Ready to stray from your personal food norms and get a bit adventurous with restaurant choices? This selection of free apps will help you explore new cuisine types, browse reviews and make reservations all in a matter of minutes.
In this unofficial era of visual social media, sepia-filtered food pictures are all but inescapable. So why not make something useful of the foodie photo trend? Enter FoodSpotting, a visual guide to food that focuses on dishes rather than restaurants.
Users upload photos of their favorire dishes, and can then search others’ images to plot out their next meal. Filter dishes according to popularity, proximity or chronology, or use the app’s social component to see what connections are eating. True foodies can keep track of food quests by marking the dishes they want, tried or loved.
If Instagramming meals isn’t your thing, check out the places tab, which lets you find nearby restaurants in text format. Finally, a guides section houses best of lists from sources like Time Out, Travel + Leisure and Sauce Magazine.
A mainstay for online reviews, Yelp’s mobile app just keeps on adding bells and whistles. On the home screen you’ll see options on how to proceed. I like to use the Nearby function, which lets users search for nearby businesses in a number of categories (restaurants, bars, coffee, etc.). If you’re not currently “nearby” your ideal destination, search for restaurants that are top rated, in a specific neighborhood, open at certain hours, buzzworthy or offering special deals. And if you see something you like, conveniently make a reservation with OpenTable without even leaving the Yelp app.
Each component of the app also includes the all-important Yelp components: reviews, photos, check-ins and social sharing.
Another piece from the classic restaurant app arsenal is OpenTable. There’s nothing extrordinarly about the interface, but the ability to make reservations at more than 20,000 restaurants makes it all worthwhile.
To find a destination, specify your dining date, time and party size and OpenTable will pull up all available tables in your direct vicinity. Results can be displayed in list form, or for the visual folks, on an interactive map.
In addition to proximity, OpenTable lets users search according to restaurant name, cuisine, time and price. The app will pull up web versions of each restaurant’s menu – a convenient but spotty feature, as restaurant websites are notoriously mobile-unfriendly. On that note, be sure to check out our guide to building a mobile-optimized restaurant site.
Originally released in 2008, the UrbanSpoon app got a spiffy round of updates in early 2012. In addition to its much-loved slot machine feature, the restaurant discovery tool now sorts restaurants by distance, name and popularity. When it comes to locating restaurants, ever-frustrated Apple Maps users will welcome a glimpse at our old friend Google Maps.
The updates also introduced a wishlist feature that notifies you when you’re near one of the spots you’ve been wanting to try, ensuring that you take advantage of any serendipitous restaurant exploration opportunities.
UrbanSpoon has always offered user reivews, but the new version adds editorial material to the mix, including industry publications Eater (a network of food blogs) and Village Voice. And if the restaurant you’re viewing has received an esteemed award from the James Beard Foundation, UrbanSpoon will kindly let you know.
Formerly known as Google Places, this app integrates reviews from your Circles (Google+ connections) as well as trusted Zagat summaries. Search functions can be narrowed by distance, hours, rating and price, and you can save favorite places, add photos and write reviews right from your phone. Links from each restaurant page make it easy to locate your destination on a map or call the restaurant directly.