(Image by Sacha Fernandez, via Flickr.com)
The average American household spends more than $3,000 a year eating out, and the folks who live in Austin and the suburbs of Washington, D.C. , spend twice that much. If we spend thousands of dollars a year at restaurants, we should want information that allows us to find places that serve great food at good prices.
Fortunately, there are lots of smart phone apps that will direct you to those places.
Here are seven apps that will serve you well:
This app allows users to browse photos of favorite dishes at restaurants, even if the restaurants aren’t particularly well known. It’s great for finding that one terrific meal at a corner diner or some hole-in-the-wall place. “Find whatever you’re craving and see what’s good at a particular restaurant,” its website says. “It makes finding good food as easy as looking in a bakery window.” If there’s a downside to this one, it’s that sometimes the photos aren’t very good. Foodspotting is available on Android, iPhone Windows Phone 7, and soon, we’re promised, on Blackberry.
With this app, you can make reservations at 20,000 or so restaurants – not at the same time. The reservations are instant and confirmed, but because you aren’t talking with a real live human being, you can’t tell them that you’re celebrating a special occasion or that you want a cozy booth in the corner. Available on Android, iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7 and Palm Pre.
This user-friendly app offers 50% off discounts at restaurants in 20 of the largest cities in the U.S. When the check arrives, call up the deal on your phone and show it to your server. The discount usually is capped at $20 or $25. Get it on Android, BlackBerry, and iPhone.
5. Seafood Watch
This app is for environmentally conscious seafood lovers. It will tell you if the fish served at the restaurants you frequent was sustainably caught. The categories you’ll see include “best choices,” “good alternatives” and “avoid.” Get Seafood Watch on your iPhone or Android.
Saving the most popular for last? Many people think so. This app gives you access to more than 20 million reviews from diners, who rank restaurants based on food, service and atmosphere. The ratings are not broken down by category. You get one ranking for all three, so it’s possible to see a relatively low rating for a place with great food but lousy service and atmosphere. Yelp is on BlackBerry, Palm Pre, iPhone, Android and Windows Phone.
We’ll let it speak for itself: “BlackboardEats features both hot spots and hidden gems — some are new, some have been around for years. And we cover everything from the fancy to the no-frills … just as long as the place rocks. So there’s no need to slog through pages of reviews to find a restaurant worth its salt (not to mention your cash). The app also offers discounts and other specials, which pop up on your phone as soon as they’re available. You can download this app if you own an iPhone or an Android.
And the best thing about these seven apps? They’re all free!