Economist Tyler Cowen on where to eat while on the road

Pop economics books, like Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s Freakonomics and Tim Harford’s The Undercover Economist, seem to be everywhere these days, offering the surprising explanations behind everyday events. Tyler Cowen‘s book Discover Your Inner Economist may be of special interest to those of us who like to travel, and more specifically, those who like to sample local fare while on the road. If you have to choose to have dinner in either Stockholm or Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Cowen says, you’ll get much better food for the money in Haiti. To Cowen, if a restaurant is located in a bad neighborhood, or is successful even in a poor country, the food must be really good. “Iron bars on the windows,” he writes, “and barbed wire on the fences, however bad for the residents or your own safety, are both good signs for the food.”

Experience tells us that he’s right, too. On the road, the food is often best, and cheapest, at out-of-the-way establishments. More than that, it is a worthwhile experience to share a meal with locals, and the proprietors of restaurants are often extra welcoming to those who choose their hard-to-reach establishment over all the others. Talking to a local is almost always the best way to find these hidden gems.

Cowen has gleaned another bit of wisdom from his expertise in economics, expanding on the old “money isn’t everything” cliché. “The critical economic problem is scarcity,” he says. “Money is scarce, but in most things the scarcity of time, attention, and caring is more important.”

If pop econ is your thing, check out Cowen’s blog at

Posted by | Comments Off on Economist Tyler Cowen on where to eat while on the road  | September 28, 2007
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind

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