After deciding to eat out, I often find myself asking the questions “where should I eat?” or “is that restaurant any good?” Sure, you can do it the old fashioned way and ask around, or run a web search, but what if there was a better way?
Urbanspoon, a free, user friendly, iPhone application is here to solve your dining dilemma. We’ll be taking a look at how easy it is to find a new restaurant, narrow down your search, and even look around using food-finding augmented reality.
Finding Your Location
When first opening Urbanspoon it will automatically find your current location using your iPhone’s GPS capabilities. You can also choose a specific city using search if you want to lookup restaurants elsewhere, a nifty feature for planning ahead if you are traveling. You can always change this option by pressing the location button.
Finding a Restaurant
After your location is found, Urbanspoon will present you with it’s “shake” interface. This is where the searching fun begins. Simply shake your iPhone or press the shake button and the three wheels will spin like a slot machine, randomly selecting a location, type of cuisine, and price range.
The end result of each shake will be a restaurant corresponding with the selections of the wheels. If you don’t like the chosen restaurant you can find a new one by shaking again.
If you want to narrow down your search and choose a specific location or type of food, you can adjust each wheel to your liking and lock it in place. Locking and unlocking a wheel is as easy as tapping the lock image under each wheel. You can also filter your search results by weeding out chains, selecting a meal type, or specifying a maximum distance.
After the Shake
When you find a restaurant you may be interested in, you can select it and view the restaurant’s information such as phone and address. One of the more notable features of Urbanspoon is the ability to click on the phone number right from the restaurant’s information page and call them without having to close out and dial the number into your iPhone.
This works with the address in the same fashion by launching google maps and giving you turn by turn directions.
You can also vote whether you “Like It” or “I Don’t Like It”, a basic ranking feature of Urbanspoon. From the information page, you can also select “Read Reviews” to see blog posts, articles, and user reviews form Urbanspoon.com. You can also view the menu for most restaurants which is a nice added touch.
If you prefer not to use the shake function of Urbanspoon, it does offer a variety of methods to find what you are looking for. Selecting the “browse” tab will still allow you to narrow your search using categories such as neighborhood, food type, and popularity.
However, instead of singling out one particular restaurant, the browse option will present a number of restaurants in a list view for you to choose from.
If you have a particular restaurant in mind and know the name of it, you can view all of the information and reviews by selecting the “search” tab and entering it in the search field.
Using the Scope
One of the more advanced features of Urbanspoon is the scope function. Using this feature you can view nearby restaurants either on a map or using augmented reality by way of your iPhone’s camera. To use the map, point your camera at the ground.
The blue dot shown will be your location on the map. You can select each restaurant by clicking it’s red dot. To show the scope, point your camera into the horizon and a sea of dots will appear with restaurant names. Select each individual restaurant by moving your camera in it’s direction. Both options will give you quick information such as rating, distance, and type.
If you are a seasoned iPhone user, odds are you have probably tried or at least heard of Urbanspoon due to it’s popularity. However, it wasn’t until taking a real in depth look into this app that I discovered all of it’s amazing features and capabilities for finding a restaurant. Urbanspoon is by far one of the most advanced and useful apps I have come across since becoming an iPhone user.