I have always been a big fan of chain restaurants, and when I meet up with friends, we tend to go to places like Olive Garden and BJ’s because we know them.

Recently, my interest in other cultures has sent me to less well-known places and small, out of the way joints. In my experience, the best food is always in little hidden restaurants, so I try to pay more attention to those sorts of places and go out of my way to go there if I want nontraditional foods.

There is a place called Monta that makes incredible ramen in our China Town, but it is really small and can probably fit less than thirty people at a time. The tables are close together and there is a bar opposite the kitchen. The service is fast, and they have tons of awards for their food. After the first place I went for non-instant ramen closed, a friend recommended Monta, and I go there whenever I can. There is usually a long waiting list, but the turnover rate is very quick, so I never wait too long.

I always spend about $10 when I go there. That’s it.

Such a small amount of money goes a long way. I get a full, delicious bowl of shoyu ramen, a side of white rice, a soda, and water, and I always have a hard time finishing all my food because there is so much. It is so delicious, though, that I end up make myself extremely full.

Recently, a friend of mine took me to a Chinese place that is just as small, if not tinier, called Chop Chop Wok. They have a grand menu, and I was extremely hungry when we went. I ordered the teriyaki chicken with white rice and a side order of chicken fried rice. My friend ordered cashew chicken with fried rice and wonton soup. When the food came out, I realized that the additional fried rice I ordered could have been a meal in itself. Even with all this food, we each only spent about $15, and the food was incredible.

cho chop wok

If I lived on that side of town, I would go there everyday and gain so much weight.

Small restaurants are often hidden gems, and something I have learned from both domestic and international travel is that inexpensiveness does not equate to cheap. The people there will fill you up and treat you well because your business is valuable when they have to compete with big chains.

I highly recommend exploring and trying places that may be outside of your norm. It might just be worth it.


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