Dine and Dash Around the World
Forget museums and tourist sites, when trying to get local flavor while traveling, few things beat eating local cuisine. While restaurants are fine, they can be expensive, hit-or-miss in terms of quality and can lack the intimacy and authenticity of how people really eat in your host country. Ideally, you want to eat with the locals in their homes, but unless you know someone in the country you’re visiting, finding an open invitation can be difficult. A new service called EatWith has made that difficult task easy. They connect travelers with chef/citizens who open their homes to make impromptu restaurants.
How it works: You visit EatWith’s website, choose from one of their 17 cities; you peruse available chef offerings and either choose an existing reservation (e.g. Middle-Eastern Extravaganza on Nov 17) or book a date with a chef yourself (note: many have minimum party numbers). You then book your reservation. Chefs have 24 hours to verify that they’ll take you, similar to Airbnb reservations. After confirmation, you just show up. You can also cancel if you give the host 48 hours notice.
Offerings include dining with Michelin starred chefs in Barcelona and a Thai-Brazilian Feast in São Paulo. Like any good peer-to-peer commerce network, chefs are rated by people who’ve eaten at their homes. EatWith handles payment through PayPal. Prices are pretty reasonable, starting around $25 per person.
If you’re a little nervous about eating in someone’s home, EatWith carries a $1M third person insurance policy. The bad news is this coverage is currently available only in Spain and Israel–two countries where there is a high number of EatWith events. We don’t know about you, but we’ve eaten in some dodgy restaurants whilst traveling, so the lack of coverage, coupled with a rating system by diners, seems like an acceptable risk.
Of course, you don’t need to be a traveler to enjoy EatWith. Assuming it’s in your area, it can be an adventurous alternative to eating at a restaurant. Also, you can open your own home and register as a chef, sharing your cooking chops and making some money.
A while back, we looked at Feastly, a great peer-to-peer dining service we’ve used a number of times. Feastly works much the same way EatWith does, but is focused on major US cities. What we wonder is, assuming these services are as easy to visit and economical (or perhaps cheaper) as going to a restaurant, would people opt to dine in a strangers home on a broad scale? Could these micro-restaurants turn into another mainstay of dining out? Or are people too geared to eat at restaurants, even if their food and safety is no better, or often inferior?