The impeccably dressed Burger Royale at Cochon Volant in Chicago. (Photo: @cochonvolant_/Instagram)
There are a few things I always look for when I visit a new American city—a beautiful locale to go running, a local independent book store and the best burger in town.
I’ve always been a word of mouth traveler and I’m a talker so I usually discover these things by chatting up locals or talking to hotel staff. But on a recent trip to Chicago I took to social media to help me find delicious places to eat—and it worked. Here are a few tricks I learned along the way.
1. Find the local accounts to follow. These will include tourism boards, local newspapers and local magazines. When I was going through Chicago I followed @ChooseChicago, @Chicagonista, @ChiacgosMayor and @ChicagoTribune.
Twitter is pretty good about giving you useful accounts when you just type a city into the search bar.
Then the trick is to see who those folks are following. Do a deep dive into those accounts.
For example, the Chicago Mayor’s office is following Chef Graham Elliot of the local GE Bistro. If its good enough for Rahm then I figured their burger was probably worth checking out, right? Absolutely. This led to the discovery of the Graham Burger smothered in brie cheese with a garlic aioli and the GE Shortrib Stroganoff, both new personal favorites.
2. Ask questions. Once you’ve followed these accounts ask them specific questions in a Tweet. Don’t use direct messages. Direct messages are creepy and folks are more likely to answer a public query with everyone watching.
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I specifically asked the @ChooseChicago, the city’s tourism board account, account, where I should head to dinner. They recommended the delicious Little Goat Diner and they couldn’t have been more right. Don’t be afraid to use the tourism boards to your advantage. They are there to help!
3. But don’t just take Twitter’s word for it. Once a recommendation rolls in on Twitter head on over to Instagram to really check out the food. I will usually search a restaurant’s official Insta account and a hashtag so that I can surface pictures that regular diners like me took of their food, not just a restaurant’s professional snaps.
4. Be really specific. You need to be clear about what you want if you are asking the whole Twitter universe a question. For example: “Do you know a good restaurant to bring kids to in Lincoln Park, Chicago?” is far superior to “What should I eat for dinner in Chicago?”
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5. Hashtag the city so that other people can find your queries. Right after I began using #Chicago in all of my Chicago tweets I received a tweet from the restaurant @CochonVolant and their chef @mattayala.
This led to an ongoing online conversation and the discovery of Cochon Volant’s absolutely impeccable breakfast menu which included four kinds of Eggs Benedict, Blueberry Quinoa pancakes and a delicious duck confit omelette. Not to be outdone by GE, Cochon Volant also makes a stellar burger, the Burger Royale, smothered in confit onion and thick cut bacon.
6. Make use of fancy hotels….even if you aren’t staying there. Hotel Twitter accounts are wildly active on Twitter. Anyone can take advantage of their concierge and social media teams to their advantage on Twitter. Simply tweet a request to the nicest chain in a city (Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, St. Regis) and get their insider recommendations.