General Discussion

Chowhounding tips redux - OTHER


General Discussion 1

Chowhounding tips redux - OTHER

Stanley Stephan | Jul 25, 2002 01:09 AM

Always walk to the bathroom before ordering, in order to scan other people's plates for ordering ideas. (Jim Leff )

Yeah, the stroll-to-the-bathroom technique is one I learned recently from a friend who is a natural-born chowhound. But I've always kept my eyes open on my way to the table. C. Fox

And looking around at others' plates is a must also. (Elaine)

In a strange new place I often order soup and bread and then decide if I should stay for a meal. (scottso)

I read everything I can. (David Pearlman)

Another trick that has worked well for me is surfing the net. Not necessary chowhound but the local websites about restaurants. Chowhound is good for the US but for foreign cities, I find the local boards to be much more informative and detailed in terms of their coverage. (HKTraveler)

In larger cities, find the free weekly and see what they say. They usually have better suggestions and listing than the daily paper (David "Zeb" Cook)

And when I'm traveling and need to find an address, I follow another rule of thumb: If the restaurant has a display ad in the Yellow Pages, unless it's a very small town, be wary. (Dave Feldman)

Avoid restaurants advertised by American Express (Mr Grub)

If I'm in an unfamiliar city, I usually look for the places that are crowded at lunch or dinner by locals. (Stanley Stephan)

I usually go where the crowd is and it has worked out well. Of course, going with the crowd also takes some work such as making sure that you are following the locals and not the tourists. (HKTraveler)

Watching where the locals go doesn't always work but can still be a good indicator if they are congregating at a non-chain restaurant. Don't worry if the place isn't packed as long as the traffic is steady. (Also remember that the time of day you visit may change the traffic flow). SisterT

Just remember that on average, those in 'burbs tend to head to chains, city folk tend to head to trendy, and those out in the country may go to the only game in town. Not a rule but an observation. SisterT

The nose always knows. If a place passes the menu test, we stick our heads in; in two seconds we can tell you if it's worth eating there. (David Pearlman)

If you don't like the smell of the place, chances are you won't like the food either. Contrariwise, a place with a wonderful aroma emanating from it will probably be able to serve you something delicious. C. Fox

At popular places, walk in after 9pm for a table for one or two, even without reservations. Has worked really well for me in SF. (Limster)

In less formal places, try to grab a table next to the kitchen door. You get to see and smell everything that comes out of the kitchen. (Limster)

Become a regular at places you really like. chef always gives us our favorites as well as extra treats (Caitlin Wheeler)

How about places that have been in business for a long time (like 100 years). I figure that if a place has been around that long its gotta be good to still exist. Here's a couple of examples that I like:
Tadich Grill in San Fran
Sam's in Brooklyn(Pizza)
Lombardi's Pizza in NY (SLAP)

But the being there forever is not a guarantee. A group of my friends and I went to N.O. and one of them made reservations for dinner the first night in the Quarter at a restaurant that had been there for 100 years (I think it was Jack's?) -- it was absolutely, positively the worst meal I have ever had in New Orleans. I've been there a lot and had some great meals & few boring meals but Jack's is in my bad food hall of fame. And I will never trust that friend again. Rochelle McCune

Also when in a strange city and all else fails, it's late and your options are dwindling, the better national hotel chains (Radisson, Hyatt) often have good restaurants. (keith k)

Don't be afraid to break the rules (Caitlin Wheeler)

But most great discoveries can't be broken down to rules of thumb - in eating, as in any art, an indefinable intuition has to play a large part AND, as with any passion, the totally unexpected and unlooked for thing that breaks all the rules is often the most delightful (Elaine)

Eat out lots, (Phil Laurie)

One strategy that I sometimes use is to "carpet-bomb" and essentially hit everything in an area. Takes a ton of time, money and patience; often doesn't pay off for months. But scoring with a single princess is very often worth kissing a thousand frogs. (Limster)

I would say that one of the best rules of thumb a Chowhound can have is an openness and willingness to throw away the rule book, to be willing to kiss a few frogs to find the rare prince of a meal... (Elaine)

The best way to find Chowhound food is to just go out and experiment. SisterT

Finally, you need to be truly adventurous. When we lived in New York we'd simply ride the subway to some restaurant-laden neighborhood we knew nothing about, walk around, use our menu reading instincts and our noses, and we uncovered some of the most wonderful places this way. My all time favorite was the night we found ourselves in a Filipino karaoke place, the only non-Filipinos in the whole restaurant. We were placed by the owner at the only available space, a couple of places at the picnic table where all the singers (mostly Filipino pros with great voices) sat. These were people who were literally singing for their supper. Lots of Elvis, and lots of sappy Filipino love songs. At one point during the evening the owner pointed at us and asked the entire restaurant to "please welcome the Americans"! We had lyrics translated from Tagalog to English for us, made great friends, ate great food by saying only "just feed us, we like everything", and after three hours got a bill that was so ridiculously cheap I can still remember the amount. We felt like we'd gone halfway around the world. (David Pearlman)

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