Gastro Obscura Foods Update

Hi Gastro Obscura fans,

As of today, you’ll see Gastro Obscura Foods—which are short articles about unique food and drink like a Bolivian volcanic-rock soup and Vietnam’s delicious egg coffee—on the Gastro Obscura homepage and various parts of the Atlas Obscura website.

Some of you may have never seen them before. I encourage you to explore this database of more than 1,000 unique foods and drinks from around the world!

Some of you, though, may instantly recognize these Foods. They were an integral part of Gastro Obscura’s launch in 2017, and we encouraged everyone to add Foods to the database, just like adding a Place to the Atlas.

But in 2019, we stopped publishing Foods and instead encouraged readers to add Gastro Obscura Places, which replaced Foods on the homepage and around the site. That’s because—while we received some wonderful Food contributions—we learned that treating Foods like Places was a mistake. Foods were more like short articles, or encyclopedia entries, and didn’t work in the same way as Atlas Obscura’s community-contributed Places. Attempting to blend the two formats led to problems and frustrations for everyone.

I feel a bit chagrined to now be explaining why Foods are back on the homepage. But the truth is, we’ve always felt the Foods database was something special on the Internet, and we continued to see strong interest in Foods. So I’m pleased that we now have an approach for them to be not just part of Gastro Obscura’s past, but its future.

Here’s what else you should know about the Foods database:

  • We will start publishing Foods again, although at a modest pace. Foods will now be written by paid freelance writers, who can offer more first-hand knowledge and original reporting.
  • It’s no longer possible to add a Food, but if you added a Food in the past, it is still part of the Foods database and visible to other readers.
  • One of my favorite features of the Foods database is the ability to mark Foods as TRIED or WANT TO TRY. Although we’re now treating Foods like short articles, that feature is not going anywhere! It’s still possible to make Lists of Foods, too.
  • Later this year, you’ll see updates and improvements to the design of Food pages.

Thank you so much to everyone who contributed Foods and read them and supported them. I’m excited to share this development, which will help us in our goal of making Gastro Obscura the ultimate guide for food adventurers.


Cool! So can we suggest foods from our surroundings and get paid?

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Yes! Anyone is welcome to pitch Foods, in the same way that writers can pitch us stories/articles they want to write. We’ll be adding Foods-specific guidance to Gastro Obscura’s pitch guidelines shortly.

How to Pitch Atlas Obscura
How to Pitch Gastro Obscura

I do want to caution, though, that this is a very different process from adding a Place (or, in the past, adding a Food). We ask for a pitch, reporting plan, and writing clips; the editing process is rigorous; etc. So while I definitely don’t want to discourage anyone from pitching, I do think that adding Gastro Places is the best option for folks who aren’t professional writers (or aspiring to become one) who want to contribute to Gastro Obscura (which I am so, so appreciative of!) and share wondrous food-and-drink experiences with others.

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Thanks! Looking forward to the guidlines. :slight_smile:

Nice! I’ll post a note here when we get them updated.

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