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Reporter seeks sources on restaurant research

Hello Chowhounds,

I'm wondering how people research where they go out to eat. Do you stick a Zagats in your purse or pocket and go wandering randomly around your neighborhood? Do you research avidly online (which sites?) read certain restaurant critics?

Would love to see whose influential, who's easy to use. etc. Whether anyone makes use of mobile devices? Need to see postings early this week if possible. Will credit Chowhound and author in the story if I'm able to use the commentary.

Many thanks.

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  1. I walk through a neighbourhood that I've not been to. Go in to restaurants, read menus to figure where they're coming from, look at stuff people are eating, maybe grab something to try. It's like a treasure hunt.

    1. Word of mouth mostly. We have a radio show for three hours everyday where people call in and talk about restaurants they have been to in the city. Good source of what is going on and where. This board is a pretty good barometer for what is good. And then as teaandtoast said just wander around and read menus.

      1. i've been a professional in the industry in boston for many years. i either know the folks involved in a project or trust the palate of the guy who sent me.

        i'll admit i've had mixed success with recommendations from my local board. a few places that continue to get raves i thought were very underwhelming. but a few good surprises too, now in my rotation.

        1. I definitely look online. I live in Columbia, MO and use www.midmodiningguide.com. Word of mouth works well too. If I'm walking around a busy area, I always take time to glance at the menus in the windows, for future reference.

          1. Zagats has never been reliable in my experience. Too often their picks are over-hyped and underwhelming. I use Chowhound and a couple local online resources. And word of mouth.

            1. Zagats are out of date before they are printed. They are good for addresses and price range. The internet has made it an outdated system.

              We have tried places because we found a parking place in front of it; word of mouth; but Chowhound is the most reliable source. Newspaper reviews I take with a grain of salt. They seem to go for flashier places, and not for hidden neighborhood gems.

              Sometimes we use the listings on our GPS to search for places close to where we are driving: then if it looks interesting we go in.

              Open Table is great to check out a menu and see if it serves a type of food we want. Also you can find out if a place is close to where your concert, ball game, or your play is.

              You ask what is easy to use. Chowhound, Open Table, Google easy to use for me and for some people. Others Zagat is their comfort level. I love my GPS, but driving and the passenger searching at the same time is sometimes difficult. A bump and you are pushing in the wrong info. But I could call Tel AID and they would look it up and make me reservations. Word of mouth is not always easy: friends don't remember the correct name or the address, but "hey it was really good".

              The most influential. . . what I am wearing when we leave home, and the food craving we have. You can't go to a fancy place in jeans and a Tee shirt. And if you want Thai, a great review for Mexican makes no difference. You want the clean, crisp flavors of Thai.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Janet

                Janet would love to interview you further. Can you email me a number or let me have your email address?

              2. for me...
                Word of mouth comes first. I like to explore though, I'll read an article in F&W or Gourmet or come across something on nytimes.com. I'm pretty new to chowhound, but I'm am starting to see familar names that I trust. People who share the same opinions as me. People are passionate abt their food here...it's fun.
                I too know people in the business and they always have the scoop.
                I'm terrified of picking things off the street...i've had many a train wreck that way.
                I went to the James Beard site recently and got some good ideas too.
                On a recent trip to Italy I used concierge.com, there were some great picks on there and I like their descriptions...but there were a few that were very out dated.
                Opentable I use all the time. Love it!

                1. I would assume that most of the people on this board (including myself) use Chowhound as a source of restaurants, especially in their local area.

                  When traveling I will also check online review sites such as Citysearch in addition to Chowhound.

                  I will use word of mouth if I know someone in the area. However, if I have time I will always check word of mouth recs online...

                  1. That's an easy one for me. I ask someone who's obviously a local where they like to go, and why.

                    1. CH, of course, is my most trusted resource.
                      Occasionally I'll check Yelp but their reviews are all over the map for various reasons.

                      Ladycale: there are many sites populated by paid shills and Citysearch is one of the worst. A Google search will find 'reviews' that are often cut and pasted between these kind of sites. Be careful!

                      1. I tend to follow a limited number of resources and Zagat's isn't one of them. Chowhound is a great resource, but I often stumbled across places in my travels across Phoenix metro and when I see something interesting, I jot down the name and address and then do a little research on the web. Have the local papers reviewed it? What about other food bloggers? I take all of that information and look for a consensus on the place.

                        I tend to rule out the superlatives (OMG! IT WAS THE BEST ASIAN FOOD EVER!!!!) as well as the lackluster (The food was good. The service was good. I had the steak. It was good.) Everything else gets thrown into the bell curve to see if I should pay a visit.

                        I still have found that some of the best information comes from word of mouth (either in conversations in person or via this medium).

                        Of course, I am always willing to take a chance and just go in and have a meal.

                        1. I'm from Baltimore, and I generally find that the City Paper's reviews are more helpful than the Sun's. I keep my ears open for word-of-mouth, but I also usually cross check them against both the CP and the Sun and Chowhound. I also find it really helpful if a restaurant has its menu online. I like the Sun's site better because it's sortable by neighborhoods within the city limits, whereas the CP just sorts by town names. However, I really like the CP's "critics pick" options, which separate the best of the bunch.

                          If I'm traveling, I usually put an all-call up on Chowhound to see what people recommend. It's hit or miss, really, since there's no accounting for taste, but I feel like I'm making a better effort to find good food by asking locals (either in person or on this site) rather than just stopping somewhere and hoping it's good. I usually try to track down the local paper's restaurant section and see if there's anything that's highly recommended.