Thursday, June 24, 2010

Do You "App" Before You Eat?
What is Your Restaurant Resouce?

It may come as no surprise that one of our favorite things to read about and talk about is food. Alex and I really look forward to our daily meals. We are always chatting about a recipe, or a dish we had recently, or where we want to eat next. I recently read the Pavarotti quote "One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating," and thought it hit the nail on the head! Like most people, we learn a lot about restaurants, good and bad, from friends and co-workers.

Another great resource is, of course, the Internet. I have a few favorite sites and Apps that I use. (I only use FREE Apps). I have found that local city newspapers/websites are a fairly reliable resource if you are heading to a major metropolitan area. A new App I like for New York, that also has a webpage is The Scoop, from the New York Times. There are four sections breaking down:NYT The Scoop App
1. Top 50 restaurants by Sam Sifton, NYT restaurant critic
2. Bars by Pete Wells, Dining editor of NYT
3. Weekly Events
4. Only in NYC
Each section is broken down into lists. Each entry is accompanied by a map with pin points, a short review, phone number and website. You can check off the list as you go and share with friends via Facebook, Twitter, email and text. Pretty cool.

YelpTwo sites I visit regularly are Yelp and Urbanspoon. Both have apps. I like and use both for different reasons. Yelp is wide open. Everyone and their brother are on there posting comments and rating everything from restaurants to the cleanliness of the restroom at the gas station. I know there has been a lot of controversy about Yelp lately (as in class action suit), but I believe that the majority of the comments are just plain folks, out and about in their lives voicing their very important opinions. You can pinpoint vindictiveness fairly easily and write those off for what they are. Negativity and anger are part of the package with any type of open comment forum online, unfortunately. More people will take the time to vent about bad experiences over good ones. I like to read comments from users who write a lot of reviews, because I believe these will be more balanced. Someone with only one or two reviews is typically on a mission to slam someone about a bad experience. All Yelp entries are rated on a five star system. You can make "friends" and follow people who review shared interests. Yelp's App is nice, user friendly and free. Like most, it uses GPS to target your location. Each business will display the address, user ratings, distance, and price range. There are feeds of your activities, your friends' ratings, and social-networking posting. It has a check-in feature that lets the user post where they are by selecting a location, leaving a "tip" as they call notes, and then posting to Yelp, Facebook and/or Twitter. An App is available for Blackberry, iPhone and Android.
Yelp Website
Yelp App
Urbanspoon Screenshot
Urbanspoon is restaurant centric, calling itself "the world's leading provider of time-critical dining data". You won't see three-quarters of the world in their directory yet, so there is plenty of work still to do, but I agree that they have established a vast database. Urbanspoon covers all bases with general public comments, newspaper/magazine reviews, and bloggers. It is mostly American, but also contains some Canadian, UK and Australian reviews. You can cast a simple "like" or "don't like" vote for each establishment, and can change this vote anytime in the future if your opinion changes. Written reviews are not required. All restaurants display a "like it" percentage at the top with reviews below. Many restaurants have a menu posted, a feature I like. Like Yelp, their App is good and free. A popular feature of their App is the "Shake". Shake your phone and a slot machine styled screen will randomly select a restaurant for you. This doesn't appeal to me as I usually know what I want, but I can appreciate the novelty. It uses GPS to search or browse a restaurant near you. There are filters for neighborhoods, types of food, features (delivery, etc., popularity. Urbanspoon also has a "friends" feature, but this is less popular than Yelp's, perhaps due to the mixed resources of the reviews.

An App is available for Blackberry, iPhone and Android.

Urbanspoon Website
Urbanspoon App

I would be remiss if I did not mention my lifeline, Google. Oh yes, I do so love the Google. Just type in what you want, for example, Thai in Norfolk, and read the results. Simplicity at its best.

Are there other sites or resources that you use? Let us know. We love to try new things!


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