Suppose for a minute that you were denied access to chowhound (a terrifying thought I know) and you were forced to rely on another source for restaurant advice for a trip to a new city. Which guide book would you use?
Zagat's has been much DIS-cussed on this board. While I wholeheartedly agree with the criticisms, if I didn't know anything about a city or know anyone there, I would probably check it out, keeping in mind its biases/problems, etc.
What about Fodors, Frommers, Rough Guides, etc.? When I've looked at their suggestions for cities that I know well (like San Francisco) I've generally found that they typically have a mix of the old war-horses, tourist traps, but rarely anything else.
Michelin Red Guide? Nothing much on the low-end and you know you're going to pay a ton for a 1, 2, or 3-starred restaurant, but you'll also probably get a pretty good meal.
The general consensus on the San Francisco Board was that Gourmet Magazine actually did a very good job of identifying places in its recent "San Francisco" Issue. In fact, there was some amount of complaining on the board that they had "outed" some of the posters favorite undiscovered places.
Probably the most fun my wife and I ever had was a trip across the country zig-zagging from place to place guided by suggestions from Jane and Michael Stern's "Eat Your Way Across the USA." We hit barbecue shacks, tamale houses, and diners from coast to coast. It beat the hell out of McDonalds on the interstate!
So what do you suggest?