I didn’t realize at the time what a nerve I’d struck—that people craved a trusted space to discuss food and restaurants specifically in Queens, that there was no other online space in which to do that, as Joe DiStefano would later point out in his March 2022 Grub Street article, “Chowhound Is Dead, But Its Spirit of Adventure Lives On.” (I also never expected this Facebook group to get press!)
Trust was key. Facebook groups can easily turn toxic with a few bad eggs (or bots), so from the beginning the tone was set: positive, curious, respectful. Drama was not invited to this party. It wasn’t, and still isn’t, the space to rant about a restaurant’s service, or pick fights. Members want to use this space to recommend restaurants, to support their favorite spots, and many are very generous in sharing their local knowledge. They are also generally great about flagging iffy content, but I’m proud to say there are only two moderators for 12K members (generally 70% of which are active), and we don’t have to do all that much. (We’re also super strict about Queens-only content! The desire of some to share about food in other boroughs prompted me to start a sister food-travel group, Eat Your World (Outside Queens).)
Keeping an open mind is literally one of the group rules. As the numbers ballooned in size, I worried ESNQ would morph into a general page of restaurant reviews and requests for the best tres leches/pizza/Thai food in Queens. But while those posts of course happen, I continue to see members’ curiosity on display, a lot. People love to share what they ate that was “new to them,” “in the spirit of this group.” That truly makes my heart swell.
I think this all contributes to the reason I recently got stopped inside a local cheese shop by a group member I hadn’t met before, who thanked me for creating this “unicorn” of a Facebook group and community. But the other essential piece doesn’t have much to do with me at all.