Tyler Cowen, at The Atlantic, with six rules of thumb for eating out when you're in an unfamiliar city. As a corollary to his rule about strip malls, I would add that if you're trying to arbitrate between different strip-mall restaurants (for example, Vietnamese food in Houston), go by the parking lot. As he says, restaurants in the same vicinity are often commensurate in quality, because they're competing head-to-head, but a lot of the strip-mall crowd is going to be locals who have been to both.

I would add one from my travels--I think I actually got this one from Cowen's blog, but he doesn't mention it in this piece--and in any case, my experience bears it out. That would be, if you can find a restaurant that doesn't seem like a good fit, that's a good sign. For example, almost every small- or mid-sized southern city these days will have an Indian restaurant these days, and they're usually pretty good, because there's certainly not much demand in Baton Rouge for a horrible Indian restaurant. Veg-friendly, too. 
 



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