The diminishing SF food forum scene?

I have been on the SF board for maybe 8, 9 years now. I remember when I first joined there were a lot of regulars who joined in the discussions. Over the years, it seemed like the crowd just thinned. Earlier this year, before the CH redesign, the once-vibrant board was down to a few active threads a day. Its seems odd to me that the Bay Area with a few million people with such a high concentration of great restaurants there aren’t more who are interested in discussing food.

Are there once-active, or recently active users you’d like to see again? Can we invite them back?

And why do you think our board became quieter? I understand there were attrition to yelp, facebook, etc, but curious if there were other factors.

We used to live in the city but are now at Tahoe/Reno and visit a few times a year. I can’t give you statistics but it ‘felt’ like more and more the board went away from SF proper to the burbs. Which didn’t interest me particularly. Just one thought.

Yes, people moved away faster than the site would attract newcomers. Kids, other hobbies and interests also took people away. Most of the members of my month wine group were former hounds and none of them had time to post in the past few years.

Secondary for me was that a lot of topics were already discussed and re-discussed. Exploring new places was harder and more rare. Long discussions that could have been interesting were getting annoying because of the personalities.

There was a bit of a snowball effect because a dwindling community is less appealing and leads to further dwindling.

Yelp and Facebook were not a factor for me but I may be unusual.


I can tell you exactly why for me–snobby attitudes and pissing contests. There is a very small contingent who for years have been the self-appointed doyennes of the SFBA board. They have created an unfriendly and unwelcoming tone to the whole board. When I moved here from Seattle 11 years ago, I was excited to meet the type of sweet, funny, cuisine-obsessed people I had met there, many of whom became life-long friends. Didn’t happen. Events I have attended with Chowhounders in the Bay Area have been largely unfriendly and uncomfortable. If you post on that board, you will be asked to “defend” some insignificant detail in your post, which you know what? Screw that.


I cannot imagine the SF board any worse than the LA board.

1 Like

My own personal circumstances changed - from visiting Berkeley twice a year, having access to a car, and being treated to upscale restaurants by my father-in-law, to living part-time in SF, dependent on public transit, and spending household money. I now live in the Castro a short walk from Frances, which is a place I would have visited before, but I haven’t, and am not likely to. I’m more likely now to eat at the kind of place Gary Soup writes about, and it frustrates me that there aren’t more inexpensive, tasty meals available near me.

I agree that personalities played a role in the CH decline, though on balance I think there were more likeable types who got a bit swamped by a few irritating ones. There was also an increase in the number of visitors either asking for recommendations with no prior research and vague criteria, or crazy-long lists with several meals per day. I would mine these threads for ideas, but didn’t glean all that much, and couldn’t really contribute.

The food scene has changed also. I felt there was more innovation in the days of Mediterranean and then Asian fusion. Now it seems as if it’s all farm-to-table, comfort foods like short rib, and upscale burgers with craft beer. The drought has affected the farmers’ markets, and the rents are seriously skewing the restaurant culture. I’m still amazed when a new Laotian place manages to open within the city limits.

I find Yelp too undiscriminating and Eater too breathlessly trendy, but I still get useful information from them, and I figure everyone else can, also. I’m enjoying the fairly quiet discussions here so far. I don’t think it’ll grow into CH in its glory days, but I’m not sure I want that anymore, either.


Having to defend posts was ridiculous, sometimes I cared, other times I didn’t. Sometimes I would wait until my opinion had been expressed already, or I would post and then stay away for a week so that I didn’t see or respond to any follow-on conversation. Other times I would scrub my comments for anything remotely controversial. I never took it personally, it was just sadly comical.

1 Like

Have to agree. One thing I like about this board is that it allows me to get away from some of those personalities in CH.

1 Like

So far, I don’t think I’ve seen one single pointless back-and-forth about where a neighborhood’s borders begin and end. Refreshing! :smile:


I was actually hoping that an expert like Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chowhound would chime in on that discussion of where Chinatown begins and ends

I totally agree about the SF board royalty. There were also conversations where the posters wouldn’t tell the broader readership about the place they were talking about to keep it hidden but then they would talk about how great it was. WTF? I attended one event with the queen of the board and others and it was awkward and not friendly at all.

1 Like

I think there are a least three factors involved in the decline in interest for THAT board as well as local food discussion forums generally: egos and elitism, a profusion of other social media time-wasters, and the food scene itself.

CH’s SF board had a leader/follower mentality almost from day one, and it was made worse when at least one of the would-be leaders was also involved in moderation. Posts that cast shade on her omniscience might somehow disappear without explanation.

Secondly, there is now a great profusion of social media sites like Twitter, Instagram, messaging and dating sites that work well on small-format devices like smartphones. It’s difficult to write long, thoughtful pieces on a smartphone on a lurching Muni bus, and people have only so much time they want to spend on-line. Call it the curse of Steve Jobs.

Third, as Prabhakar pointed out, changes in the dining scene have made it much less interesting for many us. One factor is the fetish for “improving” familiar foods. We’ve become more obsessed with burgers, beer and pizza than any Midwest college town. And who wants to write an Ode to a Grilled Cheese Sandwich? A second factor is the emergence of restaurant “groups” with big PR machines cranking out “concept” restaurants, branded with the name of a famous chef who couldn’t possibly be paying full attention to each of his dozen “projects.” That hot new restaurant was conceived in a (probably not) smoke-filled room, and the main attraction might be an $18 cocktail.


Although not living in the area, I"ll agree with you. And if you disagreed with one of their PTB, heaven help you.

what was that “secret” place anyway? Gintei in San Bruno? (outside of my normal orbit)

Do you mean here in HungryOnion SF board or do you mean the Chowhound LA board does not have pointless back and forth?

Anyway, even though I consider myself a SF person. I rarely visited the Chowhound SF board. So who were the SF leaders? I want to know.

please let’s not dignify/validate their self-appointed “status” by mentioning any names

1 Like

is this a post that was intended for the CH board?

It’s an issue not just with the San Fran board, but NYC, Boston, etc. Large and expensive cities are not attracting chefs. The costs to startup restaurants is prohibitive. That’s why places like Austin, Cleveland, Madison are becoming more popular. Cheaper startup costs, i’m assuming less regulations, and other factors in why we see the decline in the major urban centers.

1 Like

It’s sort of interesting how these board subcultures develop. I remember back when Chowhound was one California board - now that was interesting.

I found that in the past few years, more and more SFBA posts were about very high-end places, $200+ tasting menus, French Laundry reservations, that sort of thing. This was crowding out the posts about local, accessible gems. A topic I started about that excellent Kurdish kebab place in Berkeley, for example, didn’t get many responses.

But on the other hand, a topic here about a great, inexpensive ramen pop-up in Berkeley didn’t get any (or just a few) responses.

I didn’t have a problem with personalities with one exception (who may or may not have started a forum of his own after the redesign). I don’t recall seeing discussions where names of restaurants were hidden or suppressed.

As for chowdowns, I found them uniformly delightful, considering that the people had mostly never met each other F2F. The alleged “queen” of the board has a wide and deep knowledge of many cuisines, and I still recall an event where the steamed giant prawns came with a big chunk of roe attached. I would never have found such a dish on my own.