Getting to Know our Localeurs: Alisha & Stephanie

We hope you’ve been enjoying getting to know our Localeurs a bit more. Jodie & Vanessa shared some interesting tidbits about themselves and their cities last week, and this week we’re back with LA Localeur Alisha Ricardi and New York Localeur Stephanie Cain, who both have a healthy appreciation for all things local, especially good food and drinks.

Stephanie: What makes Southern California your soulmate?

Alisha: I’ve definitely got an East Coast edge to me from growing up in the Boston area, but I was built for West Coast. The beach, the mountains, and the carefree attitude — even, surprisingly, the slower walking pace just suits me. Being outdoors year-round is my ideal, and I love to travel, so it’s amazing to feel like I’m on vacation when I take a day trip to Malibu or head to San Diego for the weekend.

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Stephanie knows New York, especially its wine.

Stephanie: A lot of people hate on LA. How do you respond to those sorts of comments?

Alisha: Oy. I have to respond to this a lot. Here’s how I see it: Enjoying LA is all about who you surround yourself with, because — let’s be honest — there are a lot of people in this town who are just concerned with trying to make it. I’m not a fan of “the scene” here, so I generally stay out of it. Give me a dive bar over a schmoozy Hollywood club any night and I’m a happy camper. LA has way too much greatness to offer to let anything ruin it for you.

Stephanie: What’s one secret about LA?

Alisha: I’m not sure how many secrets a metropolitan can keep, but people outside LA who know of it as a very expensive city might not realize there are so many free activities. I wrote about outdoor movies in my latest recommendations post, and I mentioned one of them that is at a great park downtown and is completely free. There are also free concerts at the Santa Monica Pier every Thursday of the summer, at which people can dance all night in front of the stage or picnic on the beach below. The Getty Center museum and Griffith Observatory are two amazing venues with spectacular views and free entry. The list goes on.

Stephanie: So you’re an actor in LA. How is your profession different than the stereotypes?

Alisha: Yep, me and everyone else in LA! Acting is actually my second job, with my full-time career being as an editor for ESPN.com. So I’ve seen acting from both the outside and inside, and I guess the biggest misconception is that actors don’t have to work very hard. Ohhhh, that is so far from true. A successful, working actor (I’m not talking about celebrities, I’m talking about the someone who make a living at acting even if they’re not well known) has to work their butt off. Acting is so much more than a craft — which needs to be worked on daily as it is — it’s also a business, which means actors have to be entrepreneurs. Marketing and networking are huge components, which is something I had no idea of until I really got serious about it. It’s a bit easier to have an agent or manager helping you out, but if you don’t have one, you’re doing all that work on your own.

Alisha: You’ve traveled all over the world as a writer covering food and fashion. How does NYC’s culinary experience compare to other places you’ve been?

Stephanie: New York is a culinary playground. You can really get anything you have a craving for, pretty much 24/7. But it’s also an amazing place for discovery. Traveling and eating really helps you understand and experience a country and culture. But New York allows you do to that down the street, and in a surprisingly authentic and creative way the majority of the time. You can experience places you’ve never even thought of, and maybe even inspire you to go there. I just read about this new restaurant Awadh, where the chef is reinvigorating Mughal cooking techniques from an obscure region of India. That’s so cool to me. I would have never even been able to find that even if I went to India. I’d be too busy at the Taj Mahal!

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Alisha knows LA, from where to eat to where to check out street art.

Alisha: All sorts of random stuff could happen to someone just walking in NYC. What’s the wackiest thing you’ve ever experienced in the city?

Stephanie: Just today there was a hot pink stretch Mini Cooper limo parked outside my building! But really, one of the most surreal moments was doing yoga in Times Square at sunrise on the summer Solstice. It’s such a busy place to try to find center and balance. But when I’d twist and look up at the bright blue sky peaking through the towering skyscrapers, I really felt of the positive power and energy of the city.
 
Alisha: Have you always lived on the Upper East Side? Why did you choose to live there?

Stephanie: I’ve lived in the West Village too, and uptown by Columbia for grad school, but the UES feels like home. Some people call it Siberia (really 64th is not that far uptown, folks!) but I love its little oasis. Everything is clean and organized. On the weekends, it’s not a scene. Its just people in workout clothes grabbing a bagel and coffee with their dogs and heading to a farmer’s markets. Central Park is RIGHT THERE for a run around the reservoir or laying out in Sheep’s Meadow. And the window shopping on Madison doesn’t hurt either!
 
Alisha: What is your favorite way to spend four hours of free time?

Stephanie: This is a tough one to answer, as I might choose anything from taking a yoga class to reading food magazines to going to a wine bar to see what’s new. But I do find myself at the MoMA often. I’m a member, and it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever spent money on. The ability to stop by and check out some incredible art for just a few minutes…really, only, can you do something like this in a great city like New York. It’s really a luxury. Also, in summer, Central Park!


Localeur Supports Light Rail for Austin

There are two things that suck in Austin: extreme heat and worsening traffic. One of those we can’t control, but one of those we can do something about. Anyone who lives in Austin (or visited for SXSW, ACL Fest, Formula 1 or the like) will agree that traffic has become one of the most negative aspects about life in Austin. So with over 100 people moving to our city everyday due to our vibrant economy and frequenting all the great bars, coffee shops, music venues, restaurants and yoga studios our Localeurs recommend, the traffic issue is only getting worse. Today, our CEO Joah Spearman stood with the Mayor, City Council members, and other business and community leaders who make up the Steering Committee for Proposition 1. Prop 1 is a $600mm bond to fund 9.5 miles of light rail infrastructure in Austin coupled with $400mm for additional road improvements that will make Austin more bike-, bus drive and walk-friendly. If you live in Austin, we hope you plan to vote early (starting October 20th) and spread the word. #experiencelocal


Learning from Locals: Amish Tolia, entrepreneur

So far, our Learning from Locals series has helped you get to know local insiders in Atlanta with DJ Wally Sparks, Austin with creative director/editor Jess Thompson, LA with writer/former NBA player Paul Shirley and New York with Daren Grisham of Tablet Hotels. Today, we’re going to get a little more insight into life in Chicago, one of our newest cities, by learning from Amish Tolia, an entrepreneur and co-founder of Pear, a digital sponsorship platform. Amish works with major brands and local businesses and nonprofits to help them match up the way Localeur helps travelers match up with insight from locals, so we think he’s got some good intel to lend on Chicago.

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Localeur: What’s the place in Chicago that makes you most feel like home?

Amish: One of my favorite neighborhood sushi restaurants is called Sai Café. It does a pretty good job of making me feel like home. Also, East Bank Club does a good job making me feel like I’m home here in Chicago. 

Localeur: Where would you advise a budding entrepreneur go to meet like-minded folks in Chicago?

Amish: There are a couple great physical hubs / co-working spaces for entrepreneurs: 1871 and Catapult Chicago. Both of these are great places to meet / work alongside other like-minded / motivated entrepreneurs.

Localeur: When you want some down time, what’s your go-to spot?

Amish: There is great foot massage place that is awesome called Yamato in River North. Also, I enjoy smoking hookah, so will sometimes venture to Ambrosia Cafe in Lincoln Park.

Localeur: It’s Friday night, where do you have dinner and where do you go after?

Amish: If it’s a casual, low-key Friday, I enjoy going to West Loop. RM Champagne and Urban Belly are both delicious. I generally follow that by a drink at Soho House on the roof. If it’s more of an aggressive Friday night, I’ll probably stick around River North and have dinner at Sunda or RPM followed by Studio Paris.

Localeur: Name one place that you think is underrated, but you love?

Amish: Red Door in Bucktown is awesome!



Getting to Know our Localeurs: Jodie & Vanessa

Authenticity, credibility, curation and trust are key attributes to what we’re building here at Localeur. Our blog is a place for you to get to learn more about our business, and our community. Previously, we’ve featured Q&As with Kate & Lani, Yvahn & Erin, and Nikki & Jaime and today we’re sitting down with Austin Localeur Jodie Holland and Los Angeles Localeur Vanessa Carbajal. These ladies know quite a bit about their cities, and they share some insights with you below.

Jodie: I’m a fan of exploring neighborhoods while traveling. Other than your neighborhood of Los Feliz, what is a good ‘hood in LA to hit the streets to walk around, and what are some favorites restaurants, museums or shops in that neighborhood? 

Vanessa: I actually live in Silverlake now. I should probably update my profile! If you want to spend the day walking around I would definitely head downtown. There is so much to see and the neighborhoods there are so rapidly evolving, it’s almost as if every week you visit it’s a slightly different place. I recently did a downtown pub crawl (that give’s me a good idea for another Localeur piece!) and we hit 8 bars that were all such a different flavor. There’s something for whatever you’re in the mood for. Some of my favorite spots are Far Bars alley patio, Villains Tavern for live music and great cocktails and Pour House in the Arts District for wine and board games. Also check out LACMA and the Last Bookstore for some great art and literature.   

Jodie knows how to experience Austin without breaking the bank.

Jodie: If I’m a baller on a budget but wanting to have a day of fun in LA, what are some activities and/or restaurants I can hit up on a budget?
 
Vanessa: Get outdoors - our perfect weather is free! Hike to the Hollywood sign, the Griffith Park Observatory, or some awesome seaside views. Or spend the day on the beach. Once you’ve worked up an appetite I have two glorious words for you: taco trucks. Some of the yummiest food in the city is super affordable and accessible. Try the Kogi Truck, Ricky’s Fish tacos, or Guisados (not a truck but still inexpensive and tasty.)
 
Jodie: Of all the surrounding beaches in the Los Angeles area, which is the best to cruise to for daytime fun and why? What spot(s) do I need to make sure I hit up while I’m there?
 
Vanessa: It really depends on what type of scene you’re into and what kind of mood you’re in. Malibu is gorgeous and mellow. Santa Monica is more of a scene-y scene. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Venice Beach. The people watching is fantastic. You have the boardwalk, street performers, a totally fun and relaxed vibe. You should also hit up Abbot-Kinney Blvd. for cute boho boutiques and several options for beachy cocktails. Oh! Also, rent some bikes for a seaside ride on the boardwalk. It reminds me of going to the beach when I was a little girl. Venice has that carefree, slowed-down-time, forever-summer feel to it.

Vanessa tries not to limit herself to just one neighborhood in LA.

Jodie: LA has a reputation for being the land of size 0, but where does one go to eat their feelings? Surely, there’s a place for glutton. Tell me that place!
 
Vanessa: LA HAS SO MUCH AMAZING FOOD. No, seriously. Trust me. Food is my favorite thing next to wine. Again, it depends on what you’re in the mood for. Lately I’ve been on this pizza and pasta kick. When I want to eat my weight in carbs I love to hit up Masa in Echo Park or Bottega Louis downtown. And for the most decadent, made-from-scratch desserts I head to Ramakin in Los Feliz. They make the best ice cream and bread pudding!  
Jodie: Typically, locals hold something within their city close to their heart. What is that place for you in LA? It can be a park, coffee shop, bar, really anything. 
 
Vanessa: The Silverlake Reservoir. I think it’s the prettiest place in the city. I’m lucky enough to live close enough to walk to it and I spend so many afternoons there, jogging, people watching, doing yoga on the lawn, picnicking, reading in the grass. If you haven’t been I recommend packing a picnic basket with a blanket, some snacks, sunscreen and a book or bring a date to watch the sun set over the hills.  Also stop by the dog park and visit with the cuties, and their dogs too ;)
 
Jodie: Bonus question: I have some pals who say it’s hard to meet a significant other in LA. Do you have a spot you cruise for man meat? I would bet that most dudes and gals across the country have at least one pal in the Los Angeles metro area looking for a proper mate and would appreciate your tips!
 
Vanessa: I hear that a lot! But in my experience, no place I’ve ever lived in has been easier to meet people and date (even if it is casually) in than LA. Most people are super friendly and sociable almost everywhere you go. So whatever you’re doing, whatever your cup of tea is, just chat to the cutie next to you. At the wine bar, at the book shop, playing volleyball on the beach, whatever. Everyone is looking for a good time with cool people. Just say hi. Or just smile, oftentimes they’ll say hi to you first!

Vanessa: What, in your opinion, is the most over-rated destination in your city? The most under-rated?

Jodie: Over-rated: Hopdoddy (sorry burger dudes). The ordering/service system makes no sense to me, it frustrates me actually, yet there is always a line out the door. Although, this line is deceiving - they make people wait in line to wait in line; it’s like a real life episode of Seinfeld. You can’t even call in take out, you have to wait in line! This completely overshadows any enjoyment of food, and honestly it’s just a burger; there are way better places.

Under-rated:  El Borrego de Orob- a neighborhood Mexican restaurant in S. Austin that is legit. The building is unassuming, just how I like it and it’s never crowded - even better. Let’s face it, any joint that has Barbacoa on the menu and a shrine to Selena gets my attention, and more importantly, the food is really good.

Vanessa: I have 24 hours in Austin. I’ve never been before. What are three places I MUST hit to get a decent sense of the vibe of the city? These can be anything from a museum, a restaurant, a music venue, etc.

Jodie: Since the weather is warm in Texas about 8 months out of the year, swimming is a no-brainier. First hit up the Rowing Dock on Lady Bird Lake to rent a paddle board to cruise along the lake through the city; the view is spectacular. After that, trek over to Barton Springs for a dip in the natural spring fed pool. Barton Springs is Austin’s pride jewel and lives up to the hype. It really is a must-see.

Next, cruise over to the east side for BBQ at John Mueller Meat Co. It’s a food trailer and will blow your wig off, some of the best BBQ around. After you fill your gut, swing by my local favorite bar, Yellow Jacket Social Club, for a cocktail or a Lonestar. The have the best patio in Austin and some of the nicest bar staff around.

Lastly, for evening entertainment hit up the Broken Spoke for a two-stepping lesson at one of the oldest genuine honkey-tonks in Austin. They have live music (except Sunday) and enough Waylon, Willie and Dolly memorabilia to fill your country-loving soul. After your lesson, head over to the White Horse to put your new fancy feet to the test. The music here is on par with a traditional honky-tonk but with a little rock-n-roll whiskey flare.

Vanessa: One of my favorite things about living in LA is how many awesome and vastly different experiences you can find in just a day-trip outside of the city. What are some of your favorite out of Austin day-trip destinations?

Jodie: I have a few favorites:
Lockhart, TX for a BBQ tour.  Perhaps, the best little Texas hotspot for BBQ (arguable,I know) is just 30 minutes outside if Austin. Places to try, you decide: Smitty’s, Black’s, Kreuz’s to name a few.

New Braunfels, TX for a river tubing trip is about 45 minutes from Austin. Next to BBQ, it doesn’t get more Texan than floating the river with some can beer and pals.

Krause Springs in Spicewood, TX is approximately 35-45 minutes outside Austin. It’s possibly my favorite swimming hole in Texas. It’s privately owned so you pay a fee for day trip fun, or if you care to camp, there is a large area reserved overnight camping.

Vanessa: Tell me about your neighborhood. Why did you choose it? If you had to move what other Austin hood would you like to live in?

Jodie: I have lived in South Austin, or known as “The ‘04”, for 10+ years. I love my neighborhood ‘s local shops & restaurants and the vibe represents my personality/outlook pretty accurately: let’s get drunk, eat, party, listen to music but, oh wait, get your ass to work cuz it’s not cheap to live here. While I enjoy the East Side, Hyde Park, and North Loop areas, if I were to live in a different Austin neighborhood, it would probably be Tarrytown or somewhere on the lake as I have a piggy-bank set aside to purchase a boat. This B is taking her act on the water!

Vanessa: Do you see yourself staying in Austin forever? Forever-ever? What other city would you love to live in or have you loved living in?

Jodie: Austin is home. I see myself being here until I croak on a taco or unless I get a job elsewhere. Well, even if that happened, I’d probably turn it down and work at the Rowing Dock or some shit. My family is close by in San Antonio and my friends are all here so it would be hard to leave.

I lived in New York City for a while which was fun and an experience in itself but it’s not Texas, and it’s not Austin.



Getting to Know our Localeurs: Kate & Lani

By now, hopefully you’ve felt a connection with a Localeur in your own city or a city you’ve visited. Our locals aren’t just anonymous reviewers or commentators; these are savvy locals who know more than a thing or two about the cities they live in. Previously, we helped you get to know Erin and Yvahn along with Nikki and Jaime and today we’re sharing a Q&A Brooklyn local Kate Pritchard and Austin local Lani Thomison did to get to know one another. They both know a lot about the local music scenes, so you’ll definitely get the scoop on some emerging bands and musicians, too! Enjoy!

Lani: (It seems) so many cities are trying to imitate Williamsburg vibe, what makes it stand out from the rest, aside from it being the original :; ?

Kate: I actually wasn’t aware that other cities are trying to imitate W-burg. To me, Williamsburg is a fun neighborhood with plenty to see and do, but isn’t representative of Brooklyn’s true spirit.  I love visiting for weekend shopping, or to have drinks on a rooftop bar (W-burg has a lovely view of the Manhattan skyline), but other than that, it’s not a place that I frequent.
 
Lani: What’s your favorite memory of a night you had in either BK or the city, or both?

Kate: A BBQ at The Clubhouse — a 3 story Victorian home in Ditmas Park where many of my friends live and work.  It’s a communal living space for musicians and artists of all types complete with a recording studio, darkroom, back deck + grill, and we’ve had some pretty legendary parties. One of my favorite nights would be riding my bike through Prospect Park to the Clubhouse, cooking out, and enjoying a music jam amongst whoever may have come through the door that day.  
 
Lani: Where is your favorite place to go when you’re tired of being around so much concrete?
 
Kate: Oh man, touchy subject!  Haha. One of my least favorite things about NYC is how hard it is to escape to nature.  I’m originally from western North Carolina, which is one of the most beautiful places in the country – full of trees, streams, mountains – so not having access to those things is tough sometimes.  But I live about 15 minutes from Prospect Park - which many say is better than Central Park - and it’s a perfect place to get lost in. That’s where I go most often when I need a breather.  

"One of my least favorite things about NYC is how hard it is to escape to nature…" - Kate

Lani: What’s your favorite venue for music and what was your favorite show there?

Kate: Brooklyn Bowl is my favorite bigger venue, and The Roots’ Holiday Jam is always a good time.  My favorite smaller venue is called Friends and Lovers, which just opened in my neighborhood (Crown Heights).  They host a monthly jam called The Jelly, which is always a great time.
 
Lani: What musical act out of New York should the rest of the world know about that doesn’t yet?

Kate: Denitia and Sene, Sly5thAve, Melissa McMillan, Ro James and Chargaux

Kate: I hear Austin has been insanely hot.  Where are some of your favorite places or watering holes to beat the heat?

Lani: I usually get up early in the summers to try and enjoy the day before it gets too hot. I frequent Red Bud Trail with my pup a few times a week for walks. Barton Springs is a staple, the full moon night swims are really fun. If you have a connect to the Ashton pool there’s no better place. It’s an infinity pool overlooking Town Lake.

Kate: What’s the most unique, off-the-wall music venue in Austin?  I’m talking like chimpanzee bartenders, and a stage built out of cookie dough type weird.  
 
Lani: Chain drive. There’s an actual chain drive hanging from the ceiling. Don’t go by yourself.
 

"I bought a minimale animale bathing suit that I live in at the moment…" - Lani

Kate:  What are your favorite fashion trends that are popular in Austin right now?  

Lani: Austin is still a bit lagging on the fashion tip, but making strides each year. This summer I’ve jumped on the mesh train. I bought a minimale animale bathing suit that I live in at the moment that happened to be in fashion. It’s too hot to wear anything other than that. Mesh and Harem pants.
 
Kate:  If you weren’t living in Austin, where would you live and why?

Lani: If I wasn’t living in Austin, I would jump oversees. Johannesburg, Ile de France or Berlin
 
Kate:  I’m stealing your last one.  What Austin-based bands should make it big this year?

Lani: Keeper  (Lani is a member), Orthy, Magna Carda, and Boom Baptist


Learning from Locals: DJ Wally Sparks

Continuing our series of intimate interviews with locals who we’re inspired by in cities around the country, we recently caught up with one of Atlanta’s most noteworthy mixmasters DJ Wally Sparks, who we were introduced to through our investor and resident DJ Mick this summer, to learn more about what makes his city so awesome and where he spends his time in ATL. As one of our newer cities, we figured Wally would put us up on some new places that we haven’t heard about yet. Make sure to check out our other interviews on the Learning from Locals series with Jess Thompson in Austin, Paul Shirley in LA and Daren Grisham in Brooklyn.

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Atlanta’s own DJ Wally Sparks (right) with our resident DJ and investor, Mick.

Localeur: What neighborhood in Atlanta do you think is the best to visit on your first 24 hours in the city?

Wally: I’d probably tell them to take a visit to the Old 4th Ward. You can get a real sense of the city’s rich history and an up close look at it’s growth. From all the bars & restaurants on Edgewood Ave. to seeing where most of the Civil Rights Movement was headquartered it’s quite a bit to take in.

Localeur: Where do you go in Atlanta to relax?

Wally: Believe it or not, a good relaxation day for me would be a Braves game at Turner Field. If not that, a nice walk or bike ride on the Silver Comet Trail in Smyrna does the trick. The High Museum of Art has hammocks in the Sifly Piazza until fall. That’s definitely the move. Get some good rest in while enjoying some dope art!

Localeur: What’s the best place in Atlanta for you to meet up with friends?

Wally: Most of my friends here in Atlanta work in the nightlife industry so I’ll often meet them in different dive bars around town. A few days ago I met up with a bunch of friends at a bar called The Independent and it was really cool. It has a old school billiard hall vibe. It was dope. I’d definitely meet up with friends there again.

Localeur: If you have a friend in town, what’s the go-to place to take them for dinner?

Wally: Antico Pizza Napoletana. Amazing pizza. AMAZING. It’s not that much of a traditional dinner spot, but it is a you must eat here when visiting Atlanta spot.

Localeur: If you could only DJ one place in Atlanta for one night before the end of the world, where would it be?

Wally: It would definitely be El Bar. That is hands down my favorite place to DJ in the city without a doubt.

Localeur: What’s your go-to brunch spot on a Sunday?

Wally: The Buckhead location of Highland Bakery is great for Sunday brunch spot. Great menu and vibe. The Highland Breakfast is my favorite on the menu. I’m a sucker for a classic American breakfast. Another great place that serves breakfast all day long is Thumbs Up diner. It has a real Southern hospitality vibe with tasty comfort food to match.


Learning from Locals: Daren Grisham of Tablet Hotels

Every day, our Localeurs across the country share recommendations on where to eat, drink and play. The Localeur iPhone app is full of inside tips on where to find the best happy hours, coffee shops, and boutiques. But occasionally, we reach outside of our Localeur community to ask some folks we’re inspired to share tips on where they like to hang out. We’ve had Jess Thompson share her favorites spots in Austin and Paul Shirley share his love for LA. Now, we’re sitting down with Brooklyn local and Tablet Hotels executive Daren Grisham to learn more about New York, Brooklyn and finding a great place to eat in the city. - Joah

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Localeur: What place in NYC/Brooklyn has changed the most (for the better) since you moved here?

Daren: That’s a tough one. New York, at its core, has a regenerative nature. I travel frequently and am always amazed when I revisit a place that looks the same as it did before. I’m not accustomed to that. In New York, everything’s always moving, always evolving, and it can make your head spin at times. Quite frankly, it’s hard to keep up. On the other hand, it makes day-to-day life really interesting. As I’ve told my friends and family, the last boring day I had was the day before I arrived in New York to start a new life. 

Anyhow, regarding good places/changes, I can’t help but think of the neighborhoods I’ve lived in, specifically Bushwick and Crown Heights. When I moved to Bushwick in 2005, it was for the warehouse lofts and cheap(er) rents. We had some coin laundry shops, bodegas, one good restaurant, and a C-Town grocery market. There was also this thing called crime, which sucked. Sometimes it felt like being on the edge of the earth. (Remember, Uber wasn’t around then.) I could never get friends in the city to visit, no matter how many times I explained that it was a straight shot, no more than 20 minutes on the L train from Union Square. Fast forward to 2014 and you see a wildly different picture. The Bushwick of today is a destination, with a little bit of everything, and then some. Galleries, clothing boutiques, restaurants, bars, music venues… it’s all there. My friends from Paris, LA, and London stay there when they visit New York. So strange, considering how it was not even ten years ago. Just recently, I had the most expensive meal of my life. In Bushwick. I would have never imagined that happening. Even though I left Bushwick in search of life involving more hours of sleep at night and additional amenities, I really loved it for what it was. And, today I love it for what it has become. I’m back there pretty often.

Now, I’m a denizen of Crown Heights, another neighb that’s undergone a crazy, rapid transformation. It’s got a really fascinating history and is (thankfully!) known now for more than just the violence of its past and the Crown Heights Riots of 1991. When my girlfriend, Daphne (who’s now my wife) asked me to join her there in early 2009, I was living up in Harlem and was ready for a new chapter. I liked Crown Heights, but had no idea how much I would connect with it. We bought a place there 3 years ago and have been tuned in to pretty much everything going on around us. Gotta say, watching its evolution has been an educational and amazing ride. We’re fortunate to have everything we want and need within a few blocks of our front door. I love that unlike many Brooklyn neighborhoods, Crown Heights has managed to retain its character. Sure, we’ve got the dimly lit cocktail bars with tattooed mixologists, an overpriced cheese shop, restaurants that could very well be in the West Village, yoga studios, and a fancy bike store where you can get your fixie repaired. But, we’ve also still got loads of thriving mom and pop establishments, old-fashioned community meetings, beautiful churches, synagogues, and tons of people that have been there for generations, who aren’t allowing themselves to be pushed or priced out. And, we have Nostrand Avenue, which is a Caribbean food paradise. I get to bump shoulders daily with Hassidic Jews, Rastafarians, and lots of other interesting people. There’s not one predominant group. ….you’re gonna see all colors of skin, young and old, gay and straight, creatives and non-creatives, singles and couples, kids, and so on. Which is exactly the kind of world I want to live in. It doesn’t happen in every neighborhood in America. I love that kind of diversity. It makes me want to raise a kid in Crown Heights.

Localeur: Where do you go in Brooklyn / Manhattan to relax?

Daren: Easy answer - Prospect Park! It’s a quick bike ride from my apartment, so I get over there as often as I can. Every summer, Celebrate Brooklyn takes place in the park’s bandshell, and I don’t take that for granted. It’s an all-summer long arts and music festival showcasing some of the best talent in the world. And the vast majority of the shows are free, which is pretty rad. I’ve seen many of my favorite acts - The Roots, TV on the Radio, and Dead Weather - just to name a few. This weekend I’m going there to see St. Vincent with some friends. Nothing beats an afternoon lounging on a blanket, followed by some great music in the evening. I should also mention that Prospect Park is only a stone’s throw from the world class Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, so you can really make a day of it, if you feel to. Another place I like to unwind is BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music). There’s always something interesting to see there.

Localeur: What’s the best place in BK/NYC for you to get work done outside the office?

Daren: Coffee shops! So incredibly original, I know. Lucky for me, I’ve got a lot of nice ones within a few blocks of my apartment. My favorite is Crosby Coffee, but I also like Lazy Ibis and Breukelen Coffee House. A new one I’ll try soon is Tinto, which also serves ice cream. Eating lots of ice cream while working sounds like a good thing to me. 

Localeur: If you have a friend in town, what’s the go-to place to take them?

Daren: Depends. If it’s a never-been-to-NYC friend, Manhattan will definitely be in the picture. A walk on the High Line… lunch at Chelsea Market or Eataly… a stroll thru the West Village, these are things I’ve done many times with guests. Lately, however, for friends making their first visit to the city, I like to tailor an itinerary for them, set ‘em free, then meet up in the evenings for dinner at a place I haven’t been to. This way, they see what they’ve come to see, and after that, we get to enjoy something “new” together. It works well. Rooftop bars are always a fun way to end the night. I love JIMMY at The James Hotel and Refinery Rooftop (which has amazing views of the Empire State Building).

On the other hand, if you’re a friend who’s been to NYC before, it’s a different story. Get some rest before your trip, because whether you like it or not, I’m gonna keep you up all night in Brooklyn. We’ll both be tired the next day, but it’ll be worth it. Go to spots include Pearl’s Social & Billy Club, Northeast Kingdom, Cobra Club, and The Ides at Wythe Hotel. A recent discovery is Friends & Lovers, a bar/music venue that hosts these insane parties on the weekends. Out-of-towners really seem happy about the revelry and lawlessness they encounter in NYC. It’s nice to play a part in that.

Localeur: If you could only spend one day in any Brooklyn or Manhattan neighborhood, where would you go?

Daren: Odd as it might sound, I’d stay in my own neighborhood. Life gets so hectic and sometimes I get the feeling I’m not enjoying my own habitat like I should. I’d love a full day to explore all the blocks I’ve not seen and eat at the places I pass on a regular basis. So, yeah, I think I need to work on this. I just need to do it. The conflict is that even after all these years, I still love to get out and experience other parts of the city as often as possible.

Localeur: It’s a nice sunny day in the city and you want a refreshing drink, where to? 

Daren: Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights! My local spots are Franklin ParkCrown Inn, and Catfish. All are a great time with their patios and interesting, laid back crowds. My wife and I also love riding our bikes over to Red Hook on hot days. Our go-to place is the Brooklyn Ice House, which may be the best dive bar in Brooklyn.


Getting to Know Our Localeurs: Yvahn & Erin

Our Localeurs aren’t anonymous reviewers who spent one day or one weekend in the cities they write about. Equally important, our Localeurs aren’t Internet trolls with way too much time on their hands and nothing but negative experiences to share.

Our Localeurs are bloggers, creatives, designers, entrepreneurs, stylists, writers and movers and shakers with inside knowledge on what makes their cities awesome. We’ve started introducing our Localeurs to one another in cities as far and wide as New York and San Francisco. Yvahn Martin, a NYC Localeur, and Erin Duncan, a Bay Area Localeur, had the chance to get to know each other and here’s what they found out.

Erin: What was the reason you moved to New York City in the first place?

Yvahn: I was born and raised in New Orleans. I went to Ben Franklin High School, and then Tulane University. After a short stint in Los Angeles, I returned for a year prior to Hurricane Katrina, which brought me to NYC! I have lived in New York City for eight years now - seven in Harlem, after a year in the East Village.

There are a few major differences between Yvahn’s hometown of New Orleans and her new home city, New York

Erin: Being originally from New Orleans, how does the culture of New York differ in terms of pace, people, and attractions?  

Yvahn: New York and New Orleans are like night and day in some ways, but in other ways are very similar. New Yorkers are seen as brash, impatient, and snobbish. New Orleanians are laid back, hospitable and carefree. However, both New Orleanians and New Yorkers are fiercely proud of their cities, and most long-time residents view their location as a significant part of their identity. The both cultures are so unique and vibrant.

E: New Orleans is very well known for its food. How does the food of New Orleans differ from New York?

Yvahn: The food in New Orleans is decadent, indulgent, and rich. Anything that can be cooked in New Orleans will be fried, sautéed in butter, doused in a cream sauce, and rolled in sugar. Regardless of the type of cuisine, the Cajun or Creole influence will be seen, whether it’s African food, Indian food, Vietnamese food (all of which you can find in New Orleans) or American bistro food.

New York has a much more diverse culinary scene with a lot of ambitious restaurateurs, that are trying everything from replicating specific regional cuisines from around the world to inventing their own new food genres. You can find much more “authentic” global food around New York than New Orleans. But the great thing about NYC is that there are a lot of chefs from New Orleans, or who trained in New Orleans. There are pockets of Creole that I can find whenever I get homesick! Both places have awesome food for every budget, whether you’re buying a foot long po-boy from a deli in NOLA, a dollar slice of pizza in NYC, or having five star dining in either city.

Erin: What is your favorite part about living in New York? If you had to recommend five places, to see in the city, what would they be?

Yvahn: My favorite part of living in New York is the cultural diversity. If you travel through any of the five boroughs, you can find people from all over the globe creating community and celebrating diversity. To get the full frontal NYC experience in five (places), I would say go to eat Indian food in Queens at Jackson Diner first. (Catch the 7 train for some awesome graffiti). Then, have dim sum in Chinatown after shopping your way down Broadway from Union Square. Go out dancing at Bembe in Brooklyn after a trip to the Brooklyn Museum and Prospect Park. Take an excursion to the Bronx Botanical Gardens. Then, I would cap it off a day of museums or shopping in Manhattan, with a night out. I recommend Santos Party House (if you’re trying to get down and dirty) or Le Bain at The Standard Hotel, if you’re keeping it classy.

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New York’s cultural diversity is what sets it apart according to Yvahn.

Erin: What attracted you to Harlem, versus Brooklyn, as a destination?

Yvahn: For me, Harlem represented the Harlem Renaissance, and the epicenter of black art and culture throughout American history. Brooklyn is seen as more affordable (not so much anymore), more diverse, and has more apartment availability. Brooklyn has its own unique culture, and is awesome in many ways. But I didn’t move to NYC to live in Brooklyn. I wanted to be in Manhattan, the center of the universe!

Erin: What else do you do in your free time?

Yvahn: I read a lot. I cook and entertain at home. I go out dancing, or to hear live music. I love museums, literary readings, and art shows. I must admit I don’t get to them as often as I’d like. Free time is in short supply here, in the city that never sleeps!

Yvahn: What is it like being a real deal Bay Area native? Do you feel like a unicorn?

Erin: Man, unicorns are awesome. I do feel pretty awesome, being a native of the Bay Area though. There are a lot of us, but it seems like a lot of people who live here are from other areas. San Francisco is a tourist attraction, and has a really diverse/cool culture. You can be who you are here. We are like the loving grandmother - always with open hands and a smile.

Erin is a rare (some may say “unicorn”) find in the Bay Area. A true local.

Y: What is your favorite aspect of living in the Bay Area, and being from the area? What makes the culture unique?

Erin: I think one of my favorite aspects, about being from San Francisco, is this sense of familiarity that is still existent.  Growing up between Oakland and San Francisco, San Francisco definitely has been rocked a little by the gentrification that is taking place in Oakland (like Brooklyn.) But there are still these really familiar things around, from when I was growing up. For instance, when I was younger, my older cousins and I would walk from our Grandmother’s house in Japantown, to this candy store on Fillmore. Although that was nearly two decades ago now, it’s still there and looks the same. Also, the Sanrio store in the mall in Japantown is still there. That store made me fall in love with Spotty Dotty. She was my roll dog – pun intended.

In addition, what makes the culture unique is the fact that there are a lot of new things in the city, in terms of people, cultures or hangouts. But there is still this feeling that not too much has changed.

Yvahn: What is your least favorite aspect of living in the Bay?

Erin: I currently live out of San Francisco, in the East Bay. One of my favorite aspects of living in the Bay Area, in general, is that you are constantly finding new ways to fall in love with the city.  I am expanding my food palette, so now I’m learning about Pho, and Thai food, which I really love.  There is so much to do here.  Even though, sadly, our public transportation sucks in the sense, it’s 24-hours like NYC. You can find your way into something cool with just a drive/walk/bike ride or train ride.

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There’s another bridge in San Francisco worth checking out, says Erin.

Yvahn: What is your take on the cultural evolution of San Francisco given the boom in startup culture? How has it affected diversity or culture?

Erin: I actually love the shift that the startup culture has had, in terms of the culture of San Francisco.  There are more people, which I think has been good. I’ve been able to expand my friendship circle of people of different walks of life.  I also think it also brought along this crazy energy, and technology, to the city, which I am loving.

Yvahn: What are the must-sees and must-dos for a person visiting San Francisco for the first time?

Erin: If you’re visiting for the first time, you definitely should do some of the touristy things like: walk the Golden Gate Bridge, ride a cable car, go to Chinatown. You can also now walk on the Bay Bridge, but I think it’s ugly so I don’t know. I suppose the concept is cool. You should also try out the food we have here, either in the Ferry Building, or at Gussies in the Fillmore. I would also suggest, taking the 49-mile scenic route of San Francisco.  You’ll find a lot of really cool destinations.

Yvahn: Would you ever move anywhere else? If so, where?

Erin: I would definitely love DC.  I love the political and art culture there. I love the music scene in DC, with local acts like Diamond District, and the Low Budget Crew. I also love all of the lovely bearded men.


Tourist Reviews Don’t Resonate; Local Recommendations Do

Last week, Resonance Consultancy – a tourism-focused firm - published a report of the top 50 U.S. destinations relying on objective quantitative and qualitative criteria. These inputs included new business development, cultural additions, airport sizes, numbers of hotels and Fortune 500 business headquarters, sports teams, and relative crime statistics. These, we agree, are fairly decent parameters by which such a report can be developed.

However, the report had one major flaw: they relied on reviews from Yelp and Trip Advisor. The fundamental flaw in depending on reviews from sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor to get consumer sentiment is two-fold:

For starters, there is almost zero barrier of entry to writing a review on these sites. Right now, you could write a review about a coffee shop in Denver or a restaurant in LA on Yelp without so much as ever going to either because Yelp’s goal is to get as much content as possible; quantity over quality. Sure, they’ll have you believe their filters will weed out inauthentic reviews, but ask hundreds of business owners in cities like Austin how that has worked out. Truth be told, systems based in quantity leave a lot of credibility to be desired.

Secondly, review sites are built toward past-tense thinking. Tourism isn’t about the past tense, though, it’s about what you might do, where you want to go and what places you’re hoping to plan a trip to. That’s why recommendations are so much more powerful than reviews; which is why you ask your friends for recommendations on where to go instead of reviews on where they’ve been.

A recommendation is shared with the person(s) receiving it in mind, whereas reviews like those found on Yelp and TripAdvisor often start with a negative past-tense experience (“my waiter was so rude” or “the line to get in took forever”) with little consideration for the larger external audience which has a different set of questions (“what is the coolest bar to check out” or “should I go there for brunch or dinner”).

It’s this unfiltered, anonymous, free-for-all style of review aggregation that sometimes can lead readers into potentially bad experiences, because the reviewer failed to mention he wasn’t even a fan of Indian food or, worse, lied about having gone in the first place.

To be fair, the opposite can sometimes happen, but there is a problem with this as well. Often times, the reviewer has traveled to a place they will likely only experience once, possibly in their whole lives. How can this particular review, positive or negative, be taken with more than a grain of salt? This is why we rely solely on locals; the people who are patrons of local coffee shops, bars, restaurants, shops and yoga studios on a weekly if not daily basis. Real recognize real, and locals know local.

It’s the locals in Austin who made the city what it is today and makes visitors come from all over the country. It’s the locals in New York City and Brooklyn who make that city so great and dynamic and edgy. It’s the locals in L.A. who shape the city of dreams; not the tourists who visit Disney Land and take pictures of the Hollywood sign. It’s the locals in Miami who know the cool parts of the city not named South Beach.

Localeur’s aim is to address this important travel-and-trust related issue around authenticity and credibility by curating a community of people who live in these cities so that their point of view (and the recommendations they lend) is shaped before, during and long after those leisure and business travelers have left. These are the people who end up trying new restaurants multiple times, and having different dishes. They know where the cool, off-the-beaten-path and hidden gem spots are located. They know where to watch the game, where the best bartenders are, and how to take full advantage of alternative transportation.

The city’s locals (as defined in the modern sense, not the “where were you born” sense) are truly connoisseurs of local in cities around the world. These Localeurs are best suited to tell the story of culture and entertainment, within a city, Resonance Consultancy. These are the people tourists are so desperate to hear from, meet and get recommendations from. Simply put, reviews are what the tourists take home with them, but recommendations are what they visit a new city to experience. Your 2015 report on the top US destinations should reflect this fact. We’re here to help.