Conversations and quotes in this article have been transcribed from the Foodbeast Katchup podcast: "#107: Becoming A Foodie Influencer at 50 Years Old," out now on Spotify, the Apple Podcasts App, and all major platforms where podcasts are heard.
Working in food media, I get asked for restaurant recommendations fairly often, but even as I've enjoyed and have had the privilege to enjoy various type of food in Southern California, I've caught myself hesitating to recommend Mexican taco shops and trucks, in particular.
It's not that I don't want you to enjoy these places, but more so that I fear you won't understand or connect with the experience in the same way I would, and therefore not enjoy it as much as I do.
Growing up in a Mexican household, with Mexican food, and Mexican traditions, it can be heartbreaking for someone to put down an eating experience you cherish.
Sure, everyone loves tacos, but even then, my favorite trucks will be sprinkled with Yelp reviews that hit you with the, "It's good, but they cook all the meats in the same griddle," or "They had some weird meats, and we had to eat standing up."
I kind of get it, but that's just how we eat tacos, baby girl!
Turns out, I'm not alone in withholding eats that I hold close to my heart.
On the Foodbeast Katchup podcast, Connie Aboubakare, AKA @OCcomestibles, brought up the subject of keeping a restaurant secret, for cultural reasons.
"I don't want any negative reaction or comments from people who don't know what it is," Aboubakare said. "It's not what you're accustomed to, so it can have backlash on that place."
It brought up an interesting conversation about "protecting" cultural restaurants that might not fit the mold of your everyday Yelp Elite.
If your favorite Oaxacan restaurant serves crickets or your favorite Laotian restaurant serves the pungent Thum Mak Hoong dish, they might not sit well with the everyday person, leading to unfavorable reviews, simply for them being unfamiliar with the cuisine.
That similar sentiment had been powerfully shared by our own Foodbeast staffer Peter Pham, who had often shared meals with us at a traditional Southeast Asian restaurant he loves, but with preconditions.
We agree to not check in on Yelp, tag the location on social media, or even post photos of the place. We all respect his wishes, enjoy the little mom-and-pop restaurant, and appreciate the traditional dishes from an often overlooked Asian region.
Further in the Katchup podcast conversation, host Elie Ayrouth expressed that he had a Lebanese restaurant he is often terrified to tell people about, as Middle Eastern dishes aren't exactly American mainstays.
Tripa taco from Tacos El Venado/Peter Pham
Withholding our favorite restaurants from others is a real thing, and it intensifies with restaurants of other cultures that are unfamiliar to the masses.
You probably know some people like this. You probably are someone like this, but just know: Yelp reviews don't always tell the whole story, but if you open your mind, the dishes will.