This Little Piggie Went to Market…

…and ran wee wee wee all the way home when they saw how much traditional marketing can cost! Today’s post is about how restaurants, food artisans & local purveyors are reaching out to us foodies in new, interactive and (best of all) inexpensive ways. After all, if they’re not running ads in the Super Bowl, you won’t be paying for it with your Noodle Bowl.

Anyone who follows me online or knows me in person can attest to the fact that I *love* going out to eat and then talking about it! It doesn’t matter if it’s a hole-in-the-wall taco place down a dark alley or a celebrated Michelin-starred chef dedicated to the Art of Cuisine. If it’s good food, I crow about it publicly and then hound folks to go try it for themselves. But besides lil’ ole me, how are restaurants letting everyone know they exist, helping them to get beyond a traditional night at T.J. McFunster’s (my husband’s term for the Applebees, TGIFs and Chilis of this world)?

Here are some of the ways I discover new places & decide where to go next. Some of them are organic, and some are cultivated by the restaurants themselves in an effort to connect with their customers on a more personal basis.  If you’re looking to get beyond your Same Old, Same Old this coming weekend, or if you’re a restaurateur looking to extend your reach, why not check out these options:

Yelp: While some may poo-poo Yelp, I do not. I view Yelp as the Trip Advisor of the restaurant world (and Trip Advisor has restaurant reviews too, though generally by tourists and not locals). Which is to say that group impressions count. If you’ve got a pizza place that consistently has reviews saying the slices taste like cardboard and there are one or two “it’s the best pizza I’ve ever had” reviews, you should believe the crowd. (Because you just know the owner called up his cousin & told him to put that good review up there!). If you see owners who have taken the time to put up a good profile and are politely engaged in addressing Yelpers’ concerns, that is a good sign & I’d give those guys a try too.

Facebook: You’ve seen the ads for a new local place when you’re on FB but haven’t done anything with it. If it sounds good or has a great visual, click on it! They want us to see what they’re about and are making the effort to connect. Check out their FB page, see more pics of their food and interior, see what others are posting on their page & how they are connecting with their followers. One place near me gives you a free bottle of wine if you “Like” their page. And you know that I “Like” that!

Twitter: I am a huge Twitter person. It should come as no surprise to you that I take pics of my restaurant dishes and Tweet about it (@ispeakFoodie). I also follow restaurants that I already know and love, as well as fellow foodies who tweet about their own experiences out – which has added to my growing list of must-try dining experiences. If you use Twitter only as a news conduit or gossip platform with friends, consider adding to your lineup some folks who tweet about restaurants in your area (search “area name + foodie” is a good place to start, then see who they follow).

Bloggers: Want more information than a Yelper can provide? Love looking at glossy photos of amuse bouche, seafood towers and chocolate cake nestled under a spun-sugar dome (hello, Raoul’s!)? Doing a simple search for “Food + blog + name of your area” can supply you with a list of food bloggers who love nothing better than to give you the good, the bad, the ugly and the delicious lowdown on local establishments. Do yourself a favor & continue on to Pages 2 & 3 of Google results so you can see some of the smaller mom & pop blogs, moving beyond UrbanSpoon (which I do like).

Local newspapers & websites: Yes, they let you know the news of the world and the Pennysavers of this world can help you find a plumber or cleaning lady… but even many “shopper” papers that are delivered for free have reviews of local places that may inspire you to try that dumpy place you drive by every day. Proper newspapers have restaurant reviewers and seasonal list compilations both in print and online. I have a whole folder with clippings and my iPhone has a “Note” with links of to places to try.

Google: This is sort of a no-brainer, but I <heart> Google. One of the easiest & fastest ways to find a new-for-you place to eat is to Google: desired city name + restaurant (or “new restaurant” if you’ve eaten in all the old places!). You’ll get a good list of options & I usually judge a restaurant by its website (although sometimes it’s the complete opposite of its online image, I admit). With Google reviews you can get additional insider knowledge.

Share YOUR favorite places & ideas on how you source out new restaurants and artisanal food purveyors with the rest of us by leaving a comment!

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One Response to This Little Piggie Went to Market…

  1. Kyle says:

    Hey Foodie – Loved this post. I usually get my local 411 from a site called Eater. I use it for Chicago, but I know they cover many other cities too including NYC. Oh… thanks BTW for the tip about Antique Taco in Wicker Park. Thought you’d be interested in something I saw on Eater about them.

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