Tourist traps

In restaurant terms, how would you define a “tourist trap”?

Obviously it’s in a place that attracts tourists. But what makes it a trap? A lack of competition? Mediocre food coupled with poor value for money pricing? Other stuff?


Yup, that is how I define it.
Schwartz’s is a good example of that with their ‘depression style’ rye bread, charging extra money for a pickle, communal seating with their get in, eat and get out attitude.
That place hasn’t changed since it has opened.


All of the things you mentioned. Charging more for food you could get in a less touristy area at better quality and better prices.


That’s a bit over-inclusive.

I think a lot of restaurants – clearly of non tourist trap variety – will fall into the category of mediocre food coupled with poor value for money pricing. Lots of chains come to mind (e.g., Denny’s, Paneral, Wingstop, Capital Grille, Yard House, Dave & Buster’s, etc.) and many many local restaurants in my 'hood that no one outside of SoCal will be familiar with.

I think the one defining factor of a “tourist trap” restaurant (though there may be other factors, but this one is almost always prevalent, if not required) is that the restaurant leverages its location and association with that location to market its food.

A prime example is the STATE Grill and Bar on the observatory deck of the Empire State Building. It exists because it is on top of the Empire State Building and leverages its location to generate business, as well as it should.

All of that said, even the most die-hard tourist trap restaurants do not necessarily have to serve mediocre food, or even over priced mediocre food. For example, the original OG Halal Guys cart (on West 53rd Street off Sixth Avenue) or the original OG DTF in Taipei both serve outstanding food and would not be considered over priced, but they are undoubtedly “tourist traps”.


A certain “Disney” vibe, i.e. playing the role of a certain kind of restaurant, or a restaurant located in a particular place, while still feeling inauthentic and generic.


There’s often a vibe, in some tourist trap restaurants in touristy neighbourhoods, even if the food is okay.

There are some blocks I avoid, to avoid the vibe, in Manhattan and Toronto.

Yes, this also.

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The OG Halal Guys plate I ordered was underwhelming. I like most shawarma- type stuff. Maybe it was an off day. I only went once.

(I like every DTF)

When looking at pricing I don’t often look at the food ('cause who knows the quality of their ingredients unless you actually order).

Instead I look for what they charge for a cocktail or a Coke. 3-4 bucks for a soft drink, or $13-14 for a mid to bottom shelf cocktail… bye bye.

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Depends where you live.

Cocktails (Manhattans, Tom Collins, Negronis, Whiskey Sours) are running $15 -$ 18 Cdn ($12-$15 USD) at most non-touristic restaurants I visit these days (in Toronto). Eggs Benedicts are also running $15- $18 Cdn. An iced latte and a breakfast sandwich runs $12 - 15 Cdn.


I took SP ‘s statement more as theoretical as opposed to a dollar value.
Although I do understand your point.

And a soda is $2.95 at the Galaxy Diner in midtown Manhattan. Which is not a tourist trap at all - just a diner in midtown Manhattan.

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It’s interesting that a tourist trap is in the eye of the beholder. Many places I would classify that way are given 5* in travel advise forums by visitors who tout ambiance, “authentic” food, warm welcome, cosseting service, convivial fellow travelers.


I’m also remembering paying 5 Euros for Cokes and Frappés on Greek islands in 2008.

They cost more at places with a nice view, less if it was a hole in the wall or you could take them to go.

In Madrid, you pay less for coffee if you drink it standing up - fair! maybe.

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there are places that are - by their location/nature - expensive for anything ordinary.
a resto on the mountain top of a ski resort is a prime example. no semi delivers anything to them - it’s all schlepped up in a cable car or chair lift. that’s a lot of labor/costs.

one of the most outrageous tourist traps ever encountered is St Mark’s Square / Venice.
I’ve read a number of articles pointing out … there are few Italian merchants/owners/etc left - all the restos / businesses have been bought out by foreigners. and in fact the number of Italians living in Venice has declined dramatically, and continues to decline, because life has become quite un-nice given the tourists and tourist trade. seen the pix of a huge huge huge cruise ship docking at St Mark’s Square? (since disallowed, I believe.)

here’s the essence of ‘tourist trap’
the event:

the outcome - first time I’ve ever known Italian authorities actually react , , , but not on the complaint - basically a health inspection…

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Agree it’s in the eye of the beholder.

My well-travelled uncle insisted on dining at the restaurant at the top of the CN Tour in Toronto on a visit in 2018. I tried to warn him it was a trap and expensive for what it was. We could eat elsewhere and pay the $36 each to the top of the tower instead of paying $120 each plus tax and tip for dinner (includes the elevator ride) .

Someone in his bridge club had raved about it.

It was pretty bad. One of the 4 of us had mild food poisoning afterwards.

The following week, my teenage cousins were visiting, and wanted to dine at the same restaurant. Nope. We paid for the view only , then I took them out for tacos.

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My last visit to Venice, I stayed in Mestre. I ate in Mestre and on Lido. I have never ponied up for the upscale places closer to St Mark’s, and have had my share of tourist trap meals in Venice.

I couldn’t believe how delicious my scallopine al limone at the modest restaurant inside my modest hotel in Mestre was. No view, way better than anything I had on previous trips to Venice.

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Same in parts of the UK, Germany and Italy, probably throughout EU. Also, cake to go is cheaper than cake on a plate in the tea room/ konditorei / patisserie.

Yep, you’re not on the hook for table rent or dishwashing costs.

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