Congrats to Katie! New giveaway: Flamestone Grill $25 gift card

Katie is the lucky Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza gift card winner! She writes a blog called She Likes Ruffles, He likes Truffles. You can follow her on twitter @SheLikesRuffles. Congrats again!

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Don’t despair if you didn’t win the gift card. I still have many gift cards and freebies to giveaway in coming weeks. We’re going to start it off today with a $25 Flamestone gift card giveaway. Here is a little information about Flamestone in case you unfamiliar with it: “FlameStone is a casually sophisticated American Grill that places an emphasis on cooking with nature’s most basic elements: Fire & Stone”. We use natural cooking techniques such as grilling over an open fire or preparing our guacamole using lava stone, to give our food exceptional flavor and taste”. Checkout their website, urbanspoon, and twitter.

This contest will run until Wednesday, August 3rd 2011 at 11:59PM. Just like the previous contest, you must comment below with your contact e-mail in order to be eligible to win and the winner must reply back within 3 days of winning as well.

There are a total of (4) entries you can receive in this contest. Here is how to enter:

1) Follow Carlos Eats on Foodspotting. If you don’t have an account you can easily Facebook connect and make one in seconds. Foodspotting is used to tag photos of food to restaurants. If you want to know more about Foodspotting read my blog about it.

2) Tag my Facebook fan page and let me know what your best meal this summer has been. Summer is sadly drawing to an end soon. 😦

3) Subscribe to Carlos Eats via e-mail and I’ll check and verify if you’re on.

4) Reply back to me on Twitter and tell me about a restaurant I have been missing out on trying that you love.

Remember your odds are increased if you do all four entries, but you can still have a chance without doing all of them as well. Good luck!

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How To: Research Restaurants Before You Dine

Many people search Google for restaurant reviews and are not sure about where they should be looking for reviews or the reputation of where they are looking. Big cities have a number of resources for residents, but coming from a smaller place like Tampa we only have a few guaranteed spots to research restaurants before you eat. Here is my guide to researching restaurants that pretty much anyone should be able to use.

1. Yelp

Yelp (http://www.yelp.com) is a great restaurant review site for a number of reasons. Each restaurant has an individual page filled with reviews, photos, and owner input as well. Cities also have home pages where you can view the top places in each city and the talk of the town. One of the things that makes Yelp stand above the top though is the sense of community it has. Even some smaller cities have active Elite Yelpers that regularly review restaurants and businesses. If you message someone asking for help or post in the Talk thread you will likely get a reply helping you out. You can check each persons page and see if they like what you like and also how reputable they are. Do they have only 1 review and say that a restaurant sucks? If they do you may want to question their recommendations. You can take Yelp with you on the go through their phone applications as well. Yelp Tampa can be found at: http://www.yelp.com/tampa-fl

2. Urbanspoon

Urbanspoon (http://www.urbanspoon.com) has city pages just like Yelp does. Urbanspoon is not quite as flashy though and most people simple use a button to decide whether they like or dislike a restaurant. This allows for more user feedback, but at the same time lowers what you can get out of it. Like Yelp you can view each users page and check their reputation. Urbanspoon also does a good job of separating businesses into neighborhoods so it is easier to find the top place in Brandon or Ybor City. There is still an ability to review businesses, which some people take advantage of, and Urbanspoon has just started to allow reviews of specific menu items so you can find out just how the Chicken Marsala is at a restaurant. Urbanspoon also has phone apps that you can carry with you on the go. To visit Urbanspoon’s Tampa page visit: http://www.urbanspoon.com/c/30/Tampa-Bay-restaurants.html

3. Urbanspoon Blog Leaderboard

One feature that is unique to Urbanspoon is their blog leaderboard (http://www.urbanspoon.com/blogs). This feature lists the top blogs according to the city you are currently reading about and also the number of views/posts on the blog. You can also take it to a worldwide-view and see the top blogs around the world. This may help to find more personal reviews if that is what you are searching for. There are few other good listings of local food blogs so I suggest this for those of you searching for local blogs in your area. Urbanspoon’s Tampa Blog Leaderboard can be found at: http://www.urbanspoon.com/blogs/30/Tampa-Bay.html

4. Chowhound Message Boards

Chowhound (http://www.chowhound.com) uses a much simpler site than that of Urbanspoon and Yelp, but it is still quite efficient. They have their main pages for big towns and then you can head into their message boards for information from some of your local foodies tips and recommendations. Frequent topics will be about the top restaurants in a food category or places to take someone for Christmas, for example. There is a search bar at the top where you can search for a restaurant you are trying to find out about or you start a thread asking about a place as well. Chowhound’s Florida Board can be found at: http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/10

5. Foodspotting

Foodspotting (http://www.foodspotting.com) is a relatively new site that keeps getting better everyday. You can search specific menu items in an area using their website or app and then look at how a dish actually looks at a restaurant and read comments people post about that menu item. If you have the app on your iPhone you can also upload photos to it while you are out and tag it to a restaurant, or wait until you are home and upload your photos manually using their upload form. You can search by city as well and few the latest things spotted in town. Tampa’s foodspotting page: http://www.foodspotting.com/#/loc/Tampa, FL/

Depending on which city you live in there may be other resources you can use, such as Zagat and Thrillist. Foursquare‘s growth has allowed more tips to allow on business pages as well. However, if you live in a smaller town or area then you still have all the resources I listed above so get researching and have a great bite to eat!

Foodspotting

Foodspotting

I was looking around at foodie websites on delicious the other day and came across Foodspotting. It’s a website where you can e-mail or upload pictures of food you eat or just see and then people can vote on the food depending on if they want the food, or have eating the food before (nom). There is a leaderboard for who updates the most and there is a point system. Similar to Foursquare there are badges you can earn and like Gowalla there are certain trips you can go on of places to go to called guides. It looks like a pretty neat service so I will be playing around with it here and there. It’s even in Japan. Thought I’d give the heads up in case someone is interested in joining up.

My Foodspotting Page
You can visit my page at http://www.foodspotting.com/carloseats

They also have an iPhone app.