Forks in the Road: Food and Travel in Central PA - A Community Blog

Adrienne Wolter shares local restaurant reviews, day trips and cooking adventures

How to Find Restaurants You Actually Like

Written by Adrienne Wolter, Community Blogger | May 12, 2014 8:16 AM

You can't even begin to count how many times you've been there. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about: Yelp Paralysis. Your fingers go numb as you scan the endless list of restaurants you've already tried, itching for something new. In a zombie-like trance, you stare deeply into the screen of your phone, losing your appetite slowly and painfully. You start to worry about venturing to your same sushi hotspot (for the third time in two weeks), and cringe when they know your exact order, just by looking at you.

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Photo by Michael Dorausch

Don't give in to Yelp Paralysis. There is a cure! Sure, routine is a great quality to possess, but you don't have to put all of your interests and activities in a little box with a neatly tied bow. Channel your inner foodie and let your taste buds take a trip to some new dining experiences. Maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised. Maybe you'll be disappointed. That is a risk that comes with trying something new, but what's the worst that can happen? Move on and keep searching.

If you're not sure which direction to head, let me navigate you through some of the best ways to avoid coming down with Yelp Paralysis. Just make sure you keep an open mind and ask some friends to tag along on your journey to food discovery.

Start with Yelp

Typically, when we look for a restaurant, we want to know what everyone's talking about. We want to taste the best food that has spread via word of mouth all around town. Just like the name, Yelp provides some great shout outs to the best dining dives in your area. Through restaurant information, specials, reviews and discussions, Yelp provides you with the most up-to-date information about the best eateries and businesses in your location of choice.

Their search engine allows you to enter the name of business, restaurant or category you're looking for so that it matches your interests. Then, you can include the area in which you are looking to dine.

For example, I was hungry for Mexican food. I typed "Mexican food" in the search query and my results for Mechanicsburg, PA rendered the following places: El Rodeo, Sierra Madre Saloon, Neato Burrito and El Sol Express. Not only could I choose from my many options, but I was also given the contact information, reviews and a price point.

If you want to get a new set of results, try playing with the filters. I like to set the distance to the max to see the most options, and sort by rating. Try variations of your search; “Japanese” might find options that “sushi” or “hibachi” miss.

While Yelp has some great features to assist you in your meal search, don't see it as your only option. You may contract Yelp Paralysis if you choose the same search query over and over again. Also, it may not always recognize some new up and coming restaurants to try.

Check Your Local Paper

Believe it or not, but the old school newspaper is a great resource for the newest dines and dives. In an area like Harrisburg, special critics submit write-ups on the hottest new places to dine all of the time. The Federal Taphouse on 2nd Street in Harrisburg is a newer venue and many reviews rave about their 100 beers on tap.

Critics will let you know all about the atmosphere, describe the cuisine and give you a price and quality rating. Plus, they will be "in the know" about some of the best places to find special brews and pub favorites. Just stay on the lookout for these reviews (here are some by Harrisburg Magazine). Stay optimistic and if you like what you read, chances are you'll love your experience.

Go to a New Locale

Okay, so you're ready to blow this popsicle stand. You've done it all before and let's face it, you've seen so many acquaintances and friends at your local watering holes, you don't want to become a "local." Venture outside of your comfort zone and take a drive.

Maybe you've passed a restaurant that looks appetizing, but you've never found the right time to stop. Make it the right time. Take a significant other or friend with you on a little adventure. Find some local shopping or night life to enjoy before you sit down to dine. Catch the latest game on the big screen in a new sports bar. Make the most of your experience and say to yourself, "well, it doesn't hurt to try it once."

Phone a Friend

Text, call, tweet or Facebook your friends to see where they like to venture. Chances are if they are on any social media platform or use FourSquare, they've probably tagged themselves at one of their favorite dives. Ask them what to order on the menu and don't shy away from anything out of the ordinary. Duke's Bar and Grill in Wormleysburg has the best crab pretzels around and it's such a great appetizer to share with a friend. Take advice from your friends. After all, you do trust them and your friendship, right?

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

Don't be thwarted by first impression. Some of the best places to dine don't always have the most flattering exteriors. In this case, don't judge a book by its cover. "Hole in the wall" restaurants have some of the most friendly wait staff and food preparation around. Take The Glass Lounge for example. On the outside, it looks like a small house or a miniature biker bar. Take a step inside and your predictions are confirmed (so you think). The food is to die for; hearty Angus Beef burgers and heaps of fries so big, you'll need a genie lift to pack it all in your doggie bag. It may not look like much, but you'll get your money's worth and friendly service to boot.

Go Where Your Taste Buds Take You

Don't be afraid to try new things. After all, what's the worst that could happen? You'll most likely not enjoy the price or a meal, the service or maybe the food isn't to your liking. Maybe it's just not your scene. However, that's a risk any foodie needs to take if they want to break free of Yelp Paralysis. Get the cure today and start exploring.

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