Yes, the Drivers do Know the Best Places to Eat…


After a morning visit to the terra cotta warriors located an hour outside Xi’an, our guide had promised a lunch at a “local” place. There were lots of tourist type restaurants and as we walked to lunch past hawkers trying to get our lunch business, we seemed to pass most of the flashy places and kept walking through the parking lot. Then we arrived at a really modest storefront and the guide said this is where all the drivers/guides preferred to eat.


This was only our second meal on this China trip so we were eager to try everything, and I ordered five dishes, thinking the driver and guide would be eating with us. But they insisted on eating at another table and they ordered separately. So Mrs. MM and I had to do justice to five relatively large dishes. Up above, some pork and vegetable dumplings (this is dumpling country) that were delicious but a bit heavy. A beef noodle soup with freshly made noodles that on it’s own would have been a hearty lunch for one. But we also had to have a beef sandwich up top that is the Chinese equivalent of a hamburger, but it tasted much better than a fast food version. We also had an excellent cold noodle dish with chili oil. And the absolute slam dunk winner of the lunch was a stewed eggplant dish with chilies that they served over rice. Rice is not common in this part of China, but I had spied this dish at another table and ordered it without really knowing what it was. The eggplant was incredibly delicious. The entire meal, along with some water and a Coke was all of $10. Definitely look for where the drivers eat their lunch…


17 Responses

  1. I agree with Betchay: eat where the locals eat. This has been a 100% successful strategy for me, so far and I have never been disappointed. Sure, in some places it requires iron guts and steely determination but I have always waddled away satisfied.

  2. What a versatile accessible little veggie eggplants are. They call them qietzi (chee-et-zi) and enunciate it while being photographed just as we say cheese.

  3. In Cambodia, after an ungodly waking hour for Angkor Wat and a godly sunrise, we were hankering for coffee and we swear we’d kill anyone who got in the way. Right across the street was an American style ek-ek coffee shop, with that brown & white modern decor kinda thing. No, no, says our driver. He drove us about 150m back to a dirt floor shack with a ginormous pot and a giant medyas. Seated all around were yes, drivers, with the ubiquitous scarves in these parts. Owner poured from her big kettle to little kettles to distribute around. It was the local variety, strong enough to kick some corrupt Senator’s ass, tempered by a good, serious dose of condensed milk enough to feed a kindergarten class. The taste? One of the best ever. And the bonus, when we wanted to go do Number 1 (pee pee), we walked over about 20m away and behind the restroom was the most gorgeous lake with water lilies blooming. Too bad, can’t share the pics here.

  4. Practice the same thing when you eat in your own city. Whenever I go to our version of Chinatown here in San Diego, I am always in the look out for places where people of the same ethnic group eat, e.g., Chinese eating at a Chinese Resto, etc. It never fails – when a place’s clientele is mostly of the same ethnic group than the “foreigners” , you bet they serve good food.

  5. When I am in Vegas we don’t eat in the strip. We eat where the locals eat. One time we ate at a Steak restaurant off the strip where we found the local cops and firefighters seated having their dinner.

  6. Yes, I agree MM! When we went to Madrid for the first time, a cousin of my husband who lived in Madrid for 30 years advised us to avoid tourists restaurants and follow construction workers, drivers, locals in eating out. It was so cheap,€8 with a starter, main, dessert, house wine and coffee! We don’t speak Spanish but it was an easy choice because it was always menu del dia! The downside was I was always drunk as we always finished the bottle of wine! Hahahahaha!

  7. Same experience for me, although just provincial Philippine trips; I discovered that the divers are the best guide for great, reasonable, eateries in towns where I visit.
    Latest example is in Pagsanjan; after numerous expensive, sorry lunches and dinners at various tourist Reston, I asked a trycicle driver where they eat, and he brought us there.
    So glad we did, food was great and reasonable.

  8. Feeling a little “naughty” after Footloose’s comment #5

    Funny thing our languages.

    We say cheese, the Chinese say qie zi ( chee-et-zi) which sounds very like “cheese” when enunciated when being photographed

    Cheese: queso in Filipino or Spanish

    Qie zi: eggplant, “versatile little veggie” called eggplant. Also a male pornographic website which I stumbled into while searching for a recipe. Please DO NOT go there!

    And the Koreans? They also say cheese but follow it with “ahn yung ha sa yo” which sounds more like anong sayo ( as in the Lucky Me commercial) meaning thank you.

    But what about the more formal kamsahamnida? Translation: Thank you Madam! …..And I’ve been politely saying that to MACHO Korean men all these years. HA Ha HA!!!

  9. ConnieC, “annyeong haseyo” is hello.
    Thank you is gamsahamnida or gomapseumida… or gomaweoyo (less formal).

    But yeah, my students for Basic Korean took to greeting each other “anong sayo” instead. Then replying with “Gaji immida” (an eggplant) or “Bongsung-a immida” (a peach). Adults can be such kids sometimes :P

  10. Kasseopeia: Gamsahamnida ! Now I am relieved. I must have gotten the wrong translation:)

  11. A propos all of the above and a recent preferred national cuisine survey, I can live on Chinese food alone or even Korean but not Japanese, can’t stand raw fish, raw egg and slimy stinky ropy natto.

  12. I once had a Japanese friend give me some natto but warned that it’s an acquired taste. She was right.

  13. Hi MM, hope u don’t mind sharing contact details of your private tour service provider. Thinking of going there too next year. Thanks ?



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