Meetup is like the adult version of afterschool activities: You find a group you like, sign up to join and then spend your afterhours getting together and doing something related to whatever activity/interest you have in common. It's an easy way to meet new friends, especially when you move to a new city or develop a new hobby.
There are tons of food-related Meetup groups. Some are relaxed and down to earth, with cookie baking parties and game nights at a member's house, while others -- like the group we sat next to during Restaurant Week -- are so pretentious that they spend an evening out disparaging the parking, the decor, the wine, the service, the drapes..."Oh my god, don't they know who we are?" a woman drawled after sending back her third bottle of wine.
Here are 5 Phoenix-area Meetups to consider joining if you're serious about food & drink:
5. Wild Dining
After reading The Wild Dining Meetup group's info and looking at organizer Carol's photo, we imagined eating monkey brains out of a skull bowl ala Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Turns out the group's not quite that exotic. Whew!
The Wild Diners visit restaurants dishing cuisines that are more exotic or unusual than, say, Macayo's, but not so out there that they're inaccessible to the average foodie. We're talking Indian, Ethiopian, Thai. Even Posh, which was considered adventurous because there's no menu. The downside is that these folks only meet once or twice a month, but maybe that's good news for our wallets.
Ever since we met Susie and Jay at the CRAVE Culinary Festival, we can't seem to get away from them. The duo runs the Foodies Like Us website, which brings food lovers together through events and a message board. Their Meetup group currently has nearly 200 members, with an average of about 40 foodies attending each Meetup.
We had to mention FLU (bad acronym alert!) again because they always manage to get in on the best foodie events. BLT Steak's 1-Year Anniversary? They were there. Guy Fieri's Road Show? They're hosting the sold out pre-party. Sign up and if you RSVP early enough, you'll be guaranteed a spot at the hottest culinary events in town.
Dynamite Roll? Fresh hamachi? Sake? Delicious. There are several sushi-related Meetup groups in the Valley, but frankly we picked this one because they're NOT so serious. Don't get us wrong; they're serious about sushi. But group organizer Alex is known for his clever quips. Who can resist a group that offers Meetups titled "You Win Some, You Dim Sum" and "I'm feelin' kinda Blue Wasabi...how 'bout you?" Sushi + Humor + New Friends = F-U-N
Are you crazy about Cabernet? Do you go batty for a good Shiraz? The batgirls (and boys) bill themselves as "the largest and most active wine community in metro Phoenix." And it seems to be true. With nearly a thousand members signed up, this group is one of the largest we've spotted on Meetup.com.
We dig this group because they have frequent meetings at places like Estate House, D'Vine Wine Bistro in Chandler and Switch, which means good grub in addition to the vino. Their Meetups consistently rate 5 out of 5 stars, so you have a high probability of enjoying yourself. Then again, maybe the members are filling out their surveys after having a few glasses of wine..