The classic chowhound "discovery" - tell us yours!
As a newbie to this place, I am curious to hear about how people have come to discover their off-the-beaten-track "gems". Was it in your neighborhood? Did you deliberately wander the streets of an unknown neighborhhod in search of a specific cuisine? Did you call the (fill in the country here) embassy and ask the receptionist where she eats? A taxi-driver?
I am often drawn to an errand in an out-of-the-way place simply because I can eat at a new and obscure (to me anyway) restaurant. I wonder how people find their "finds".
Sometimes, desperation will drive me to the closest place.
Or I'll watch places fill up with people who just look like they want good food as opposed to those looking for a scene.
It depends. In my hometown, where I already have a fairly good sense of the dining scene, I'll just try new places randomly.
But in my adoptive city, I start with my neighborhood then gradually increase the radius of exploration. I also ask neighbors and local shopkeepers where they eat or what the best place for a specific food is.
"Where's a good place to eat around here?" Ask folks anywhere -- like at the Doctor's office, a clerk in a store, your hairdresser, someone standing in line behind you, the bus driver, whomever. You can tell by the way they answer if they are a good source of info.
Otherwise, when traveling, I go by instinct. I have (usually) a good feel for eatery vibes.
I go for the 'ask a local' approach a lot. But agree with Sharuf, the way the question is answered does affect whether I take the advice. That being said I generally gauge the person before asking. My best find in Siracusa (Sicily) came from the woman in the wine shop, I asked after being asked why I'd picked a particular bottle. (I'd drunk it at lunch, the wine was great, the food terrible. She was shocked when I said where so I then asked where she ate.)
I do often use the "Ask a local" method.
My favourite find is a local italian bakery (Dorio's Italian Bakery) in Kettleby. It's just north of TO and has amazing breads, deserts and a hot bar. Most things (The ones that need to be anyway) are made fresh every day and are fantastic. The prices are very good to decent, depending on what you buy. We found it driving through the town and it's in an old general store. Thought we'd have a look. Liked what we saw and have been going back a lot ever since. Family run and their very nice.
That's one beauty of this site. If you go on the local boards in prep for a trip somewhere, you are in essence "asking a local". I search the boards to see what gets written up and how often, the kind of feedback places get, etc. Then, if I have a specific question, I post it.
One caveat, however. I used to live in Atlanta, and now live in Minneapolis and have seen this problem in both places. All too often, we all are guilty of giving the same recs over and over, regardless of how a once fave place may have fallen, or a new one arisen, or in some cases, the original was never really good in the first place but it was the only one at the time. It's hard to judge places from reading threads, so do pay some attention to the dissenters.
locally..word of mouth
while traveling..i ask the locals, cabbies, business owners
but CH has suddenly become this treasure-trove of suggestions!
This is the penultimate reason for chowhounds - a new city can be intimidating for restaurant choices - hint: if chowhounds has more than a dozen replies it's worth checking out,regardless of the subject!!
My best finds have come from acquaintances who are of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds than me. When I ask, they are usually eager to offer up their opinion of "the best Italian/Portuguese/Caribbean/etc joint in town". I also like to ask where their parents, if they are in the country, eat.
The best is when someone gets back to me with a suggestion from their parents, along with food from them; "That place is good, but mom says hers is better!"