Oh the places you will go (for dinner)
March 26, 2019 5:08 PM   Subscribe

Living in a new city, and there's a restaurant boom. We cook at home mostly but when we want to go out, it's super difficult to decide a place to go. Factors like, what side of town, how expensive, how long is the wait, quality, atmosphere, etc. Short of creating some sort of massive database, can you suggest a tool or process for helping make this decision easier?

Some things I've tried:

- I suggest five places, you pick the one to go works really well for making decisions but not for exploring new places

- I've tried making flash cards with $$$ on one side and the location name on the other. This didn't work because there are too many other factors.

- I've tried putting pins on Google Maps - but they don't show up all the time, I think? you have to zoom a ton to find them?

posted by rebent to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You can make one google spreadsheet and filter by amd/or sort along columns like ‘neighborhood’, ‘$$$’, ‘cuisine’, ‘Yelp stars’. So on a night when you were especially into a new Italian place and didn’t care what neighborhood you could just filter by Italian. If you also cared about neighborhood you could select that filter next. Then you can access this sheet from anywhere.

If you wanted to track what you had previously ordered, your thoughts on the food, service, wait time, total bill, etc; then I’d say go for a database because you could make relational stuff happen. It doesn’t sound like you need help assessing your repeat options though.
posted by bilabial at 5:39 PM on March 26, 2019

Add a constraint to your decision making. I suggest you start by familiarizing yourselves with restaurants in your local neighbourhood. Hopefully this limits the candidate restaurants to 100 or less. This should be a short enough list to manage. You can also walk or drive by these restaurants during your daily activities so you can see what they are like and determine if they are the sort of place you would like to enter.

On the day of dining (or the day of making the reservation), choose a cuisine and then pick the restaurant nearest to your house that has acceptable price, curb appeal, and reviews. Aim to sample a cross section of cuisines at dinner. Try everything - farm to table, pub, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Indian (subdivide as needed), Italian, French, fusion, diner, burger, Ethiopian, etc. Do not eat the same cuisine twice in a row, unless you have to redeem a really bad meal by going to the next closest restaurant of the same cuisine.

I only ever sample restaurants out of my neighbourhood if I am in the area for other reasons at dinner time (if so, I guess from Google Maps the best restaurant closest to my location) or for the annual Dine Out event in my town when I research trendy restaurants and attend those at a special price.
posted by crazycanuck at 5:43 PM on March 26, 2019

Keep a list of restaurants you know and like and another of ones you'd like to try, as they pop up. I'd say actually put them on scraps in a bowl, but a Google spreadsheet would probably work better. At dinner time, decide, familiar or new? Then you can just get a random number and go to that number on the relevant list.

If one of you doesn't like the idea--"I just had Italian for lunch!"--you get one do-over. Someone vetoes two ideas, they have to choose something, so you don't spend the whole night random number generating your way to a good choice.

Believe it or not, this is the system my friend uses for exploring cool new activities and it works really well for them.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:26 PM on March 26, 2019

I really like the idea of emphasizing nearby places. At one point, we made a decision to explore more family-owned restaurants, and we stayed fairly close to home. We eventually found two restaurants with very different cuisines that became our locals. We enjoy taking friends there and feeling like we are supporting businesses in our community.

We discovered one of our top two because they had a sushi-making class. The other holds wine tastings, and I have had pretty good luck in general going to restaurants after seeing the chef at a class or a demo. So you might look for places that have outreach like that, if you have the interest and time.
posted by BibiRose at 6:54 PM on March 26, 2019

Read your local paper's reviews and develop a list of places you want to visit, from there a list of places you want to visit again. Good places often have a wait on popular nights; plan accordingly. Popular nights (Friday, big event in town) have less parking. If you live someplace with lots of great choices, it's okay to make a pretty good choice, as opposed to the perfect choice.
posted by theora55 at 7:52 PM on March 26, 2019

Work your way through a list using decision bot:
posted by Geameade at 7:55 PM on March 26, 2019

I have restaurants all over the world starred on Google Maps. I have no trouble with how much or little I need to zoom. As long as I'm logged into chrome or google maps they show up regardless of the zoom level. I spend a lot of my time reading up on places to eat when I travel and I drop a pin on them in Google Maps for anything I find interesting.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:51 PM on March 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Have you played around much on the Yelp website? Yelp has really powerful filters available that let you search for very specific situations. You can search by ambiance, whether or not there are gender neutral restrooms, what the parking situation is, etc. When I want to try out a new restaurant I go there and search for what I feel like eating or simply "dinner" and then I browse through the results and check out menus until I find something that looks appealing. Admittedly there's no accounting for other people's taste and I've definitely found myself boggled by a restaurant that was listed at four and a half stars, and I'm sure there's a fair amount of payola going on, but the tools there have helped me out before when I'm trying to figure out which restaurant to go to out of hundreds of options.
posted by zeusianfog at 10:18 AM on March 27, 2019

Search for "pairwise comparison excel tool"
posted by grateful at 11:04 AM on March 27, 2019

« Older Taking photos of faded grave inscriptions   |   A month in Japan this summer. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.