For people who like the hunt as much as the feast that follows, the age of crowdsourcing need not spoil the fun of finding good food
Traveling down the East Coast to Key West, then zig-zagging across The South and Southwest en route to California, I decided to road test the Yelp iPhone application to see if it would add to my adventures. In theory the tool is perfectly suited to my needs as a traveler: loosed on an unfamiliar city, what interests me more than museums or tourist attractions are the sorts of food I can't get at home. But I had misgivings too. As Joe Posnanski once explained, there is something lost when we stop curating our own lives and give things over to the Genius algorithm. Implicit in doing so is the judgment that finding music or movies or food best suited to our tastes is more important and fulfilling than the experience of searching for hits among misses.
I'd always enjoyed food hunting in the era before Web help, as much for the journey as the destination. Circa 2001, I backpacked around Europe with three friends: Dave, whose keen sense of direction kept us from getting lost; Cody, a whiz at currency conversion; and Mike, who had a knack for picking up the local language. For most of every day, I relied on their respective skills and contributed little besides company. Come mealtime, however, I'd be the one to scout out restaurants. I almost always managed to find us good food despite our meager budget. There were obvious methods: never eating too near a major tourist attraction, for example. But I depended on intuition too. I fancied that I could make a reasonably sound judgment about a place by sizing up the outside, peaking in the dining room, and glancing at a menu. I enjoyed having to wander out of the way streets, and lucking upon unexpected options. And the risk of sitting down to eat at a place with awful fare made success all the more satisfying.