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How Has Chowhound Affected the Way You Travel

I'm chairing a panel at the Popular Culture Association about Chowhound and Travel, with some local San Francisco Hounds supplying the brain power.

But I thought I'd throw this out the question to all Chowhounds. Whether you were born a Chowhound or were converted by the site, how does your passion for food affect the way you travel? And how much of a role does this site play?


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  1. Once upon a time I was completely trying to impress my fiancé with an incredible and unique dining experience. My first step was to check Chowhound to find a restaurant that could offer as unique of a dining experience as one worthy of a true chowhound palate. I honestly did not have to look far as on one of the first few pages I searched was a post that caught my eye, "beef and cauliflower at Aziza". You had me at beef and the cauliflower is a throwback to my childhood, ( long story, trust me not enough time. ) The palindrome definitely appeals to my analytical nature and the whole food approach of the restaurant I was certain would appeal to my fiancé.

    Here is where it gets a little tricky. Aziza is in San Francisco ( I know you knew that... ) and we live in Las Vegas. Soooo, this meant a weekend road trip was necessary. We chose to fly Virgin America from Las Vegas to San Francisco, “Amazing”, period. We then rode the Bart to downtown and hopped on the #37 bus to take us over the hill and down Geary Blvd. The service was amazing and the food was incredible. The next morning we were back on Virgin America flying back to Las Vegas.

    The moral of the story is that without Chowhound I would have never found such a unique and wonderful restaurant and without the reputation that Chowhound has built for itself over the years could I have been able to attempt such a trip. In our case an entire cross country trip was planned and executed with culinary brilliance based on the input from the Chowhound community.

    1. Typically, I take one of four types of trips:

      1. Scuba-related: these often involve a week to ten days on a small liveaboard dive boat in the middle of nowhere, or at least far from restaurants, so food and the boards aren't a big part of choosing the itinerary or of the trip (since I am eating whatever is provided on board, which tends to be hearty, basic, good food). Sometimes I get lucky, as on my Alaska/BC trips, when the trip starts or ends in a City with good food (such as Vancouver). Then the role of the board is to help me plan my one dinner in port, and that's important!

      There are also a few diving locations (Big Island of Hawaii for one, Florida now and then) we go to fairly regularly but are land-based....the boards are particularly helpful in finding sources for food to cook in our condo or vacation rental: partly because Hawaii in particular I've found to have better ingredients than restaurants, and partly because after a day in the water we find staying in to be more relaxing than eating out...

      2. Camping and outdoor trips: again, the board may help me find something to eat on the way up or back, but isn't a major influence.

      3. Other leisure travel: so much of my travel budget goes to scuba that I don't do nearly as much of this as I'd like, but now and then I feel the need to go somewhere away from the ocean. In that case, I am likely to pick the location with local food in mind, and will spend weeks obsessing about where to eat...and yes, the day will sometimes if not often be planned around the location of restaurants and food experiences I know I want to try. Sadly however, I only take this type of trip now and again, mostly because all my spare $ go to number one (a more expensive hobby than eating!)

      4. work: this is where I actually use the boards the most: Money tends not to be such an issue (as long as I stay in or near my perdiem :-)) and the downsides of work travel just seem to disappear when I have the chance to check out the local restaurant scene. It really makes work travel sooooo much more fun! Typically, when I do travel for work, it is either in California, or to fairly large cities elsewhere in the US, with the occasional international trip just to add to my eating adventures, and thus there are generally lots of good eating options: what Chowhound does is make it easier to seek them out and also less likely that I will have to eat hotel food. It does take a bit of a toll on productivity: I can often be found sneeking out of meetings to check out new little lunch spots.. :-) However, that is often offset by the goodwill I build up with my colleagues by always knowing the good, local places to eat...

      but then, I am fortunate to live in one of the world's great regions for eating...so one aspect of the site I enjoy the most is the travel opportunities it affords without ever leaving home.

      Bottom line, with the exception of the occaisonal big trip (such as the one Janet and I took to Paris to find the perfect restaurant to celebrate our 50th birthday :-))Chowhound doesn't have a major impact on where I travel. But how I travel, definitely yes. What the site has doen for me is help me find entirely new, unique and delicious eating adventures, whether half way around the world or in my own back yard.

      1 Reply
      1. re: susancinsf

        I will agree with Susan. I'm not a dive addict like she is, but my leisure travel tends to be either outdoor-oriented or sometimes to visit members of my husband's large family (in which case, its all about the food: the food that we get at their houses. See my profile).

        However, I do travel frequently on business....and that is when I really use chowhound. The first thing I do when I go to a new city is hit the boards. Actually, my luck at finding places through chowhound has given me a good reputation with my peers as a restaurant finder: so now I am often asked to pick the place for dinner!! I tend to be with groups on this business travel, and part of the process is dining out together. Fortunately or unfortunately, we are often in select cities (Charlotte, Atlanta)...but we are getting to know the food scene in those places well. And we are enjoying new places we learn about through chowhound. I also often end up with a Sunday afternoon off when I travel (air schedules are such that flights east to west are often in the late afternoon/evening, and we have weekend meetings). So I will use it to explore the food offerings in whatever city I'm in. I've traveled enough so that I've seen the city sights...but there is always new food to discover!

        Of course, like Susan I live in a city with plenty of good dining options. And since I just moved here, I get to "play tourist" and explore them all. It might take years!

      2. I plan my trips around market days. This is how most of the rest of the world does its food shopping and maintains a sense of community. I learn about local foodways, culture, community, and values. Growers care deeply about their crops, their animals, their land, their communities. They are part and parcel of the community, not just a nameless, faceless commodity provider. And markets are where I get recommendations on what local eateries to visit.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Erika L

          Good point. If I know there is a good farmer's market in the city I'm going to (or if its a foreign city where outdoor markets are common) I ALWAYS go there. You always find good tips on eateries and discover new things....

          btw, I discovered Chowhound BECAUSE of my travel. I googled "restaurants in Washington DC" before a trip and found an interesting post from Chowhound. So I got on the boards, started looking around, and stayed. It was funny the first time I read a post written in a familiar-sounding style: I went back and checked the profile of the poster and realized it was familiar for a reason: it was my own twin sister who had written it! So, no, we didn't tell each other about Chowhound, but rather discovered each other were already there......

          1. re: janetofreno

            Amazing -- almost like having a blind date with your sibling via an online dating service.

            1. re: janetofreno

              That's a wonderful advert for Chowhound, isn't it? *G*

          2. Hi Dave ~

            There's a similar post going right now: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/498067, "As a tourist, do you plan your trips around food?"

            Chowhound hasn't affected the way I travel, but it has affected the way I 'research' where we're going to eat when we get where ever we're going. Instead of searching through my pile of magazine articles (haven't used this in ages now), or spending a lot of time trying to find information online - I check Chowhound and go from there. Mr CF would tell you I spend too much time on Chowhound, but when we have a spectacular meal in, say Sarasota, he knows who to thank... me and Chowhound.

            It's been a great resource.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Cookiefiend

              Thanks so much for the link. I have clipped out hundreds of articles from newspapers and magazines re: food and restaurant tips, and I have to admit that because of Chowhound and other Web destinations, I rarely consult them.

              1. re: Cookiefiend

                I'm pretty much the same. Here's where we'll be. What's not to be missed. It's also led me to ask the locals a lot more which is something I picked up from this board.


              2. I used to travel mainly for work but used chowhound to find good restaurants.

                Now I travel mainly for marathons.

                Oddly enough, since my husband is a restauranteur (consulting, four restaurants, and a cheesecake company about to go national) we really aren't foodies but really just like a good meal.

                1. Yes and here is an example. During a recent driving trip to upstate NY, I vowed to not eat at any rest stops or chain restaurants along the way. My food detours did not add that much time to our overall trip and enhanced our traveling experience. By the end of the trip, my husband was looking forward to my next detour and even recommending some of the places to others who travel that route. On previous trips the challenge was to see how quickly we could get from point A to point B and everything had to be quick and easy on and easy off the highway (meaning you could see the highway from the place). No matter where I'm going locally or traveling for business or pleasure, I now always check Chowhound first and many of my dining decisions (when I'm not at the mercy of others doing the location picking) are based on what I read here. Chowhounds have never lead me astray.

                  1. Could not say that Chowhound dictates where we travel, but once we settle on a location, I use Chowhound to gather dining suggestions. Many of the posters are familiar to me after several years on CH and I have an idea of who is close to my profile in taste. Have been quite pleased through the years with CH suggestions, don't honestly remember ever being led astray.

                    1. I have always, always, always researched the food options for my travel destinations. Even as a a kid I took on this role for family trips and the AAA and Mobil guidebooks stayed by my side for weeks before. On my own for college and thereafter, I continued to pore carefully over assorted guidebooks by such authorities as Seymour Britchky (NYC), Richard Collin (New Orleans), Donald Richie (Japan), the original Gault-Millau guides, etc. And I still tend to collect these sorts of books before significant trips.

                      But . . . Chowhound (and more broadly the internet) has liberated travel from the benign tyranny of accepted wisdom, as it tends to be embodied in well-meaning but oft-misguided travel books. Just look at the uproar that greeted the new Michelin guide for Los Angeles--as communities of experienced eaters spoke up in a variety of formats and made clear that the editors had just gotten it wrong, in many respects. In the old days, there wouldn't have been much access to these competing views and I would have just gone along with the crowd. Even on trips to visit family, we have benefitted from Chowhound to discover places that our families, content with their usual haunts, haven't bothered to try.

                      Chowhound tends to be especially helpful, for me and my family, in (1) picking out the places where we will have our top-end meals, and (2) even more, helping us find more casual, local sorts of places that we might not have found before. On a trip to Hawaii last summer, for example, I credit Chowhound (and personal advice from people I know through Chowhound) for helping us to find most of our most satisfying food experiences--for example, Giovanni's shrimp truck on the North Shore, malasadas from Leonard's, shave ice from Waiola, and a great lunch at the Pineapple Room inside Macy's at Ala Moana (who would have ever though to go *there* without some nudges from people you trust)?? [On the other hand, it was the tour guide who steered us to a terrific plate lunch in Lana'i City at a place called Blue Ginger, and all on our own we found the most amazing banana bread on a side road on the way to Hana--so Chowhound is not the end of the story!]

                      1. Chowhound has made me plan less. From reading about the exploits of many wonderful chowhonuds, I realized how much fun it was to go chowhounding, rather than following a prepared a list of places. It's really cool combing through neighbourhoods and using the power of serendipity to find delicious chow. It's incredibly liberating to throw away the book and it offers a chance to find something new, rather than rehashing old stuff.

                        1. Several years ago my husband and I decided that when we're traveling we will try never to eat any place that we could at home. I definitely check Chowhound when we're going somewhere new. I don't think we've ever traveled somewhere solely because of something I read on Chowhound, but we definitely NEVER travel anywhere that doesn't hold the promise of good food and drink.
                          My son-in-law picked up on our tradition and now he looks for places for us to try.

                          1. I can't imagine taking a trip w/o consulting CH domestically or abroad. Some of our best experiences in eating have come from internt'l hounds who've helped plan our trips. The spot on tips for local eateries that we would never have discovered on our own have been invaluable. I have had a sib call me at work from, for instance, for advice on Cincinnati, asking me to scan for the best places - obviously a calculated guess on my part, but usually pretty successful. Getting familiar with some of the frequent posters to a particular board(s), can save me a lot of time. Making plans to travel with hounds who live locally but who are from or familiar with another city can be a travel adventure in itself.

                            1. Although I enjoy CH and contribute quite a bit, CH has not really affected my travel. I travel a lot internationally (to and from Colombia), but most often to remote places in remote areas of developing countries. Even for areas about which others have posted, my preferences are for street food, unnamed restaurants, markets, and even grocery stores. I've always done a lot of food shopping for ingredients to bring back home. I know better where to find things in particular stores in Nairobi, Denpasar, Dili, Saigon, Belem, Panama City, Antigua, Tana, Delhi, Vientiane, Ubon Ratchatani, ... than I do about restaurants that others might know in those same cities. I most love eating and learning about food prepration practices in people's homes in remote rural areas (yes, we make sure to pay in culturally accepted ways).

                              1. woodrow wilson had a great line: " i not only use all the brains i have, but all that i can borrow."

                                deb and i travel a lot. chowhound is a fun/useful tool when we know where we're going.

                                1. I want to thank everyone who participated on this thread (and the one that Cookiefiend linked to). The panel was a big success, thanks to the San Francisco Chowhounds, and many of your viewpoints were well represented. Chowhound helped me tonight. I wanted a Burmese recommendation with some specific parameters. Within a few hours, I received several excellent recommendations, and we had a fabulous dinner at Pagan Restaurant, a place that is too new to be listed even on most online guides.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Dave Feldman

                                    And that is the beauty of Chowhound!

                                    Dave, you've been a huge help to many many people also - I would have never thought to try Lotus of Siam in Vegas, without your posts.

                                    Someone said in one of those posts, "When I get there I'm just going to yell, "Is Dave Feldman in the house?". I burst out laughing - that would be an entirely appropriate thing to do. I plan on it when I finally make it there.

                                    Thanks Dave!

                                    1. re: Cookiefiend

                                      lol......We were at LOS tonight with my son and his girlfriend, and as we were waiting a minute or two to be seated we were looking at the pictures of patrons on the walls. I pointed out Dave Feldman's picture, and said to my son "See, there's my friend Dave..!" Andy sort of shrugged, and pointed out to ME nearby pictures of Drew Berrymore and Pat Sajak...which somehow he found more impressive....

                                      Lovely dinner btw. But no mango again tonight....we were told they had some "but they just aren't good yet." Everyone else enjoyed the fried bananas; I passed.....

                                      1. re: janetofreno

                                        Food is my main focus while traveling. Before the days of internet, I would ask waiters and Time Out travel books were (and still are) my bible. I always ask waiters where they go when they have company. Chowhound is always a "go to" now, especially for smaller cities, that might not have a lot of tourist info.

                                  2. I think it has definitely had some influence on my leisure travel, not only Chowhound but other sites as well. For instance, I knew I wanted to take a long weekend trip by myself last fall but wasn't quite sure where. I ended up choosing Toronto b/c a) there was a direct flight from Raleigh/Durham where I work during the week b) I could redeem airline miles for the ticket and c) it was a city I had not been to before and I could feel safe there as a single female traveler and most importantly d) all the food options I discovered by using Chowhound. The Ontario board was incredibly helpful, especially in finding nicer places where I could go as a single diner and not feel out of place.

                                    I peruse the other boards and make mental notes of some of the places that I definitely want to visit b/c of the food---San Francisco, Los Angeles (never thought I'd say that), NYC, Anguilla.

                                    1. I have always been passionate about food, and chowhound has not made me more so, but it has helped me be more focused when I travel. I tend to use chowhound in concert with trip advisor and yelp to make plans for dining.