My wife and I went on a mini-vacation this past weekend (our first using only cash), and while we didn’t specifically plan to limit spending on meals, we managed to do better than I had hoped.
Of course she knows about my serious push to do what I can to erase my credit card debt, but the more influential factor seems to have been the use of the Yelp app on her mobile phone. For example, we both appreciate good German food, so we were nearing New Braunfels, and she found a place with great reviews, so we pulled up directions on the same phone and easily found our way there.
We subscribe to the “eat like the locals” mentality encouraged by people like Anthony Bourdain. Even though in this case we weren’t traveling to a new country, or even a different state, different areas have different advantages. Here we found ourselves in a town settled largely by Germans, and their descendants still know how to make a schnitzel.
Friesenhaus wasn’t cheap, but we stopped in time for a late lunch for $67, and were so well fed that we didn’t even need dinner. The next morning, again with no forward planning, we found a place with “perhaps the best tacos in America,” and got stuffed (not in the British way) for $12.91.
It probably doesn’t hurt that we were on an odd schedule. We seemed to hit the taco place between morning rushes, strolled around the zoo for a while, and didn’t get hungry again until around 5:30 PM. Yelp came to the rescue once again and we got the mad scientists at Bunsen Burgers to solve that problem. (Seriously, it’s the nerdiest menu I’ve ever seen, which really called to my wife and me.)
On our way back home the next morning, Yelp’s success continued with a recommendation for Union Street Station, which boasted a classic Texan menu.
Over the weekend, we managed to avoid both chain restaurants and tourist traps, and still feel like we were on vacation. More impressively, over five meals’ worth of food, two people ate for an average of $12.45 per person.
I don’t mean to gush about Yelp; it’s certainly not the only app of its kind, but for this sort of thing I recommend going where the biggest user base is, and Yelp seems to be it. We had a delicious vacation eating with the locals, and I’m sure we’ll be doing more of the same in the future.
Updated June 23, 2016 and originally published February 23, 2010.