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INTERNET | eCommerce / Events & Ticketing
bookalokal.com

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Stage

Loan | Alive

Total Raised

$290K

Last Raised

$250K | 2 yrs ago

About Bookalokal

Bookalokal is a social dining network for curated gourmet events. Whether traveling to a new city, or exploring locally, guests can choose from group dinners to food tours, cooking classes to cheese workshops. Events are hosted by people who love to cook, host and share-from food bloggers to aspiring chefs and wine connoisseurs.

Bookalokal Headquarter Location

123 West 20th St Suite 5W

New York, New York, 10011,

United States

917-497-6043

Latest Bookalokal News

An Alternative Dining Scene Is Thriving Outside The Restaurant World

Apr 8, 2015

Open external links in tabs An Alternative Dining Scene Is Thriving Outside The Restaurant World Scenes from a recent Bookalokal dinner (photo by Ane Powers). D.C. may have another new restaurant opening every other day, but many of us lament how expensive it is to eat out or wish for more authentic ethnic cuisine. It's as hard as ever to meet new people at a bar. And, as nice as it can be to go out, there’s nothing quite like a home-cooked meal to make you feel taken care of. A handful of services operating in D.C. are fostering an alternative dining scene that suffers none of those problems. Social dining platforms like Bookalokal , Feastly , and EatWith connect people who want to enjoy good food and conversation in a group setting. Local hosts provide those things, often (though not always) in their own homes. Guests create an online profile, browse available meals, pay in advance through the site, and show up at the appointed time and place ready to eat (or go wine tasting, learn to shuck oysters, taste test competing lasagnas…you get the idea). These services tap into the “sharing economy,” personalizing dining out in much the same way that Airbnb did for lodging. They are built on trust, established through verification of hosts (either in person or through Skype interviews and photos, depending on the platform), guest reviews, and detailed online profiles that, at least in theory, allow both hosts and guests to learn a little about one another before they meet in person. “[The service] is meant for travelers,” says Raleigh Clemens, who hosts EatWith dinners at the house she rents in Capitol Hill. “If you’re traveling to a country and you don’t know anyone but you still want to experience the culture and get to know the people, it’s an awesome way to do it.” But, whereas Airbnb primarily attracts out-of-town travelers, all the D.C. hosts I spoke with said the majority of their guests live in the area. Some are new in town, but many have been here for years and are just looking to meet new people or try out a different kind of dining experience. At the Alice in Wonderland-themed dinner I attended at Bookalokal host Vince Natale’s apartment in Brightwood one Friday in March, the other three guests had all moved to D.C. within the past six months. We sipped vodka, grapefruit, and lavender cocktails and noshed on cucumber slices topped with a creamy carrot puree and smoked salmon while chatting about how we found ourselves here—in DC itself, and at this meal. “I host because I want to meet new people and make a little extra money doing something I love to do rather than working in an office job all day,” Natale says. “I’m trying to do dinners every week to build up a fan base,” he says. “I try to have a signature to each of my meals, something that says, ‘This was created by Vince.’" For aspiring food entrepreneurs, hosting can serve as a way to build confidence in cooking for others, provide an audience for new recipes, and build name-recognition. Natale hopes to eventually turn cooking into something that funds a larger portion of his expenses. Kathryn Warnes , who hosts market tours, cooking classes, and meals out of her home in Capitol Hill through both Bookalokal and Feastly, says it’s inspiring to equip people with new knowledge and habits that will make them more confident in the kitchen. “One person told me he learned how to cut up a fennel bulb and now he can use this thing he never would have bought otherwise,” she says. “It’s such a simple thing, but for him it was empowering.” For guests, social dining services offer the opportunity to try cuisines that might not be readily available at local restaurants, or to try homestyle dishes from a country whose cuisine is typically represented publicly by its more ceremonial recipes. Liliya Dvornichenko, a Ukranian database administrator for a law firm, is a host with Feastly. Hosting gives her the opportunity to introduce the foods she grew up with to people who may have never tried them before, or who can't afford the premiums at trendy restaurants. “You can find borscht and vareniki at Mari Vanna , but the prices are outrageous,” she says. The next Soviet meal at Liliya’s runs $25 and includes soup, appetizer, salad, main dish, and dessert. Diners can bring their own alcohol if they like, and there’s no need to pay tax or tip. All the hosts and guests I spoke with mentioned interesting conversations as one of the most rewarding aspects of these services. Ane Powers, who hosts meals through Bookalokal at her home in Columbia Heights, says the experience brings her back to the time in her life when she spent a lot of time traveling alone through foreign countries. “I’d often eat the bar and strike up conversations with whoever was sitting next to me. This provides a more comfortable vehicle for people who wouldn’t normally do something like that.” While each service has different standards for what constitutes an acceptable hosting venue, potential chefs should not be deterred just because their space does not look like a spread in Dwell. Some of the hosts I spoke with live in group houses with roommates. Others have basement apartments or one-bedroom condos. One didn't even have a dishwasher or particularly much counter space. “That’s sort of the point,” says Natale. “You should feel like you’re going to dinner at a friend’s house.” Contact the author of this article or email tips@dcist.com with further questions, comments or tips. Jenny Holm in Food on Apr 8, 2015 3:30 pm

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