The 5 best iPhone apps for choosing a restaurant

Long ago, before iPhones existed, if you and your friends wanted to go out to eat, there was a whole ritual involved. They would call each other on their “dumb” phones, have a full conversation about who’s hungry for what, and then call each other with restaurant suggestions. Then everyone would call each other with competitive suggestions based on price, proximity, etc. Eventually, everyone would converge on the joint, cell phones still in hand, and realize you were there.

Now, “there is an app for that.” Search for locations, price ranges, cuisines, and even good nutritional options with your iPhone, and get to eating in record time.

So what is the best application to find a place? It depends on the functions 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 / zip code or location, and returns the closest restaurants that have what you want, showing the address, phone number, and URL, if available . It also gives you a helpful weather forecast, so you know when “closer is better.”

Find a restaurant (.99) – This handy app is best for Restaurant Finder; that He says your your current location using GPS. Search by cuisine type and it gives you nearby restaurants complete with phone number, GPS map location, driving directions, and one-touch website visit (but no weather). Also includes Tip Calculator (yes, split the check if you like. Cheapskate).

Urbanspoon (Free) – This is the Apple commercials app with the “slot machine” randomization feature to add some fun to your search. Of course, you can also filter the options by kitchen, price, or location. Urbanspoon also includes access to ratings and reviews and a “friends” feature to add a touch of social media … but it’s not Yelp.

Yelp (free) – Yelp is not jumping on the social media train; it’s the real deal. That’s because Yelp is a website first and an app second (which is both good and bad, but we’ll talk about that in a moment). 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 “Log” function allows you and your friends to track each other’s whereabouts. Fear not: registration is voluntary, so if the former stalker comes back, you’re safe. You visit the same place often enough and Yelp decides that you are a repeat customer. Some user complaints about outdated / inaccurate information; not bad to find food, great in keeping the party going.

Where to eat (2.99) – Another GPS food finder. But WTE has a couple of features that just make sense. The search is done by particular cuisine or food type, and there are separate categories for bars, takeout, and home delivery. Emphasize intuitive experience; typing is optional. Shake to Suggest random play works on the same principle as Urbanspoon’s “slot machine”.

What if your interest is deeper than broad? Check out Sushipedia (free) to get a ton of knowledge about sushi and of course a database of places to buy it. And if you’re keeping your weight in check, click on Lose It or Nutrition Menu once you hit a spot for calorie counting and more. Fortunately, neither of you tells your friends that you are on a diet.

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