One of the things I love about traveling to various places is experiencing the food. Often the local fare is a huge hit. Other times I wish I’d have given it a pass. There’s always the temptation to default to things I know I like, but I try to give the local fare a fair sampling. This has led to many memorable meals.

Most Memorable Meals From My Travels

Bao Yuan Dumpling Restaurant, Beijing, China

I fell in love with Chinese dumplings on my first trip to China. The kids enjoyed most of them as well. While we would have them several times during the trip, I will remember the first experience at Bao Yuan Dumpling the most. The dumpling dough is colorful made so by add various vegetable juices. And few other dumplings could compete with their flavor. Definitely a winner if you visit the Chinese capital.

a plate of fried fish

Sardines at La Cova Fumada

La Cova Fumada, Barcelona, Spain

One normally eats tapas in a hurry. But you eat even more in a hurry if you’re among the last customers the restaurant lets in before they close for siesta. La Cova Fumada is a lively little hole-in-the-wall tapas restaurant in the La Barceloneta neighborhood entirely worth making the trek to visit.

The food is solid. But it’s the pleasant conversation and lively atmosphere that I remember the most — however brief my visit. I’d gladly revisit Barcelona for tapas, pintxos, and La Sagrada Familia, if nothing else.

Krog Roba, Helsinki, Finland

You might not think a hotel breakfast would make the list, but this one does. Beyond being well above average for a hotel restaurant, Krog Roba had some unique offerings that I especially enjoyed. I tried salmiakki for the first time, which is something I won’t forget. It’s quite the odd candy — if you can even call it that. Mead was also on the breakfast menu.

The property isn’t your standard chain hotel, and my guess is the restaurant operates independently. I was leveraging Hyatt’s partnership with SLH, which is sadly ending.

fondue is one of my most memorable meals

Cheese fondue in Zurich

Fribourger Fondue Stübli, Zurich, Switzerland

At the recommendation of a friend, this was my first dinner while in Switzerland and one of the most memorable meals of the entire trip. It was my first time ever enjoying cheese fondue. It was fantastic. I’ve since grown quite the love of Gruyere.

And it was a multicultural experience. Which means I ended up witnessing some older Swiss-German ladies tsk-tsk the boisterous Spanish family that graced the restaurant with their presence that night. Both were enjoyable company, and I had a great conversation with the German group. They clearly preferred the evening be quiet.

Restuarante Carabelas, Punta Leona, Costa Rica

While the buffet at this Costa Rican resort had plenty to offer, what sticks out the most was the fact that a monkey stuck its hand in my breakfast. The rascals were prowling around every mealtime, kept at bay by the netting that surrounds the entire restaurant. The kids enjoyed watching them as much I did.

Except there was apparently a hole in the barrier. A brief departure from my plate was all it took for one to let himself in to swipe what he could! I never did see how he got in and out. In any case, that plate was a lot cause. I might as well have given him the whole thing.

a plate of food on a table

The smørrebrød presentation is excellent

Restaurant 1733, Copenhagen, Denmark

My choice to sit outside in Denmark in January is what sticks with me the most. I’d looked forward to the restaurant, which happened to be full when I arrived. Except for the couple outdoor tables. The restaurant provided a blanket, which was just enough to stave off the bitter cold. I was still chilly while taking in views of a Copenhagen canal and Christiansborg beyond.

But the smørrebrød was excellent. It was my one remaining chance to try this quintessentially Danish food. I’d certainly repeat the experience if back in Denmark’s capital city.

The Happy Hog, Pearisburg, Virginia

This may be the most “normal” of places on the list, but it’s rare I’ve had a southern dish quite as phenomenal as their shrimp and grits. It wasn’t my first time to the Happy Hog, but it was my first time ordering this culinary wonder. I’d previously ordered the grits to accompany the pulled pork sandwich as was impressed, which made the shrimp and grits plate a clear choice this time. They were stupendous.

Maybe I’m just being over the top. Maybe this is what shrimp and grits are always like. Who knows.

memorable meals - queso relleno

Queso relleno – a yucateco novelty

Museo de la Gastronomia, Merida, Mexico

If there is one Yucateco food you should try…actually, no. There are lots you should try. But among them is the queso relleno. I’m used to chiles being filled with cheese. Cheese as what is filled? Not so much. A hollowed-out Dutch cheese filled with a mix of meat and spices seems a weird idea. But it works.

Give the queso relleno a try. I thought it was delicious, and a highlight of what I enjoyed in the Yucatan. I cannot recommend the region enough.

Chez Boulay, Quebec City, Quebec

This tops my list of most memorable meals while traveling. The three course dinner was both reasonably priced and among the most excellent food I’d ever had. From the Arctic char carpaccio to the Canadian maple pastry dessert, it was a delectable night from beginning to end.

If I’m ever back in the heart of French Canada, I’ll absolutely return.

Final Thoughts

While I’m not among the most adventurous of eaters (the Disgusting Food Museum in Malmo proved that), I like to think I have a decent willingness to step out of my comfort zone and try the local fare. It’s a great part of enjoying a unique place and culture.