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Resource Mon Jul 22 2013

LTHForum Debuts its First Major Redesign

More vibrant community than anonymous chat site, the benevolent LTHForum food gods have made substantial changes to Chicago's beloved source of all things culinary. As a repository and portal of food and dining info with over 2 million hits a month (these are visitors, not all posters) the vast collective knowledge shared by the board's participants makes for lively discussions regarding getting your grub on in every way conceivable.

The website itself has remained suspended in amber since 2004, when it began as an offshoot of some disgruntled Chowhound posters. Tired of what they considered to be restrictive policies, our brave culinary refugees met for dinner in Chinatown at soon-to-be-namesake restaurant Little Three Happiness and decided to do it their way -- by moving their posts to a site where they called the shots.

With this as inspiration, LTHForum came to be.

The site quickly became source material for the media and there's not a food writer in town that hasn't benefited from it. Ask them. If they say no, they're lying. Most local foodies have reaped the rewards as well. It's become somewhat of a social club -- where you can meet like-minded peeps at some hole in the wall ma and pa type restaurant that needs the ordering power of numerous menu bullies to touch on most and sometimes, all of the dishes offered. At one such outing, our final bill had the modifier "TOO MUCH FOOD!" printed 3/4 of the way down the arm's-length-long itemized receipt.

As it grew, LTH added new discussion forums. It also created the much respected Great Neighborhood Restaurant Awards (GNRs), a best of the best as determined by the literally ravenous LTH community, as a guide to places and resources the membership feels deserve special recognition. The LTH annual picnic (open to one and all) is the stuff of legends -- a do-not-miss event this year scheduled for September 22.

It's with this history in mind that I give you the particulars on the launch of LTHForum 2.0

New look, new features.

new lthforum 2013 redesignMost obvious to the casual user is that visually it's slicker and much easier to navigate. Kudos to the web design team. As a longtime member in good standing with 1,500+ opinionated posts as "Jazzfood" under my belt, I was privy to the beta test of the new site. My smile was instant. Gone are the old grey and blue pastel backgrounds and fonts. LTH 2.0's cleaner graphics nearly jump off the page (or in this case computer monitor).

Photos can now be uploaded directly instead of requiring an outside host site like Flickr, which was a particular nemesis to this technologically challenged poster. Also, a new and more user friendly search function has been added, and so another source of irritations past is gone.

A new home page features in-house generated content more in line with magazine journalism than a blog. With an arsenal of outstanding writers at their disposal and a dedicated editor now on board, LTH will publish original works -- debuting with resident LTH food historian extrodinaire Dr. Peter Engler's treatise on a little known South Side delicacy, the "Jim Shoe." A revolving lineup of powerhouse talent will follow with interesting articles posted regularly. Very exciting for the Chicago food community.

Discussion forums have been redesigned with cleaner, more informative icons, making them more readable on tablets and smartphones. And for those that care to, you may now also create an avatar that will be displayed next to your posts and in your profile. That picture of you smiling lecherously next to a splayed out roasted pig can now be your public persona.

Appropriate advertising, aka "compatible sponsorship," will be considered, although no low hanging fruit will be eaten. Advertising from food or restaurant industries will be carefully considered in order to avoid conflicts of interest. LTH's evolution is a delicate issue among the core users, and as a work in progress (and of great concern), the new launch will contain very little, if any, advertising to start with. The relationships must make sense and will grow as opportunities present themselves, with merits judged on a case-by-case basis.

There's bound to be those who will bitch and moan over the changes. For them, opting out of joining the rest of us in 2013 is a mouse click away, transporting them back to the old layout, no harm done. These changes merely honor the LTH culture and make it easier to use and nicer to look at. Like it or not, one thing certain is this facelift puts LTHForum in a position to grow operations with more savvy enhancements and well considered improvements.

Gleaned directly from LTH FAQ on the new website, to me this is what LTH is all about, their core values:

LTHForum.com is a community. Even though much of our conversation is online, this site was never intended to be purely virtual. We like to eat and we like to gather and we especially like to do both together. And we hope you do too! Please scan the events board to see where and when LTHers are gathering, and (pretty) please join us. Don't be intimidated because some folks already know each other -- there are new faces at each and every gathering.

After a 20-year absence I came back to Chicago in 2005, and saw a mention of these eclectic, eccentric foodophiles in the Reader, and sought them out. Knowing the streets but not what was on them anymore, LTH became my cut-to-the-chase way of finding out, as it introduced me to new places and more importantly, like-minded new friends -- people I now treasure and that I'd never known otherwise.

Home to food geeks and reprobates, in short, my kind of people, for me LTH is the gift that keeps on giving with every new restaurant discovery or friend made. And for you, I wish the same.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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Editor: Robyn Nisi, rn@gapersblock.com
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