'ATL Up and Away: Travel Tips with Rick Steves' hashes out the meat and potatoes of European dining

Taking a break from filming in Italy's Dolomites. (Courtesy of Rick Steves)

Atlanta is home to the world’s busiest airport, offering abundant domestic and international flights. Team “City Lights” is helping eager travelers prepare for their next adventure with our recurring series: “ATL Up and Away: Travel Tips with Rick Steves.”

Rick Steves is the very popular public television and radio host, bestselling guidebook author and activist who encourages people to broaden their perspectives through travel. Each month, Steves joins “City Lights” as our travel contributor and shares his advice on making the most out of your time away from Atlanta.

In today’s interview, Steves spoke with “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes about dining while traveling in Europe.

I can go to the market, and not only save money, but I can have a healthier meal, a faster meal, a more experiential and memorable meal … by buying a picnic and choosing an atmospheric place to sit down and enjoy it,” Steves said.

Here are a few travel food tips from Rick Steves:

Avoid touristy restaurants with “We speak English” signs and multilingual menus. Those that are filled with locals serve better food for less money. I look for a short, handwritten menu in the local language only. Go with the daily specials.

Picnics save money. Ten dollars buys a fine picnic lunch for two anywhere in Europe. Stock your hotel room with drinks and munchies upon arrival. You can pass train rides enjoyably over a picnic meal. Many grocery stores have elegant deli sections. Know the metric system for buying produce. In Italy, 100 grams (about a quarter pound) is a unit in itself called an etto.

Eat with the season. Germans go crazy for the white asparagus. Italians lap up the porcini mushrooms. And Spaniards gobble their snails (caracoles) — but only when waiters announce that they’re fresh today. You’ll get more taste for less money throughout Europe by ordering what’s in season.

Throughout southern Europe, drinks are cheaper at the bar than at a table. The table price can be a great value if you’ll linger and enjoy the view. But those just tossing down a quick drink do it at the bar for about half price.

Every country has early bird and “Blue Plate” specials. Know the lingo, learn your options and you can dine well with savvy locals anywhere in Europe for under $15.

“ATL Up and Away: Travel Tips with Rick Steves” recurs monthly, with stories, advice and pearls of wisdom gleaned from Steves’ decades of adventures across the globe. More information about travel guru Rick Steves is available here.