Do you love meeting locals and making friends worldwide? Then a home dining experience might be just the thing to book for your next trip. There are several platforms out there that allow you to eat with locals at their homes. You could say they're like an Airbnb for food.
Below, I'm listing three of these meal sharing platforms, including reviews of two that I've personally tried and tested. If you have any questions about my experiences with them, just send me an email. I'll be happy to help.
During their own travels, Marijn and Willem Maas, the founders of WithLocals, experienced how much they learned about the history and culture of a place by dining with the locals. At the same time, they noticed that local guides and activity providers often struggled to get by as most of the tourists' money went to the big tour operators.
And so they decided to start WithLocals, a platform where locals can offer meal sharing but also a tour or another activity directly to travelers. WithLocals keeps 20% of whatever travelers pay to manage the platform, for marketing purposes, to do all the administration and to deliver the customer service; the rest of the money goes to the locals.
Experiences you book through WithLocals are always 100% private, meaning that there won't be any other travelers you don't know participating. It's a great way to really meet local people as you'll constantly be interacting with them.
I tried a home dining experience with WithLocals in Amsterdam in the Netherlands .
My WithLocals experience
In Amsterdam, my host for the night was Lalaine. Lalaine is originally from the Philippines and creates her own version of countless of Asian (not just Philippino) dishes. She offers both cooking workshops and dine-at-home experiences on WithLocals, but you all know me by now: I only do the eating part.
When I arrived at Lalaine's place, I was welcomed by her husband. Lalaine was busy cooking while her sister and a friend were chatting in the living room. They're not always there when Lalaine hosts a dinner, but I was happy she'd invited them as otherwise, it would just have been me.
I was a bit worried I wouldn't know what to talk about but soon discovered Lalaine's friend actually lived in Brussels, but worked in Amsterdam during the week. We started chatting about the language situation in Belgium and how the food culture in Belgium is so different than that from the Netherlands, while they're neighboring countries.
As Lalaine served the dishes, the food itself became the main topic of our conversations. We talked about the origin of the recipes and how Lalaine loves to change them, always looking for new ways to combine ingredients. We talked about doing groceries in Amsterdam, the restaurants in the city and typical Dutch snacks like the broodje kroket (sandwich filled with croquette – don't ask).
Before I knew it, three hours and many more topics had passed while I had had an amazing home-cooked meal and made some new international friends. We ended the evening with a cup of tea – for me the only right way to end a dinner – and I walked back to my hotel realizing I'd just learned so much about a cuisine that was still rather unknown to me and had met four people who all had an interesting story to share.
I'd say that if you want to meet the locals but are a bit shy or don't really know how to go about it, WithLocals is a good place to start. The idea of having dinner with strangers might sound a bit weird, but you shouldn't look at it that way. Look at it as a chance to dine with locals, learn about their life at your destinations and make some new friends.
BonAppetour is a true “Airbnb for dinner”, offering only in-home dining experiences with locals. As such, it's also a WithLocals competitor.
The company -values the interaction between travelers and locals and believes that you can never really see a city until you've had a local's take on it. And it believes that there's no better way to exchange experiences than over dinner?
The local hosts decide on the menu they offer, how many guests can join and how much the experience costs. BonAppetour then takes a small commission on that price, leaving the rest for the hosts.
Contrary to WithLocals, BonAppetour experiences aren't necessarily private, which means they're not just a great way to meet locals, but also to meet other travelers.
I tried the platform in Berlin.
My BonAppetour experience
We rang the doorbell with Pete's name on it right when another inhabitant of the apartment building arrived and let us go in with them. Not sure what floor we needed to be on, we started to climb the steps until we heard: “Good evening, it's up here!”.
Our host for the night was waiting for us.
My friend Adam from Travels of Adam and I had no idea what to expect when we arrived at Pete's. We didn't know who the other guests would be and were curious as to what it would be like to eat with strangers. We were wondering if we would get on with them – and with our host.
Turned out the other guests for the evening were some of Pete's friends. I think he'd invited them to have a bit of support as this appeared to be his first night cooking for BonAppetour. We immediately hit it off, sitting on the terrace sipping drinks while Pete prepared the food in the kitchen.
His kitchen is right next to the terrace which I thought was really fun as it allowed him to join the conversation even while he was cooking.
So the ambiance was right. What about the setting? Pete shares an apartment with two of his friends in the alternative Neukölln area of Berlin. Think lots of graffiti, artists, organic coffee bars and small parks. There's a certain grunginess to the street Pete lives on, which I loved, but which I think might put you off a bit if you're used to spending your time in the most touristy areas of the cities you visit.
Don't let it! You're walking where the locals live :-)
Like I said, Pete shares an apartment with two of his 20-something friends so don't expect expensive silverware or trendy design outdoor seating. Instead, think of a collection of Ikea glasses and a mix of bowls and platters in all kinds of shapes and colors.
I actually really liked this. It made me feel at ease and among friends.
And most importantly: it didn't make the food less great.
In fact, that casual ambiance made Pete's food stand out even more. Pete has cooked all over the world, both for large groups and as the private chef of a businessman. He'd now started doing these home-hosted meals and what he served us that night was absolutely delicious.
First up was a strawberry, basil, and balsamic bruschetta.
Followed by slow-cooked shoulder of lamb, seasonal vegetables, twice roasted potatoes and homemade gravy (tip: the gravy is like the cherry on the cake in this dish).
And as a dessert we each had a lime and ginger cheesecake.
Also included were a bottle of wine per two people and water and soft drinks.
It was the best meal I had while I was in Berlin and I highly recommend everyone who's interested in trying out BonAppetour to book a dinner with Pete. He caters both to groups and couples, also organizes cooking classes and adapts his meals to whatever dietary restriction you might have.
A discount to try out BonAppetour
If you want to try out BonAppetour as well, use my link for a discount on your first booking.
I haven't tried EatWith myself yet but wanted to share it because it's another big platform offering a way to meet locals while traveling through food experiences.
EatWith doesn't just offer dinners but also cooking classes, food tours, supper clubs… Basically anything food related with locals.
Check them out here
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>I was invited on the dinners with WithLocals and BonAppetour. As always, my opinions expressed in this post is my own.