If you travel, inevitably at some point you will find yourself starving, cranky, jet-lagged, and somewhat lost, standing in front of some vaguely non-threatening restaurant with a winsome, colorful menu in the window where you will say to yourself or your traveling companions, “Well, how bad can it be?” Afterwards, you will spend several hours in a bleak spiral of self recrimination, shaking your head over the crude service and cursing the memory of every bite. You will ponder the sad state of the universe that allows such restaurants to be.
You will have just garfunkeled*.
A garfunkel is, in essence, a rather poor decision vis-à-vis food.
Of course, a garfunkel can occur at anytime, even during the mundane workweek, but it can take on a certain poignancy when it occurs during travel. A bad scampi anywhere is unfortunate, but a bad scampi in Venice takes on a deeper level of sadness. Lackluster jambalaya in New Orleans is a crime.
Preparation, research, and sometimes simple common sense are the keys to avoiding a garfunkel.
Whether it is fine dining, a casual pub, or cheap, delicious street food, always have a plan for where you will first eat when you get off the plane or after you drop off your bags at the hotel. Yelp, Chowhound, and TripAdvisor are excellent sources of good reviews.
Because Murphy’s Law is particularly potent during travel, have a few back up options. Always check a restaurant’s website for menus and hours (it could be closed on Mondays, or not open until 5pm.) Also, be sure to have alternatives in case of inclement weather–that elegant rooftop deck overlooking the sun-dappled water can lose its luster in the pouring rain.
However, all this planning still may not be enough…
How to Recognize a Garfunkel
Garfunkels have a tendency to sprout up around popular tourist areas, but stealth garfunkels can also lurk off the beaten path where tourists fear to tread, laying in wait for the adventuresome traveler.
In our experience, a guy smashing plates at your feet while he waves a dirty menu in your face is likely to be standing in front of a garfunkel.
Places that are empty when others are full can be a clue.
Tourist menus are a big red flag.
Cartoon animals, too.
Sometimes a seemingly nice place will reveal itself to be a garfunkel once you are inside. A surly hostess, an indolent waiter, or being seated in the worst seat in the (empty) house will reveal that you may be in for a garfunkel. While none of these are definitive, you should not be afraid to flee if you are getting the garfunkel vibe.
Roll With It
A simple fact of life is that if you haven’t garfunkeled yet, you will. The key to dealing with a garfunkel is not to let it ruin your day, and certainly not the rest of your trip. Laugh it off. Find the humor in it. Get a glass of wine or a pint of beer and plan your next meal.
*garfunkel, noun, our made up term for a rather ill-advised restaurant choice, usually the result of jet lag and hunger, often whilst travelling; verb, the act of eating in a rather ill-advised restaurant. No, this has no relation to the phenomenal singer Art Garfunkel.