How to Find a Place to Eat While on a Motorcycle Trip
Life comes with a few basic necessities: food, water, shelter…and motorcycles. Or at least those are my four necessities when traveling through this thing we call life. I’m just as guilty as the next person for enjoying the roller food at gas stations or having a guilty pleasure menu item at a fast food chain. However, finding locally owned restaurants with great food, a history, or a unique atmosphere is definitely my specialty. Here are a few different ways I find places to eat while I’m on motorcycle trips.
Google Maps + Apple Maps
These are my go-to sources to find an eatery in a town I plan to visit. I prefer using Google Maps on a desktop computer when researching prior to my trip, and Apple Maps when “in the moment.” For whatever reason, I don’t like the phone version of Google Maps and don’t find it nearly as user-friendly as it is on my desktop or laptop.
First, I’ll simply zoom in on a town and take a look at the food offerings in the area. Most towns I stop in are not major cities with thousands of options, which makes it a bit easier to narrow down my choices.
Next, I’ll check the photos in the reviews. That’s where this gets really easy: even a terrible photographer can make good food look appetizing. A really bad photographer can also expose terrible, low-quality food for what it really is. The saying, “a picture says a thousand words,” really rings true in restaurant reviews from my experience. Even the photo of the half-eaten chicken fried steak at breakfast.
Lastly, I’ll read a few comments and give my best judgment (some people are incredibly high maintenance and it is quite apparent in their reviews). If I feel that it’s worth a shot, I’ll go for it. Or I’ll save the destination for later on a map so that I can come back to it when needed. Usually, a mental note will suffice.
Pro Tip: If you’ve ever enjoyed a good meal at a locally owned restaurant, I highly recommend leaving a review. It really does help these businesses more than you realize!
There are times when the Apple Maps app has failed me with loading reviews, and Google Maps has come in and saved the day. So if you are only using your phone to find eateries, be sure to check both apps if one doesn’t load any photos, reviews, or information.
Word of Mouth: Ask a Local!
Every corner of the country has its quirky dive bars and famous eateries that have been around for decades. There are also plenty of hidden gems that locals may only know about. Usually, the easiest way to find them is to just ask a local. With friends all over the country (as well as a fantastic social following filled with foodies!) I’ll sometimes reach out for recommendations while planning my trips.
If you’re looking for something specific, there’s no better way to find your way around a town than to ask someone who’s familiar with the neighborhood. Especially a like-minded, two-wheeled enthusiast. From moto-themed coffee shops to the popular motorcycle-friendly watering hole, a local is definitely going to be able to give you a heads-up on the moto-centric spots in the area.
Tourism Boards can oftentimes lead to more commonly known or famous eateries if that’s something you’re wanting to find. Most Tourism Boards will have a page dedicated to restaurants and general dining on their website. Some tourism boards even have designated foodie tours with routes available. If you’re in a small town, stop by the visitor’s center upon your arrival. Again, ask a local!
Social Media Platforms
Admittingly, social media has made some eateries famous that are a bit disappointing in real life. But hey! That’s a fantastic example of GREAT digital marketing and advertising! As a marketing nerd, I can appreciate that hustle (and sometimes I can also see through the internet hoax, which others may not be able to see as easily).
On the plus side, social media also gives us the ability to comment, share, save, and see all kinds of content that could be useful for planning trips. On Instagram, I enjoy following tourism boards, local foodies, and restaurants with quality social media content. I’ll often save posts that feature places I want to visit in the future, be it food or a destination. If I see someone take a ride to a unique little eatery in the middle of nowhere, I’ll google it and save it to my map.
Pro Tip: Read the captions on posts. Sometimes it leads you right to the info you’re seeking. Location Tags will also take you directly to the business’s location on a map if tagged correctly. If you’d like to dive further down the rabbit hole, read the comments on a post to see what others are saying, you may get a good, recent review of the eatery.
Another benefit to social media is Facebook Groups. I’m a member of a few motorcycle-focused travel and camping groups that cover the entire United States and beyond. This goes back to the previous topic: ask a local. You never know what type of info you may get from a group of strangers! From here, it’s up to you if you want to take their advice and go for it, or do a bit more research with the information you’ve been given to narrow down your options.
Surprisingly, I don’t watch much television. If an eatery was featured on a network TV show, I’d have absolutely no idea. However, I do watch a few YouTube channels that are hosted by fellow foodie travelers. Here and there, I’ll take note of where they went and consider it for my own travel itinerary. Dare I say it–I’ve been influenced! Hah!
I like to utilize Pinterest when looking into an area I’m unfamiliar with for additional travel insight. Sometimes you’ll find great blogs that are full of information about a certain city or region. For example, I took a trip to New York City this Summer, and looked up the “must-eat” types of food in the Big Apple. This option might lead you to some of a city’s major tourist destinations rather than hidden gems, but it’s a great start to get ideas on what to eat when visiting an area.
Live in the Moment
Have you ever ridden past a restaurant that was closed, but looked unique? Maybe their branding caught your eye? Or perhaps a place was jam-packed with people? I tend to take mental notes of places like this so that I can go back at a later date if I don’t have the option to stop right then.
Typically, I won’t turn around and stop at a restaurant I know nothing about when traveling alone. If I’m traveling with others, or just out on a day ride with friends with no destination in mind, then I tend to go with the flow and live in the moment a bit more. If the group looks at me to pick the eatery, I always resort to using Apple Maps on my phone and finding something on the fly.
My Last Resort: Yelp and other Travel-focused Platforms
If I use Yelp, I typically was forwarded to the app via Google or Apple maps when reading reviews. Otherwise it’s rare I open this or other travel-focused apps. However, for those late-night eats, Yelp is a great option to use if you want to narrow down food options that are open late. I personally just don’t like the user interface of Yelp and don’t find it to be the most user-friendly app.