With the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics just days away, people heading to London have asked me how to find good meals in the overflowing city. The bad news: Tables at the best restaurants have been reserved for months. The good news: There are plenty of other spots from which to choose.

Of course, no one should wander into the first place they pass when hunger pangs hit, no matter the city. So how do travelers know where to go? The key is to research and plan ahead. Plenty of new and unexpected sights on vacation delight -- and disorient. It's reassuring to know there's a dinner plan to anchor the day.

Recommendations from trusted friends are the gold standard for landing in a delightful restaurant, of course, but they aren't always available. Fortunately, Zagat can be a BFF stand-in -- and as of May, online membership is free. In compact books and online at www.zagat.com, the company compiles reviews from hundreds of diners. Listings are easy to search by location, type of food and price. Cities covered in 2012 books include London, Miami and San Francisco.

Numerous websites are devoted to noshing: Chowhound is a particularly robust, long-lived chat site. A search for "best Indian food in London" turned up 74 responses; a live chat would have no doubt produced more. Urbanspoon is another terrific site, though it covers only U.S. cities.

Many local newspapers and magazines run an annual list of the best restaurants, which can be found online.

There's a technology-free way to find a dining gem, too: Ask every local you meet.

Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.