For eager wanderers like us, browsing a bookstore’s travel guidebook section tends to stir raw and conflicting emotions: lust, for the thrill of a new adventure; ennui, for the too-often trite content; and angst, for the endless options from which to choose.
After all, no matter how off-the-beaten-track you consider your destination, chances are likely the bookshelf holds at least a handful of guidebooks promising to be your travel bible. And while we strongly believe that the best way to experience travel is by immersing yourself in a place full-throttle—not with your nose in a book—there’s no denying the added confidence a guidebook provides in unfamiliar territory.
So when we heard about Portland-based eat.shop guides, we were eager to learn more. The guidebook series only features local shops and restaurants—such as Manhattan's Saxelby Cheesemongers (pictured) in Essex Street Market—so you can support establishments with local color instead of generic big-box stores and chain restaurants and hotels.
“We believe that for travelers, patronizing locally owned businesses is so integral to the real experience of any city,” eat.shop’s Emily Mattson explained to us. “Especially in the U.S., it's too easy to stay within your comfort zone while traveling: drinking Starbucks, for example, because you recognize the logo on the street. Why not go to Ristretto Roasters here in Portland, for example, where the owner, roaster, and barista are passionate about what they're serving you?”
We couldn’t agree more. The guidebook series currently covers 18 cities, each presented in a neat, five-inch square book filled with approximately 90 picks for local businesses, presented with inviting photos, conversational prose, and clean, solid design.
But just how does eat.shop choose their fodder, especially in colossal global cities like New York or Paris? “New York was unique because five of the authors literally took to the streets of the city for a week and then pow-wowed about their experiences each evening,” Mattson says. “With much conversation and much editing, they were able to come up with what they thought were the most original, the most interesting, and/or the best of their kind. It helps, too, that most of them have lived in one or more of the boroughs at some point. Part of what makes that guide stand apart from the others is the sort of spontaneous, random collection of must-visit places.”
Unfortunately, an unavoidable downfall to the guidebook series' all-local mantra is the propensity for small businesses to close, so call ahead or check eat.shop's website, which does its best to stay up-to-date.
Photo: eat.shop guides