I didn’t realize how picky I was about eating out until I started dating my boyfriend.  Early on in our relationship I made it known to him (in a round about way) that I favored eating at local restaurants. 

We were hanging out one afternoon and it was getting close to dinner time.  He asked me where I wanted to eat for dinner.  I (being both passive and indecisive) offered no suggestions.  All I offered to him was “It’s up to you.”  My boyfriend then said, “What about Applebee’s?”  I responded, “Ehhh…I don’t really like Applebee’s.  There’s one by my parent’s house in St. Louis and they go all the time.”  He then said, “How about Chili’s?”  And I told him, “I don’t like Chili’s either.”  After much frustration, he was said, “I thought it was my choice.”  At that point, it clicked.  I’m not a big fan of chain restaurants.

Don’t get me wrong.  There’s nothing wrong with chain restaurants.  I like Ruby Tuesday’s and Cheesecake Factory.  But in the whole scheme of things, I prefer to eat at local spots.  Coming from St. Louis, we have our fair share of chain restaurants, but a big part of what makes St. Louis so unique is their huge selection of locally owned restaurants. In St. Louis, you can find a local spot to appeal to any appetite.   Going to our favorite local eateries was a ritual that my friends and I enjoyed.  We would grab a burger at Blueberry Hill or indulge in the yummy tapas and sangrias at BARcelona.   We also enjoyed trying out local spots that were either new to us or restaurants that had just opened.  I didn’t realize how much I missed this until I moved to Phoenix.

The Valley is home to hundreds and hundreds of chain restaurants.  But as I’m slowly finding out, there are hidden local places that I’m dying to hit up. I love the Bowl of Meatballs at Lisa G’s or the Caprese Salad at Va Bene.  Coronado Cafe’s yummy Thursday Salmon Special can’t be beat and FEZ, Ticoz and Switch all have great happy hour specials. 

A few years ago, my cousin told me to join Yelp.com.  I joined, but didn’t know what to do with it.  My cousin actually disowned me as a Yelp friend because I wasn’t posting anything.   For the most part, I used Yelp to get ideas of places my boyfriend and I could go to on our dates.  A few months ago I decided to be daring and I started posting my local eating experiences.  You can follow me here at  http://ireneagustin.yelp.com.   And just so you know, my cousin added me as a friend again when she found out I was posting reviews 🙂 .  Aside from finding great local places in the Valley, Yelp is also helpful in gathering ideas for great places to eat when I travel. 

To gather additional intel, I use Twitter.  I follow my favorite restaurants as well as other foodie resources.  Here’s a list of great  foodie tweeples you should follow.

AZ Tweeats @az_tweeats http://aztweeats.wordpress.com/

AZ Restaurant Week @azrestaurantwk http://www.arizonarestaurantweek.com/

Crave Arizona @CraveAZ http://cravearizona.com

Phoenix Rail Food @PHXrailfood  http://phxrailfood.com

Phoenix Cooks! @phoenixcooks http://phoenixcooks.com

Foodies Like Us @foodieslikeus

The Valley has some great local spots if you are willing to look for them.  I hope these resources are helpful and I am open to hearing other suggestion and resources.  Happy Eating!!