Sunday, July 17, 2011

Meatless Monday: Yelping Our Way to the Cape (and Home Again)

Things have changed. I recently switched to a smartphone, and then I discovered Yelp. There’s simply no going back. No way.

Life doesn’t always go as planned, especially on a road trip. Traffic ties up. The sun is bright. The car gets hot. And you need a break sooner than the one you planned at the place you already know.

With Yelp and a smartphone, a world of new adventures opens up. There are so many tools you can use (not while driving, please). Park somewhere or assign the task to the person riding shotgun. Turn on your GPS. Then go to Yelp and search for coffee or restaurants or diners, or whatever you crave, nearby or down the road. You can filter for price or distance. Then read reviews and descriptions to learn whether the beans are fairly traded, the ingredients are locally sourced, the service is quick, the bathrooms clean, or whatever it is you most want to know. Then click for distance and precise driving directions in Google Maps and if you have Google Maps Navigation a voice will magically guide you there. 

That’s what we did on our way to the Cape (for needed breaks), once we arrived there (to see what was new), and on our way back (when we were hungry and then thirsty). And we’re still Yelping now that we are home again. One of us has even found the time to set up an account and start Yelping his own reviews. 

Here are some of our discoveries:
  • Bean & Leaf in New London, CT. We never would have pulled off the road in downtown New London without a destination and clear directions. While on I-95, I searched for coffee nearby, read a description, and we decided to give the place a try. It was easy off and easy on. If not for Yelp, we would never have discovered this pleasantly funky café with fairly traded organic coffee roasted on the premises, delicious and reasonably-priced sandwiches, and a relaxed atmosphere.
  • The Lazy Lobster in Chatham, MA where we had sublime clam chowder and crab cakes on a foggy day. We’d driven past this place for years, but the owners don’t advertise heavily and you can’t tell much about the restaurant from the outside. Without yelp we would never have realized that the only reason the parking lot is empty at night is that the Lazy Lobster only serves breakfast and lunch! What a find!
  • On the way back to CT, we found the South Coast Local (Diner, Dinner & BBQ) in Mattapoisett, MA a farm-to-table restaurant which opened in May.  We had the opportunity to compliment awarding-winning chef and co-owner (with his wife Sherry) Wayne Gibson on the delicious ale-battered cod sandwiches we enjoyed. (So happy to have local fish one more time before returning to the Have). This gem of a restaurant is housed in a Mountain View diner, but diner fare it is not. It features food described by food writers and diners as, “fresh” and “inspired,” and a BBQ menu that has been called “perfect.”  
  • We became thirsty just before the RI/CT border last Saturday and I had a craving for Del’s Frozen Lemonade (introduced to us by friends Carl and Polly a few years ago). I found a spot in North Kingstown, a little place with a large shade tree in the parking lot, a nice spot to chill out before the last leg of the trip. Once again, easy off, easy on. Never would have found it without Yelp.
Now, why am I telling you this in my Meatless Monday post? With Yelp you can search using any term you like and thus is a valuable resource in aiding you to honor your Meatless Monday pledge. In honor of MM, I entered “vegetarian” and then “vegan” restaurants within two miles from here. I had no idea just how many choices there are within walking distance. Now I know where to go on Mondays when I don’t feel like cooking.

Give Yelp a try, wherever you are. Here’s hoping you, too, will be pleasantly surprised.

Have a good week, and please come back soon for more food facts, recipes, and my latest edible discoveries.

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal  health and the health of our planet.”

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