In an era where we have 24/7 access to cooking shows, magazines, and Web sites, it seems like more and more people are calling themselves "foodies." Foodie used to be another term for a connoisseur of gourmet food, who turned up his nose at everyday dishes and dined at expensive five-star restaurants. That lifestyle wasn't realistic for most people.
Modern foodies are a totally different breed. Rather than focusing on the gourmet, today's foodie is more interested in pursuing the delicious, whether it's at an expensive restaurant or a dive bar with the best fried pickles in town. As more people self-identify as foodies, quality food is becoming more accessible not just in the kitchen, but in restaurants. Thanks to a slew of restaurant apps, it's easier than ever to track down delicious dining to satisfy your inner foodie.
A good restaurant app does more than just provide ratings. Apps should be intuitive to use and let you search for exactly the dining experience you're looking for. Do you want to focus on local favorites? Are you a vegetarian or vegan foodie? Are you looking for not just the right restaurant, but to try its best dish? Don't worry. Whether you're a serious foodie looking for a new dining experience or just want to eat out without the guesswork, there's an app for that.
Device: iPhone or via mobile site
If you're on the road or just looking for a new eatery in your town, Urbanspoon offers reviews organized by cities in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Australia. You can also check out reviews from your friends to see what they thought before you head to dinner.
But what makes this free app unique is the nifty slot machine interface. Allow Urbanspoon to use your current location and choose a restaurant based on neighborhood, type of food, and price. Hit the "shake" button or shake your phone, and it will pick a random restaurant nearby for you. This "roll the dice" approach is perfect for courageous foodies who feel it's worth possibly trying out a dud for the chance to discover a hole-in-the-wall that's a hidden gem. For regular diners, it's a great way to learn about new eateries in your area or find a restaurant when you're on the road.
Eating out can be tricky if you're vegan or vegetarian, especially on the go. Luckily, there's an app built on a popular veggie social network that makes finding a veg-friendly restaurant a breeze.
There's a growing movement of vegetarian and vegan foodies, and VegOut helps you track down meatless eateries by using the HappyCow database of vegetarian restaurant reviews.
If you're a veg-head, you're probably already familiar with Happy Cow. It's the go-to Web site for finding member-reviewed vegetarian- and vegan-friendly restaurants all over the world. With VegOut, all of that data is accessible right on your iPhone! You can check out reviews and ratings to find a veggie restaurant that's not just nearby, but up to your high standards. The app denotes whether a restaurant is vegan, vegetarian, or if it caters to omnivores but has veg-friendly options.
Sometimes you'd like to get a peek into what's going to be on your plate before you choose a restaurant. One app gets visual to help you choose just the right place to dine.
Device: iPhone, iPad, Android, and the Windows Phone
For many foodies, good food is as much about presentation as about taste, and if you fall into this category, Foodspotting can take much of the guesswork out of choosing a restaurant and ordering. Not only can you find nearby restaurants and ratings, but you can check out photos of actual dishes at those locations. Foodspotting users upload photos of delicious dishes they've had at these restaurants, so you can see exactly what you're going to get.
There are social media aspects to this app, too. You can share recommendations with friends and even rate others' recommendations.
Looking to dine like a local, even when you're out of town? One app helps you find local favorites across the U.S.
Price: 99 cents
Device: Android, iPhone, BlackBerry Storm, or on their mobile-optimized site
What makes LocalEats perfect for your inner foodie, is that there's a strict "no chain restaurant" policy. True foodies wouldn't be caught dead at an Applebee's, and with this app, there's no need to sort through a list of big chains to find real local eateries.
Like Foodspotting, LocalEats is more visual than some of the other restaurant apps out there. There's a photo of each restaurant mentioned. And you can check out user reviews, or take a peek at their "Top 100" list to see what the LocalEats editors say are the best restaurants in town.
If you're in one of the 50 major cities that it covers, this app is a handy tool for tracking down those local favorites.
But let's go one step further beyond local food to street food. If you're a fan, we've got just the app for you.
Device: Android, iPhone
Food lovers and serious foodies alike can find quick, delicious, and unusual foods at local food trucks, and the Eat St. app. helps you track down the best of the best. A spin-off from the Food Network program of the same name, the app uses your current location to find food trucks near you, and you can check out what people are saying about the carts on Twitter, peek at the menu, check the hours, or check the vendor's profile for links to their Web site, Twitter, and Facebook accounts.
While food trucks might conjure up mental images of a "roach coach" visiting construction sites with burgers and hot dogs, these mobile eateries have come a long way in the past few years. Food trucks now serve up gourmet fare like curry in savory waffle cones or tacos with an Asian fusion twist. This app works best if you live in a town with a strong food truck community.
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- Brickman, Sophie. "What is a Foodie? Am I One? Are You?" Huffington Post. October 15, 2008. (August 11, 2011) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sophie-brickman/what-is-a-foodie-am-i-one_b_134789.html
- Dohe, Kate. "VegOut - Vegetarian Restaurant Guide Review." Macworld.(August 11, 2011) http://www.macworld.com/appguide/app.html?id=80042&expand=false
- Fitzpatrick, Jason. "Where the Locals Eat Helps You Enjoy Local Flavors." Lifehacker. December 21, 2008. (August 11, 2011) http://lifehacker.com/5115205/where-the-locals-eat-helps-you-enjoy-local-flavors
- Food Network. "Eat St." (August 11, 2011) http://eatst.foodnetwork.ca/
- Foodspotting. "A visual guide to good food and where to find it." (August 11, 2011) http://www.foodspotting.com/apps
- Indvik, Lauren. "Foodspotting" A Visual Guide for Foodies." Mashable. June 29, 2010. (August 11, 2011) http://mashable.com/2010/06/29/foodspotting/
- LocalEats. "Where the Locals Eat." (August 11, 2011) http://www.wherethelocalseat.com/Mobile.aspx
- Levy, Paul. "What is a foodie?" The Guardian. June 14, 2007. (August 11, 2011) http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2007/jun/14/whatisafoodie
- OpenTable. "About OpenTable." (August 11, 2011) http://www.opentable.com/home.aspx
- Turner, Kelly. "Urbanspoon Review." Macworld. (August 11, 2011) http://www.macworld.com/appguide/app.html?id=81340&expand=false
- Urbanspoon. "Mobile Downloads." (August 11, 2011) http://www.urbanspoon.com/mobile-downloads
- VegOut. "Vegetarian Restaurant Guide for the iPhone." (August 11, 2011) http://vegoutapp.com/
- Weston, Nicole. "Foodie: What is That, Anyway?" SlashFood. February 10, 2006. (August 11, 2011) http://www.slashfood.com/2006/02/10/what-is-a-foodie-anyway/