Does anyone have any chowhounding rules of thumb (for finding good eats, and strategizing once you've gone inside)? I'll start off with a few of my own:
When asking strangers for restaurant suggestions, watch their eyes. If they don't warm up and show excitement as they answer, politely thank them and find someone else to query (remember: 10% of humanity are chowhounds, and the trick is to find one!).
Always order spaghetti with meat sauce when it's a menu non sequitur
Just because people are "from there" doesn't mean they know anything about the cuisine--or where to find the best places (any more than the average American knows anything about great apple pie or hamburgers or clam chowder!).
Corollary to above: ethnic places filled with natives aren't necessarily good.
Truckers and police cars in restaurant parking lots do NOT indicate good food.
The more stuff (burgers, cold sandwiches, etc) served by a pizzeria, the worse the pizza.
Don't order steak in diners.
Don't seek restaurant tips in gas stations, government offices, or 7-11's.
Best line for convincing waiters to bring you the real, spicy, serious food (rather than the tamed-down gringo version): "Don't tell the chef I'm not Chinese/Thai/Korean/Ethiopian/etc (best delivered as the final parting remark after ordering, as the waiter is about to return to the kitchen).
If you ask a waiter what's good and they seem evasive (usually because they're afraid that if you don't like what they recommend that you'll hold it against them), quickly change the wording to "what do a lot of your customers order?" (which lets them off the hook)
Don't order seafood on Sundays or Mondays.
Always walk to the bathroom before ordering, in order to scan other people's plates for ordering ideas.