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The Taxi Gourmet
August 30, 2010 5:05 PM   Subscribe

The Taxi Gourmet Every week, I get in a taxi, ask the driver to take me to his or her favorite restaurant.

Layne Mosler tests the recommendations of cab drivers in Buenos Aires, Berlin and New York, where she is also a licensed cabbie herself. Want to cut to the chase? NY & Buenos Aires have a Top 5.
posted by jontyjago (98 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
My grandmother used to do this regularly. We discovered Italian and Polish joints all over Chicago that would not have been on our usual migration paths. I remember learning how to eat spaghetti correctly with fork and spoon; I must have been eight years old. Mid-1960s. There was an illuminated Budweiser horse wagon model over the bar, I would have liked it for my room. Become a taxi gourmet and expand your world!
posted by homerica at 5:10 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hey, the Ganapati Temple is (relatively) near my house! I've gone to a number of different ceremonies and services there. And they do have incredible Dosas. Website.
posted by zarq at 5:13 PM on August 30, 2010


This is an inspired idea. I spent a month in Toronto on business once. Almost all the cabbie there were either Pakistani, Indian, Sri Lankan, Malaysian, Thai, Laotian, or Vietnamese. Every evening I'd hail a cab and ask to be taken to the driver"s favorite curry house. I had a great month.
posted by 3.2.3 at 5:13 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Every week, I get in a taxi, ask the driver to take me to his or her favorite restaurant demand that he provide a service other than the one I'm paying him for.

Seriously, this sounds insufferable. If I were a taxi driver, I'd kick a person out for doing this.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:22 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Brilliant idea. Back in the day, when I first got to New York City, we would get in cabs and ask the driver to take us to the hottest nightspot in town. We'd invariably have a great time, and realize only afterwards that we'd been to a joint that would only later become all kinds of famous. Cabbies rule.
posted by monospace at 5:24 PM on August 30, 2010


Having a bad day?
posted by smackfu at 5:24 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wish I didn't feel this way -- I wish I were not so cynical a person -- but unfortunately, the very first thing I thought before actually clicking through and looking at the site was this: "If I did this, the cabbies would just drive me as far as they possibly could in order to get the biggest possible fare."
posted by Gator at 5:26 PM on August 30, 2010 [15 favorites]


Seriously, this sounds insufferable fantastic. If I were a taxi driver, I'd kick a person out for doing this drive 'em to the farthest place I know.

Everybody wins man.
posted by monospace at 5:28 PM on August 30, 2010 [9 favorites]


"If I did this, the cabbies would just drive me as far as they possibly could in order to get the biggest possible fare."

While that undoubtedly happens, I'd like to think that cabbies don't generally go out of their way to screw their passengers.
posted by zarq at 5:30 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously, this sounds insufferable. If I were a taxi driver, I'd kick a person out for doing this.

Really?

My boyfriend always talks to cab drivers (asks them where they're from, asks them what the best place in Chicago is to get [nationality] food, talks to them in [native language] if he knows a few words of it). They always seem to get a kick out of it and genuinely enjoy the conversation.

I think you're just a little bit grumpypants this evening.
posted by phunniemee at 5:30 PM on August 30, 2010 [12 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: "Every week, I get in a taxi, ask the driver to take me to his or her favorite restaurant demand that he provide a service other than the one I'm paying him for.

Seriously, this sounds insufferable. If I were a taxi driver, I'd kick a person out for doing this.
"

In my experience, "driving people to places" is the main service taxi drivers provide.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:30 PM on August 30, 2010 [34 favorites]


Seriously, I'm not sure what you find so insufferable about this, Bulgaroktonos. Ultimately you're still asking the taxi driver to provide the same service - taking a paying passenger to a place. And it's an interesting way to find new, interesting, hopefully high-quality places to eat while connecting with the people around you. Plus, it's the best kind of conversation starter - asking a person to talk about him/ herself. He gets a fare, you get a good meal, a nice eating place gets another paying customer; everybody wins.

That's the best kind of win!
posted by WalterMitty at 5:31 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


3.2.3, then you almost certainly went to King Palace at least once. It used to be at Sherbourne and Adelaide (downtown east side, a little shabby), but is now at Church and Davenport (a little more upscale). Really nice people, good food, generous portions and great prices.
posted by maudlin at 5:33 PM on August 30, 2010


I wonder if this works better than my dad's theory which is to "eat at the place with the most cops there."
posted by JoanArkham at 5:46 PM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that if you did that in my city, you'd end up at Wendys or KFC most of the time.
posted by octothorpe at 5:46 PM on August 30, 2010


Well, the cab driver doesn't have to take the fare, I assume. (I know that there are rules saying that cab drivers can't refuse fares, but presumably people who don't know where they want to go don't count.) And I think that if a cab driver recommended a restaurant to me, I'd tip a little better - because this isn't part of the job.

But I'm too cheap for cabs.
posted by madcaptenor at 5:48 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not really sure how people don't see this as incredibly rude, but here goes:

Taxi drivers drive you places; places you select. Their job is not to select place for you, that's asking them to do something else. Asking the cab driver to select a restaurant for me is like asking my pilot to select my vacation destination; it's not his job and it's not really worth his time.

Also, the whole enterprise assumes that the taxi driver wants 1) has a favorite place to eat, 2) wants to talk about it, and 3) wants to take you there. Not a single one of those assumptions is remotely safe. Lots of people don't have favorite restaurants. Maybe this guy only ever eats at McDonald's. Lastly, maybe he doesn't really want a bunch of presumptuous hipster douchebags bothering him and eating at his local place.

Plus, it's the best kind of conversation starter - asking a person to talk about him/ herself.

No, asking perfect strangers to talk about themselves without any kind of prompting is rude.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:49 PM on August 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


Most of the time, the drivers I get won't acknowledge a single word I say except at the beginning and end of the ride. I guess it's a combination of language barrier, simple disinterest, and the probability that a passenger is as likely to be talking on a phone as to them. But to me, it gives a cabdriver a sense of terrible dignity, as if my very presence intrudes on a man with a grave silent duty, like a Beefeater guard listening to a Haitian radio station.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:49 PM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow, what a cool idea. It's true that there might be some cabbies that will get ticked at you because they don't like interacting with their back seat passengers, but there are plenty of chatty cabbies who'd probably be excited to share their favorite restaurant with you.
posted by bluelight at 5:49 PM on August 30, 2010


> I'm not really sure how people don't see this as incredibly rude

Perhaps because, unlike you, they've actually interacted with cabbies. At least in NYC, they love to talk and recommend restaurants. But keep on hatin'!
posted by languagehat at 5:53 PM on August 30, 2010 [11 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos, we have very different ideas about what is considered rude behavior. That's not bad just strange for me.
posted by josher71 at 5:53 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Lastly, maybe he doesn't really want a bunch of presumptuous hipster douchebags bothering him and eating at his local place.

I was wondering how long it would take you to say the word "hipster".
posted by inigo2 at 6:03 PM on August 30, 2010 [16 favorites]


I'm guessing she doesn't storm up to the cabbie and demand anything. She probably just asks. A good percentage of cabs I've been in have had friendly, chatty drivers.

> No, asking perfect strangers to talk about themselves without any kind of prompting is rude.

"Where to?"

"I'm looking for somewhere good to eat -- what's your favorite restaurant around here?"
posted by stp123 at 6:07 PM on August 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Maudlin, I used to eat at King Palace EVERY DAY. What a fantastic hole in the wall it was at the old location. My office was across the street above the bar.
posted by unSane at 6:16 PM on August 30, 2010


Eh, I kind of get it Bulgaroktonos.

As someone who has worked in service industries: When the customer gets chatty I'm sure they imagine they are being egalitarian and blending with the locals. Unfortunately it more often comes across as condescending because there is generally a very real power imbalance between server and served.

Now I don't know the woman and maybe she has a natural rapport that suits this kind of minor imposition, but while this is a brief moment in her fabulous life this may make an (average) 12 hour shift even longer.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:18 PM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I can see being annoyed, if I were already in a bad mood, by someone presuming that I had a favorite restaurant and that it was some obscure ethnic place. But in that case I could just drive them to the nearest Starbucks, collect my $5, and go on to the next fare.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:20 PM on August 30, 2010


Yeah, I work in the service industry as well and I'm always happy when asked my opinions about things are sought after and then even more if they are acted upon.
posted by josher71 at 6:20 PM on August 30, 2010


Also, the whole enterprise assumes that the taxi driver wants 1) has a favorite place to eat, 2) wants to talk about it, and 3) wants to take you there.

In the Buenos Aires section she mentions that on several occasions she got out of the cab if the driver didn't want to talk / take her to his favourite place. So it's not like she forces them to do anything they don't want.
posted by jontyjago at 6:21 PM on August 30, 2010


Metafilter: I was wondering how long it would take you to say the word "hipster".
posted by Fleebnork at 6:21 PM on August 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's totally antisocial to think that talking to strangers is automatically rude. It's the initiator's obligation to give opportunities to be given a hint and then to take the hint: a simple, "Hi. Valencia and 22nd please. How's your day going?" You can tell from the answer whether the person feels chatty. Many times, I've found taxi drivers so eager to tell me some of their most personal stories.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 6:28 PM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos, I think you are confusing taxi drivers with bus drivers. It is, in fact, rude to ask the bus driver to take you to their favorite restaurant.
posted by iloveit at 6:37 PM on August 30, 2010 [31 favorites]


Didn't the restaurant critic in Netherland do this?
posted by .kobayashi. at 6:44 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm reading Netherland right this second, and when I saw this post I had this weird mental hiccup.

Also, treating people like human beings instead of job specific robots is never rude.
posted by mmmbacon at 6:53 PM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I tell ya, I don't get no respect. I asked the taxi driver where I could get some action. He took me to my place!
posted by Trochanter at 6:59 PM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos, I actually share some your reluctance, but this is really beyond the beyond. "Incredibly rude?"

1. The pilot example is stupid. But I would be interested in whether you bristle with rage when a fellow diner asks a waiter what he'd recommend, or worse yet what his favorite dish is.

2. Your argument turns on whether cab drivers regard this as intrusive or pleasurable, and I don't think you have a monopoly on the social information. None of your assumptions is remotely safe, either. FWIW, taxi drivers ask me all the time about myself, and some of the assholes even want to know where I'm going.

Let's just get past this. Why don't we imagine someone asking, "I don't mean to be rude, but do you have a favorite restaurant you can recommend to me?" and then -- if he gets a lead, against all odds -- leaving a nice tip.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:05 PM on August 30, 2010


I know people who've done this, and no, the cabbies don't gouge them, you usually end up at some awesomely cheap hole-in-the-wall veggie/Indian/middle-eastern place you never would have looked twice at that's actually on the main routes cause they have to eat on the job close to where the fares are too.
posted by The Whelk at 7:11 PM on August 30, 2010


Also, Taxi Drivers are people, and like people, they may enjoy a little friendly interaction to breakup what is sure a a very dull routine in a job that is really hard and boring.
posted by The Whelk at 7:12 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


There are plenty of cabbies who might not mind, but I'd consider you an insufferable elitist douchebag for doing this. You're making a lot of assumptions along the lines of a) ethnic cab driver must be poor, b) ethnic cab driver has magical powers to signify a pure, "authentic" cultural experience for white, wealthy tourist, and c) all poor, non-white people are inevitably culinary experts seeing as how they're all poor and non-white and these people always magically eat perfectly wonderful examples of their country-of-origin's "authentic" cuisine.

It's a form of Orientalism with big splashes of elitism and naivete thrown in for good measure.
posted by bardic at 7:17 PM on August 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


(Although I think asking about where the best restaurants are is fine. It's just the 21st century equivalent of "Take me their promptly in this metal rickshaw to sample your unique and inscrutable Mooselman cuisines, heathen!" rubs me the wrong way.)
posted by bardic at 7:19 PM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've certainly never taken a cab ride in my life that didn't involve being relentlessly chatted at by the cab driver, so this seems like a no-brainer to me. But I wouldn't do this in my city, simply because you usually don't hail cabs here, you call them for dispatch. If a cabbie comes all the way out to get me and then doesn't feel like playing restaurant tour guide, that's a big chunk of time for him or her.
posted by KathrynT at 7:19 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Boy, I'd hate to hear what you people think about my method for finding whorehouses.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:22 PM on August 30, 2010 [9 favorites]


There are plenty of cabbies who might not mind, but I'd consider you an insufferable elitist douchebag for doing this. You're making a lot of assumptions along the lines of a) ethnic cab driver must be poor, b) ethnic cab driver has magical powers to signify a pure, "authentic" cultural experience for white, wealthy tourist, and c) all poor, non-white people are inevitably culinary experts seeing as how they're all poor and non-white and these people always magically eat perfectly wonderful examples of their country-of-origin's "authentic" cuisine.

Fine I'll go to the all you can eat veggie buffet on 35th street by myself. More Raita for me.
posted by The Whelk at 7:28 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fight for your right to be grumpy!
posted by smackfu at 7:30 PM on August 30, 2010


It's not the asking for good restaurants that bothers me, it's the "Take me there promptly Sabu, and delight me with your inscrutable Chinee delights."

It's the difference between asking them for their favorites as a human being and asking them as an impoverished authenticity dispenser.
posted by bardic at 7:30 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Fight for your right to be grumpy!"

Oh, I'm always grumpy. It's more like "Fight for your right not to be an asshole," which is a much worse crime IMO.
posted by bardic at 7:32 PM on August 30, 2010


I've never driven a cab, but I used to work the front desk at a hotel, and I'd get these same kinds of questions.

As far as I was concerned there were basically 3 kinds of hotel guests:

1. The ones who want nothing more than basic interaction. Check in, more towels, check out, done. They don't want anything from me, I don't need anything from them, everybody's happy.

2. The ones who want to experience the city and seek local expertise. These are the people who asked me about my favorite restaurant/jazz club/place to shop. They typically valued the advice I gave them and often followed it, and frequently told me how much fun they had on whatever adventure I sent them on. They were friendly and respectful and when I could help someone have a great time in my hometown I felt less like a minimum-wage worker and more like an ambassador. People who sought my advice typically made my shift.

3. The ones who expect me to be their servants. These people didn't ask me what I thought, they demanded that I tell them what I know. They wanted the fastest way to get to the church for their cousin's wedding and I'd better know how to route them around the construction or they would blame me personally if they were late! They needed xxx obscure electronic item and yelled at me for being incompetent when I did not know where to obtain it. They never asked me for restaurant recommendations because they didn't give a shit about the food I like. These people ruined my day.

It sounds like the Taxi Gourmet lands solidly in Category 2.
posted by philotes at 7:33 PM on August 30, 2010 [25 favorites]


...I'd consider you an insufferable elitist douchebag for doing this. You're making a lot of assumptions along the lines of a) ethnic cab driver must be poor, b) ethnic cab driver has magical powers to signify a pure, "authentic" cultural experience for white, wealthy tourist, and c) all poor, non-white people are inevitably culinary experts seeing as how they're all poor and non-white and these people always magically eat perfectly wonderful examples of their country-of-origin's "authentic" cuisine.


It's a form of Orientalism with big splashes of elitism and naivete thrown in for good measure.


One of the best meals I ever had in my life was when a white Southern college student driving a cab in Orlando, FL took me (an African American woman) to a restaurant his family owned. I had alligator tail, and it was incredible.

They might not have been rich, but they certainly weren't poor. They were definitely white, and the country of origin for the authentic cuisine was, well, this one. As for our interaction, it went something like this:

"Such-and-such hotel, please."

"No problem. How was your day?"

"Good, but I tell you, I'm starving!"

"Yeah? Wanna try some local food? I know just the place."



So...methinks we not the only elitist douchebags, here.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:36 PM on August 30, 2010 [10 favorites]


Also, the whole enterprise assumes that the taxi driver wants 1) has a favorite place to eat, 2) wants to talk about it, and 3) wants to take you there.

No kidding...assuming that taxi drivers are normal people is SO RUDE!

Take me there promptly Sabu

Especially since they are all inscrutable foreigners!
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:38 PM on August 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


When you're in a new place, you ask the locals what they like and where they eat, the Front desk at a hotel is a good place to start cause they ...live there. Cabbies often have to eat on the run and in the middle of busy areas so they can keep up trade, so when I was a starving student with no money (as opposed to a starving artist with no money) you'd know to go where cabbies go, cause it's usually lots of fun, very fast, very cheap, and since they have to cater to a range of dietary restrictions (veggie/halal/kosher, etc) usually very good.


I'm not seeing the problem here. It seems win/win.
posted by The Whelk at 7:42 PM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


And I think most people like being treated like a person as in "Hi! I am a visitor to your city! I don't know what to do! What do you like?" rather than as CUSTOMER SERVICE BOT 77.
posted by The Whelk at 7:45 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's the difference between asking them for their favorites as a human being and asking them as an impoverished authenticity dispenser.

Yeah, I just don't get that. I mean, I do "get" it, but I don't think it's the case here. I didn't see anything there that involved requesting that the cabbie take anyone to their favorite place to eat their own ethnic food.

I've asked cabbies where they like to eat. I've also asked cops, ambulance drivers, and pretty much any other road-warriors who seemed friendly. It has a lot less to do with being impoverished and assumed as committed to eating by their nationality as it is that these folks generally 1) Eat out a lot. 2) Appreciate value.

Sometimes they are happy to tell you. Great. Sometimes, they're unwilling or unable. That's fine too. I also think it's interesting, though, that in assuming a cabbie "might not want their spot overrun", some folks are also overlooking a hard-working small business owner who would almost definitely kill to have their business overrun by any paying customers who appreciated the food.
posted by rollbiz at 7:49 PM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Bardic, I think you're really imputing emotions to people that may not be there. Cabbies:

a) often know a city inside out
b) drop off all kinds of customers all kinds of places
c) eat when they're on the job, so need something fastish and cheap

Why wouldn't I ask them for advice? The cultural angle is by the by, here.

Then again, I'm Australian, and we ride in the front passenger seats with cabbies here, so I understand that - culturally speaking - we're maybe a bit more pally-pally with our drivers than people in other countries may be.
posted by smoke at 7:50 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now I'm hungry!

It's not the asking for good restaurants that bothers me, it's the "Take me there promptly Sabu, and delight me with your inscrutable Chinee delights."


Where does she do that?

As a cabbie, I think she probably has a decent idea of how to talk to another cabbie, and perhaps has some insight into what's rude and what's not in that line of work.
posted by rtha at 7:51 PM on August 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


Hell I did this in Paris and got to a Hungarian place which, by the miracle of six-degrees of separation, was run by the Uncle of the same cab driver I met in Budapest who brought me to HIS mother's place for cornflake-fried chicken and beets. Apparently they all talked and remembered the gabby American with the bleach hair and loud ties who actually spoke some Magyar and could knock back a hot of unicum without grimacing.
posted by The Whelk at 7:56 PM on August 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


a shot, a hot would be, ...intolerable.
posted by The Whelk at 7:59 PM on August 30, 2010


How do they get the unicum out of the unicorn?

In Mexico I usually rode in the front seat and had plenty of interesting conversations with cab drivers. I've gotten all kinds of food and drink recommendations from them. and been offered everything from cheap drugs to eternal salvation.

Pro tip: When in a new city, taking an early evening cab back to where you are staying, if you see someone interesting out on the street, ask the driver "Where do you take people like that at night?". If you get an answer, go there at night.
posted by dirty lies at 8:39 PM on August 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have a friend who when we go out to eat simply tells the waiter to "give me tonight's special" Does not even look at the menu. I certainly see how this can be rude and condescending. However, I am a "When in Rome do as the Romans" kind of guy and I ask locals all the time for recommendations.

In fact, when I first moved to Chicago, I was walking by myself down Clark Street near Wrightwood when I came upon a group of guys who looked about my age and seemed to be going somewhere fun. I asked them where a place to get a cheap cold beer was around there. They asked if I lived in town. I told them I moved there 2 weeks ago knowing no one and well still knew no one other than a guy at work.

Next thing I know I am walking down Wrightwood towards Burling and I am in the Burwood tap circa 1985 doing shots and drinking beers with 5 guys who grew up on the south side and wanted to talk trash about NY v Chicago and the Giants v Da Bears. I didn't pay for a beer all night. By the end of the night, I had found out so much about where to go, where to eat and what to do in Chicago! If only I wasn't so smashed I might have remembered half of it in the morning. I did recall making my first of over a hundred trips to the Weiner Circle that night. Another initiation first. This NYer had no concept of a char dog with pickles, tomatos, onions hot peppers, etc on it. Beats a dirty water dog anyday!! ANd the cheese fries still hurt my chest thinking about them. Oh, and it turned out that one of the guys also worked on the Exchange with me and we became pretty decent friends.

So, ask, it can't hurt.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:45 PM on August 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


I could see if you asked a cab driver to take you to his favorite restaurant, and he's perhaps Indian, and he takes you to a French restaurant, and then getting snippy with him and insisting that he take you to his favorite INDIAN restaurant... that you're somehow engaging this on the wrong level. But asking anyone what their favorite place to eat is... that's usually a guaranteed way to have at least a minimal amenable conversation with another human being. Everyone has favorites, and they don't really have to correspond with one's (perhaps mistaken) assumptions.

That said, when I went to Honolulu a few years ago, I asked my cab driver who drove me from the airport to my hotel for suggestions about places to visit which he knew about and which weren't necessarily typical tourist stops. He recommended two bars and a restaurant to me, all of which were delightful.
posted by hippybear at 8:56 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


>a) ethnic cab driver must be poor

Way to assume all cab drivers are "ethnic." Sheesh. I wonder how many of the naysayers ever worked service jobs. When I worked retail, I really liked providing local advice. If someone was a chatty Charles, or I was too busy, I'd just give them the requisite terse answer/body language and no harm done. The anecdotal and first hand evidence here overwhelmingly says that service workers enjoy being treated this way within reasonable boundaries. I had a great chat with my cabbie yesterday at 3 am and we both seemed the happier for it.

Not every human interaction is wrought with ethical, classist and racist landmines. I used to feel that way and that's when I started seeing a therapist for social phobia.
posted by Skwirl at 9:33 PM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


You're making a lot of assumptions along the lines of a) ethnic cab driver must be poor, b) ethnic cab driver has magical powers to signify a pure, "authentic" cultural experience for white, wealthy tourist, and c) all poor, non-white people are inevitably culinary experts seeing as how they're all poor and non-white and these people always magically eat perfectly wonderful examples of their country-of-origin's "authentic" cuisine.

I'm pretty sure white taxi drivers will also have favorite restaurants. I'm also pretty sure non-white people are allowed to try this.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:49 PM on August 30, 2010 [11 favorites]


"We discovered Italian and Polish joints all over Chicago"

Well that's great, but I thought this was about food!
posted by Twang at 10:15 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I got a cat! I own a cat! I have a CAAAAAT! Fro the shelter down on oh that is it 2nd street? And I got in a cab from there to oh lets say very uptown and got an irish Cabbie who so so wanted to know about oh this cata and oh how i got it and yes he's cute oh don't have a name yet and he said he really liked the Pipier's Inn, in In wood for a good time, or maybe the Molly Wee Pub, or Malachy's on 72nd, now that the All Star was gone, so, is that ethnic? I don
't know. I like to go to Malachy's on Sundays. Great Burgers. Dorian is a pip.
posted by The Whelk at 10:19 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I got a cat! I own a cat! I have a CAAAAAT!

When mentioning cats on metafilter, It's good form to include a link to photos (of said cat).
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:32 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


A lot of the fun of Metafilter is trying to guess how people will shit on a good idea before reading the comments. I get 3 points!
posted by mhjb at 11:09 PM on August 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


In my professional opinion this sounds just fine to me. Passengers are people too and quite a few are assholes but she seems to not be so it should be fun talking to her about restaurants a little bit. Assholes and nice people both talk to the driver, the difference is just in what they say.
posted by Authorized User at 12:29 AM on August 31, 2010


This approach has worked well for me on countless occasions both here and abroad, including one of the best meals I've eaten in San Francisco.

Of course it's not foolproof.

I find it's better to get into the cab with a destination already in mind. This gives you an opportunity to sound the driver out. Some drivers are not particularly chatty, helpful, or much interested in food, so there's not much point in asking them for recommendations. This is also why you probably shouldn't get into a cab and blindly ask the driver to take you to a restaurant of their choosing (they may not care about food and/or may just use this as an excuse to drive you across town).

But often enough you'll find drivers who are friendly, helpful, and love talking about food. If they recommend a restaurant that sounds good to you (and you've established it's not too far out of your way) you can then ask them to take you there.

Don't tell Bulgaroktonos, but we've even eaten with cabbies before! You know, I hate to generalize but I've found that most cabbies are just like, well, normal people. Who knew? (I kid Bulgaroktonos, I kid). :)

One of my favorite instances was in New Orleans. The cabby went on a semi-angry (and unintentionally hilarious) tirade about how cheap Southern Baptists were. It was bad enough, according to him, that they didn't tip well (if at all), but it was downright criminal that so many of them would pack hot plates and cook food in their hotel rooms rather than spend money in restaurants. Why go to New Orleans if you're not going to enjoy the food? Can't argue with that.

He then rattled off a list of cheap restaurants with excellent food. We then mentioned we used to live in the city, were familiar with and loved several of the names but hand't been to one of them before. He immediately started his course correction before saying something like "unless you absolutely have to be somewhere in the next hour, I'm taking you there now". God I miss New Orleans.

posted by Davenhill at 1:19 AM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos, I think you need to recalibrate your idea of what constitutes "insufferable behavior" on an average Saturday night taxi shift. In my conversations with taxi drivers, I find they reserve their complaints for people who:
- don't pay the fare
- puke in the cab
- crash into them, esp. with a muni bus
- ticket them for an illegal left turn at Mission and Fremont (not illegal for taxis)
- rob them at gunpoint

I've never heard a cab driver bitch about people asking for restaurant recommendations, so I think that's OK (provided you're not puking/robbing/ticketing them at the time).
posted by ryanrs at 2:20 AM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh yeah, they also don't like limo drivers who pick up passengers off the street.
posted by ryanrs at 2:22 AM on August 31, 2010


But I'm too cheap for cabs.

You could always try it with bus drivers.
posted by rhymer at 2:47 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cool idea. I'm surprised that that would work, though. If someone asked me what my favourite restaurant was, I'd be stumped. I mean, what do you mean? Chinese, Italian, Turkish, French, German or what?

Does everyone have one Favourite Restaurant?

Also, I don't think I'd like the typical quick pub food I associate with taxi drivers here. But yeah, maybe I just associate wrong, so I will try it out on the next taxi driver I meet (they all start talking at me anyway, so I'm sure they wouldn't mind).
posted by Omnomnom at 3:06 AM on August 31, 2010


Whenever I'm in a strange town, I like to ask a Big Issue seller to take me to his favourite drug dealer.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:07 AM on August 31, 2010


Gator: "If I did this, the cabbies would just drive me as far as they possibly could in order to get the biggest possible fare.""

But my favourite restaurant really is in Atlantic City!

inigo2: "I was wondering how long it would take you to say the word "hipster"."

Say "hipster" again. Say "hipster" again! I dare you! I double-dare you, motherfucker! Say "hipster" one more goddamn time!

Trochanter: "I tell ya, I don't get no respect. I asked the taxi driver where I could get some action. He took me to my place!"

Reminds me of that old joke: my wife told me she wanted to eat someplace expensive for our anniversary, so I took her to the airport for a sandwich.

dirty lies: "How do they get the unicum out of the unicorn?

Uniporn, I surmise.
posted by bwg at 4:13 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


We discovered Italian and Polish joints all over Chicago

Or you could come to London and try everyone's favourite Mexican/Polish restaurant with a French name - L'Autre.

Anyways, if you go to Bangkok, I've often found that the taxi driver takes you to his favourite place whether you've asked to go there or not.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:14 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


If someone asked me what my favourite restaurant was, I'd be stumped. I mean, what do you mean? Chinese, Italian, Turkish, French, German or what? Does everyone have one Favourite Restaurant?

There was a whole AskMe about this, how some people have trouble with this question that other people don't think twice about.
posted by smackfu at 5:38 AM on August 31, 2010


If I make extra demands of my local service-industry worker, they are compensated via tipping.
Simple as that.

If they don't want to deal with chatty customers, they probably shouldn't be in a frontline service industry.
posted by Theta States at 6:04 AM on August 31, 2010


Metafilter: like a Beefeater guard listening to a Haitian radio station
posted by spinturtle at 6:48 AM on August 31, 2010


dirty lies: "How do they get the unicum out of the unicorn?

Get it horny
posted by Beardman at 7:07 AM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


> I'd consider you an insufferable elitist douchebag for doing this. You're making a lot of assumptions ... It's a form of Orientalism with big splashes of elitism and naivete thrown in for good measure.

But it's OK to make nasty assumptions about your fellow MeFites. Got it.
posted by languagehat at 7:10 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: making nasty assumptions about your fellow MeFites
posted by bwg at 8:07 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why does it often seem that the people who get all concerned and sensitive about possible race/ethnic problem are the ones who are really racist. Jesus, regardless of whatever their origins, etc., they're people. Turn off the color filter for a second and try and think of things as actual human interactions instead of possible offenses against your freethinking sensibilities. Sometimes it's about dinner and not belittling the local Sherpas or whatever. How do you function when you feel the need to sniff every innocent statement for the possible stink of offense? And if there isn't any, make some up? With so many actual offenses, why is this even necessary?
posted by umberto at 8:38 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


There are plenty of cabbies who might not mind, but I'd consider you an insufferable elitist douchebag for doing this. You're making a lot of assumptions along the lines of...

There sure are a lot of assumptions going on, but they're coming from you. Let's recap:

"Every week, I get in a taxi, ask the cabbie to take me to his/her favorite place to eat and document the adventure."

versus

"Every week, I, a wealthy white person, get in a taxi, ask the ethnic cabbie to take me to his/her favourite ethnic place to eat, which should be the same ethnicity cuisine as the cabbie, and it should be 'authentic'".

One is what was actually said, and the other is what you projected into it. Personally my first thought was that this was a way to tap into local (resident) knowledge, not ethnic knowledge. If I did this in NYC it would be so as to "ask a New Yorker", not "ask an Iranian", and if the Iranian cabbie took me to a Ghanaian restaurant, who cares, all part of the pot luck fun. If I knew I wanted Iranian food I'd use the internet, not ask a stranger their "favorite" (unspecified type) eatery.

Now, I grant you, having actually skimmed the site, expecting to find an example just like that (Iranian guys takes you to a Ghanian restuarant) - I failed. In fact it does look rather like the author has a bit of an "expecting a Turkish restuarant from the Turkish driver" thing going on, which is perhaps what you were reacting to? This for a random example makes me rather more understanding of your judgement; they're not accepting the cabbie's genuine first thought, due to it not being "soulful" enough - it does rather have that air of "surely you must know authentic" to it.

So I see where you're coming from, and true, that's one possible way this gambit could get into culturally dubious waters, but there's no reason to assume everybody (here) would treat this that way, is there? If we assume the ethnicities of the fare, the cabbie and the cuisine are all freely interchangeable and, well, irrelevant, is it still douchebaggy?
posted by Slyfen at 9:09 AM on August 31, 2010


On numerous occasions I and my travelling buddies have faced significant layovers in cities here and overseas. In those instances we have gone out to the taxi queue and said to the cabbie: "We have a x-hour layover. Would you be interested in showing us around your city?" Invariably they have said "yes." They're interested because it's an extended fare -- much easier and more enjoyable than the 'back-and-forths' taking arriving/departing passengers to/from the airport. And in many places they have to enter a taxi queque -- and can wait even hours for their turn to pick up the next fare.

Aside from the economics every cabbie in every city/country we have encountered has enjoyed being an ambassador to those unfamiliar with their hometown. We have found that they are proud and enthusiastic in the endeavor.

We have stopped for a snack and invited the cabbie to join us (and, yes, we leave the meter running). We've toured some museums while the cabbie waits for us out front, etc.

Upon our return to the airport we've asked for their business card and/or cellphone number and let them know we would be honored to use their taxi service when back in town for a more extended stay. And let me tell you, these cabbies remember you -- and on one occasion the cabbie has invited us home for a tradional Greek dinner when we returned to Athens after spending two weeks on Mykonos.

If you view people as being "service people, "with a very real power imbalance between server and served," I suggest an alternative perspective. These are individuals just like you who happen to work in a job that requires them to deal with strangers. Provide them with dignity and respect. Treat them as you'd want to be treated. We all appreciate that.

I'm also one of those people who take a job candidate finalist out for a meal, so that I can observe how they treat those waiting on us. I also ask receptionists and others how their interaction went with the candidate. Such can aid in getting an extended picture of the person and how they deal with others.
posted by ericb at 9:11 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh -- and in some instances instead of having a meter running we have negotiated a fixed-rate for the time period. And, we always tip well.
posted by ericb at 9:20 AM on August 31, 2010


The one takeaway I've gotten from this thread is to never get into Bulgaroktonos' cab.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:03 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


It has been 25 years since I drove a cab in Boston, but folks used to ask me all the time where to eat, dance or hire a prostitute (since I was a 22 year old female WASP, the last was amusing, but I asked other cabbies and found out where to take them). Usually, having suggestions got me a bigger tip. I didn't mind. Despite being an introvert, I saw this as part of the job. In fact, it was kind of nice to be asked my opinion.

Recently, taking the light rail back to Baltimore from the airport, a guy with a suitcase asked me for directions to the Inner Harbor. He had a long enough layover to run in to town for lunch. Turned out he really wanted to see something of Baltimore, not just of the tourist stuff, so I sent him to Lexington Market for a Faidley's crab cake. Got an e-mail from him later that he had a great time, loved the food and couldn't wait to come back to Baltimore.

I have a hard time asking strangers about stuff, but I love it when folks ask me. When I do manage to ask where to eat or what to see from locals when I travel, nearly always, people seem glad to tell me.

Guess it is like any other human interaction. Be prepared to take no with a smile, and gently try.
posted by QIbHom at 10:44 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Talking to cabbies is one of life's great pleasures, except in London where it's generally a teeth-grinding pain ("Mind if I smoke? I'm not a racist, but..."). Cabbies often have amazing stories to tell you about how they ended up driving a cab in your particular city. If they don't want to talk, they don't have to, but it's a pretty boring job and most times they seem to welcome a conversation, especially about themselves.
posted by unSane at 12:38 PM on August 31, 2010


Treat them as you'd want to be treated. We all appreciate that.

I think that's exactly the point being made by the opposite viewpoint here, actually. One of the many reasons I am glad that I'm not a taxi driver (or concierge, or waiter, etc.) is that I would dread having to recommend things to other people knowing nothing about them other than that they happened to be near me at the time. It wouldn't be a fun way for me to share things I like with strangers, it would be an unpleasant pressure to impress people. At least, that's how I generally feel about the unprompted recommendations people ask me for at the moment. I think it's easy for this sort of request to cross the line into seeming like a demand, even if that's not at all how it was meant.

Again, I'm never been in any sort of service job precisely because of my feelings about this sort of thing, and I'm not under the impression that this my feelings on this should be normative in any way, but, for me, treating people how I would want to be treated in this situation absolutely involves sticking to the business at hand as well as being polite and respectful.
posted by Copronymus at 12:43 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Haha, I love Metafilter. Go away for a few hours and look what happens.

For the record, I was on business, on a budget, and not a rich tourist. Not a single cabbie had an issue with my request. In fact, most of them took it as an opportunity to talk about themselves for the duration of the ride and I met some wonderful people who drove cabs. I was staying at an average Holiday Inn in a neighborhood on the northern edge of Toronto where I'd estimate a good three quarters of all dining establishments were some form of Indian or Southeast Asian, as was every cabbie in every cab that pulled up. That was not an expectation. That was a fact.

I didn't ask for a particular ethnicity of cabbie. I simply got in the first available cab at the hotel's taxi stand. No one took me for a long ride. No one took me to any hole in the wall joints. I simply had a month where I was in curry house wonderland and I got to eat my favorite food every night for a month, which wasn't something I got to do at home.

I have to even give credit for the idea to one of the cabbies. My first night there I got into a cab and asked to be taken to a specific Indian restaurant that I had not so painstakingly researched by looking at the obligatory neighborhood restaurant guide supplied by the hotel. The cabbie asked if I'd need a ride back to the hotel after dinner. I said yes. He gave me his card. Before I left the restaurant, the maitre'd called the cabbie to come get me. But the cabbie was already waiting on me out front.

The next night, the same cabbie just happened to be the first in line at the taxi stand when I got in his cab. I asked to be taken to a different Indian restaurant I selected from the same hotel guide. Along the way he talked about how much he hated Toronto when he first moved there because he wasn't used to cold weather. We talked about where he'd moved from to come to Toronto and what it was like to move there. As someone who was being asked by my work to consider moving there myself, I listened intently to what he had to say.

He was there again to take me home from the restaurant after dinner. He asked me how I liked the place. I told him I liked it but it wasn't as good as the place the night before. He said I must really like curry. I said it was my favorite of all foods. He said if I wanted to go out again the next night, he would take me to a really good curry house. It was the first time I'd every heard anyone refer to an Indian restaurant as a "curry house."

The next night he was at the taxi stand again and he made good on his promise to take me to a better place. The following night after that, I didn't even bother to research a place to go. I was just insufferably counting on my new friend to know what to do.

But he wasn't there at the taxi stand. I fumbled around for his card but didn't have it with me. This was before the days of widespread cell phone use, so I didn't have a cell phone to look through my recent calls. However, every cabbie seemed to have one and I was intrigued by these giant walkie-talkies on the phone network. I wondered if I'd ever have one of those things in the future or if I'd get a jet pack first.

The first cabbie in line called out to me to get in. I called back that I was waiting on a certain driver who knew where a good curry house was. The first cabbie in line shouted to get in again, that he also knew where the good curry houses are. He was not about to be undersold.

I got in and this guy was all about Indian food. He wanted to know what kind of Indian food I wanted. I was from a backwater where I was lucky to have any kind of Indian restaurant at the time, much less a choice of varieties. He asked if I like dosa. I admitted I didn't know that was. He asked if I like really spicy food. I said sure. So off I went for my first taste of southern Indian food.

I had no idea there was such a thing. I have it every chance I get now that my backwater has had an influx of thousands of Indian immigrants over the last decade and there are plenty of places to get any kind of Indian food where I live. But this was all news to me then. I thought I'd died and gone to food heaven.

I only saw my cabbie friend from the first night a few more times over the remainder of the month. He always took me somewhere good and seemed to enjoy doing so. But I took to just getting in the first cab at the taxi stand each night and asking the driver if he had a favorite nearby restaurant he could recommend. I may have been taken to a few restaurants run by relatives of the cabbies, as a couple admitted when I asked what their experience had been with the places I was taken. But I learned a lot about some great food that I had never been exposed to before, especially Malaysian, as well as what newcomers to Toronto from abroad might expect upon moving there.

Like I said, I had a great month.

I have since taken to doing this whenever I travel, wherever I travel, and am now a firm believer that this is the thing to do. Cabbies take people places. Thus, they know about places. Probably more than any other people you can ask. I've never encountered a cabbie who expressed anything less than enthusiasm for such a request. I've done this many places now and found that some places which at first seemed maybe a little uptight and less hospitable than my norms suddenly come to life when you ask the advice of a cabbie.

The cab ride you get when you do this is a world of difference from the cab rides you get when you just ask to be taken to the airport where nobody talks while the cabbie wonders if you are going to stiff him a tip and you wonder whether you are being taken the long way or not. Or if you talk, it's a short conversation about the weather just to prove to each other that you aren't both completely antisocial assholes.

I don't remember that first cabbie's name. It was years ago. But I'd like to thank him now if I could. Prior to that my experience in cabs had simply been get in, give an address, don't speak, and don't make eye contact. But this particular cabbie showed me a different way. So my payback is just to treat all cabbies with a little extra deference. If I ever encounter a Bulgaroktonos or bardic cabbie, I'll just get out and find another cab with a little less Travis Bickle going on.
posted by 3.2.3 at 12:49 PM on August 31, 2010 [14 favorites]


It wouldn't be a fun way for me to share things I like with strangers, it would be an unpleasant pressure to impress people.

So, I take it you avoid AskMe questions and answers?
posted by ericb at 12:57 PM on August 31, 2010


So, I take it you avoid AskMe questions and answers?

So, I take it you ask your cabbie for the best PI to hire when you suspect your wife might be cheating on you?

I mean, surely we can make a distinction between a website designed explicitly for the asking and answering of questions and a hypothetical conversation between a tourist and the cab driver they've hired.
posted by Copronymus at 2:01 PM on August 31, 2010


Haha, there's nothing like a social commentary website to find out just how antisocial most people are.
posted by FatherDagon at 2:54 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's take a look at AskMe.

We all ask (for the most part) strangers here on MeFi what restaurants they should visit when visiting a specific city. People answer from their subjective POV. A plethora of questions follow this theme: (1) What can we do with our 15 y.o. son when visiting NYC?, (2) We're going to Milan. What should we not miss?, (3) We have a limited budget on our trip to Budapest. How best can we have authentic, regional dining when limited to a daily €50 for all meals for two?, etc.

You, a stranger, offered advice to this AskMe (Chicago or DC?) based on "your subjective experiences" (just as a cab driver will do when asked about where to dine, party, etc.). It's no different in "meat space."

I wonder if this comes down to peoples' issues of dealing with social situations IRL. Some are extroverts; others introverts.
posted by ericb at 3:55 PM on August 31, 2010


Haha, there's nothing like a social commentary website to find out just how antisocial most people are.

It brings to mind the avoidance of and "ill-at-easeness" for casual social interaction that some have. I've seen such in some professional and academic environments. In one company I referred to some as "shoe lookers." These were people who would pass you in a hallway and would avoid looking at you and/or not respond when I said "Good morning. Nice day." They'd bow their heads, look at their shoes or all of a sudden pretend to be reading a document as you passed them.
posted by ericb at 4:01 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


*what restaurants we should visit*
posted by ericb at 4:06 PM on August 31, 2010


MetaFilter: insufferable elitist douchebags
posted by bwg at 6:11 PM on August 31, 2010


How do you function when you feel the need to sniff every innocent statement for the possible stink of offense? And if there isn't any, make some up? With so many actual offenses, why is this even necessary?

I will pay you 10 American dollars to post this question to Metatalk.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:36 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Note: that was a joke.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:36 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


stavrosthewonderchicken: "How do you function when you feel the need to sniff every innocent statement for the possible stink of offense? And if there isn't any, make some up? With so many actual offenses, why is this even necessary?

I will pay you 10 American dollars to post this question to Metatalk.
"

Don't you mean AskMeFi?

Heh.
posted by bwg at 9:32 PM on August 31, 2010


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