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How adventurous are you about trying restaurants sight unseen?

Most of us would go to a place recommended by someone whose opinion we trust - that is the point of these boards to a large extent.

I currently live in a little town where I don't think any restaurant (not that many here) hasn't been tried and either thumbs upped or downed by someone I know. But I am about to move to LA, a much larger place with probably 100 restaurants in each 5 block square, and tons of places that neither I nor anyone I know has ever stepped foot into.

Which got me thinking - how often do you eat at a restaurant that you don't know anything about, have not heard anything about, and which hasn't been recommended (nor dissed) by anyone you know or don't know? Really sight unseen. Just step in and take a leap of faith? We can respond on a scale of (1) often, (2) regularly, (3) on occasion, and (4) rarely or never.

ROAD TRIPS DON'T COUNT. Only because most of us do stop at places we don't know anything about when we're on a road trip and we have to eat somewhere.

If you are an "often" or a "regularly," how has it worked out for you? Are you pleased more often than dissapointed? Have you found a place you absolutely adore and come back to frequently that you just stumbled across in this fashion?

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  1. "Which got me thinking - how often do you eat at a restaurant that you don't know anything about, have not heard anything about, and which hasn't been recommended (nor dissed) by anyone you know or don't know?"

    Rarely. To be honest, I used to do it a lot more often because I used to have more flexible time and internet reviews were not that proliferated. Now, it is just so easy to check up online reviews for various restaurants. Nevertheless, I have recently tried a restaurant which I drove past very often -- no review, no planning, just suddenly decided to make a turn.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      How did it turn out? It's true that it seems any place can be found on yelp at least. But I have to think that in a city like LA where the number of restaurants must number in the hundreds of thousands, that not even half are actually rated and available online...

      1. re: sasha1

        It turned out to be so-so. It wasn't great, and it wasn't bad. It makes sense too. I didn't try a place far my work. It is a restaurant very close to my work. Yet, I have never heard of my coworkers/friends talk about it. So it makes logical sense.

        Come to think of it a bit more, I actually tried a lot of restaurants without reading reviews or hearing from friends. I just didn't intentionally drive out to try many unknown restaurants, but I did try them because I was already there. For example, I go to the Philadelphia Chinatown often, and more than half of restaurants I ate there -- I tried them without any prior knowledge. I do usually peek in the restaurants to see if there were any other patrons.

        "Are you pleased more often than dissapointed?"

        Yes, I would say that I am pleased more often than disappointed.

        "Have you found a place you absolutely adore and come back to frequently that you just stumbled across in this fashion?"

        Yes, actually I frequently revisited the Chinese dim sum restaurant called Ocean Harbor in the Philadelphia Chinatown. It is fairly famous and that if I did any homework I would have known about it. Yet, that was my first or second time in Chinatown, and I was just looking for a Dim Sum restaurant and I saw a lot people in the restaurant, so I decided that it must be reasonably good -- so I suppose you can argue that I did have some information from the numbers of customers there. I have since visited this restaurants numerous time -- about 1-2 times a month.

        There is another restaurant there called Four Rivers. Now, this one I tried without any prior knowledge -- absolutely none. I was late, and the restaurant I intended to go to was closed, so I wanted to try sometime new. There wasn't many people in the restaurant -- since it was an odd time (3-4 PM I think). The foods and service were much better than I have expected.


        Another one is a Vietnamese restaurant called Pho Xe Lua Viet Thai. Similar situation as above. In fact, it looked a bit run down and scary from the outside, but the interior is much bigger and much nicer. It also turned out to be much better than I had originally expected.


        1. re: sasha1

          Thanks for sharing your experiences. You bring up two good points - probably most of the places we would all try without any advance information are those in our neighborhoods, whether that be home, work, or some other places we regularly appear. We wouldn't ordinarily drive across town to go to this type of place.

          Second, even if we haven't ever heard of a place, the fact that there are other people inside is a good indicator. The more people (usually) the better. One special application of this rule that has worked for me - not without exceptions - is that if it is an ethnic cuisine place, I look for what proportion of the patrons are same ethnicity, rather than white folks. Typically that is a good yardstick too regarding a so-so vs. good Mexican, Indian, or Chinese place that I otherwise don't know much about.

          1. re: sasha1

            "is that if it is an ethnic cuisine place, I look for what proportion of the patrons are same ethnicity, rather than white folks" Doesn't Seinfeld or Saturday Night Live has a episode on that? It is funny, but it is also somewhat reliable.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              In my past experience, that practice holds very true. Now, however, it no longer works.

              All the Japanese restaurants are full of Japanese people, the good restaurants and the bad. And all of the Italian, Chinese, Korean restaurants are also full of Japanese people :P

              1. re: TeRReT

                "All the Japanese restaurants are full of Japanese people, the good restaurants and the bad. And all of the Italian, Chinese, Korean restaurants are also full of Japanese people :P"

                It took me a second. This is funny and clever. I probably would have missed it if you didn't include the "And all of the Italian, Chinese, Korean restaurants are also full of Japanese people".

      2. I've had better luck going to restaurants people haven't talked about or said negative things about then I have had going to restaurants people have suggested.

        Not reviews on here mind you, but one of the worst restaurants I've been to was praised in lonely planet, yet the food was inedible. Cold, soggy fries, cold, over cooked unidentifiable fish sandwich on wonder bread where all other restaurants in the area were highlighting all sorts of buns and amazing breads. (Restaurant was in Bermuda, fish sandwiches are abundant there and normally delicious)

        A pho restaurant in Toronto that everybody raves about my fiancee and I were completely unimpressed with, but a pho restaurant that most people stay away from is by far our favourite of any pho tried in Canada, Australia and Japan.

        Best pad Thai and other street foodish thai dishes we had were in a small hole in the wall that we'd never heard of or had recommended to us in Sydney that we found per chance on one of our first nights in Australia. I am from a small city north of Toronto, and its not known to be nearly as multi-cultured as Toronto, mostly meat and potato type things, and hadn't heard any good reviews at all about a Thai restaurant there, but was across the road from my work, and tried it one day, then went back with my fiancee, incredible Thai food!

        1 Reply
        1. re: TeRReT

          The same thing has happened to me here and there, although mostly the recs I get are good ones. My bad recs come from friends of mine who I love, but who couldn't tell the different between a parisian baguette and the par baked la brea baguette that they picked up in their local grocery.

          Otoh, we went to a super pricey restaurant on one of the Hawaiian islands because it was the top rated place there (can't recall now which) and the food was absolutely inedible - everything a salt lick. It was as though the kitchen boiled it all in a concentrate of the ocean water lapping at their patio.

          And one of my absolute favorite ramen places - I go back over and over - is not even among the top 10 probably of the ramen places in LA. To be fair, I always get exactly the same thing, which is wonderful, and not offered in many other places (mabo ramen). I couldn't tell you much about the other bowls of ramen and maybe they are better in other places...

        2. Very. As long as a resto serves a type of cuisine I like, and as long as the price isn't utterly absurd, I'm willing to give just about any resto a shot. Of course, if I've read lots of terrible reviews about the place, I'll avoid it. I value my meals and my money too much to waste them.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Perilagu Khan

            You must be having some positive experiences if you continue to do it. Have you found a favorite this way? It's kind of cool to be a trailblazer and have found a great place before everyone else finds it, huh?

            1. re: sasha1

              Well, to be honest, my resto adventurousness stems partly from a love of eating out and partly from relative restaurant scarcity. I live in a city of 230,000 and have tried just about all the restaurants here that I'm interested in. But I always keep my eyes open for new restos and am always willing to give the new place at least one shot sight unseen. You get some hits and you get some misses, but you'll never know for sure until you try the place yourself. Hell, perhaps my favorite local restaurant has a mere 53% approval rating on Urbanspoon. Utterly preposterous. If I took the word of the great unwashed I'd have missed out on dozens of stupendous meals.

          2. I almost never eat somewhere that I know nothing about. Finding a review in a guidebook or online is almost commonplace for us in deciding where , or where not, to eat. It means that, almost every time, we have a pretty good meal because we've excluded the duffers.

            1. When I moved to Cambridge a few years back it was (1) often. We were excited to move to a larger more diverse food city (moved from Baltimore) so I would search Yelp for restaurants (location, type of food) and then go try them. After I would check Chowhound for reviews. I didn't want stranger's recommendations/warnings to influence my decisions. I wanted to learn for myself. And I'm happy that I did it that way.

              Now that we have been up here for a few years I think we are more of a (3) on occasion. I've found a few Chowhounds whose opinions/experiences I trust. And since we have cut down on eating out/take out I don't want to waste too much $ trying unknown restaurants.

              4 Replies
              1. re: viperlush

                It's kind of cheating to check yelp, not that you shouldn't do it. But what I had in mind was really a black hole of information about a place and you still wandered in and sat down.

                1. re: sasha1

                  It was more of a "<type of cuisine> w/in _miles". And then used the map feature to see exactly what was near us. This helped pointed us in a direction ("so that's where Chinatown/North End/ Allston is") when we left the apartment.

                    1. re: viperlush

                      Since you are not cheating, then we will let you get a passing grade.

                2. living on earth's most isolated metropolis (in terms of miles from anyplace else) it is really difficult to try someplace that you have not heard about yet, but I do manage to do it occasionally. I have to admit that more often than not, I may have decided to try it without knowing anything, but often by the time i get around to going I've probably heard at least a few rumors. The exception is usually the increasing number of burger shops. I love a good hamburger, so I am often the first of my friends to try one out, and usually have the location pegged before they open.

                  Now sight unseen - the title of the post, thats a different story. Sometimes I drive past a place and think...ohh... look, a new burger place... but when it opens and I look inside I occasionally just keep walking/driving on by.

                  1. Trying restaurants that no one has been to is primary purpose of these boards, some of which are expressed in the manifesto and FAQ:


                    "Chowhounds spurn established opinion to sniff out their own secret deliciousness." etc. etc.

                    How frequently I try an unknown place depends on how often I stumble across one. In my experience, the disappointment rate for this when one throws in a useful chow-dar, catches a whiff of the food, and takes a look at the menu isn't much lower than following mass media, because by the time places get into books or newspapers, they're too crowded and overpriced if they're good, or they relied on great PR rather than actual delicious cooking if they're not. While it's not rare to go to some very popular and highly rated place an encounter good food, it's not rare either to have lesser know place that is just as good or better.

                    A good number of places I adore are those that I've stumbled across; but probably even more places that I love were those that other chowhounds have similarly stumbled across and reported these unknowns on the boards. That's why I love these boards and the collaborative aspects. Furthermore, because of reports from other chowhounds, the number of unknown places get reduced, thus narrowing the places one has to try. That's why sharing info on the boards work -- it helps us figure out the unknowns left to try.

                    22 Replies
                    1. re: limster

                      "Trying restaurants that no one has been to is primary purpose of these boards, some of which are expressed in the manifesto and FAQ:"

                      That may have been the original intent when the board was established, many years ago. However to try to maintain that illusion that is still the case is just absolute tosh. Anyone who reads the boards will quickly see that places are mentioned repetitively and, even when there is a so-called "find" on Chowhound, you quickly realise that the place is already very well known to the wider "real" community.

                      And, please, don't get me started on the pretentious nonsense that is the Chowhound "manifesto". I suspect it was pretentious nonsense when it was first written. Certainly it bears no resemblance to the reality of the contributions made by the vast majority of posters.

                      1. re: Harters

                        I pretty much agree with this. It's all fine and good to talk about how adventurous we are, but why on earth would people be posting on a daily basis asking for recommendations for this and that when they could just step into a place themselves and discover it? Furthermore, if they discover it and have a good experience, they post about it - as limster said - so others can benefit from their discovery without having to discover on their own.

                        So in reality, I would guesstimate that most of us chowhounds go to recommended places infinately most often than discovering our own places.

                        There's nothing wrong with that.

                        I was just curious about the extent to which people do venture into unknown places, given the abundance of information there is about places people have tried and posted about. Especially because the restaurant industry is so large, growing every day, that I'm quite certain there are more than a few unturned stones here and there.

                        1. re: sasha1

                          I don't know if other boards do it but the Boston board does a monthly Restaurants Openning and Closing thread. It is a nice way to identify new places that haven't been discussed yet. On the other hand it is hard to run across new/unknown restaurants because people do a good job identifying them on the thread.

                          1. re: viperlush

                            I haven't seen that on my boards (LA and PNW). The places that stick in my head are those in any LA neighborhood, sort of nondescript, you may find 50 places in a 3 mile stretch on your way to the freeway. They're small, often ethnic or low budget american casual, they don't look new, but I can't shake the feeling that they aren't frequented by enough people who care what they're eating to get any sort of information consensus that is available to others in the form of a recommendation. Maybe I'm off on this and even in a huge city, everything has already been tried by multiple someones.

                          2. re: sasha1

                            "I was just curious about the extent to which people do venture into unknown places, given the abundance of information there is about places people have tried and posted about."

                            To me, much of that "information" is just noise - useless, loud, distracting noise. I'm getting to a point where I just don't bother reading it. On my local board there are a couple people whose imprimatur might make me specifically go to a place, but otherwise, I'm tuning a lot of stuff out.

                            Finding a great meal at a place I know nothing about is wonderful. I adore adventure, so I'll take it where I can get it. (I'm inherently anti-GPS, too.) If it turns out someone else has already "discovered" it, it doesn't change my feelings about the experience I had (Hell, Columbus still felt special, right?).

                            I do understand the occasional desire to try a "new" place with some assurance that it's going to be good. Especially if it's going to be expensive (I mean, it's not like many restaurants let you return a meal). It's just that if I had to give up the "quest" for something delicious from someplace I've never heard of, I'd be sad.

                            1. re: MGZ

                              Re: noise. Part of that problem is PR. The restaurants that you read about are usually the restaurants with the best PR, not the restaurants with the best food. And the Internet has simply become a more efficient way to amplify hype. I've seen restaurants in my city booked up for months, before they're even open. Certainly no one is deciding to go there based on empirical information about the food.

                              1. re: limster

                                I rarely find myself agreeing with limster's point of view on this sort of subject, but I do on this one.

                                The "big openings" in my region are always trailed on the local gig sites (and on Facebook/Twitter - neither of which I use). And, of course, there are the freebie invites for the region's main bloggers who, of course, then write about it.

                                Of course, many of the new openings will prove to have good food - this information becomes available in due course. And that's when I tend to go. Simply not interested in being a "pathfinder"

                                1. re: Harters

                                  I'm just proud to have led you and limster to consensus on an issue. Who knows what further resolutions that can lead to. Perhaps, I will depart to the Middle East next and see what I can do . . . .

                                  As to being a "pathfinder," it is that fundamental difference between folk that lies at the heart of this thread. Some of us will inherently seek out virgin territory while others will maintain course on the well-travelled path. To each his own, I suppose. But, I do wonder, don't you sometimes appreciate the thrill that comes when you venture somewhere with no expectations and are pleasantly rewarded? I confess to having benefitted from following a breadcrumb trail.

                                  In my small, though seasonally touristy neck of the woods, there is little PR hype to confront. The noise I have grown to abhor is encountered on sites like this and, even more so, Yelp. A sad downside to the democratization of the web has certainly been the common palates using their common skills to broadcast their common thoughts in the most common of words: Armchair food critics trained by dining out at corporate food factories.

                                  I have seen "campaigns" launched using other social media that were enough to keep me away for awhile, but they were quite amateur and would pale in comparison to what is experienced in more metropolitan areas. Too much exposure to that level of noise would certainly deafen me.

                                  1. re: MGZ

                                    I almost never eat at a place where I have not done at least some basic research and come to the conclusion it was worth a punt. This applies almost as much to touristy holiday resorts as it does to eating in my home region. Of course, I may be spending two or three weeks in the resort and I don't find that many places recommended - you then take a chance with no expectations, other than it is going to be pretty standard tourist restaurant food. If it turns out to be better than that then that's a bonus - but it rarely happens.

                                    At home, we're normally happy to drive an hour for dinner. Last year, we tried 61 different places in the UK (plus another twenty or so in other countries). I don't think there was a single one (even the touristy places) where we hadnt previously got information from the guidebooks, review sites or a local discussion board that had helped us to reach the decision to eat there.

                                    Our current "to try" list has 21 places on it - again, all, but one, coming from some sort of "publication" and, with that exception ( a local pub) none "discovered" by us. I'm looking forward to the next few months working our way through them.

                            2. re: sasha1

                              >>"There's nothing wrong with that."

                              It's not ethically questionable or morally repulsive. In the big scheme of things it's totally not a big deal. But consider what that leads to and see if it's something you would like or not.

                              Simply put, if everyone leaves the discovery to someone else, nothing gets discovered. Restaurant "knowledge" becomes driven by PR and advertising.

                              What about guidebooks and newspapers? Media outlets usually review places based on press releases. They don't often do a good job of exploration or reporting beyond that; some that do often don't understand a foreign cuisine or are lax about fact checking, because it's not held to the same standards as other types of journalism. Quality of information out there is not high. And they don't have enough food critics on the beat -- lots of unknowns remain.

                              I go through the usual information sources like everyone else. And I've always been dissatisfied with the range and depth of information, as have many chowhounds. But rather than remain discontented and complain about it, I'm happy to go treasure hunting on my own, and there's a healthy number of like-minded people who feel the same; we collaborate.

                              The valuable part of chowhound has always been exploration that throws out great places outside the PR-driven mainstream. Sure, there's a lot of people who don't explore and merely repeat what they've been told to eat. There's lots of tourists who ask about where to go. Despite the numbers, that's not the centre of gravity of the site, and does not reflect the core ethos. It's not like we want these folks kicked out, because there's no need to be mean. Afterall, it doesn't interfere with the gleeful combing of unknown neighbourhoods. We're still eating better, and when places become crowded and overpriced because other media outlets have caught on and publicised them, we'll find something else (we haven't found everything yet); that's the cool thing about exploration.

                              1. re: limster

                                Without particularly wishing to reopen our conversation about our disagreements, let me do just that in respect of guidebooks.

                                In the case of the UK, where we both live, the two leading guidebooks (the Good Food Guide and Hardens) are primarily customer driven - the GFG then professionally inspects the places on an annual basis, Hardens relies entirely on customer submissions.. I have submitted reviews to the GFG for many years before I had even heard of sites like Chowhound. I continue to do so (and am always well chuffed when a new edition is publsihed and I see my words used in the write-up on a place). They are, without any doubt in my mind whatsoever, the two best sources for finding good food in the country.

                                I know you will disagree with me over that - such is life. I recognise that there are a smallish number of contributors here who think as you do. All the evidence of reading the boards suggest that the vast majority are like me, just looking for information about good food and not prepared to discount any source of information. I see the same sort of posts whether I'm looking at my home UK board, or the Italy, Spain, or New England boards (as I am currently doing trying to plan where to eat on forthcoming holidays). It's the same question - what's good to eat herehere? And the same responses of a small number of places. And the same report-backs from folk. And, of course, there's nothing wrong with that. But what you do not see, from the feedback, is travellers arriving in a place, wandering about without any planning and just trying palces on chance as you suggest "Chowhounds" should do.

                                And, finally, I find your final sentence genuinely perverse - that you would choose to stop eating somewhere good because it had become popular. Sorry, but that really is a most odd attitude to hold.

                                1. re: Harters

                                  The reason is that those guide books don't have information about many great dishes/places, such as the aji de gallinha at Tito's, the xiang1 la4 piao1 piao1 yue2 at Golden day, the Vietnamese restaurants on Deptford High Street, Colombian places in Brixton, etc. They don't tell you that the kitchen at Kaosarn is willing to make any Thai dish with sufficient advance notice (although they no longer do, because they've been discovered and are now packed and that changed on the order of months), or about Thattukada's specials during Onam, or the Pohay at Indian Zing, or how inexpensive the wines are at Trinity etc.... I simply can't imagine missing out on so many good things. The information gap is big, and we're forced to discover these places and their best dishes on our own. Who knows what else we're missing. Not rejecting them out of hand, but evaluated them and found that they weren't good enough.

                                  I've helped edit food/restaurant guidebooks before. Information becomes out of date quickly, and by the time they go to press, it's no longer current. Shanghai-style shumai at Minjiang came and went (under a year), and there was a brief 6 month period when a superb chocolatier was at Ottomezze etc...

                                  Do a search for Zagat's (the US version of Harden's) or for the Michelin guide on the Food News and Media board. You won't find a lot of love for them.

                                  re: tourists, as I've said, it not about what the majority behaviour is, but what is behaviour that leads to the most information. We can't have better information if there is no desire to gather information.

                                  re: popular places: It's often not a choice -- difficult to get a table when a place becomes popular. In addition, because of extra load on the restaurant, the quality drops and prices go up with demand. It's no longer as good as it was. Happens in virtually every place once they become "known" -- hence the motivation to get there before they do.

                                  1. re: limster

                                    Although it looks as though we're both using English, we're actually using completely different languages. I cannot imagine a view of things more distant from my own. Let us agree to differ - there will be no meeting of the minds over this.

                                    Until the next time........

                            3. re: Harters

                              >>"Anyone who reads the boards will quickly see that places are mentioned repetitively"

                              That simply implies a need to try out more places and be more adventurous. The solution is to try another place or three.

                              >> "even when there is a so-called "find" on Chowhound, you quickly realise that the place is already very well known to the wider "real" community."

                              Care to back up that assertion with a few examples? And define "real" community. Because I've read about places on these boards where chowhounds were there within days of opening or in other cases have thoughtfully gone through big sections of the menu, figured out the strengths of the chef, and even be the first to persuade the kitchen to make dishes that no one else has had at a restaurant. Reporting a find isn't a one or two post affair, sometimes it takes a while to eat through the seasons, or try go through a large menu, which is why the site is important at a collaborative tool. And most hounds I know aren't egoistical enough to claim that theirs is a find.

                              >> "And, please, don't get me started on the pretentious nonsense that is the Chowhound "manifesto". I suspect it was pretentious nonsense when it was first written. Certainly it bears no resemblance to the reality of the contributions made by the vast majority of posters."

                              We'll just have to agree to disagree. Jim Leff can defend himself from naming calling if he wishes. But one of his points is that blindly following the mass media when choosing a place to eat is not a substitute for critical thinking. Regardless of how long that point was made, it's still relevant today.

                              1. re: limster

                                "Care to back up that assertion......"


                                Let us take the UK/Ireland board. As we both know, it is almost exclusively London-centric, so let us just take the contributons about that city. It is the part of the country in which you live and which I visit only occasionally. When I visit, I tend to use Chowhound for eating ideas - but mainly I use sites like TopTable and LondonEating.

                                So, let me suggest that you examine the Chowhound board for "first mentions" of a place and then compare it with local sites (such as those I use). You will find, almost invariably, the other boards will have been talking about the place for some considerable while. Of course, there will be exceptions. But it's why I tend to use those boards for a wider, more informative view of place - it is a simple matter that those other sites are more widely used by folk eating in London than Chowhound. It would be ludicrous to ignore the information there as a basis for deciding where to eat. Simply ludicrous.

                                I am about to travel to Venice for a few days. On the one hand I could have adopted the "manifesto" route and tried places "on spec" after maybe looking at their menu and the look at the actual place. I might, possibly, get good meals - law of averages says some places you try like this are going to be fine. But that's not what I did. And, let's be frank, it's not what any tourist is going to do if they want good meals. They, and I, are going to do research. We're going to read the guidebooks; we're going to read the discussion boards; we're going to read review sites. We may end up eating dinner with a room full of other tourists, but I'll lay you a pound to a piece of shit, that we're going to get good dinners.

                                As for the manifesto, I agree that we will have to disagree. Again, I would simply suggest that you read the boards - say the Spain board, as it's one I also read regularly . I would take the view that the contributions there are the usual merry-go-round of American tourists askiing the same question about where to eat and getting the same respone from other American tourists. When you've done that, please feel free to come back an challenge my suggestion that the "manifesto" definition of a Chowhound "bears no resemblance to the reality of the contributions made by the vast majority of posters." But, of course, why on earth shoul;d it. As I say, perhaps the "manifesto" was relevent years back - but clearly it has no menaing for most of us who contribute. Life and the internet has moved on since then. And the possibilities for eating good meals are all the better for it.

                                1. re: Harters

                                  Not as easily as you might think.

                                  I assume you have some numbers of the so-called "first mentions." Now I suggest that you subtract those restaurants that were preceded by the usual PR hype in the mass media and see what's left. Those are the relevant numbers for comparison.

                                  It would be rather self contradictory if chowhounds "despise hype" and "spurn established opinion to sniff out their own secret deliciousness" if the first thing they do is dash for the some newly opened restaurant that that has been pouring out hype directly and indirect via the usual internet and media. Not all restaurants are equal.

                                  And if the numbers don't look good, that merely implies that we should be exploring more, not less.

                                  >>"It would be ludicrous to ignore the information there as a basis for deciding where to eat. Simply ludicrous."

                                  But many chowhounds don't ignore that information. They realise find out that a place is known, and they use that knowledge to rule them out and seek out places that are unknown.

                                  As you say "law of averages says some places you try like this are going to be fine." -- thus you can also say that "laying a pound to a piece of shit, that we're going to get good dinners." The issue is whether one potentially do better than average. Chowser quotes Jim Leff's blog on his experience as tourist in NOLA. Have a look at what he did as a tourist.

                                  Your description of the Spain boards simply imply that folks eating in Spain should be following the manifesto more, rather than less. If the majority of posters aren't following ethos of board, then that's room for improvement, rather than an excuse to adopt the lowest common denominator. (The Spain board appears to be relatively inactive compared to many other boards, which makes one question how representative it is.) And if exploration has no meaning for those who contribute, then perhaps it's why the quality of information is diminished. Life and the internet may move on, but critical thinking isn't a fad, it's a constant necessity.

                                  1. re: limster

                                    "Those are the relevant numbers for comparison."

                                    Absolute nonsense!!!

                                    It is another information source. And, as such, as valuable to the potential diner as any other. I know that you will seek to discount sources such as this (as you always want to discount information from guidebooks, professional reviews, etc). That is a matter for you - but, in doing so, you miss out on so many additional sources of information. I understand that, as you say, some folk will discount a place becuas eit is "known". That's a matter for them - I would take the exact opposite view. I want to spend my limited financial resources more carefully - going somewhere with a proven track record is exactly where I want to eat.

                                    For myself, I want to access as much information as I can and, in that way, I can form a best judgement as to where to eat.

                                    1. re: Harters

                                      That's relative nonsense, ie. your opinion. Not absolute.

                                      I also want to access the best information I can, and if that information is not there, I collaborate with other chowhounds to find it. It's not that I never go to some place that is already mentioned in the media, but I'm not going to go there merely to follow the hype.

                                      1. re: limster

                                        Yep, absolutely. There's my opinion. And there's your opinion. This is a discussion board, after all. There are no absolutes - and particularly not when it is an entirely subjective matter as good food/restaurants.

                                        You and I have discussed this in the past. More than once. And we seem to be as far apart in our views as ever we were. Although you are welcoming the "best information". I regard that as progress towards us having some agreement. I also want to access "best information" - it includes discussion boards, customer review sites, professional journalsim, guidebooks, blogs new social media such as Facebook and Twitter. They all contribute to decision making - not least for the potential diner visiitng a new area perhaps on business or holiday. I suspect we'll never fully agree but I have to say that I'd find your disinclination to use the opportunities now afforded by the internet to source new places to be very limiting.

                                        1. re: Harters

                                          It's only limiting if the knowledge gaps are small e.g. what Kalmukiman says above. Currently the knowledge gaps are big in many places e.g. London (where the same places get mentioned again and again), or LA where the OP says there are tons without any info, and many other locations etc... Unfortunately, what's on the internet and guidebooks is fraction of what's out there -- walk through a neighbourhood like East Ham and there'll be a ton of places where no detailed report exists (well, fortunately Jfores is rectifying the situation). I argue my case not out of pretension or superior airs, but because we find that the unknowns are huge.

                            4. re: limster

                              I was thinking this, too. Jim Leff mentioned it in his blog recently on his New Orleans trip:


                              "I don't like eating around on a scavenger hunt, following other people's tips. I never make out as well - and it's never as much fun - when I lose the serendipity of freestyle chowhounding. It's an irony seldom remarked upon that Chowhound, a site conceived to urge people to stop eating where they're told, is used mostly for people to be told where to eat.

                              I don't read Chowhound much. I never have. I use it when I get stuck (when I'm looking for something particular, or need to be explained stuff), or when I'm in a hurry or lazy (and need a specific sure-fire bite of some specific thing in some specific nabe). Other than that, I hardly track the conversation. Really, to me eating out is an adventure. A hunt. A quest! That's all the fun!"

                              If all of us start only going to where we're told the food has been reported to be good, then no one is exploring. That would mean the same old restaurants all the time. I have a list of places I'd like to try, based on CH. I am also rarely in those neighborhoods so I'm always trying new places. It's pretty hit or miss but when I find a great place, it's exciting--I guess it's like being single where you date a lot of people and then when you find a person you like, you get that M&M feeling. I'd also add that this is only for casual places. If I'm going to a special occasion place, that is expensive, I don't like to throw out money on a miss, in general. Although, I have done that and been very happy with it. Casual inexpensive places are a no brainer.

                              For all those miss/not great places, I never know if it's worth reporting on on the boards. Yes, you share the great places but do you warn people so they don't hit the bad places? It seems like there are far too many of those and would clutter the board.

                              1. re: chowser

                                I usually group the meh places into a big post, so that I minimise clutter. But sometimes, places where I had an ordinary experience turn out to be great, because I didn't get the best dishes. So it's a good idea to at least pass along the info, especially since most I wouldn't have tried every single dish on the menu.

                                One approach I use for expensive places is to audition them over lunch or with set menus, which are cheaper. Or by trying a couple of starters at the bar if they have that option. The best research is personal experience.

                            5. We try unknown places often. Generally we go by our "gut" feeling. Is it empty? Sometimes a place just looks like they need our business!
                              Is it packed? Do the patrons look like they are having fun.
                              Most times we are not disappointed. Many times it's "One and done!"

                              1. I'm more likely to try a place unknown to me if I am in a place for longer than just a weekend. For example -- any w/end trips to nearby cities stateside (Philly, NYC, DC, P'burgh) are generally planned out according to recs here on the local boards or from friends I trust.

                                However.... if I'm anywhere longer than a week (my 3 month summers in Berlin come to mind), I have no problem checking out a place I walk by that looks inviting. Usually, a glance at the menu (if posted outside) will be enough reason to check it out. Those occasions generally don't involve crazy expensive places where one would likely need a rez anyway, but I'm also not willing to spend a great deal of money on a place whose food quality I am unsure of -- great menu be damned.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: linguafood

                                  Do you employ the same strategy at home?

                                  1. re: sasha1

                                    "Home" is a pretty small town, so I am familiar with most restaurants in the area (I generally don't do chains).

                                    That said, you can bet your sweet ass I check out any new restaurant that opens up here, since that happens rarely enough.

                                  2. re: linguafood

                                    I try to limit the number of crap meals I eat. Always happy to try somewhere new ( we do that most weeks) but even if the menu looks good, I'm still more than likely to check it out online - there's almost always a local review site which will validate whether it's going to be better than crap. Research is the key to good meals these days - it's so easy to do.

                                    1. re: Harters

                                      Well, I most often will try to find out more about a restaurant. But on vacations, I've stumbled upon many places where the menu looked good, or the food on the plates & the people eating it happy (of course, happy faces at TGIMcFunsters abound, too -- so that's not the most reliable factor), and I decided to eat there on a whim.

                                      Maybe I've been lucky so far. I've had my share of crappy meals, but not necessarily at a place I 'discovered'.

                                      1. re: Harters

                                        I am the kid who always found the most arrowheads and the most money on the ground or at the beach. Always on the hunt.

                                        Just as linguafood, I reside in a small town. So any hole in the wall is checked out as soon as can be. Very few restaurants start out as a full blown destination in this market.

                                        I have had marvelous luck through the years. One guide that has served me extremely well is whether there is a line to be served, or is the parking lot full. That has resulted in stopping at three Michelin starred restaurants in Europe, and some of the best seafood from Nova Scotia to Galveston. Not to mention street food from Turkey to Morrocco. For steak or other carnivourous delights, the local gas station has had the best results, followed by the desk clerk at the motel.

                                        Having lurked here for years, I have used Chowhound to good advantage, and thank all who have led me to new places. But I still like stumbling across the hidden, at least to me, gem. My last trip north took me through the Delta and 4 of my "finds" were already posted on Chowhound. Hence no trip report. But I still found them on my own.

                                    2. We often try our new places- and some of my absolute favorites are complete holes- in the wall.

                                      I'm thinking a success rate of about 80%, or maybe the successes are just more memorable than the fails.

                                      1. If you're coming to LA but you don't want to hear about road trips, you're contradicting yourself as far as I'm concerned. At least half the restaurants I've tried on a whim in LA were in the course of a road trip from one part of town to another. Some I'd vaguely heard about, a few (like my beloved Pann's) I drove by in rush-hour traffic one day and thought, "Omigod, that looks FABulous!" and made it a destination the next time I was near LAX. This was before I even knew about Chowhound. Since I was picking up extra money shooting real estate photos back then, I would often find myself in yet another totally unknown part of the county one day, away out of county another (like up in Arrowhead), or frequently in a well-know part where I knew exactly where I wanted to be shooting around lunchtime. But whenever I'm in strange territory I am always looking for some place that has that indefinable inviting look to it. For one thing, it has to look comfortable, and it helps if there are a few old farts my age lingering over pie, coffee and a newspaper. Or tea, dim sum and a newspaper …

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          I have other, more-consuming passions than food, so I am looking for restaurants near where I am antiquing. I prefer to go with some sort of recommendation, but sometimes do find myself trying someplace cold just because there is nothing else there. More often than not these "new" places are not that good, but sometimes there is a diamond in the rough, e.g. taco trucks, etc.

                                          1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                            We've found lots of restaurants while antiquing, mostly in and around Long Beach. Old Town Orange has good antiquing and good eats packed in quite tightly, too, and it's not far from the Vietnamese paradise that is Westminster.

                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                              I'm going to be in Hollywood over Labor Day weekend without a car. Is there a way to get to Pann's on the subway? Other new place I want to try is some cafe up on Franklin. I've tried most of the usual suspects: Musso, Hungry Cat, Balcones de Peru, Roscoes.

                                        2. This thread seems to have divulged an interesting divide among Chowhound users. In the ensuing disagreements, it seems that "chowhounding" refers to two different activities: one is an armchair activity, mainly research, done from home in front of a computer; the other is an actual physical activity of eating and investigation, or making discoveries. Both are valuable, but in my view, the group who goes out and explore and try new places are far in the minority. I'm discouraged by that trend, as I read many boards and I never seem to find the fresh, on-the-ground information that a widespread community like Chowhound is supposed to be able to report. Instead, I find numerous threads that rehash the same information about the places so frequently discussed. Perhaps chowhound has come to the point that its outlived its usefulness and is now being used as a concierge service. I hope not.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: E Eto

                                            I would never refer to myself as a "Chowhound" (not least because it would be meaningless in my culture). I'm just a bloke who uses this discussion board to find and discuss food related information . As I've said upthread, it is just one of the resources now easily available.

                                            Technology (and the use of it) has moved on since the days when only guidebooks existed to help you find restaurant in a town you were visiting for a couple of days. Nowadays, folk can easily access, say, a local discussion board or review site, and plan their eats as easily as they might plan their other tourist activity.

                                            I'm reassured in my view that your reading of the CH boards is similar to mine as regards the rehashing of information.That tends to evidence that it is not just restricted to a few boards where cultural considerations might have come into play. I am shortly spending a few days in Venice - a city I do not know. I could have attempted the "making discoveries"route beloved by the tiny number of board contributors who adopt that attitude. But that seems such a waste of my time in the city. So I did what I suspect the vast majority of board contributors who have visted Venice have done. I've read the Italy board; I've read my guidebook; I've read egullet' I've even read TripAdvisor, I've read restaurant websites. Putting together the various strands of that research, I've come to a decision about four places and we've made reservations. I'm sure we'll have a great time because there's a consistency of views from previous diners, who seem to like the sort of food/place we like, that they had a great time.

                                            Similarly, I am currently researching the New England boards , and the usual other sources, prior to a three week trip to that region of America. Again, it's not an area we know. The boards prove to be very useful, actually in the rehashing, as that, in itself, tends to confirm a "good restaurant" in a town we might only spend a night or so in. It would be madness, IMO, not to take the advice that's already out there.

                                            1. re: E Eto

                                              Bingo. If we merely rehash the same info about the same places, then this site is no longer useful.

                                            2. you ask the basic question how adventurous are we:
                                              my answer: often always frequently

                                              1. It depends. I live in a small city of 75,000 with a relatively small restaurant scene. If a new, non-chain restaurant opens, I will go before I've heard anything about it just to try something new. Also, that way, if it's good, I can try to generate some buzz and help to keep the new restaurant afloat.
                                                Traveling, I almost always go by Chowhound reviews. If I'm only going to be in a new location for 3-4 days for business, I don't want to waste any dinning opportunities, particularly if there is a cuisine I can't find at home. Also, if it's a great restaurant city and I'm having to narrow down my list of where I can eat, the reviews can be helpful.

                                                1. I have a talent for finding places that have just closed their doors. I'll research, say, is there an Afghan restaurant in the area? And then make a note of the location, bring my friends out for lunch, and as we pull up to an empty parking lot, see a "Closed" sign in the window.

                                                  The other day I went to Chipotle and on the way out I saw a peruvian chicken place, stopped in to look at a menu, promised to come back, and TWO DAYS LATER came back with a friend, only to find it had just closed down.

                                                  My conclusion is that I'm just late. I should show up earlier.