Thursday, May 26, 2011

20 Free iPhone Food Apps for the Traveler

Later today I'll be getting on a flight from Buenos Aires and heading to the United States, where I'll be spending a month in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. And with every trip, I only have so many meals in a day and try to be careful not to waste one on subpar food.

So for the past 4 years as an iPhone user, I've been using a number of apps to help avoid any culinary mistakes. I thought I'd share a few of these.

If you have any others to recommend, do so in the comment section below.

+ menus
+ ratings
+ prices
- US only
- Limited cities
The app I rely on the most is MenuPages. Unlike many of the other options, MenuPages gives you reasonably updated menus for each restaurant. This on top of the standard info you'll find on other applications: price range, ratings, reviews, and address. But like the app name tells you, it's the menus that make this app the most useful.

Using the MenuPages app is a sintch too. Just need to type in a cuisine your looking for and it will give you a Google Map with available options. When you click on an listing, it will give you the address, price range, ratings in stars and reviews...and with a click, the menu.

I've been using Menupages for years on the computer and the past few years on the iphone. But the biggest drawback is that the available cities are very limited.

Originally, MenuPages was just a New York based tool. Over the years, they've had new ownership, and started to expand...but at a snails pace. The only cities available are New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago. They've recently expanded with London and Paris, seemingly following Yelp's lead. Luckily, these are all cities I frequent. But the app is only useful if you happen to be in one of these select few cities.

+ reviews
+ ratings
+ price range
+ many US cites
- US only
- no menus
Probably the most popular app for the hungry on the road. A quick search will give you a Google mapped result that with a single click, gives you price range, hours, address, ratings and reviews. They also include discounts from time to time for a location, like some of the other services like Foursquare, etc.

I'd likely only use Yelp if it included one more item: menus. I can read all the reviews I want and people's recommendations...which are helpful. But in the perfect world, one would be able to see the specific menu as well. And with so many restaurant official sites being in flash, it' snot always as easy as clicking the link to the official site and give the menu a look. I find I use Yelp hand-in-hand with the MenuPages app to cover that base.

+ reviews
+ ratings
+ price range
+ many US cities
- US only
- no menus
There are plenty of people who appreciate the risk in eating more than I do. And by risk I mean a menu that might not be to ones suiting. For the adventurous, there is UrbanSpoon. It's a simple interface, you can shake and assuming you're in the United States, it will give you a random restaurant to try. You can also click the "browse" feature and do a more detailed search by cuisine, neighborhood, etc. Upon viewing a cuisine, you'll get the high-level name, address and price range info. And with a 2nd click, you'll get a rating calculated by a simple "like" or "I don't" option. Photos are also a helpful tool they provide.

+ international
- not as detailed
as Yelp, etc
Google Places:
The Google Places app is basically the Google attempt at Yelp and other local resources. For food hunters, it's a handy tool. But mostly when you are outside of the US and don't have access to apps like Yelp. Sure, you can at times get free app alternatives for a given international city. But Google Places gives you some quick ideas, reviews, ratings, etc.

+ International
options in
one app
Google Maps + My Maps:
It might seem pretty redundant to include the most basic of iPhone apps, Google Maps, on the list. Especially since it comes pre-installed on all iPhones. In the United States, it's where so many of the other apps like MenuPages and Yelp are pulling their map data. That's all well and good in the United States, but when you are traveling outside the US, you need something more broad. And Google delivers that. With the simplicity we're all used to with Google Maps, you can type in something as simple as "restaurants" and be given some helpful information. If one is planning a trip, you can also create your own Google Map with pin points to places (restaurant locations) of
interest. Due to a hiccup in the Google Maps technology though, you'll need the next app mentioned to access your customized map.

+ access to your
Google Maps

My Maps is a simple app that accesses your Google account. When you create a map on your computer using Google Maps and save it, you currently cannot access that via the official Google Maps iPhone app. My Maps is free and upon clicking, just presents you with a list of your saved maps. When you click a map, it loads it in Google Maps. Tis is especially helpful if you are are traveling outside the United States and want to have a layout of restaurants you intend to visit.

Upon searching the App Store today, it does appear that the free version I currently use might no longer be available.

+ international
+ map view
+ ratings & reviews
The TripAdvisor app gives you all the info you get from their helpful site, but in a much easier method. In a foreign country and want a specific cuisine?. Just click "restaurants", type in your city, click a price range, and you're good to go. It's that simple. The results are given in list form with the star ratings, number of reviews and the handy "see on map" option, which launches all the listings on a Google Map. Granted, I've personally spent more time outside the United States the past year, but even when in the US, I find myself using TripAdvisor often.

+ most US cities
- US only
Nationwide Happy Hours:
There are a number of different Happy Hour apps out there. But this one covers the United States while many others are limited to a single city. Search is done by entering the city and then a Google Map appears with the various listings. A single click gives you a high-level look at hours and prices with more details in the second click.

+ most US cities
- US only
GoTime Happy Hours:
Another United States national source, Happy Hours is a collection of listings brought to you be some of the various local publications through

Some other happy hour apps for specific cities include HourDrinks (New York) and Venga (Maryland/DC/NoVa).

+ extremely detailed
info with
restaurant reviews
- Only city of SF
is a free app
This is one of the best apps for a food traveler. Just like their paper books, you get access to restaurant reviews, local food festivals and street fairs, phrase books, history, and everything else you could possibly need. The offline maps are the most helpful tool...allowing you to have the accuracy of a Google Map, but without the roaming charges.

If you are visiting San Francisco, you're in luck...the Lonely Planet app is free for the Bay Area. Each other city costs $5.99...but since SF is free, it made the list.

+ number of free
cities such as
NY, Chi
- $4.99 for other cities
The popular travel book also has it's own iPhone app. Unlike some of the other travel guide apps where you can download specific cities from within the app, TimeOut has unique apps for each city. There are a number of free cities including New York and Chicago. If you've worked your way through Yelp, MenuPages and the other apps, TimeOut is worth some use.

+ dining, transit,
parking all
in one app
Another cool United States based app. Originally, the app was just for New York. In time, they have expanded to include a large number of other cities. The level of info each city app provides is very deep. You'll find a dining guide by cuisine or via your local in the "around me" section. There's individual sections for nightlife, local events, coffee, transit, parking and much more. With this one little app, you can plan where you're going to go eat, but also what subway to take there or where to park.

There is the all encompassing "USA" app, as well as 9 international cities and 22 US cities.

- only negative is
it's only for
Buenos Aires
Guía Oleo:
Here's a great app for anyone living in or visiting Buenos Aires. Guía Oleo is essentially the BA version of Yelp. Same handy map options, reviews, ratings, etc.

Other Quality iPhone Food apps:

It's a somewhat helpful app, giving you a basic feel of a place based on photos.

The app is primarily for social networking and seeing where people are in an area. But it does offer discounts and deals too. So you can open the app on the fly, and it will tell you local deals in the specific area you are in.
If you're looking for a deal of discount, you'll find some options here in many different cities.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Costilla Ahumada Kassler at Restaurant Dackel in Montevideo, Uruguay

Gaze upon the greatest pork chop ever cooked. One wouldn't expect Uruguay to have a good German restaurant, but Dackel is real good.

The specialty at Dackel is the Costilla Ahumada Kassler. This pork chop is almost 3 inches thick and slow cooked in a smoker. They then finish it off with more dry rub (mostly pepper) on the grill. The sides are Papas a la Suiza which is a hash brown by US standards, and apple sauce.

Dackel has a good selection of traditional German cuisine that you seldom find in Buenos Aires. While the photo doesn't show it, they have lots of more traditional German breads...which I ate before the photog

. As Dackel is 2 clocks from the beach in Carrasco, there's also some seafood selections. The neighborhood is a good 30-40 minute cab ride from Ciudad Vieja, where most tourists are in Montevideo. But it's well worth the trip. Besides, you can just head to the beach and walk off all that pork fat.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Bear Sirloin of Panda & Chinese Broccoli

For those looking for more exotic game meats, here's something for you: grilled sirloin of panda, served with Chinese broccoli from Xing Wang in Buenos Aires. The meat is similar to what you get from typical bear meat in that it has a greasy texture to it. But with the animals diet being bamboo, you can taste the differences compared to say, black north american bear meat. Much like tasting the difference between grass and corn fed beef. The meat is cut up and tossed in a sauce and served upon chinese broccoli. It's very expensive since the Chinese government only allows a few pandas to be shipped worldwide for consumption.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

BBQ Wild Boar Ribs (Ribs de Jabali)

I love wild boar. I love BBQ ribs. So let's have them both.

Rather than having to hunt down Jabali meat, luckily BBQ Wild Boar Ribs are an option at Oro & Cándido  in Palermo. In general with boar, the quality all depends on where it comes from. Feral Swine can be very good when hunted naturally and can be equal when farm raised. And of course, there is poorer quality when the jabali feeds on less natural foods in human population rich places.

With the Ribs de Jabali option at Oro & Cándido, you do run into a familiar problem with the menus in Buenos Aires. The actual menu listing is "ribs de jabali". But the use of the English word "ribs" can at times be a problem. "Ribs" on any English menu in North America would likely mean exactly what you are used to: either standard, long ribs or baby back ribs. But at times in Buenos Aires, you'll see the word "rib" used, but the cut is actually not what you'd expect. At Oro & Cándido, the "Ribs de Jabali" aren't a rack of ribs. They are instead costillas de jabali, more like a rack of lamb in the cut of meat.

So the primary letdown is that when ordering "Ribs de Jabali", you aren't actually getting ribs that you're expect.

Once you get past that, you can try to appreciate it. The meat however, is less than great. In smothering with BBQ sauce, you can dress up this pig a bit.

I've had better jabali at a number of places. Not great, not bad at Oro & Cándido. But I'm not sure I would recommend at this particular restaurant.  

Friday, March 11, 2011

Empanadas de Yacaré, Ñandú y Jabali (Caimen Crocodile, Ostrich, Wild Boar)

Here's a dish for a partially-ambitious carnivore. It's an empanada sampler from Oro & Cándido  in Palermo with (3) empanadas: Crocodile, Ostrich and Wild Boar. So you get to sample some game meats, while enjoying a more familiar style.

All three are similar in preperation: the meat is ground for all three, with some onion and seasoning, and made into an empanada, each with a unique casing.

The Jabali is a more tender white meat, full of juices in the blue corn casing. The flavor is good and it went well with a small side of BBQ sauce I had requested.

As someone that has eaten ample Ostrich in his lifetime, I'm used to the distinct taste of the meat. But they do a good job with the flavor and it tastes similar to a traditional carne empanada.

The Yacaré Crocodile is in the darker whole wheat casing. It's actually the first time I've eaten Yacaré and it did taste quite different that all the alligator I've eaten while living in the United States. I has not a fan as I found the flavor to be similar to what a person smells like after 3 days at Cochella.

But if you're in BA and looking to try something different, give it a whirl. It's only $21AR and is an appetizer, so even if it doesn't satisfy your palate, you'll always have the entrée to follow.

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