In this version of battling Seattle's hunger games, we explore the various ways we network to discover where to eat next - and, of course, always looking for content for the next Dining Out column.
The process of locating the next good restaurant, or in Seattle the list of next restaurants, has evolved from relying primarily on word of mouth to relying on digital resources. Each of us has our own unique approach and each approach is as varied as our taste buds.
There are many Seattle-based blogs devoted to food, eating and restaurant reviews. If you do not have your favorites yet, here is a sample of those we follow: All You Can Eat, Devouring sEATtle, Orangette, Tom Douglas, and Seattle Weekly Voracious. Many food bloggers, restaurant reviewers and restaurateurs list related links on their blog posts and/or websites should you desire additional inspiration.
Eater Seattle, billed as The Seattle Restaurant, Bar, and Nightlife Blog, seattle.eater.com, is daily reading for some of us. Shalini Guarvarty, editor and former practicing attorney, explained that it is the local iteration of Eater National, which covers 17 cities. Not a restaurant review site, it is a news site related to restaurant openings, closings and movings, as well as the ongoing realignment of restaurants, chefs and bartenders, and other items of interest, both local and national, with over half the stories on the blog originating locally.
For restaurant suggestions, Eater 38 is the longest-running feature of the blog, identifying 38 up-to-date, quality restaurants every few months. Readers can nominate restaurants to be included. Eater 38 has proven to be an often-used resource for locating places to eat in the other cities served by the Eater blog. A quick glance at the Eater 38 released April 2 lured us to try Il Corvo - 1501 Western Ave., Seattle; ilcorvopasta.com - for lunch of handmade pasta and market-fresh ingredients on a hill-climb hideaway.
Eater Seattle can be read as an RSS feed or as emails delivered directly to your inbox. Most other bloggers and restaurants offer one or both of these options as well. If identifying the next food trend is your quest, remember blogs such as Eater Seattle rely on reader tips.
While blogs synthesize information into short, readable blurbs, following tweets or Facebook posts may require wading through various degrees of chatter to acquire the information you may be looking for, such as what surprise delectable item is on the menu tonight.
Following the Twitter feeds of restaurant accounts can provide access to the latest happenings, major and minor. Twitter feeds also frequently showcase or give a shout-out to the new dish or great cocktail of the day.
In the food industry (and other Twitter accounts used for business or marketing purposes), tweets can seem to be an attempt to self-create a buzz and keep the restaurant in Twitter feeds rather than to provide content. If you prefer comments directly from other diners, check the restaurant# tag. Following a specific chef on Twitter can also provide up-to-date information on restaurant happenings, menus and ingredients.
On Facebook, like Twitter, the quality of the page and interactions is a direct reflection of the energy and interest put into it. The accounts most helpful in dining-out decisions are those that discuss menu specials, events or posts regarding holiday or weekend hours.
We appreciate it when the Facebook post provides an early heads-up on special invitations or restaurant events, such as Sunday supper or a wine dinner. Once you "like" a restaurant page, the posts and other information will automatically feed to your Facebook page.
Aptly named for those with healthy appetites, the most frequently used online restaurant finding and reservation systems accessed in our office are Urbanspoon (urbanspoon.com) and Open Table (opentable.com). Both are available as iPhone apps. Restaurateurs are finding it is a necessity to be listed on these sites as more eaters rely solely on smart phone apps to locate a restaurant.
Urbanspoon released a revamped app at the end of March (no Blackberry or Windows version). The app provides a wealth of information and, while it can be used easily, utilizing its full potential takes a little more commitment.
One can search using a variety of links, including "Hottest in Seattle," "Bargain Gems" and "Top Picks," among others. The map feature sorts by distance, name and popularity as well as price and cuisine. The "Wishlist" feature is great; enter the names of restaurants you want to visit and the app will notify you when you are in the area of one of the restaurants. Reservations can be made through the app. Urbanspoon recently guided us to Lark - 926 12th Ave., Seattle; 323-5275; larkseattle.com - perhaps the first small-plate restaurant in Seattle, which still remains consistently one of the best.
The Open Table app is similar to its website interface and easy to use, providing lists of nearby restaurants and available seating. The Current Location option allows one to choose the date and time of reservation, size of party and number of restaurants to review. Once the restaurants are listed, you can view details and finalize your reservation.
The Location option allows you to search by metropolitan area, then neighborhood, or by restaurant; searching by cuisine is possible as well. Open Table periodically emails lists of the top 10 restaurants as reviewed by users. Ba Bar - 550 12th Ave., Seattle; 328-2030; babarseattle.com - a restaurant found with Open Table, was a Saturday brunch delight.
Traditional Print – Magazines
Last, but never least, both Seattle Met and Seattle Magazine publish issues that focus on food several times a year, featuring new restaurants and hot spots. Many eaters save these issues that become dog-eared references, used over and over again - especially to focus on the restaurants not yet tried. Both are online as well, if that is more your style: seattlemet.com and seattlemag.com.
Seattle Met's March issue showcased breakfast. We bet you can't eat just one pastry from Honore Artisan Bakery - 1413 NW 70th St., Seattle; 706-4035; honorebakery.com. In April, Seattle Magazine highlighted best restaurants and dining trends. The cover photo featuring the oxtail ragout noodle bowl at Revel's - 403 N. 36th St., Seattle; 547-2040; revelseattle.com - enticed an intrepid Dining Out trouper to visit. It exceeded expectations.
Should you need network allies in your search for sustenance, the odds will certainly be in your favor if you rely on these resources.
Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt is a multiservice, Northwest regional law firm with offices in Seattle, Vancouver, Portland and Bend. For comments on this article or to share your favorite places to eat or drink with the Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt attorneys, contact Mary Jo Newhouse at 206-407-1526 or at firstname.lastname@example.org; see also www.schwabe.com/dining_out.aspx.