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A handful of new smartphone applications make it easy to have home-cooked meals with locals while you travel.
Traveling like a resident instead of a tourist has long been a goal for many vacationers. While Airbnb puts you in a native’s home with or without the owner present, there are apps that enable you to share a home-cooked meal with locals.
The apps dangle a common travel fantasy: meeting the perfect stranger who over a delicious meal tells you about the real city and points out the lesser-known but wonderful shops and places to visit. If this were a movie, the two of you would fall in love by dessert.
While love isn’t out of the question, it is unlikely and is certainly not the reason for booking a meal with a local. Instead, hope to have an engaging experience that you long remember. Be aware too that you could be bored and mismatched, paired with people whose politics and outlook you don’t share, not to mention their sense of cleanliness.
Also, consider the safety of being with a stranger in his or her home. Remember what your mother told you?—“Never go home with strangers.” Well, you’re not in gradeschool anymore, but some of the same cautions apply. Undoubtedly, the overwhelming majority of hosts are nice people who love to cook and entertain. Still, use caution when considering these options. Here are apps designed to encourage mingling over meals when traveling. Prices listed are per person.
EatWith: The website says “We’re bringing people around the world together, one meal at a time.” EatWith features 500 hosts in 30 countries and 150 cities. Hosts post the price, date, time, and the number of people for each meal. Enjoy a fishmonger’s crab feast in San Francisco, $97; a local organic Italian fare in Florence, $55; an Argentine barbecue in Buenos Aires, $69; or a five-course dinner in Rio, $46.
MealSharing: The meals range from simple to somewhat complicated. Meals on this site are not all dinners. Some hosts serve brunches, teas, and even offer cooking classes. Try a traditional Libyan brunch in Chicago, $12; chicken and sausage gumbo in Los Angeles, $50; or Indian-style vegetarian curry in Berlin, $6.
BonAppetour: This site calls its hosts “home chefs” and promises that someone has eaten at and vetted the experience. The possibilities include a cooking class—pizza or pasta—in Florence, $105.94; a Chinese meal in Singapore, $39.88; a barbecue in Rome, $52; or prettily presented salads, salmon, or duck in Helsinki, $43.70.
VizEat.com: VizEat (which consumed the service Cookening), has more than 20,000 hosts in 100 countries. The cynic in me says all the chefs can’t be very good to excellent. But maybe they are fun (or not). VizEat seems to have more foreign cities than US cities. Try tapas in Madrid, about $22; a traditional family dinner in Marrakesh, about $22; or a fish dinner at an artist’s studio in Amsterdam, about $38.
What experiences have you had dining with locals in far-off places? Would you pay to eat at someone’s home instead of a restaurant? Share your thoughts with me on Twitter @familyitrips.