The Digital Gourmet: Going Online to Dine Out
Story by Ashley Van Buren
When foodie friends, acquaintances, and blogs post food-related news on Facebook, Twitter, and their websites, I always bookmark them to revisit later, when I’m in need of restaurant recommendations or tips on how to secure a last minute reservation. These bookmarks could cook up a feast big enough to feed a small island, which is appropriate, since I live, work, and dine on the island of Manhattan. If you took a peek inside my computer, you would likely find windows open on the following websites:
The Brooklyn Glutton. The Glutton knows this city (especially Brooklyn) like no one else and has never steers you wrong with dining recommendations. I’ve emailed several of the site’s picks to friends and colleagues. For the pricier (but especially enthusiastic) recommendations, I add them to a Google doc titled “Treat Yourself,” which is saved for days where I want to splurge on a fine dining experience. The Glutton also pairs some of his restaurant posts with reviews and videos of local indie bands — I swear he discovers before anyone else, he’s that good — making the site a fun read while you download a new tune.
Taxi Gourmet features various cheap restaurants and food stands told from the perspective of the city’s myriad taxi drivers (and in particular, the blog’s writer, cab driver Layne Mosler). In addition to New York, Taxi Gourmet also hits the road traveling to various international cities in search of local cab drivers’ favorite food stops. Since some of Taxi Gourmet’s picks are literally off the grid of NYC’s streets, I relay on the Google Maps to help me plot my route in advance.
When I’m looking for specific food news, like when restaurants change items on their menus, or how long a table wait is, I head over to The Eater. This site has everything you need – including leads on jobs in the food industry. In addition to covering NYC’s food news, The Eater is a national site, which is perfect for those in other cities or people who frequently travel. All you need is your laptop and internet access.
Speaking of internet access, Yelp is a restaurant site I not only check for user-generated comments about their dining experiences, but to find out what coffee shops have WiFi access. As someone who works from a laptop and hotspots around the city, I appreciate Yelp’s inclusion of the WiFi access, whether or not it’s free, and, in some cases, user comments fill-in-the-blanks with the café’s WiFi access codes.
Though I love searching for new places to dine online, my favorite way to discover restaurants, especially in foreign countries, is through my friends. A few years ago when I traveled to Italy, friends from Rome sent me a Word doc of restaurants they recommended based on neighborhood, price, and cuisine description. I checked out most of their restaurant picks (all of which were fantastic) and added a few of my own. Now, whenever someone tells me they’re going to Italy and want some suggestions, I send along the document. My only requirement is the people traveling add their own tasty discoveries to the list and email it back to me. “The Italy List,” as it is now called, become a great success and resulted in fantastic dining options that take you from the top of Italy’s boot right down to the toe — and even into the small mountain towns of Sicily.
From the island of Manhattan to the island of Sicily, firing up a laptop or turning on your desktop allows you to access a world of dining options that can lead your right down the street or a world away. Let your fingers do the walking and your palate be your guide.
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