Photo by AA World Travel Library / Alamy Stock Photo. Design by Erik Mace for Yahoo Travel.
The world of food thrives on novelty. Everyone wants to go to the trendy new restaurant, or try the latest creation from some hot young genre-defying chef. But there’s much to be said for restaurants that have endured for generations, even centuries, without changing one whit. They didn’t need to change: While they may look like nothing much, they’re the kind of places that locals tell visitors they can’t leave town without trying.
From tarts in Melbourne to ceviche in Lima, here are a dozen single-specialty places that merit a trip.
Hopetoun Tea Rooms, Melbourne
Hopetoun Tea Room is all about delectable cakes and tarts. (Photo: TripAdvisor)
This Melbourne icon, in the historic (and beautiful) Block Arcade, has been serving the poshest high tea in town since 1892, when it began as a tearoom operated by the Victorian Ladies’ Work Association. Tea service begins with savory standards (quiche Lorraine, pinwheel sandwiches), but the main attraction is the bijou petit fours—and the gorgeous and delicious cakes, tarts, financiers, and other treats on offer for anyone who just wants to follow the sweet route.
Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi Selim Usta, Istanbul
You’d be hard pressed to find better köfte in all of Instanbul. (Photo: Sultanahmet Köftecisi/Facebook)
In 1920, Turkmenistan immigrant Mehmet Seracettin Tezçakın sought his fortune by selling his unique back-to-basics (spice-free) köfte (Turkish meatballs). Four generations and eight locations later, Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi Selim Usta is a household name all over the country. The daily queue for the Sultanahmet flagship (since 1964) includes as many locals as tourists. A New York location is in the works.
Chocolateria San Gines, Madrid
Is there a better combo than crispy churros and thick creamy hot chocolate? (Photo: Chocolatería San Ginés/Facebook)
Since 1894, San Gines has been pouring rich, strong hot chocolate so thick that the accompanying churros stand upright in your cup. The location, at the elbow of two off-the-beaten-path passageways in the city center, and old-world design (wood paneling, kelly green paneling, marble tables, and mirrors galore) adds to the appeal.
Kostas’ souvlaki game is on-point. (Photo: TripAdvisor)
As old-school as it gets, this joint has been serving classic Greek souvlaki since 1950. There’s no catering to modern tastes—no chicken or anything like that, just pork and what they call kebab, a mix of minced veal, lamb, and sometimes pork wrapped in a fresh pita and topped with yogurt, tomato, onion, and parsley. The current proprietor, the grandson of the original Kostas, keeps the place so clean that he uses tongs to collect money and give change.
Conditori La Glace, Copenhagen
Head Pastry Chef Lars Juul putting the finishing touches on the shop’s signature Sportskage. (Photo: La Glace/Facebook)
Family-owned since 1870 (and on the sixth generation of proprietors), this confectionary remains a must-stop for visitors and a standby for locals. There’s a full menu of cakes, but the signature is the Sportskage, whose name sounds healthy but is as decadent as it gets. The cake, which was inspired by an 1891 play, consists of crushed nougat, whipped cream, a macaroon bottom, and caramelized choux pastry.
Related: Eat Like a Local in Copenhagen
Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, Naples
Because you don’t stay in business for almost 300 years by serving mediocre pizza. (Photo: TripAdvisor)
The oldest pizzeria in Naples—and possibly in the world—dates from 1738 and has been in its current location since 1830. Waiters still wear bow ties, and the thin-crust pizzas with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella are still made the old-fashioned way. Fun fact: Neapolitan pizza is a Traditionally Specialty Guaranteed product (kind of like a DOC) in Europe, and in order to qualify, the crust can be no more than 3 millimeters thick.
El Moro Churro, Mexico City
Head to El Moro for top notch Mexican doughnuts and hot chocolate. (Photo: El Moro Churreria)
The family that runs this downtown dive has been doing so since 1935. Stop in for a sweet finish of Mexican doughnuts and hot chocolate after a lunch of some of the best street food in the world. Expect rich hot chocolate, a Platonic ideal of old-world Mexico City ambience, and some very fine steaming sweet dough. The cooks fry the dough in a street-front kitchen that allows passers-by to watch the magic being made.
La Canta Rana, Lima
When in Lima, Cana Rana is the place to go for world-class ceviche. (Photo: TripAdvisor)
The walls are covered in photographs, the ceiling is festooned with flags, and local families crowd at the tables at this roughly 30-year-old no-frills joint whose name means, oddly, “the dancing frog.” While there’s a full menu, everyone comes for the superb ceviche, which is available in 17 varieties.
Ng Ah Sio Bak Kut Teh, Singapore
While the signature pork ribs soup may not look like much, your tastebuds certainly don’t care about “pretty.” (Photo: TripAdvisor)
When this joint opened, in the 1950s, pork rib soup wasn’t a thing. Mr. Ng Ah So’s father changed that, selling a pork-based, peppery herbal soup made in a distinct Teochew style. As the dish caught on, the place moved to bigger digs, but the calling card remains the same: satisfying soup served with you tiao (Chinese doughnuts) and strong tea, but no chili or soy sauce.
Cha Ca La Vong, Hanoi
More than just a meal, making and enjoying a bowl of grilled fish here is a process and an experience. (Photo: Justin Mott/Corbis)
The ambience is terrible, and the service is worse. But that hardly matters at Vietnam’s oldest restaurant. Since 1871, Cha Ca La Vong has served locals and tourists a delectable dish of fried fish with turmeric and dill over vermicelli. You customize it with green onions, fish sauce, peanuts, and basil, but you’re still basically eating a family recipe that’s a closely guarded secret.
Because you’d go just about anywhere for the perfect bowl of noodles. (Photo: Yuichi Sakuraba/Flickr)
In the dodgiest part of Shibuya (known locally as “love hotel hill”), this counter-service ramen shop has been beloved by salarymen and students since 1952. There are various takes on the noodles to try, but the most classic is the chukamen, a golden soy-sauce-based broth that’s rich with fried onions, garlic and chewy noodles and topped with bean sprouts, egg, and, of course, chashu pork slices.
Ali Karavan (Abu Hassan), Tel Aviv
Abu Hassan takes hummus and truly transforms it into art. (Photo: TripAdvisor)
Family-run since 1966, this lively, friendly Jaffa eatery serves essentially one thing: fresh, creamy hummus that many consider the best in town. It’s offered in plain and masbacha (with whole chickpeas) versions and comes with pita and can be topped with fava beans or chickpeas, as well as oil and lemon. Be prepared for a long wait, shoulder-to-shoulder seating, encouragement to make a quick exit, and the possibility that the place will be closed—lunch service ends whenever they run out of the day’s batch. The original location on Dolphin Street has the best ambience and view. BYO napkins.
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