Spotted by Locals is one of the many tips-for-travellers sites that have popped up in the last few years. As readers of this blog already know, I was very dependent on Spotted by Locals during my Parisian vacation this past September. Their local bloggers understood a neat secret about Paris–it’s as an ancient city containing hidden villages that are well worth exploring. When I I learned that Spotted by Locals had recently set up shop in New York City, I was eager to see how they treated my home town. Could this seen-it-done-it former NYCer get excited by their take on NYC?
Spotted by Locals is a little different and, to my mind, far more useful than many of the other travel aid startups. It also appears to have short-term goals other than the usual ones–i.e., being scooped up by a big media company for their subscriber lists. In other words, their content is really good. Rather than crowd-sourcing their travel writing, Spotted by Local relies on native bloggers, each with their own unique (read: quirky) focus and preferences, who write about the cities they live and work in.
As a travel site, their mission has been pretty much determined: write about restaurants, cafes, beautiful streets, museums, markets, and history. In Old World cities, it’s far easier to combine all of this in one post with so many public places at the intersection of history, art, culture, and food. In some ways, Manhattan may present a challenge for the SBL franchise as they cover a city that is not starving for media attention.
It turns out, though, their NYC spotters (that would be Sascha, Marina, Helen, Craig, and Elise) have done a credible job spotting a few places I’ve not heard about or at least wanted to know more about.
Of course, I understand they’re presenting Manhattan, Brooklyn and those other boroughts to non-US citizens. So I expected to see a few landmarks–Grand Central Station, Wolman Skating rink in Central Park, and the main branch of the NYC Public Library–along with a sprinkling of touristy food establishments–that would be Carmines, L’Express, and Sarabeths.
But they held to their Spotter principles and delivered on lesser known aspects of the city: the oldest manhole cover (on Jersey street between Mulberry and Lafayett), Film Biz Prop Shop (Gownaus,Brooklyn), McNally Jackson Books with its Espresso Book Machine (Prince Street), and a very informative post on those aluminum ellipsoids–its a bio-based sewage treatment plant–I’ve a passed so many times while motoring on the Long Island Expressway.
And their restaurant and cafe picks were informative to this semi-informed follower of the NYC food scene: Vanessa’s Dumplings (Eldridge Street), L’asso for pizza, Epistrophy in that Italian food wasteland known as Little Italy, and Culture Espresso in Midtown Manathatta–why didn’t I know about this place?
Spotted by Locals’ New York edition is a solid effort as their franchise begins to explore the New World. Sure, they could use some more informed writing about NYC history (hint: hire a Columbia or NYU history grad student). But it’s gotten my attention,and I’ve added their URL to my list of web resource that I rely on when I want to do something new and fun in Fun City.