The year was 2003. Though blogs existed, the term was hardly a household word. Citysearch ruled for local restaurant information.
One day, I drove past a new restaurant that had just opened. I made mental note of the name and looked it up online when I got home. Nothing. Nada. Not even one reference to the place on the entire internet. Though Citysearch did a decent job covering Philly back then, one would be lucky to find an address for a restaurant in the ‘burbs. The Philly papers hardly ever mentioned the suburban restaurant scene.
My frustration sparked an idea. I was eating out at least 2 or 3 times a week, and often trying new restaurants as soon as they opened, so why not share those experiences with the world? I started writing reviews, and once I had a few, the Main Line Restaurant Guide was born. I didn’t even get a unique URL – just put it on a subdomain of a music site I was running at the time – because I didn’t expect much to happen with it.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one frustrated with the lack of information about Main Line restaurants online. The site was an immediate success. Traffic poured in from Google with people eager for content about the happenings in their neighborhood. (This was years, remember, before “hyper-local” was a trend, and sites like Patch existed.) Though the site was simple and text-only, it offered content that filled a void. People posted their own reviews of local restaurants with astounding regularity. (Early on, I was receiving these comments via email and manually posting them to the website – unthinkable today!) Eventually, as it continued to expand, the name was changed to Main Line Dine, a bonafide URL was purchased, and we attempted to join the growing “food p0rn” movement with some mouthwatering photography.
Though at one point Main Line Dine was ahead of its time, the simple logistics of a one-man operation – I was lucky to have a few other great contributors through the years, but none stuck around for too long – made it difficult to keep up with the likes of AOL’s Patch, Yelp, and other sites now cranking out restaurant news. (Apparently Citysearch still exists too!) Along the way, another thing happened. I grew older, started a family, and stopped going out to eat as much. These days, once a month seems like an indulgence.
Although family and work obligations are part of the reason for this change in behavior, there’s one other more important factor: restaurants aren’t what excites me about the local food scene anymore. It’s not that there aren’t great restaurants out there doing great things – it’s just that they seem to be fewer and further between these days. And, if you’ve ever attempted to sustain a business that doesn’t make very much (any) money, you know that excitement and passion are tantamount to success.
For that reason, I’ve decided to shut down Main Line Dine. Frankly, it’s a decision that should have been made years ago, but I’d felt obligated to nurture this being that I’d created, and had trouble letting go.
Don’t despair friends, for as they say, when one door closes, well you know the rest. I still am passionate about local food and sharing that with you, the readers, commenters, fellow food lovers. And, there’s this groundswell of small, artisanal food producers that’s been slowly growing over the past few years that does excite the heck out of me. Farmers Markets seem to be popping up in every town, and they’re not just for farmers anymore. You’ll find bakers, coffee roasters, meat curers, hummus makers, and other food of all sorts, all made with love, in small batches, and with local ingredients. In my humble opinion, this is where the exciting, innovative stuff is happening in the local food scene, and what I want to talk about, read about, write about.
So while it is the end of the road for Main Line Dine, it is the beginning of something new. Something called Small Food. It’s my new baby, a website that focuses exclusively on local farmers markets, food artisans, growers and other purveyors of small, local, independent food in this area. And I hope you’ll join me there, because without you, the site can’t exist. I’ve even built a rating and review system to be the centerpiece of the site, so you can share your experiences with the world too, and we can create a community that cares about great food, in a small way.
I will simply leave you with this: Eternal thanks to all the great readers, commenters, likers, etc. that have supported this site over the years. I hope to see you at Small Food.