Chowhound's Frequently Asked Questions
~ What is a chowhound?
A chowhound is someone who spends nearly every waking moment planning his/her next meal. Whether dining in an expensive cafe or grabbing a quick scrambled egg sandwich to munch on the way to work, chowhounds hate to ingest anything undelicious, and they won't hesitate to go far out of their way for Slightly Better. For a true hound, the curve of diminishing results is more an exciting challenge than an imposing dead end.
Everyone has a chowhound in their life: the brother-in-law with a collection of 8000 takeout menus, the coworker who's always late from lunch because she just had to indulge an urge for, say, smothered pork chops and tried to trek from midtown to 153rd Street and back in an hour. Check out A Tale of Two Chowhounds for colorful profiles of two real-life hounds.
~ Isn't that the same thing as a foodie?
Definitely not. Foodies eat where they're told. They get excited about the hot new restaurant/cookbook/ingredient. They'll go to unfamiliar neighborhoods to eat, but only with their Zagat securely in hand to guide them to The Accepted Places.
Chowhounds, by contrast, are iconoclasts who spurn trends and established opinion and sniff out secret deliciousness on their own. The places they find and frequent today will show up in newspaper reviews in two years and in Zagat in four (by which time the restaurants usually will have grown crowded, overpriced, and lousy).
~ So chowhounds are bottom-feeders, the types who eat the cheapest possible chow?
No. Chowhounds are not unshaven men in dirty raincoats, darting out of foul-smelling storefronts while shoving cheap greasy yum-yums in their mouths. Chowhounds are driven to deliciousness, period, and they'll go way out of their way to find honest, evocative eating at any price range. That said, they're also savvy enough to appreciate value, so they'd rather not buy their rugelach at Balducci's when the same pastries are available at the baker's outlet in Brooklyn at a fraction of the price. And they hate to pay $50 for dishes cooked better elsewhere for $20. But you can't get foie gras for six bucks, and Chateau Margaux is one heckuva great drink.
Notice that the same chowhounds on the message boards who extol their love for egg creams, doughnuts, and pizza also pipe up knowledgably in discussions of some of the most expensive and exclusive eateries in France, Napa, and Midtown Manhattan.
~ But if it's simply a matter of quality, not economics, why don't Chowhounds stick to four-star restaurants? Those places serve the highest quality food in town, don't they?
That's an old-fashioned attitude, one that has been deliberately and methodically cultivated over the years by media and other commercial interests. Read a Chowhound editorial to see why this is patently not the case.
~ So who exactly are these chowhound people?
They tend to be successful, since the defining qualities of chowhoundom (intelligence, discernment, drive, passion for quality) are key for accomplishment in general. While everyone who lives to eat is welcome here, our cybercommunity contains lots of corporate execs, lawyers, designers, publishing people, artists, teachers, authors and journalists (and, for some odd reason, an absolute ton of rock critics). But one unifying factor is that even those who've chosen less ambitious career tracks (mostly, we suspect, to allow extra free time for eating around) serve as resources for the people around them. Chowhounds are "go-to" people for advice on what to eat as well as where to get a picture framed or the best deal on cellular service. Think about it: it's highly unlikely that someone who knows, by memory, every good bagel shop in Brooklyn wears uncomfortable shoes and drives a lemon. Savvy discerning people know where to find quality in all pursuits that interest them.
~ Who built
Jim Leff, a professional restaurant critic, with his friend Bob Okumura.
~ When did the site open?
May, 1997
~ Why was it built?
Because the media have offered so little of interest to chowhounds -- who recoil from, say, Martha Stewart like vampires from garlic. Chowhounds are mammothly hype-averse and suspicious of smarmy commercialism and trendiness. This site is a haven, a non-exploitive grassroots hang-out where chowhounds' delicate, finely-tuned sensibilities are insulated from mindless PR and corporate slickness.
As rugged individualists, chowhounds rarely travel in packs. is the only place where large numbers of hounds have ever gathered to trade tips. Happily, many love the opportunity. And the non-obsessed love to come in and watch, since obsessed people make for the most entertaining reading.
~ Why are there so few graphics?
So information-hungry chowhounds can find what they're looking for without a bunch of time-wasting cyber-tchotchkes. There are sites you visit to be dazzled, and others you visit to be informed. is definitely the latter, and we place no distractions or obstacles in your way. Kudos to Bob(TM) for achieving an ultra low-tech design that's nonetheless super easy on the eyes.
~ You've mentioned ads... is that how you're planning to get income to support all your work on the site?
We've got a great guy working on ads for us right now; our traffic is more than high enough to warrant them. But our main goal at this point is to grow the site even further... and make it as useful and enjoyable as possible. Perhaps this is naive of us, but we're trying to build the best site we can, figuring that income will follow.
We count on word-of-mouth publicity; some of our most stalwart regulars were referred by visitors who thought "I know JUST the person who'd love this kind of thing!" So please help spread the word!
~ How can you attract ads if you won't accept advertising from food-related businesses?
We're suspicious of anyone purporting to offer objective chow advice when restaurants and other food businesses contribute to their paychecks. We've taken a stand in this regard, and won't budge.
But has attracted a large, urban, non-cynical, discerning, intelligent community of avidly brand-loyal consumers. Can you say "Prime Demographic"? Companies selling products or services on the basis of quality can make an intelligent and persuasive pitch to such a group.
While none of us are interested in seeing shlocky advertisers here, really good companies doing really cool things are a great match... and will be taken seriously by our audience.
We'll be careful to choose quality advertisers and to design ads in such a way that our ad content is interesting rather than annoying. And don't worry... no garish slow-loading banners are in our future. We hate them!
~ I appreciate the good work you guys are doing on behalf of chowhounds everywhere. How can I help?
We thought you'd never ask!  
~ I'm afraid to post a message on the message boards; what if I say something dumb and show that I'm not a true hound?
Don't worry! While chowhounds can sometimes be wise guys (it comes with being opinionated), we welcome anyone who sincerely wants to throw away their Zagat safety net and join our intrepid quest. Read through some of the thousands of back messages, and take a look at our message rules and guidelines before you post.
Then, once you do voice your opinion, stand your ground! Just because your preference may be unpopular, that doesn't make it wrong. We love strong opinions, but taste is, in the end, a subjective thing.
If you've still got questions after reading this,
please feel free to contact us at


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