Brunch is hands down the best meal of the day, for a variety of reasons. Namely:
- It’s a leisurely meal you get to enjoy with great company and gossip
- You’re killing two birds with one stone (and saving money!) by eating breakfast and lunch together
- It’s socially acceptable to have a cocktail before noon (more mimosas please!)
- Brunch food is the best food
I’m not ashamed to admit that I live for brunch. From diners to boujee coffee shops, if there’s pancakes, count me in. But how do you find the best brunch in town, especially while on vacation? Even if you’re not jet setting around the globe, I guarantee that you cross town lines to get to your venue of choice. I live about an hour outside of Boston and I wouldn’t even think of getting in the car before following these tips. Ladies, if you’re looking for the best brunch in town it’s time to “x” out of Yelp and open your Instagram app.
Image via Yelp
Why you shouldn’t depend on Yelp to help you find the best restaurants in the area.
You’re in a new city and all of your girls are dying to find the best brunch spot in town. Your first instinct is to turn to Yelp (or TripAdvisor if you’re traveling internationally.) Hold the phone. Seriously, just hold your phone for a minute and think about the kind of people who leave reviews. I have nothing against Yelp and use it religiously, but I’ve found myself time and time again turned into the wrong direction because of the reviews.
Yelp wants you to leave an honest review. And honestly, not every experience is a positive one. Customers are much more likely to leave a negative review than go out of their way to rave about a new place. We’re get to this in a second, but there are much better places to brag about a bangin’ brunch than Yelp.
Take a look at when the reviews are from. If there are many within a few days of each other, chances are friends are doing a personal favor for the establishment (nothing wrong with trying to get a new joint off its feet) or there’s some kind of incentive for people to leave glowing reviews. Technically those are against Yelp’s terms and conditions, but the Yelp police aren’t going to pull people over for posting about great pancakes.
So rule #1 for finding a fantastic brunch spot? Take Yelp reviews with a grain of salt. A 5-star rated place may only get 2 stars in your book or vice versa. There’s a few things I tend to look for besides the date someone left a review.
- Is there often a wait?
- What’s the best time to go? Lunch? Dinner? Wednesday night?
- Can you make a reservation? And if so, for how many people?
- What are people’s top menu picks?
I am a chocolate chip pancake lover through and through. So I might use the search option to filter reviews to see what people thought about the pancakes. I’ll also comb through the pictures, but the photography skill may leave some dishes look less than appetizing.
You eat with your eyes, and that’s exactly Instagram’s niche.
I’m ashamed to admit that I have more photos of food I’ve eaten than pictures of myself on my phone. If something ever bad happens to me, my mom is only going to have a plate or nachos and an artisanal donut to remember me by. All joking aside, people love to take photos of their food. One NYC restaurant reviewed hundreds of hours of surveillance camera footage and found that table turnover has almost doubled because of cellphones. People too are busy taking pictures of their meals, bugging wait staff to take their photos, etc. etc. I don’t blame anyone for wanting to enjoy their meal or the experience of the restaurant, but how many times do you fondly look back at a piece of pizza? Never.
Instagram is better than Yelp for figuring out if a restaurant checks off all of your boxes because it allows you to experience a meal for yourself.
The photography is infinitely better than Yelp and TripAdvisor.
Perhaps it’s the demographic or the filters, but food pics on Instagram look a whole heck of a lot more appetizing than something you’d see on Yelp. The right Instagrammer can make a sloppy plate of scrambled eggs look like a masterpiece. Just don’t be that guy who stands on a chair to get that perfect overhead shot. Anything for the ‘gram…except for being rude. Sit down and eat your avocado toast without making a spectacle.
Explore the menu.
An omelet sounded good after you flipped through their menu online but man oh man, did you see those blueberry muffins? Checking out people’s meals not only helps make your selection easier, but also gives you a glimpse that a menu most often will not…portion sizes. Is that yogurt and granola really worth $13? It’s served out of a champagne flute! Moral of the story? This helps prevent surprises or disappointment.
Analyze the aesthetic.
This may not be important to most people, but it’s something to consider for a special occasion. I’m not just talking about the lighting. Does this look like a place where you can hole up for 3 hours to catch up with a bunch of your college friends? Or is it more of a quiet, romantic spot where people will glare at you for giggling?
How to find exactly what you’re looking for…
- Visit the restaurant’s Instagram profile. Do you want to know exactly what a dish looks like or find out if there are any kitchen specials? Unless someone is a food blogger, most people don’t caption their photos what the exact meal was…but a business will.
- Check out the geotagged location. If you want a more general idea of the menu and vibe, most people aren’t shy about posting and tagging their meals. They might not include the type of glaze on their donut, but you’ll get a good idea if a place is up your alley.
- Comb through branded hashtags. Yeah, they’re not just a millennial wedding cliché. Some restaurants have their own branded hashtag that they encourage customers to use. This helps them interact with their audience and gain publicity.
Image via Josh Felise
Google Maps is for more than to get you to where you’re going.
I live an hour outside of Boston so anytime I go into the city, I consider it a special trip. If you’re from New England, you know driving more than 25 minutes is a far drive. I once made the mistake of making restaurant reservations halfway across the city before a comedy show.
When you’re travelling, the location is important. More likely than not, you won’t have a car to whiz you from Point A to Point B like you do at home. Here’s some things to consider:
- Is the restaurant close to where you’re staying?
- Can you walk there? What mode of transportation makes the most sense?
- Plot twist: Public transportation can be slow, confusing, and make traveling a mile in a city take half the day.
- If you drive, what’s the parking situation like?
- Is there anything else notable in the neighborhood?
- You don’t want to trek halfway across the planet for your latte only to find out there’s nothing out that way.
Image via Igor Miske
Why a restaurant’s website doesn’t have the information that you’re looking for.
Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, once said, “If you want to be a Millionaire, start with a billion dollars and launch a new airline.” Same goes for restaurants. According to a 2005 study, approximately 60% of restaurants fail in their first year. People spend all of their savings, max out credit cards, and watch their dreams fade away in a matter of months.
No matter the caliber, running a restaurant is pricy. From food costs to staff salaries, there’s not a lot of budget left over for a fantastic website. That’s why many businesses turn to template building websites like Wix or SquareSpace. They’re easy to use and affordable. Most web design agencies won’t even entertain your idea for less than $10,000. That’s a lot of quiches!
Most staff lack the technical knowledge or the time to update menus on the website. Also, many websites are so old that it requires a web developer to go in and make changes directly in the code to put up the Easter brunch menu. I used to work at an agency and had a couple of restaurants as clients. Their budgets were extremely small because they’re too focused on making sure that they’re food is good, rather than having a flashy website. So the next time you want to know what’s on their menu? Turn to social media. Many more people know how to post on Facebook than operate the backend of a website.
- What’s your go-to method to finding a trendy new restaurant?
- Do you rely more on social media or word-of-mouth when picking out a brunch spot?
Feature image via Natasha Kapur.