As at least some of you know I work in consulting. I don’t do strategy or IT so I’m generally not on the road 4-5 days a week like some of my consulting brethren, but I do travel a fair amount for work. While I don’t really like being away from home, I do look at work travel as an opportunity to try foods in places I wouldn’t otherwise go to (if you travel for work and all you do is seek out the nearest Applebees come dinner time you are doing it wrong). There have been many hits and many misses, but here’s how I approach each meal.
Usually eaten (very) early in an airport or in a hotel. Let’s start with the airport. There is no finer airport breakfast (or any meal really) than a torta at Tortas Frontera at O’Hare. Of course, this is generally only possible if flying out of Terminals 1 or 3, but it is a real treat. An eggs and rajas torta and a cup of coffee make 7:30am flights so much more bearable. If I’m flying out of Terminal 2, well, there are no winners there. If it’s breakfast at the hotel, I’m eating oatmeal. Not even a debate.
Most of the time this will be whatever non-offensive sandwich assortment the client brings in. That’s fine. I usually have turkey sandwiches (or some version of them) for lunch anyway. But occasionally my schedule will allow for a little detour for lunch. My favorite of these was probably Mike’s Famous Ham Place. The menu is basically limited to ham sandwiches and split pea soup with ham, but you really don’t need anything else. I mean come on, look at this bad boy.
Yes, that is a piece of ham on top of the ham sandwich. You can also get a junior ham sandwich which doesn’t have quite as much ham as the regular ham sandwich.
Now here is where most of my energy is focused. I’ve usually either just arrived in a city for a meeting the next morning or I’ve just wrapped things up with a client for the day. Either way I’m ready for a drink and a good meal. When seeking out dinner I try to stick to two rules: First is no national chains. Second is if I’m not in a major city I try not to go to what is described as “the best restaurant in town”. If you’re in a smaller city, this will probably be a steakhouse-like restaurant and it will be fine. It may even be good. But it probably won’t be memorable. So I’ll do some digging on Yelp, LTHForum, Chowhound, Trip Advisor, Twitter, etc. and try to narrow down the options. I’ll also talk to my clients who actually live in the city I’m visiting (in some places this will yield infinitely more valuable information than the Food Internet). All of this can lead to some great finds (the now closed Sea Saw in Scottsdale used to be one of my favorite restaurants to go to while traveling). The flip side though is you can find some real duds. This especially happens when proximity to the hotel (due to exhaustion) trumps my other natural instincts. That’s how you wind up eating something like this.
This is “spicy tuna tartare” as served at Li Asian Cuisine in North Canton, Ohio. Yes, those are strawberries. Yes, those are Pringles. So what happened? I was tired and this was the closest non-chain restaurant to my hotel where I could also get a beer. It was bad, but hey, now it makes for a good story.
So there you go. The glamorous life of a traveling consultant who loves to eat. Jealous?
Edited now to include a link to more information about Mike’s Ham Place, which is in Detroit (and is awesome).