Several years ago a houseguest visiting me in New York said, “You’ve taken me to four bars and two restaurants, and none of them have been marked. What is going on?” It was the height of Manhattan’s speakeasy craze, and although it may have gotten (and may still be!) a little out of hand, there was something irresistible about exploring an underground New York just for New Yorkers.
In a city that sees 48.8 million visitors each year, the best way to claim a corner of one’s own may be to hide it behind a secret phone booth, underneath a pizza stand, beyond the kitchen, on the other side of the wine cellar or in a train car. The same is true in other cities, of course, which is why digging for insider tips and word-of-mouth directions before a trip always pays off. The legwork is far more fun when the results are guaranteed.
Take, for example, La Petite Cuisine a Paris. British ex-pat Rachel Khoo moved to town to train at the Cordon Bleu, and she ran this two-seat restaurant out of her 256-square-foot apartment. She served lunch just two days each week, on Wednesday and Saturday. Guests were treated to soufflé, ragout or coq au vin, depending on the chef’s inclination.
Khoo is closing her kitchen soon, so here are ten other word-of-mouth addresses worth investigating. Whether this list leads you to a hilltop spa in Mexico, a helicopter-access-only slope in the Canadian Rockies or a kitchen filled with Italian grandmas hell-bent on perfecting your pesto is up to you. When you’ve arrived, you’ll know you’re there.