by Megan Eileen McDonough
Travel goes way beyond the sights and sounds of a destination. Eating is something we all need for survival anyway and luckily, it’s also an excellent opportunity to experience local culture. While Foodspotting and other discovery apps are helpful in hunting down trendy restaurants and hole-in-the-wall joints, there are even more resources for experiencing cuisine the local way.
Restaurant reviews are definitely helpful to potential diners but personalized suggestions are even better. Ness gives users instant restaurant recommendations based on their tastes and preferences. As soon as you sign up as a user, the platform asks you to rate ten restaurants and basically, the more restaurants you rate, the more accurate your recommendations will be. From a user perspective, the interface is easy to navigate and allows you to create beautiful lists of new restaurants you love or old favorites. Like most other apps, you can connect quickly through Facebook.
When traveling within the US or internationally, try using LocalEats to find your next dinner spot. The website and app ($0.99) allows users to search for nearby restaurants, view restaurant deals and get driving directions, among other services. Perhaps the best thing about LocalEats is that absolutely no chain restaurants are included in their inventory, making it even easier to discover local restaurants you might have otherwise overlooked. Other features include scheduling a taxi for pick-up and drop-off and searching by the type of cuisine, price, neighborhood and amenities.
Bridging the gap between a traditional restaurant and a home cooked meal, VoulezVousDiner brings locals and travelers together through dinner parties. Depending on whether you’re a local looking to host an event or a traveler seeking an authentic gastronomic experience, users can either host a dinner or search for one to attend as a guest. The platform allows hosts to create their online menu and important details including the type of cuisine, a description of each course and how much dinner costs. In a nutshell, you might not strike up a conversation with the couple sitting next to you at a restaurant but at a VoulezVousDiner event, that’s exactly the point.
Going out for drinks is just as important as picking a restaurant and Untappd caters specifically to beer drinkers on the hunt for new and innovative brews. Use Untappd to discover the most popular bars and beers around the world and share your findings with your friends by leaving a comment, “toasting” them or sharing photos. The app also has a functionality that sends you personalized beer suggestions, which will likely cut your search time in half. Similar to Foursquare, users can earn various badges as they discover more beers. Recommendations are mainly determined based on user activity and where you’re friends are drinking.
If all you want is a little help in deciding where to eat in your local area or even abroad, Restaurant Row will hold your hand through the discovery process. The website breaks down all different types of situational meals: where to go for something new, best places for a celebratory dinner and where to go for a quick snack are all searchable within the database. The company does a good job of curating the reviews and they actually take into account a user’s feedback. The restaurant listings are generally up to date so you can get a pretty good idea of what to expect at a particular restaurant.
Similar to VoulezVousDiner, EatWith allows travelers to dine with local residents in a fun and engaging way. From their homepage or app, browse through a slew of different dining experiences all around the world. Users can search by country or type of cuisine and are able to directly contact the host to ask more questions regarding the meal. Unlike VoulezVousDiner, the traveler has a bit more control over the time and date of the dinner. If the dates for a particular experience don’t work for you, hosts may be able to switch it around or host another event at a more convenient time.
Serious foodies should check out Epicurious for new recipes, video tutorials and anything else pertaining to the art of cuisine. It’s essentially a one-stop-shop for chefs and diners alike. Some of their partners include Gourmet, Parade, SELF and bon appétit so you can pretty much expect the same type of content you’d find in one of these glossy food magazines. This is perfect if you are staying in a vacation rental while you are traveling- save some money by staying in and utilizing your rental's fabulous kitchen for a night, Epicurious will be able to help you find the right recipe. There are always classic recipes to sift through but Epicurious is also very much on top of new trends in the culinary world, especially anything pertaining to holidays and seasonal ingredients.