Restaurant critic says these are the best dishes to order when you go somewhere new

Unsure of what the best dish to order at a restaurant is? Here's what the critics say

restaurant food
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Ordering food at a restaurant you've never been to before can be stressful - but it doesn't have to be, according to a restaurant critic. These are the best dishes to order at an unfamiliar restaurant for a fail-safe dining experience. 

Going out to dinner can be quite the fun and luxurious experience, especially if you're a person who loves to explore new dishes and new cuisines. But, when trying a new restaurant or a new type of cuisine, how can you know if the risk you're taking is worth it? Will you like the food, the flavors? 

We don't all have the luxury of being able to attend Michelin-star restaurants on a frequent basis, so we're always trying to find the next best places that are local to us. Luckily, a restaurant critic recently gave some advice about how to navigate this situation, and gave some insight into what the best dishes to order at unfamiliar restaurants are, so you can get an immediate understanding of the quality of the restaurant.

And, if The Bear season 2 taught us anything, every detail counts. 

Bowl of chilli sin carne with kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Restaurant critic Alice Levitt told Insider that there are a handful of foods that are likely to make a good impression, or will help you gauge the quality of the restaurant. Her "crib notes for any restaurant diner" include how to spot high-quality traditional items, as well as more creative and inspiring dishes from restaurants that have a bit more of a unique vision. 

One item she says specifically can give a lot of information about the quality of the restaurant is a pepperoni pizza. 

"I would argue that when tasting a pizza, the quality of the pepperoni and how it's crisped tells its own very illustrative story," she said. "That's why, when I order pizza, it's always a pepperoni pie. From there, it's OK to try something with more creative toppings but to get a baseline, I want to eat pizza in its most basic, and arguably also most compelling, form."

Aldi pizza oven

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Another dish Alice recommends trying to see if a restaurant lives up to expectations is to try a dish with a creamy sauce. 

"Cream sauces can break, so a chef always wins points in my book when they turn out right," she said. "The same applies to buttery but creamless Béarnaise sauce — it's one of my most beloved things, but matters can go south quickly, so it's always worth my appraisal."

Another thing she says is a no-brainer for testing food quality is a chocolate dessert. "I opt for a chocolate dessert unless there is something far more creative or interesting. I love tasting the breadth of what pastry chefs can do with the most crave-able of ingredients," she advised.

Five chocolate and Baileys ice creams in homemade cones laid out on a yellow piece of cloth

(Image credit: Future)

And finally, she recommends ordering a chicken parmesan, as there are many aspects to consider when tasting this classic Italian dish. "Like a pepperoni pizza, it tells me practically everything I need to know about a place in a single dish," she said. "How thinly pounded is the chicken? How brown and blistered is the cheese? Is the pasta al dente? This is one of the dishes I judge most harshly, but when a chicken Parm hits right, it can make my year."

Madeline Merinuk
US Lifestyle News Writer

Madeline Merinuk is woman&home's US lifestyle news writer, covering celebrity, entertainment, fashion, and beauty news.

She graduated in 2021 with a B.A. in Journalism from Hofstra University, winning multiple student journalism awards, including a National Hearst Award, during her time there. After graduating, she worked at, the digital site for the Today Show, where she wrote pop culture news and interviewed big-name personalities like Emily Ratajkowski, Haley Lu Richardson, Emma Corrin, and more.

Her personal interests, in no particular order, are: cheese, Joni Mitchell, reading, hot yoga, traveling, having multiple chapsticks in every handbag at all times, and dancing to ABBA songs as if she were in the Mamma Mia movies.