Very few tourists make it to Dublin's best gastropub. L. Mulligan Grocer is a mere two kilometers from the ever-popular Temple Bar, but its unassuming location ensures that mostly locals enjoy its extensive selection of whisky, craft beer, and farm-to-table take on classic pub fare. And yet I sat enjoying the best bangers and mash of my life for one reason: I asked a barista at Third Floor Espresso where I should eat.
If you want to experience the best a city has to offer, find the best coffee shop in the city. Craft baristas have an expertise that extends beyond how to pull a proper shot of espresso. They know the best upcoming-and-coming restaurants and the overrated institutions. They'll tell you what tourist traps to avoid and what hidden gems to seek out. Most importantly, they'll make sure you're caffeinated for the rest of the day.
Why do baristas make such good travel guides?
For one, baristas are highly educated. It's not uncommon to discover your barista has a masters degree in ethnomusicology or in a former life worked as an investment banker. But whether or not they have any formal education, your barista is definitely a cultural insider. They probably stopped riding fixed gear bikes before you had even heard about the trend. Although they're practically fast food workers they still manage to buy selvedge denim, eat at nice restaurants, and travel abroad.
Baristas also hear about everything. Talking to 200+ people in a day is business as usual when you're a barista. You meet musicians, architects, chefs, urban planners, and museum curators. If there's a new place in town, your baristas knew about it first.
Most importantly, your barista has good taste. A good barista doesn't just press buttons on a coffee maker. They're constantly tasting their product and fine tuning parameters. They're paid to know what good coffee tastes like. Even money says their opinion on food, art, and cocktails is just as discerning.
How do you find the best coffee shop in a city? We recommend turning to the professionals. Websites like The Coffee Compass (my other blog) and books like The London Coffee Guide offer extensive maps featuring some of the best cafés in the world.
Invest the time to find a good coffee shop and it will pay dividends beyond a good cup of coffee. Of course, the coffee doesn't hurt either.
Have you even gotten a good travel tip from a barista? Share it with us in the comments!