This post is taken from my review of Wellington, New Zealand, although it contains tips that are good almost anywhere.
Most travel guidebooks will tell you to ask a cab driver or a hotel concierge for restaurant and bar recommendations. I’m decidedly against this strategy for two reasons.
First, these folks are in the tourist business so they’re going to send you to the tourist spots. I can find tourist spots online, when I’m asking for a recommendation, I’m looking for a local spot.
Second, cab driver and concierge recommendations are often based on stereotypes. Let me explain. If you’re young and dressed fashionably, you’ll be pointed in one direction while if you are older and dressed conservatively, you’ll be pointed in another, even though the young person might want a quiet, upscale place while the older person could want a loud, party place.
That’s why I ask bartenders for restaurant and bar recommendations. The reason is because bartenders frequently hop jobs, so they have experience with lots of places. And, their friends work in bars, so they get the inside scoop on these places, too. Finally, bartenders often go out a lot to meet friends or unwind, so they’ve been everywhere.
Waiters and waitresses can also good people to ask, although I’ve had better luck with bartenders.