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Six Apps for Dining on Vacation

Published: July 30, 2012

When it comes to finding something to eat while traveling through a strange town or when you’re just not sure what to get for dinner, one four-letter word comes to mind almost immediately: Yelp! Yelp started out as a simple website and now has a life of its own on just about every mobile platform out there.

While Yelp’s a handy little thing, claiming the broadest range of restaurants in its database, sometimes it’s refreshing to try something a little different. We’ve rounded up six of the best food-spotters, including a couple you might not have heard of.

1. Urbanspoon

Urban SpoonAdmittedly, this app is almost as well-known as Yelp, but it comes with such a great gimmick that we couldn’t leave it out. If you don’t know quite what you want to eat, Urbanspoon’s “shake” feature makes the decision for you by randomly picking a restaurant from the area to match your criteria.

In addition to that handy feature, the database itself is well stocked with information on all sorts of local eateries, including reviews from fellow diners and professional critics. Urbanspoon is really the granddaddy of dining apps—it has been around since the iPhone App Store launched in 2008.

Download: Urbanspoon for iPhone, iPad, Android, and Kindle Fire
Price: Free

2. Zagat to Go

This is the most pricey app on the list, coming in at $10 for iPhone and iPad users and $25 for Android users. It’s important to realize just what you get for your money—this isn’t just another variation of the same features offered by everything else.

Based on the best-selling Zagat books (which retail for about $15), this app compiles the same amount of information that you would find in 45 individual city guides. That includes detailed info on each of Zagat’s rated restaurants, of course!

It also features one very, very handy feature that makes it well worth the price of admission: offline mode. When you’re traveling overseas or somewhere without access to 3G service or Wi-Fi, offline mode is invaluable. All of the information you need is stored directly on your phone, so you can search, browse, and choose to your heart’s content.

Download: Zagat to Go for iPhone, iPad, and Android
Price: $9.99 for iOS; free for Android (but $24.95/year after a six-month free trial)

3. Eat St.

Eat St.Taking a slightly different approach to searching for eateries, Eat St. comes courtesy of Food Network, which has created a searchable database to help you find the best food trucks and street food in your city. Perfect for your inner foodie hipster, the GPS-enabled app shows map locations for stationary food carts plus any mobile trucks that pop up from time to time. (It’s worth noting that the accuracy may vary for mobile units.)

Where possible, detailed vendor information is provided, including menus and even Twitter contact details, plus the ever-helpful specials and deals on offer.

Download: Eat St. for iPhone and iPad
Price: Free

4. LocalEats

If you’re not a fan of big-name, multinational corporations’ sticking their fingers into your burgers, then this is the app for you. LocalEats only provides information about dining locations that are truly local—not a national chain to be found.

In addition to searching by price range and operating hours, you can even get really crunchy and look for the best local vegetarian eateries. With this in mind, LocalEats is ideal for people who like to try new things, find unique places, and get to know a city’s hidden highlights. If you just want a Big Mac, you’re going to have to keep looking.

Download: LocalEats for iPhone or iPad
Price: 99 cents for iPhone; free for iPad

5. OpenTable

Open TableOne of the more practical apps on this list, OpenTable helps you find restaurants that have tables available at your chosen time. Enter the restaurant name to find out when tables are available, or enter a date and time to find places nearby that have a spot for you.

Well-suited to spontaneous types commonly in a “What’s for dinner?” quandary, OpenTable does have the ability to search in the future, but it’s better suited to people looking for somewhere to eat right now.

Download: OpenTable for iPhone, iPad, Android, and Windows Phone
Price: Free

6. Foodspotting

For fans of Pinterest, Flickr, and food porn in general, Foodspotting is a heavenly combination of social networking and photography, with a handy restaurant-finding app thrown in as well. When you load it up, you’re treated to images of dishes other people have submitted. If you’re in the mood for eye candy, you can simply browse the pretty pictures. Otherwise, filter things to show only the latest uploads, the nearest geotagged spots, or the “best” pictures as voted by the community.

It’s a twist on the traditional food finder, as you’re looking for specific dishes rather than restaurants—but sometimes you don’t realize you’re craving a slice of pie until you see it in front of you.

Download: Foodspotting for iPhone and iPad, Android, and Windows Phone
Price: Free

Looking to go off the beaten path?

After all that, if you’d like to find something a little more unusual for your next meal, turn to the masters of the Travel Channel, Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, and your trusty iOS device. Regardless of which chef you’re more fond of, both Layover and The Bizarre Foods Locator will help you find tasty treats around the world.

Bourdain’s app, inspired by his hit show The Layover, shares his personal favorite hotels, bars, restaurants, and hot spots from 10 major cities. The Bizarre Foods Locator, on the other hand, has presented fans with a list of more than 700 restaurants that Zimmern has eaten at, complete with GPS locations, contact details, and menu suggestions.

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