Author Topic: Planning restaurants before traveling  (Read 3227 times)

Offline tarvos

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Planning restaurants before traveling
« on: March 30, 2012, 03:27:15 PM »
If you are like me, you probably start researching the food scene of cities you are visiting before you even book a hotel. I have had one two many bad experiences, foofy or just plain bad food when deciding where to eat with the classic "walk around, see what catches your eye" wisdom. For me, each meal should be an attraction as much as any museum, park, etc that you visit, and thus deserves pre-planning. Always.

This raises a dilemma, though. I will use NYC as an example since I am en route to there as I type this on my phone. With larger cities such as New York, how do you filter through all the noise to pick your restaurant(s)?

I typically start with the ol' top (xx) restaurants lists, continue to trusty yelp (except on ethnic food... It is very easy to pick an Americanized joint unless you have the time to read each post in depth to evaluate the reviewer's credibility... But that's subject for another post and I'm sure none of it would be new to you foodies anyways), and top it off with a few reads of restaurant blogs. My problem--if we will call it that--stems for being a perfectionist. I have been known to go 40 pages back in Yelp listings with a bazillion tabs open, then make several passes removing the flawed restaurants until 10 or so left.

I guess what makes it harder for me is that my family and I aren't the biggest fans of the Masters in culinary arts-chefs small plates restaurants that top Yelp and related sites. There's a time and a place for those, but when I am traveling I go for the good food-large portions fare, which is a surprisingly small niche because most restaurant either suck or take the fineness of the food to such an extreme that you might as well eat your meal in one bite or two.

I'm sorry for rambling and any phone typos, but my question is: "How do you research restaurants before visiting other cities?"

Offline Mike GadgetGeek Stock

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Re: Planning restaurants before traveling
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2012, 05:37:17 PM »
If you are like me, you probably start researching the food scene of cities you are visiting before you even book a hotel. I have had one two many bad experiences, foofy or just plain bad food when deciding where to eat with the classic "walk around, see what catches your eye" wisdom. For me, each meal should be an attraction as much as any museum, park, etc that you visit, and thus deserves pre-planning. Always.

This raises a dilemma, though. I will use NYC as an example since I am en route to there as I type this on my phone. With larger cities such as New York, how do you filter through all the noise to pick your restaurant(s)?

I typically start with the ol' top (xx) restaurants lists, continue to trusty yelp (except on ethnic food... It is very easy to pick an Americanized joint unless you have the time to read each post in depth to evaluate the reviewer's credibility... But that's subject for another post and I'm sure none of it would be new to you foodies anyways), and top it off with a few reads of restaurant blogs. My problem--if we will call it that--stems for being a perfectionist. I have been known to go 40 pages back in Yelp listings with a bazillion tabs open, then make several passes removing the flawed restaurants until 10 or so left.

I guess what makes it harder for me is that my family and I aren't the biggest fans of the Masters in culinary arts-chefs small plates restaurants that top Yelp and related sites. There's a time and a place for those, but when I am traveling I go for the good food-large portions fare, which is a surprisingly small niche because most restaurant either suck or take the fineness of the food to such an extreme that you might as well eat your meal in one bite or two.

I'm sorry for rambling and any phone typos, but my question is: "How do you research restaurants before visiting other cities?" 

We/I do the same.   I also offer myself to go off from the "known" places and pick one after a conversation at a bar or whatever.  The known places are sometimes boring, I am in for the adventure, and to FIND new and good restaurants in our travels.  I am usually a sheep and follow folks to the greener pastures, I am thankful for them.

I will "Claim" one once in a while.  Not often.

.......

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Offline LizR

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Re: Planning restaurants before traveling
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2012, 08:31:43 PM »
Have you tried Chowhound? It is really too big these days, but can still be a help. Do your homework in the threads before asking about good places - nothing is more annoying than the 1000th time one reads  "going to NYC - where should I eat?" Much better all around if you can say something like "I see folks like resto A, B and C. I like ethnic food, but absolutely no tripe. I'm staying at XXX and I have exactly $50 to spend and no car but can take a taxi." :0)

Good luck and please do report back. Thanks for the Canoe follow up. Nice to have you on the board!

Offline Barnum

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Re: Planning restaurants before traveling
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2012, 08:11:02 AM »
I just accumulate a list around the country as I watch local and national blogs and food forums and tweets and etc..., keep in on Urbanspoon, them use it to plan accordingly.  This works very well for small and informal places but not always so good for a trip to NYC where you sometimes need 60 day out reservations for a splurge or risk having to try for a last minute opening or having a plan B.

Offline Roxro

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Re: Planning restaurants before traveling
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2012, 03:09:19 PM »
For NYC, I find recent reviews in the NYTimes or New York magazine.  But, mainly I ask my three daughters who live there.  And my son-in-law who works for a restaurant group and opened a place last fall.
I think Chowhound is pretty good for the Northeast.  Local city magazines usually have at least one restaurant feature and you can access that online.  I use Roadfood for those quirky little dives (usually breakfast or lunch spots).  Yelp is used as a last resort because I don't think most of the reviewers have very good taste.

Offline Mike GadgetGeek Stock

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Re: Planning restaurants before traveling
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2012, 06:08:03 PM »
I just accumulate a list around the country as I watch local and national blogs and food forums and tweets and etc..., keep in on Urbanspoon, them use it to plan accordingly.  This works very well for small and informal places but not always so good for a trip to NYC where you sometimes need 60 day out reservations for a splurge or risk having to try for a last minute opening or having a plan B.

Good plan.  I try to find message boards to log onto before we leave town but do rely on UrbanSpoon (not Yelp) for current info. I like Roadfood.com too and it sometimes has oft-overlooked places that expand the experience.  There are just so many restaurants in some towns that you almost have to have some kind of road-map or predetermined schedule to investigate them and give some a try.   There are still places In NOLA that we/I have not been in but have been on our go-to list for some time. 

I'm sure all towns are like that.  We found a Greek owned little bar restaurant in Florida on a trip that was so good that we went back 4 times in 5 days and didn't hardly explore, I know we missed some adventures along the way, but the food was SO good and the folks were very nice, convenience had a bunch to do with it. 

...
Finding offense where none is intended is a form of selfishness.

When facts change, I change my mind.  What do you do?

It's a poor craftsman that blames his tools.

Offline LizR

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Re: Planning restaurants before traveling
« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2012, 08:40:36 PM »
Roxro - totally agree, for what it is worth! Don't rely on Yelp unless somehow necessary.

Offline Lorenzo

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Re: Planning restaurants before traveling
« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2012, 10:25:02 AM »
Although I typically do some research in advance of a trip, I'm usually happy to eat at the places that get mentioned again and again and don't feel a need to find the newest hidden gem.  And fortunately for me, I don't travel to any given place often enough that I have hit even half of those places.  For example, I'm more than happy to eat at the restaurants in New York that are so-three-years-ago (or 20 years ago for that matter) and have been mentioned in dozens of newspaper/magazine/blog reviews--there's usually a good reason why the place continues to receive praise.  So I have no problem finding great places to eat.  I do avoid Yelp, though, as I don't have time to wade through all the garbage to find the intelligent comments.  I have had some success with Chowhound.  For places further afield, I try to find local food blogs and forums.  Some bloggers will even answer questions if you ask nicely and keep the question focused.  And for all my planning, I've also had success with the technique of asking locals for recommendations once I get there. "Where do YOU like to eat?" is often better than "Where do you recommend I eat?"

Offline totm

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Re: Planning restaurants before traveling
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2012, 02:25:25 PM »
Because most or our travels these days are for special occasions (birthday trips, etc) there is usually one special dinner involved.  I'll look at OpenTable, local media and forums.  Yelp would be the last place I would look whether it be local or away.  I personally don't have the patience to dig through blogs much either.  I prefer some site that has some consolidated information.
"It's your last day on earth, what is your final bite to eat?" Eric Ripert

"A good potato with a slab of butter.  I'm a happy man." Joel Robuchon

Offline tarvos

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Re: Planning restaurants before traveling
« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2012, 02:50:00 PM »
Thanks for the feedback everyone. I haven't heard of roadfood.com, will bookmark that one for later. I like chowhound but their Atlanta section is pretty lacking. Even if most Yelp reviewers don't have a very refined palate (for example, have any of you ever been to Sugo? Yelp loves it and even dares to put it on the level of Amalfi's right down the road.. but it is literally crap) I still like to just browse to find restaurants I wouldn't have otherwise heard of. It's just a nice consolidated source, and then once I find restaurants I can research them more in-depth from there.

In the past when I have been really bored I have started to make lists of restaurants I would want to eat at in other cities, but it just seemed fruitless because by the time I actually visit, the quality may have dropped, etc.

What blogs do you all read for Atlanta restaurants? Currently I'm subscribed to:
Amy on Food
Blissful Glutton (hopefully new posts soon)
Chow Down Atlanta
Atlanta-Restaurant Blog
Eat It, Atlanta
EatBufordHighway
Fried Chicken Lips
and
Food Near Snellville

Interested to see if I am missing anything major.

Offline Corky

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Re: Planning restaurants before traveling
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2012, 04:34:55 PM »
I was basically a traveling salesman. Before I retired I traveled mostly in the SE and SW. Fly into a city rent a car for a week or two and drive to my customers, mostly in either outskirts of larger cities or just plain out in the middle of nowhere. No fancy hotels and mostly I tried to stay in medium price hotels (Comfort, HI Express, Hampton, etc.) One item I learned early on, DO NOT ask the min wage front desk clerk where to eat in Podunk, name the state. DO NOT ask where to eat while filling up with gas. In both cases you will get a min wage persons answer. McDonald's, Olive Garden, or Bubba's Fried Catfish. The point is, I know a lot of travelers say "ask a local". Just be careful about who you ask... Most motels have some sort of local directory of restaurants. Succumb to advertising wherewithall and pick a place that interests you. After you have a few options, just for grins ask the front desk clerk what his or her recommendation would be. BTW, if you are ever in Van Horn, Texas, let me know if you find a decent restaurant... The point is just remember where you are... Can't expect fine or even good eating in all places that have a HI in their town. I'm not saying I have never gotten a good recommendation from a min wage person. One time I was in San Angelo, TX and asked the person where to eat. She directed me to a steak house out of town a few miles. I had the best steak I have ever had in my life. That's comparing it to Bone's, Morton's and others. No fancy trappings just basically the best steak, baked potato and salad. No wonder they had a landing strip behind the resto.
You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars.
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Offline tarvos

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Re: Planning restaurants before traveling
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2012, 06:33:41 PM »
I agree with what you said, but in my experience even asking the locals (non-foodie friends who live there, random strangers, etc) where to eat isn't always the best idea. I'm sure this sounds arrogant but a lot of people just don't have good taste. Think of all the people who think Olive Garden is a good Italian meal and PF Changs a birthday Chinese meal. However, I should probably make a note that if you eliminated all the chains that people suggest, then the recommendation is probably good. People who eat at dives are usually the same people who go out to eat for the food and ignore the ambiance or prestige of the restaurant, so the restaurants they recommend can usually be trusted.

Offline tansu

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Re: Planning restaurants before traveling
« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2012, 10:06:53 AM »
I know what, where, and when I eat: meaning I research restaurants in blogs, newspaper reviews, on line menues. I also search for early birds, and happy hours with food all with maps
In the past 12 months, Miami, Sapporo, Tokyo, Hawaii, New Orleans, and Washington.
I do not stricty adhere to the schedule, but I never have to say "I don't know".

Offline Milt

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Re: Planning restaurants before traveling
« Reply #13 on: April 29, 2012, 01:50:51 PM »
One of these days, we will have a fancy phone - but, in the meantime, I print out possibilities and carry the printouts with me.  I research cities and regions where we will be traveling and give myself an idea of where might be good local food.  I use Chowhound, Roadfood, eGullet, LTHforum, 285Foodies primarily - but I am always reading local and regional travel magazines, as well.  There are several local blogs which help locally - but not when on a trip.

 

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