Dieselboy is a veteran DJ and seasoned world traveler who has a healthy obsession with food, cocktails, and cooking. Track his globe-trotting food adventures here at First We Feast, and follow him on Twitter: @DJDieselboy.
I have a reputation.
In the dance music scene, and among my friends and family, I am constantly asked questions about eating out. What is the new hot spot? Where should I take someone for a baller dinner? Where can the best brunch be found? Who makes the best burger in town? And on and on it goes.
In other words, I am the “restaurant suggestion guy.”
It’s not a coincidence—I do tend to know these sort of things. One reason is that I keep a list of places in different cities that I either want to check out, or have already been to and enjoyed. My DJ friends jokingly refer to it as the Golden List™. And over the years, when people have asked me for it, I usually give it to them so that they aren’t forced to eat at garbage restaurants when they’re on the road.
Maintaining my list isn’t that difficult because I spend way too much time reading food magazines and blogs, and I always make note of interesting places that I come across. Most of my friends come to me because they don’t spend their time doing that, but I’m always trying to tell people that they can access these sorts of amazing restaurant suggestions without being nearly as hardcore as I am. All it takes is an Internet connection and a simple gameplan. My restaurant list is thorough, but it doesn’t cover every city I visit and I am not aware of every new restaurant opening. Things fall through the cracks. This is where smart Googling comes into play.
I keep a list of places in different cities that I either want to check out, or have already been to and enjoyed. My DJ friends jokingly refer to it as the Golden List™.
When I’m trying to get the inside scoop on new restaurants in a certain city, my first strategy is to google the phrase “BEST NEW RESTAURANT [CITYNAME] 2012.” This will usually bring up a few hits from local magazines’ and newspapers’ most recent “Best of” lists. Scouring these will most certainly give you a slew of options to use as a foundation for making a good pick. You can then do your own research by looking up the restaurants elsewhere—both on their own sites and places where they’re reviewed.
One of the things that I have learned is that a good restaurant website is often indicative of a good restaurant. It means the people running the place have taste and sweat some of the smaller details. You can also look out for other markers of quality, like a serious cocktail program. Food will always be the first priority at a restaurant, so when they put time and effort into the beverage program as well, it means that they are going the extra mile. More points get added for things like house-made charcuterie and bread; a list of farms and purveyors that the restaurant uses; seasonal menus; and anything else that shows that the restaurant is trying to set the bar a bit higher for themselves.
Though it has been demonized, I do like to use the website (and iPhone app) Yelp to help provide some clues into what people are saying about restaurants. I take most 1-star and 5-star reviews with a grain of salt, but looking at the reviews as a whole will give me an idea of what the average take on a restaurant is. I also like to look over the photos that people post, because they give me a sense of layout of the restaurant and what dishes look like coming out the kitchen (the photo quality may be shitty, but you can still see if the dishes are sloppy and if the chef knows how to plate). Any little tidbit of information about a restaurant helps me make a more informed decision about who is going to take my hard-earned dining cash.
One of the things that I have learned is that a good restaurant website is often indicative of a good restaurant. It means the people running the place have taste and sweat some of the smaller details.
One of the things I have found useful is using the Yelp app for iPhone and searching for “Hot New Businesses.” On more than one occasion this function has highlighted a restaurant so new that I would have had a difficult time finding it via a “Best of” list or using Google in general. Very useful. It’s also worth taking a peek at OpenTable.com and looking up the city you’re visiting. For one thing, it’s the easiest way to see where reservations are available, which might help you avoid the wild-goose chase of researching a restaurant that has a six-month wait list.
Another way to find interesting restaurants is to Google the phrase “BEST RESTAURANT [CITYNAME] 2012 SITE:CHOW.COM.” This will lead you to relevant links on the very popular food website/messageboard Chowhound, which is full of people who know a lot of about their local food scenes. It’s one of the most informative food websites out there. A lot of the times the Google search will bring up posts from people traveling to a certain city asking for recommendations—the responses to these sorts of posts usually contain plenty of suggestions for local favorites.
So there you have it. You don’t need my golden list of restaurants to find all of the great places to eat in any given city. All you need is a few search terms and a couple of websites, and you’re set. These are the specific strategies that I use to find out about places to eat in cities I have never been to or haven’t researched.
Life is too short to eat bad food, so take a few extra moments to find the good stuff!