Follow Friday: Hidden Boston
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For Marc Hurwitz, being constantly surrounded by good grub is his job. While he doesn’t punch in or punch out of a workplace, he thinks about food, writes about food, takes photos of meals, and eats around the clock—for a living. Hurwitz is the founder of Hidden Boston, a locally known site that focuses on little-known gems and cheap eats around the Boston and New England area. From bagels to roast beef sandwiches, he has become the go-to for cheap, hidden dining spots.
Here, Hurwittz, talks about his never-ending list of restaurants and the tight-knit local food community.
Have you always been a fan of hidden gems and cheap eats more so than other restaurants? What was it that made you start a website focused on lesser-known restaurants?
Yes, I’ve always been more interested in neighborhood spots and hidden gems than popular restaurants and chains. One of the goals of the site is to show people that there are great alternatives to the more familiar places out there.
You started out in 2004 when social media wasn’t around at the time. How did it change the way you run your website?
I can get in touch with a lot more people for free. Instead of reaching out by advertising, I could reach out and find people interested in restaurants for free, garner a following, and more importantly, I can chat with people online who I don’t know. Before that, I was like, “Here’s a restaurant review,” and people would read it, but we’d never get in touch with each other. Social media changed everything. I believe, in this business especially, if you’re not doing social media, you’re really missing out.
Now you have to be on social media all the time. Does it ever feel like it’s too much?
As far as the reviews and the news stories, that part comes naturally. I’ve been a writer since college. The social media part, I love doing, but it can be overwhelming. There’s so many people trying to get in touch night and day, and if there’s a person trying to get in touch with me at three in the morning, I obviously can’t get in touch with them in that moment. Being on social media all the time can be absolutely overwhelming.
How do you manage all your social media accounts?
LinkedIn isn’t very big, so I’ll post a review or story and then walk away. Google+ and Pinterest I’ll do the same way—I’ll walk away unless someone wants to chat. With Facebook and Twitter, I spend a really good amount on both. After I post a review or news story, I’ll have people getting in touch with questions. Then, there’s Instagram, which is totally different. With that I’ll be basically taking pictures of restaurants or pictures of food. Social media used to take more of my time, but I do a lot of time management now where I try not to spend all of my time on social media sites. Every minute on Facebook is a minute taken away from writing or researching. At some point I have to tell myself to stop.
Do you make it a point to respond to everyone?
I try my best. If someone says, “I’d like to feature that place,” I may not get in touch with them, but if someone asks, “Do you know a good roast beef joint in the Lynn area?” I’ll try to get in touch with them. I have upwards of 150,000 followers on social media, so you can imagine how many people are reaching out.
What’s the weirdest, most surprising, or most outspoken feedback you’ve gotten via social media?
There’s some I can’t tell you because it’d be pretty wrong, so I won’t get into those [laughs]. There are some awful ones, that’s for sure. There are some people who take offense when you write about a restaurant that’s not in the Boston city limits. If you write a review of a place in Central Square in Cambridge, they’ll say, “Well that’s not Boston.” I’ve had some people say, “Well you reviewed in a place in West Roxbury or in Roslindale.” So yeah, we get some of that and that’s not really too weird or anything, but it happens. We tell those people that we’re just trying to cover the greater Boston area.
So if you had to pick, which social media account is the strongest channel and the must-follow?
I’d say Twitter is the strongest. Facebook used to be.
What is your favorite part about tweeting?
I ask a lot of questions about food, like, “What’s your favorite burger joint?” or “What’s your favorite pasta place?” and a lot of people will respond. Sometimes I get to talk to them either through private messages or replies, but it’s very interactive. That part of it is a lot of fun and I think that’s everyone’s favorite part. That’s the gist of social media…to talk to people.
In three words, describe the voice and tone of your social media.
That’s a tough one. I’d say funny, upbeat, and informative.
When you’re not using social media, what are you doing?
I’m writing restaurant reviews and also writing a lot of news stories, because I have a second website called Boston Restaurant Talk, and that’s a news site about the Boston restaurant scene. I spend half my time time writing reviews, updating reviews, posting pictures, and the other half writing news stories about Boston restaurants.
You’re always surrounded by food, always tweeting about food, always talking about food. Does it become exhausting to visit all these restaurants?
It’s fun for the most part! Writing reviews and news stories and all that is a lot of fun, but you know, it is a lot of work. In some ways, it’s 24/7 work and it gets pretty tiring by the end of the week. I do work weekends, too, so it’s never ending. So while it’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot of work, too. I never get tired of trying out restaurants, though!
Do you ever feel like you run out of restaurants to feature?
No, because there’s always new restaurants opening up and people who tell me about restaurants to review. I never, ever run out of places. It’s really more the opposite, where I have a never-ending list of places to try and I don’t get to half of them.
How long is your list?
It’s endless. I’d say there are a hundred or more restaurants I’d like to try, but I can’t get to them all. I tend to do reviews once every two weeks. If I did reviews everyday, then I’d probably run out of places, but there’s no way I can do that.
Could you tell us what spot you’re dying to try next?
I can’t really mention which spots I plan to review next, but one restaurant I really want to try on my “off-hours” is Roxy’s Grilled Cheese because I hear they have some of the best burgers in the Boston area.
At this point would you consider yourself a Boston restaurant connoisseur?
In some ways. I’m kind of in a segment that other food writers aren’t in—a lot of places I go to are cheap eats. They’re low key, they’re unpretentious. I’m never going to review a place like Clio, so as far as little known restaurants and neighborhood hidden gems, then yeah, that’s what I do best.
Have you developed a strong relationship with the Boston food community?
Boston’s a great place as far as cooperation between food writers. I talk to a lot of major food writers every single day. I don’t think you’ll find that in New York City as much, but in Boston we’re all friends. Some of us get together all the time. We all chat—there’s food bloggers and the traditional media food writer. They all know me and I know them, and it really makes it a nice community. Plus, we’re all in touch with chefs and restaurant owners. It’s really a tight-knit community.
Do you think that in the future you’d like to expand your websites? Are you looking to cover other areas or maybe looking to bring people on board?
I do pretty much everything alone. I definitely have some people who go to the restaurants with me and we usually go as groups, but the social media and the websites are all me. I’d love to expand, but I don’t see it happening any time soon.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.