Exploring the world of social media

WEEKLY #4: An Appetite for New Things

Somehow and some way, I became the friend that people call when they’re looking for restaurant suggestions in D.C. I’m not really sure how that happened. I hardly consider myself an expert. But yet, without fail, I get calls and IMs from friends looking for a particular cuisine, a place in a particular neighborhood, or my take on a place they’re about to visit.

I feel like I’ve hardly scratched the surface of what D.C. has to offer in terms of restaurants and other fun activities, but apparently the amount of trying I’ve done has been enough to make me a resource to my friends.

What can I say? I like to eat! And I really like to try new restaurants. But what most of my friends don’t realize about my “expertise” is that so much of it comes from using the Internet. I constantly use the Web to learn about new places to visit. I receive Zagat Buzz emails in my inbox every Thursday, with spotlights on new and popular restaurants. I read The Washington Post’s Going Out Gurus (GOG’s) weekly web chat to see what recommendations they make to fellow DMVers about the perfect spot for every occasion. And then there’s also The Post’s food critic Tom Sietsema’s reviews and annual dining guides.

What I realized in doing my research this week, is that there are lots of other resources and communities I can tap into as I search for my next great meal. Not only are there a ton of sites that have created manageable lists of great restaurants to try, what’s great is that a lot of these lists are built using survey data and feedback from actual diners (like Washingtonian‘s list of the area’s best 100 restaurants). To me, this is one of the best parts of the Web. It facilitates conversations that were much harder to hold in the past.

Where can you get the best Thai food in D.C.? Many would argue it’s at a small hole-in-the-wall called Thai X-ing. It’s on Florida Ave, and it’s literally a man cooking authentic Thai cuisine in a basement apartment. The place has just a couple tables inside, and people will call 2.5 hours in advance for take-out. In fact, the Thai X-ing Web site even suggests that you place your order one FULL day in advance. How did I find out about Thai X-ing? Online, of course. And it was the reviews from past customers that solidified in my mind that I had to visit.

This is one of the effects discussed in Chris Anderson’s book, The Long Tail. Little known songs, books, movies, and Thai restaurants can become sensations, because of the Internet. We get to learn about so many new and interesting places, as opposed to just the places with the largest retail space or biggest marketing budget for their store opening. We get to deviate from the mainstream.

If you’re interested in trying some new spots, here are some other great sites that I came across this week:

Urban Spoon – you can type in a neighborhood, cuisine, and price range for a suggested restaurant.

Yelp – online reviews and conversations about d.c. restaurants.

Adams Morgan Now – this site is an all-around site for the area, but I love it. Plus, I know the team that designed it.

Epicurious’s D.C. Guide – also by Tom Sietsema, but a nice way to organize the info.

What’s your favorite D.C. area restaurant?


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