Are you feeling peckish? Well, the good news is that you won't have to look very long or very far for the perfect eatery, but the bad news is that once you tap into these great restaurant apps, your waistline may begin to expand. Don't say I didn't warn you! It has never been easier to find the best restaurant, the best bakery, or the best bar. The advent of mobile device apps has ushered in a veritable flood of choices and options when it comes to searching for and finally selecting the perfect place to enjoy a meal. So, before you head out tonight for a sumptuous dinner, have a look through my picks of the top five restaurant apps and experience the finest dining experience you've probably had in a while. You can thank me later.
LocalEats(Apple & Android), FREE
This incredibly detailed app was the number-one paid dining app for iPhone in 2010 and was named one of the must-have dining apps by Macworld that same year. It operates throughout the United States and in all major international cities, including Toronto, Vancouver, London, Paris, Rome, and Hong Kong. Its restaurant listings include only the finest in the world and all of its rankings and listings have been determined by the LocalEats team of editors. Each eatery has its own profile, description, and review and includes various photographs that detail restaurant layouts, décor, dishes, and platters.
There are a couple of very unique features included in this app. Users may search for their location's weather forecast, which is perfect for those who will be dining outdoors, and an interactive GPS feature will guide users to their selected eatery smoothly and seamlessly.
Like its name suggests, the app features only local restaurants — no national chains — which is perfect for users who are searching for a unique dining experience.
"I use this app all the time because I'm often in different cities, traveling for work,"
"I like it because I'm more of an adventurous eater who tends to stay away from family-friendly chains like Kelsey's and Applebee's. Most of the time I'm looking for local places that specialize in different cuisines like Italian or Indian."
The app's user interface is easily the most gorgeous I've seen. It features high-quality panoramic images, evoking the look and feel of an expensive, detailed city guide.
Urbanspoon (Apple & Android), FREE
This app operates in places far and wide, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, England, Scotland, and the United States. It's best known for its randomized Slot Machine feature that lets users either tap the "Spin" button or shake their mobile device to see new places to try based on their location, food preference, or budget. Urbanspoon provides a wealth of information on eateries as well as detailed reviews and recommendations based on users' search criteria. Users can filter their restaurant searches by locale, cuisine, dietary requirements, and budget. The app also allows users to search by venue type (like restaurant, bar, movie theatre, or sports arena).
Urbanspoon incorporates a really simple rating system that all registered users can take advantage of. Each user simply selects their restaurant and taps "like" or "don't like." They can then share their ratings among family members, friends, and contacts through various social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Dedicated and frequent users can create their own account profile and use it to track all their app activity. They can also compile specialized lists of places they'd like to check out or visit for the first time. This feature comes in especially handy if you're the type of person who eats out a lot and wishes to keep tabs on their favourite places for meals or drinks. The app's user interface is sleek, simple, and crisp, featuring a great collection of interactive maps to quickly get you on your way. A great assortment of full-colour photographs litters each screen, but I'd like to see more meal screenshots, depicting dishes in greater detail.
Foodspotting (Apple, Android), FREE
For users who prefer a more visual interpretation of the restaurant app, this one's for you! Featured on The Today Show and on Time Magazine's "Fifty Best Apps" list, Foodspotting is a feast for the eyes. It essentially acts as a visual guide to good food and where to find it. Users recommend dishes and meals in lieu of posting standard reviews or rating venues. This is also one of the only food apps that allows users to search for eateries based on the food they're craving (handy, huh?). For example, if you fancy fish 'n' chips, enter that into the search field and voilà! You're instantly provided a list of the best fish 'n' chips spots in your neighbourhood!
Users snap pictures of their meal and share their thoughts with others through the app's extensive database. Looking through the galleries will have you salivating — we guarantee it. Originally launched in 2010, Foodspotting has built up a database of over 4 million dishes from around the world thanks to its staff and the millions of users who have uploaded this app to their mobile device. Not only can they snap and post photos of their meals, but users can also post comments on each and every picture shared within the app, resulting in some really great conversation threads among people from all over the world. In my opinion, this is the best restaurant app for people who know what they're looking for or craving.
Doughbot (Apple), $0.99
This new app is a real "treat"! Doughbot is tailor-made for users who possess a serious sweet tooth. It plots out every single doughnut shop in any given location! Doughbot was featured by Apple as the Best New App upon its release and has also been featured in countless print publications throughout North America, including USA Today, New York Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Time Out, and the Guardian.
Users shouldn't feel limited to just doughnut shops either, because this specialized app allows you to search for shops, coffee houses, and bakeries too! Each location has been reviewed and rated, and built-in maps provide exact locations of each of the listed eateries plus directions on how to find them.
The app's design has a very clean, vintage-inspired look to it that evokes feelings of fun and frivolity. This is a truly flamboyant app that has steadily increased in popularity since its debut last year through the iTunes App Store. Users are able to upload pictures of desserts and restaurants through Instagram and post them to Doughbot for other users to look at and share.
"This app is so unique! There's nothing else quite like it,"
raves Vanessa, a self-professed doughnut connoisseur.
"I have a serious sweet tooth and I love trying out new places for cupcakes and pastries, not just doughnuts. I've discovered a couple of great bakeries in my area using Doughbot. I've even recommended it to a few of my friends and they absolutely love it. It's great!"
Zagat(Apple & Android), FREE
This is the only restaurant app on our list that not only features some of the world's best eateries, but also bars, shops, and hotels. This will prove to be especially useful for those of you who travel frequently for business or for pleasure. Zagat operates within North America and throughout all major European cities. Each location — no matter its type — is ranked, rated, reviewed, and priced out. If you've got a special occasion coming up or even if you've got a strange craving that you can't seem to shift, use Zagat and search for venues using those criteria!
This app is incredibly intuitive and seems to know exactly what each user wants and needs. If you're still in doubt and are having a hard time making up your mind, use the app's informative articles and video profiles to gather more details on the places you're considering.
"One of my favourite things about this app is that it lets you view entire menus online before you actually visit the restaurant,"
explains Christina, an avid restaurant-goer and bar hopper.
"There are certain foods that I cannot eat so it's really important that I'm able to look at menus beforehand. I also use this app to make dinner reservations. It's really handy!"
You can make reservation through Zagat's affiliation with OpenTable. Another added bonus? Detailed maps and Google street view capabilities that are guaranteed to direct you exactly where you'd like to go.
Yelp (Apple, Android & Windows), FREE
Yelp might be the better app for you. Users upload a tonne of delicious images of food, so it's easy to get a sense of exactly what you'll find when you're there. Plenty of reviews are also available for you to look through to see what other patrons loved, as well as what they think could benefit from improvement. But the real help goldmine of this app is the "More Info" section. It will give you details such as whether the restaurant offers delivery or takeout, what kind of attire is most suitable for dining there, which payment methods the restaurant accepts, whether it offers wi-fi, whether it serves alcohol, whether the place is wheelchair-accessible, and much more. All those things that you normally find out yourself by calling the restaurant are at your fingertips with Yelp. If you have any questions, this is an easy way to find all the answers in one place.
Ultimately, I think as far as restaurant review apps go, both Urbanspoon and Yelp have their own unique benefits and can work really well in tandem. When it comes to picking the right restaurant, it never hurts to get a second opinion, or a third, or a fourth... So I don't hesitate to take a peek at the reviews and information on both these helpful apps before making my final decision.
Now that you're absolutely ravenous — sorry, my fault entirely — download one or two (or all) of these apps and get started on your search for a really great restaurant. Never again will you be left having to pay the bill for a meal that was unsatisfactory or lacking. If the app brings up a restaurant or bar that you're unfamiliar with, browse through its menu and pull up the directions using the built-in map features (present in each and every one of the apps we've profiled here). And, like I said before, you can thank me later.