It’s that time of year when us Jacksonites escape from our cold hole and venture out into the world to enjoy the offseason. One of my favorite parts of traveling is, of course, getting a chance to eat at new places. To me, this usually entails spending the better part of the week leading up to my trip on Google looking at every single restaurant menu with a decent review within 15 miles of where I going to be. Obsessive? Maybe, but that is my inner food nerd coming out. My day planner quickly transforms from a “to do” list into a “to eat” list when I leave town.
New York was a place I had wanted to visit for a long time, and I finally had an opportunity to last week. I quickly realized that no amount of Google OCD could have prepared me for this food mecca. I had to come up with a game plan and needed some help. Luckily, smart phones have made life amazingly easy for us to venture out into the world with relatively little planning and still be connected to everything we need to get by. From traveling abroad to my most recent excursion to NYC, I have come to realize that annoying IPhone 3 commercial “There’s an app for that” is more relevant than ever.
Food Apps: It seems like every big city has its own smaller platforms for this, but for the sake of finding some overarching choices as to not exhaust all the MB on my phone, I have found Urbanspoon and Yelp to be the most helpful. With the ability to search from different cuisines to price to location (Urbanspoon even has a function in which it will choose randomly for you) you are sure to narrow down the options. This probably goes without saying but make sure not to take reviews or “stars” just at face value. It turns out there are a lot of Denny’s out there with 5 star ratings because people go there to eat greasy hash brown at 3 a.m., and get just that. It’s a little harder for a new bistro down the street to live up to lofty expectations.
Transportation Apps: Once again, these are unique to every city, but one that is useful most places, including internationally, is Uber. More than just a way to get a cab, which is usually not too hard, this service allows you to choose different vehicles, pay in advance, gives you clear pricing, and doesn’t limit you to just a conventional cab ride. I have found it especially helpful when traveling in a larger group as you can request a car appropriate seating and split the fare easily.
Picture Apps: Who doesn’t love a little bit of food porn? I’ll be honest, I don’t care and probably won’t like your picture of the bowl of cereal you ate this morning. However, If you order something and it looks good or tastes good or is both, there is no shame is taking a picture and posting away to various sources. Food is art, and people eat with their eyes. I can honestly tell you I have seen plenty of pictures that have made me hungry and go out in search of the shared food item. Everyone probably has Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Flickr, etc. on their phone its just a matter of using it, and if you have them all, not posting the same picture on all of them at the same time… Please.
Tip Apps: Your phone already comes with one, it’s called a calculator.
Drink Apps: To be honest, my experience on this is only related to the world of wine. I feel fairly confident in my ability to order a beer or cocktail that I will like, but when it comes to wine it can be a toss up. Hello Vino is a great app to help you pair your ordering based on food along with offer lots of unbiased reviews on possible choices for your meal. The best part is the reviews are usually written by real people and don’t include all those obscure wine adjectives that are often thrown around.
Coolest Traveling Menu App: I love the feeling of being in a foreign country and stumbling through my order knowing that I will be getting something authentic but menus can be a little tricky especially if your language knowledge is zero (I’m thinking back to a 24 hour layover in Beijing and the dinner roulette I played on myself while pointing blindly to an item on a menu). Google Translate (to name one) lets you take a picture of the words in question and translates it for you. Awesome way to try a little more authentic fare without putting you gut in jeopardy.
There are tons of apps to make our lives easier. The thought of having phone books to look up a number or looking at a hard copy of a map to find your way around seems like a thing of the past. So go eat with with reckless abandon while exploring this offseason, just don’t forget your charger.