I admit it: I get stuck in ruts from time to time. I find my cozy  neighborhood New Jersey pub, my favorite corner sandwich shop, that one cup of coffee I can’t go without, and then I tend to stick to it. It’s great to have your own special places, but at the same time, you risk falling into a bubble of the same tastes while the rest of the world passes you by. I’ve been bursting my own bubble with FoodieTrip, the curated food-service platform that links you up with local guides.

Of course, you can also do a Google search or hop on Yelp and find a few excellent restaurants scattered around town. However, by the time a hot spot becomes famous, it’s often crowded and sometimes the food and service quality starts to decline. This has happened to me and a few of my favorite haunts before.

Further, restaurants aren’t just about the food and bars aren’t just about the drinks. It’s the people that often makes these places special, including both the staff and your fellow patrons. Sometimes, you can just walk into a new joint and strike up a conversation. That’s worked for me but a lot of my favorite new stops are places that friends have shown me.  

Problem is, your friends don’t know everything and sometimes you want to stretch your experiences even further. Fortunately, a few curated dining services are emerging that link patrons up with local guides who know all the best places to grab grub and drinks. I’ve tried a few services, but for now am settled on FoodieTrip. This service is more affordable than some I’ve tried, but doesn’t skimp on quality. And so far, the local guides have been excellent.

So far I’ve crawled through Brooklyn’s literary pubs, have tasted wine in Hell’s Kitchen, and have done a private bike tour. All have been great experiences. With the warm weather arriving in earnest, I am looking to try one of the several picnics soon. I grew up watching blanket-laid picnics on cartoons, but honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever been on a genuine picnic. Time to fix that.

One of the things I noticed on my FoodieTrips so far is that about half my fellow trippers are actually natives. To be honest, when I first signed up for FoodieTrip, I figured it’d be 90% tourists, and perhaps one or two locals. The mix, however, has been about even. I got curious and shot the Foodie Trip team an email. They told me that in New York, 65% of users are located in the metro area. Elsewhere, it’s often closer to 85% out-of-metro. I asked why this might be, and Foodie Trip CEO Matan Magril took the time to reply, stating:

Travelers often provide an initial bump and we are seeing the rise of super travelers, who use the app in cities across the country. However, once a strong user base takes root, it tends to grow and even dominate the trips. We see this as a great sign. Foodie Trip isn’t just a “traveler” app but it does allow travelers to not just see new cities but to meet those cities up close and personal.

The crowd was also a bit younger than expected. I figured it’d be a lot of middle-aged folks. But nope, us younger folks actually outnumbered the more seasoned trippers. For the record, the older patrons were very much young at heart and fun to be with, but I was surprised by how young the crowd was.

What’s the take away? Summer is (nearly) here. Whether you live in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Atlanta, or somewhere else, you need to bust out of that comfort zone a few times this summer. There are tons of great hidden gems scattered across the United States. Don’t wait to discover them on some random “top 10” list. Instead, find a local guide and dig in.

It’s not just about food either. I’ve met a few people through my FoodieTrips that I still keep in touch with, and I’ve been able to expand my taste buds’ horizons quite a bit.