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Ignoring Chowhound Advice

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  • Leper Nov 14, 2012 08:07 AM
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Hounds, I live in the Seattle area and we have a very active board. Often Chowhounds will ask for local recommendations especially for Pacific Northwest cuisine, fish and oysters. (For which we are happy to reply with local Hound favorites.)

Then they post a trip report where they ignored all of the local Hound recommendations, ate at the tourist places and then complained about the food. Why would they bother asking if they were just going to ignore locals who are serious about food?

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  1. You are preaching to the choir leper, preaching to the choir.
    A co worker recently spent a weekend in Manhattan and ate at Applebees and Olive Garden and raved about the meals.
    Yes, I had given a number of restaurant recs. I think it's a comfort zone thing.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Motosport

      That is the saddest Manhattan trip ever. While I'm not a huge chain fan there are a few we will go to. Those two are not on the list even in the wasteland we live in here.

      Although, I will admit that my one friend who had just moved to NYC once took me to Chevy's. we were a little young and dumb and she had only lived there for 6 weeks or so at the time.

      1. re: Motosport

        This reminds me of a co-worker about 20 years ago that went on a trip to New Orleans, and other stops in Southeastern U.S. I said something to the effect of "wow New Orleans, I'm jealous, did you have any good food?"
        She told me yes they did, one place that was really good and they stopped there every time they saw one, it was called Shoney's.
        At that time i had never heard of Shoney's, but i did infer that it was a chain of some sort.
        When on the road sometimes chains are necessary, consistent, etc. , but for that to be the food highlight of the trip, well, I still cringe when i think of that story.

      2. Dunno. Has anyone asked them?

        There may be a number of possibilities - the "usual suspects" of places recommended on a local board may not be to the taste of the poster. Or to the taste of the people the poster was travelling with. Or the recommendations were not geographically convenient. No doubt, there are other possible reasons.

        1. I think sometimes the act of asking on Chowhound is part of the fantasy of planning the vacation, but then the realities of overly optimistic time lines, sore feet, long lines, and spending most of your time in the tourist zones intrude on the plan.

          I travelled with a friend to Italy recently and some dinners we booked in advance based on reading the Italy board, and those we got to and enjoyed, but anything we hadn't reserved in advance pretty much ended up going by the wayside, because none of our actual sight-seeing plans stayed on schedule and we ended up choosing places to eat that were near where we were at the time and had tables available. We had one basically horrible dinner under the Rialto Bridge, and we knew it would be terrible, based on the location and the waiters trying to beckon tourists into the place, but there was a Vaporetto strike on so I had been on my feet walking all day and by then, I just needed to sit down and eat something. Anything. Anywhere. And that's where we were, so that's where we ate.

          The good thing, though, is that Chowhound is public, and the answers you provide help not just that one user but many other people who are reading along. So even if that person didn't use your great suggestion for where to find seasonal local cuisine, someone else likely will.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Jacquilynne

            +1. Even on a well planned trip, stuff happens and plans must adapt and be flexible. Everyone with a lot of ink in their passports has learned the ebb and flow of foreign travel.
            As I often say, I go with the flow, and my flo' is linoleum.

            1. re: Jacquilynne

              Good points.

              I'm hoping to visit America next year, touring through some of the southern states. I'll possibly be asking for restaurant advice but will have to adopt something of a scattergun approach as we're not going to be sure where we're stopping, or for how long. I shall try not to irritate local board users

              1. re: Jacquilynne

                Great summation, Jacquilynne!

                Things happen, plans change, travel companions have differing needs, navigating unfamiliar territory becomes exhausting, the air conditioned chain becomes more appealing than the local open air place on a sweltering day...

                If I'm giving suggestions to friends who are traveling I try to put together a quick printable,google map showing the restaurants, their hotel and the sites they plan to visit. Makes it much easier to not succumb to exhaustion when a quick glance shows a good place is just a few blocks away.

                1. re: meatn3

                  yes, I find the most important part of food planning for a trip, more important than reserving dinners, is knowing what restaurants are in the area of your daily touring activity - preferably reliably mapped (had hoped the Chowhound database would help with that but no..... Even if you may have some great impromptu finds, thats not usually the case when you are dead on your feet and need a nice relaxing lunch and bottle of wine.

              2. I'm guilty of ignoring the local advice at times... for a recent trip to Boston I recieved some great tips from the local board, but because I ended up with only 1 weekend day instead of the original 3 weekdays to myself, I had to improvise to avoid some of the lines at a few recommended places. I didn't eat at "tourist" places or chains, though, and my experience was overall quite good. If I hadn't asked the question, I might not have found the little, 100 year old, out of the way bakery that was open 24/7 and made some of the best cookies I ever tasted.

                If people ignore CH advice and go to the Olive Garden instead, well, nothing you can do about it.

                1. I've asked on occasion for recommended places in Seattle but always find myself going back to the same places I found to be exemplary, not necessarily foodie favorites.
                  Some of the places, quite frankly, when I've asked for local Hound favorites in Seattle aren't really what I'd consider that great.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: latindancer

                    Having a "baseline" for an area like you (in the case of Seattle) do gives you an even greater advantage when it comes to soliciting new recommendations for a couple of reasons. First off you can say "Are there any places that equal or even surpass my favorite place "A" that you can suggest?" And secondly you can do some looking when you do get recommendations (if the local Seattle hound doesn't just come out and tell you) by digging into the places those replying to you enjoy eating at. It's always the ideal situation when you find another hound that has a very similar sense of taste to your own.

                    1. re: Servorg

                      You offer great advice and it's something that I've not thought of doing but will do in the future, actually, Servong. Thanks.
                      I have my favorites in Seattle as far as bakeries, fishmongers, oysters, cheese, coffee, delis, etc., but it's oftentimes exciting to hear about, from Hounds, the new places that have become favorites among them and, for the most part, it pans out....tremendous advice. Seattle's loaded with little, ecclectic hole-in-the-wall places and foodies are out there looking for them and trying them out.
                      I agree with the OP...why would anyone ask for that advice and then ignore it and actually write about it. It makes no sense.

                  2. I cannot tell you how many times I have had friends and aquaintances ask me for restaurant recs for various cities. I will take the time to put together an email w/ links and addresses and good dishes and descriptions. When said friends and aquaintances return from their trip I always eagerly ask where they ate and inevitably they tell me they didn't get to any of the spots I suggested. This happened for the last time a couple of months ago. A friend bugged me several times to give her some recs for an upcoming NYC trip. I did and she returned and said they didn't get to any of the restaurants on my list. I proceeded to lose my s%*t on her and said next time don't ask me if you seriously don't want recs. I've given up wasting my time and energy making recs for folks who don't genuinely want help... even though they ask for it.

                    15 Replies
                    1. re: lynnlato

                      When I want someone to follow my advice I talk to my kids.

                      1. re: Motosport

                        Your kids take your advice, eh? That's impressive. ;-)

                        @foodieX2, I'm not talking about casual asking and giving of recs. I'm talking about people traveling and wanting me to give them specific recs in various cities for specific meals. It requires time to provide addresses, links, and other details. I agree that stuff happens and sometimes it doesn't work out but also folks seeking detailed advice should be considerate as well.

                        1. re: lynnlato

                          "People asking for advice should be considerate as well"

                          I am sorry but I am not going to rework my plans just because I tool someones advice.

                          Perfect example I was supposed have 3 nights in NYC. I knew where I wanted to go for two nights but ask my NYC friend where to eat on the other night and a good deli for lunch. Well my meeting ran over so no lunch and the three places she recommended for dinner (complete with addresses, entree recc, phone numbers) could only seat us at 5:30 or 10 so I opted out on that night, However they did have seatings on the nights I already had plans. Should I have not gone to the two places I wanted to go just to be considerate? To spare the feelings of my friend?

                          I guess I choose to give my advice as well….advice, Not a mandate.

                          1. re: lynnlato

                            lynnl, that's why some folks get paid to give travel advice! Like Lucy from PEANUTS, next time, charge! LOL...
                            But, if you're helping a friend/family/gal on the street...I think that's something different. I understand you took the time and effort to provide intel and it was very nice of you to do so...but how well do you know your friend that you would go off on them when they didn't follow your advice? Sounds awkward.

                            1. re: HillJ

                              HillJ, funny, I said to my SO that I should start charging... or just not invest so much time or effort in my recs.

                              I was exaggerating my response, somethings get lost in translation. We are still great friends and I was never "angry" but mildly irritated (because it had happened several times) that she was so persistent w/ wanting help and then not utilizing it. That's all.

                              @foodieX2, the situation you described is different than mine and I agree that you shouldn't have bent over backwards to ensure you utilized your friend's recs - that would have been silly for sure. My friend had a history w/ me of this and she was quite persistent in wanting a list from me. So, it was just irritating.

                              1. re: lynnlato

                                Oh that sounds soooooooooo much better!

                            2. re: lynnlato

                              re: lynnlato
                              "When I want someone to follow my advice I talk to my kids."
                              Was totally tongue in cheek. I don't know how I made it this far in life since according to them "You just don't know anything, dad!!"

                              1. re: Motosport

                                Ha! It's part of our kids' DNA - to think their parents are clueless... that is, until they get themselves into trouble and need us. ;-)

                                1. re: lynnlato

                                  B.o.D: Bank of Dad to the rescue.

                            3. re: Motosport

                              If I want someone to follow my advuce, my kids aren't the first people that come to mind ; )

                            4. re: lynnlato

                              I ask for reccs all the time and often give them too. Sometimes its doesnt work out, places are busy, reservations not available, plans change, etc. It's nothing personal, man.

                              1. re: lynnlato

                                <making recs for folks who don't genuinely want help....even though they ask for it>

                                I still don't understand the psychology. Why would they ask in the first place? I understand it if the one giving the information is the one who offered it in the first place, but why would they ask and then not take the advice?

                                1. re: latindancer

                                  Comparison shopping? Being engaged by people who talk about food all the time, having some idea what to expect from a new food destination when you travel, using food conversation to share you're going on a trip....

                                  Why do people do anything (they do)??

                                  Give advice freely (or asked for) and feel good about it ....or act dumb...but why sweat it?

                                  1. re: latindancer

                                    They have good intentions, but they get waylaid, as well described above.
                                    If I were lynnlato I would put less effort in. List 3 places and be done with it. Or tell them to check out chowhound - I've done that before for my hometown.

                                    1. re: julesrules

                                      Good advice, julesrules. I will heed it it next time, fo sho! :)

                                      HILLJ, I completely agree.

                                2. Regarding tourist traps - one common trait so many of them have is that they're easy to find for non-locals. They're really close to hotels or major destinations and easy to spot. I think for a lot of tourists, there is something very empowering about being able to find something - whether a site or a restaurant.

                                  When I was traveling through the Balkans/eastern Europe by the time I got to Sofia - I had all of these restaurants picked out from the Lonely Planet that I wanted to try. I don't know whether it was just travel fatigue or I had the worst map ever made, but I could not find anything. The experience ended up an unhappy mess of sore feet, tired eyes, and no patience. So instead of even just picking a random local place - I saw the golden arches and just gave up.

                                  For me, finding hidden small places is one of the great joys in traveling and eating - but then there are the times when it just really doesn't work.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: cresyd

                                    Yup. Add small kids, aging parents and pregnancy to the list and I had a lot of bad meals in San Francisco of all places. Not even at chains - picked a Thai/Viet hole-in-the-wall near our Chinatown hotel and it was soooo bad. They had run out of rice at 6 pm and drank beer in front of us, but wouldn't let us bring any in (no license). I mean I do understand strict liquor laws coming from Toronto but then please take your own beer in back rather than drinking in front of your customers!

                                    1. re: julesrules

                                      To add to this, I can also add a personal mea culpa in sometimes giving difficult directions on Chowhound regarding how to find a place.

                                      In my opinion the best Ethiopian food in Jerusalem is found in a restaurant located in an alley with moderate signage if you can find the alley. I have difficulty giving directions to this restaurant to people who know Jerusalem, let alone a tourist. And these directions are still better than the ones I give to where I think the best hummus is in Jerusalem. In fairness I think many "old city" directions for cities around the world are difficult, but I empathize with seeing directions like that and then not bothering.

                                    2. re: cresyd

                                      We also managed to get lost in Sofia (mostly by hopping on the wrong tram by mistake!). The LP maps often leave something to be desired. That said, I still would have opted for a random local place full of people.

                                    3. To make another point here:
                                      Guy Fieri's new Times Square 500 seat restaurant got the most awful review ever from the NY Times yet it is packed.
                                      Another thread on this site mentions it. Hilarious, a must read.

                                      1. Plans change. I would prefer that a person report back w/bad reviews of chain restaurants than not report back at all. And like it was previously said, the threads help all travelers to an area not just the OP.

                                        Also, sometimes technology fails or you lose the print outs. When we went to Hawaii a couple years ago I did a bunch of research on Chowhound, printed out a couple threads, and highlighted the restaurants that I wanted to go to. I promptly forgot my print outs in Cambridge. Didn't have computer access or smart phone. So all we had were guide books and memory. My most recent trip to Chicago we had forgotten the laptop charger in Cambridge so after a couple days we no longer had a computer to use and paying $30/night wireless fee for a kindle fire seemed a bit much. So again I had to rely on memory.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: viperlush

                                          My go-to free wi-Fi while traveling: public libraries, Starbucks, McD's and ask local folks. Usually works for me!

                                          1. re: Stephanie Wong

                                            Yup, in a city it's easy to find a hotspot, but I'm not going to carry around a laptop or kindle while doing touristy stuff. Or go out of my way to find places with free wifi.

                                            1. re: viperlush

                                              Not having a smartphone, I carry an iPod touch in my purse. Got it to stop lugging a laptop on trips. Whenever I've a moment of rest during my walking and touring, I just pull it and check for a hotspot -- haven't ever had to go out of my way. Most surprising ones were a needlepoint store and a doctor's office waiting area, provided as a courtesy.

                                        2. If it's any consolation, my sister and I did take to Seattle Hound's recommendations, and we had great food on our visit! We can't wait to go back and try more places that we didn't get to because of time. I think the black mole from Oaxaca in Ballard may be one of the best things I've ever eaten!

                                          1. I always like to read posts about people's visits to Vancouver, whether they followed local Hounds' advice or not. Endlessly fascinated by how ithers see us, I guess :-). I ask for advice frequently on the SF Bay Area and Portland OR boards. Do I take every bit of it? No, sometimes the suggestions aren't to my taste, or I feel I haven't the palate to appreciate the food on offer, or it doesn't fit in with my other dining/sightseeing plans. I do capture most all of the ideas though, and put them into geographically sorted Word files. My current SF one is 55 pages long and the Pdx one is not far behind and of course my Vancouver list is equally detailed. So if someone asks me for recommendations, I usually offer to send them one of my files and they can do their own filtering.

                                            1. I'm a Seattle local, so I follow those threads out of just curiosity. I haven't read every such thread, but I don't get the impression that you have. Why did this pattern stand out to you? Was it because they ignored advise that you had given, and you feel, in some sense, reject?

                                              Without your listing specific threads, anything we say is purely speculative. With my style of vacation travel, car camping, it is hard to arrange a trip to hit specific restaurants.

                                              1. Here's an idea--how about not recommending anyplace where you need a reservation? I go up to New York quite a bit and as a result I get asked about "where should we eat in New York?" a lot. My answers always are:

                                                Shake Shake
                                                Dinosaur BBQ (I know reservations are recommended but I've always gotten in there without them)
                                                John's pizzeria on Bleecker Street
                                                Faicco's Pork Store to grab Italian specials for a picnic
                                                Masala Times
                                                Ess-A-Bagel
                                                Hill Country BBQ
                                                Sarge's Deli

                                                I've been doing this for years and every time the traveler comes back raving about the food.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: MandalayVA

                                                  I like that approach. One of the best meals on my family's visit to New Orleans last year was at Cochon Butcher. We got there in the middle of the afternoon, well after the lunch rush, got an open table, and had fabulous food.

                                                  Sometimes when you travel you have to adjust your meal plans to place and time.

                                                  1. re: Bob W

                                                    On one camping trip in the Canadian Rockies, we got to Canmore around 3pm. I found a restaurant that had been recommended on Chow threads, but they they had just closed to get ready for dinner. But a few doors down I found a bakery, and got some items that served us well for the next few days.

                                                    But timing difficulties like this might be a blessing in disguise. On one vacation in southern California, we slept in motels, and ate at restaurants recommended by guide books (pre internet days). And I ended up with some of the worst heartburn. Heartburn that really didn't clear up until I took a 3 mth camping road trip to Alaska, and mostly ate food I fixed myself.

                                                2. Hi, Leper:

                                                  I've lived in the Seattle area now most of my life (born here, too), and it's always mystified me when folks talk and write about "Pacific Northwest Cuisine". I really don't know what that term means. Sorta like chasing the ephemeral Seattle coffee, Grunge music, Tom Douglas, etc. Unfortunately, here it's more about trends than a substantive culinary style, and I say that with nothing but aloha for the PNW. I suspect that's a semi-dismaying truth that's generalizable to most areas of our country.

                                                  So I think Hounds from other areas can get flummoxed and confabulated chasing what local Hounds post as being PNC, and default/get suckered into touristy places. They're tourists after all, even if they're fellow Hounds.

                                                  I had a Big Mac in Rome once because... well, I'm not sure why.

                                                  Aloha,
                                                  Kaleo