It’s no secret that going out to eat is a favorite pastime of mine. If it was in the budget, I’m positive I would try a new restaurant or two every single day (but for now, our delicious Monthly Meals will suffice hehe). Many of the incredible dining experiences I’ve been lucky enough to experience were here in the States, but for this piece’s intents and purposes, I want to share with you those I’ve had in foreign countries. People gathering crosses all borders, guys! You are all intelligent folks reading this post, so I won’t bore you with a spiel about how a country’s food tells its complex history because you already know it absolutely does. I just want to tell you my top picks, what I ate and, most of all, how it made me feel.
Mama Africa, Cape Town, South Africa
Food: Mama’s Wild Game Mixed Grill which included crocodile, ostrich, springbok, kudu, venison sausage, and my first ever cappuccino
Feels: This place was alive. Mama Africa is not only a restaurant, but also boasts a large art gallery and market full of local artisans selling their beautiful crafts. For the hour and change I was there, I felt like I was part of the local South African community. My meal was exactly type of adventurous food I hoped to eat while on the African continent. I vividly remember the aroma of spicy meats being placed on our table, the kind waiter explaining which dishes of protein belonged to which animal, and being utterly excited to tell my friends at home all the different things I tried. As you can tell, vegetarianism has never been a lasting consideration of mine! The music was upbeat and it seemed that so was everyone at the surrounding tables.
American Trade Hotel, Casco Viejo, Panama
Food: Classic hamburger, yucca fries with an incredibly delicious ketchup
Feels: Fusion is the only way to describe this experience. Based off the decor alone, you’d think the restaurant of this hotel was located in old, glamorous Havana. Exquisite tile flooring and tropical greenery expanded over the entire airy space giving it a seriously lux, summery feel. As you can tell by its name and my slightly embarrassing order, the hotel serves American food with a Panamanian twist. Dare I say, it did American food much better than America? And the ketchup. THE KETCHUP! It was unlike our vinegary Heinz, but was cinnamony and sweet. Traveling to Panama was the first time I’d ever been to Central America and my visit to the American Trade Hotel was the warmest welcome.
The nondescript spot in Paris somewhere on Rue Mouffetard, near Place Monge metro stop
Food: Boeuf bourguignon
Feel: Have you ever been completely taken aback by divine food when you weren’t prepared? Perhaps I was naive to not expect a cafe in Paris to perfect this stew. The boeuf bourguignon was silky smooth, tender, complex, but simple at the same time. Every time I try to recreate this dish for myself in my measly crock pot, of course, it doesn’t compare. The lesson of the day – some of the greatest heroes (i.e. restaurants) don’t have memorable signs.
Tantalo Hotel & Rooftop, also Casco Viejo, Panama (this city has some serious gems)
Food: Tantalo’s House Ceviche made with white fish, mayo, mustard, apples, red onions, sesame oil and fried julienne corn tortillas, a few Balboa beers, one “zen-jito” (muddled Yerbabuena with gin, lime juice, cucumber juice, and ginger infused syrup)
Feels: An open rooftop bar, muffled Spanish & house music vibrating around your body, views of a bright city skyline, a tangy mouth watering for more ceviche, the mild tingling of your body after a few beers, a warm heart after a deep conversation. Close your eyes and try to picture this… have you done it? This needs no more explanation. Magic.
I’d love to know some of your favorite dining experiences, domestic or abroad! What made them special for you? Would you like to know about my favorite American restaurants? Let me know below in the comments!