Long ago, before iPhones, if you and your friends wanted to go out to eat, there was a whole ritual involved. They’d call each other on their phones “dumb”, have a whole conversation about who’s hungry for what, then call each other with restaurant suggestions. Then everyone would call each other over with competitive suggestions based on price, proximity, etc. Eventually, everyone would gather in the dive, flip phones still in hand, and they’d realize you were there.
Now, “there’s an app for that.” He searches for locations, price ranges, cuisines, and even good nutritional options using his iPhone, and he’s munching in record time.
So what is the best app to find a place? It depends on the features you want. Here’s a quick menu:
Restaurant Finder (Free) – Perfect for travelers, Restaurant Finder lets you enter the cuisine you want and the city/postal code or location, and shows the nearest restaurants that have what you’re hungry for, showing the address, phone number and URL, if you’re available. It also gives you a handy weather forecast, so you know when “closer is better.”
Find a Restaurant (.99) – This handy app enhances Restaurant Finder; that He says you your current location using GPS. Search by cuisine and it gives you nearby restaurants complete with phone number, GPS map location, driving directions, and one-tap website visit (but not the weather). Also includes Tip Calculator (yes, split the check if you want. Cheapskate).
Urbanspoon (Free) – This is the app from Apple commercials with the “slot machine” randomization feature to add some fun to your search. Of course, you can also filter the options by cuisine, price or location. Urbanspoon also includes access to ratings and reviews and a “friends” feature to add a social media twist… but it’s not Yelp.
Yelp (Free) – Yelp isn’t jumping on the social media bandwagon; it’s the real deal. That’s because Yelp is a website first and an app second (which is both good and bad, but more on that in a bit). With Yelp, search for a restaurant, bar, club, or any business similar to other restaurant search apps, or simply enter the name of a food (for example, “Peking Duck”) and Yelp finds a place for you . You can post notes and reviews (although you have to go to the Yelp site to post, hence the “good and bad” comment above). The “Check In” feature allows you and your friends to track each other’s whereabouts. Fear not: registration is voluntary, so if the ex-harasser returns, you’re safe. Check in to the same place often enough, and Yelp will decide you’re a repeat customer. Some user complaints about outdated/inaccurate information; not bad to find the meals, Great in keeping the party rolling.
Where to eat (2.99) – Another GPS food finder. But WTE has a couple of features that just make sense. Searching is done by particular cuisine or type of food, and there are separate categories for bars, takeout, and delivery. Emphasizes the intuitive experience; writing is optional. Shake-to-Suggest shuffle works on the same principle as Urbanspoon’s “slot machine”.
What if your interest is more in depth than breadth? Verify Sushipedia (free) for tons of sushi knowledge and, of course, a database of places to buy it. And if you’re watching your weight, click Lose It or Nutrition Menu once you get to a place for calorie counts and more. Fortunately, neither of them tells their friends that they are on a diet.