batter was light and it wasn’t greasy. It was so amazing! I can still taste it now. I can still hear the crunch. I followed that up with a sour cherry pie.
What’s your favorite hometown restaurant? Tell us in the comments or tweet @OKMagazine.