Urbanspoon? What’s so special about Urbanspoon? You’re probably thinking this because you’ve heard of the app before, and whether you actually use it or not, an old app is not usually exciting.
Nevertheless, Urbanspoon for iPad is featured on our best iPad apps page, and surprisingly, it’s quite different from the more popular iPhone version. If you’ve been relying solely on in-built iOS 7’s integration with Yelp (our review) to find places to eat, you might find the Urbanspoon experience less cluttered, and pretty darn delicious.
The Urbanspoon Spinner
The most famous aspect of the Urbanspoon app is the spinner and, unlike the iPhone version, the iPad app features it front and center. Before you can start using it, though, you need to choose your location, as the spinner only works for a single city.
You can either let Urbanspoon use location tracking to find out where you are, or search for the city yourself. Note that Urbanspoon is pretty North-America-centric, and aside from cities in the US and Canada I was only able to find London. Major cities such as Paris, Zurich or Berlin are nowhere to be seen.
Once you have chosen your city, you’ll see a map overlay of every restaurant in town. Urbanspoon is focused solely on places to eat, so don’t go looking for other shops or businesses. You can travel around this map and zoom in and out, or use the spinner to narrow the search by locking it onto a single option, like a certain part of town or a particular type of cuisine.
The more you narrow down your search, the less options will appear on the map. At any point, you can switch to list view for a list of all the relevant restaurants, including ratings and price range.
This is not why the spinner is called a spinner, though. It’s called a spinner because it (you guessed it) spins! And we now come to the best part of Urbanspoon, and probably what the service is best known for: if you can’t choose, simply shake your device or tap the “Spin” button to get a random restaurant to try.
You can lock any of the three parts of the spinner to only get suggestions that suit your liking. For example, you can spin only for restaurants that are not too expensive, or only for places to have breakfast. It certainly beats trawling a map when you’re out of ideas and in need of food.
Once you locate a place you’re interested in, it’s time to find out more. Tap the restaurant on the map or list for some quick information about the place.
The restaurant card includes the venue’s ratings, address and phone number, menu description, and some reviews from critics, blogs and Urbanspoon users. If this is not enough for you to decide, click the “view details” link for the full restaurant page.
Aside from information you already had, this page includes far more detail about the menu, some user-submitted photos of the place, as well as a list of nearby and similar places. You’ll also find the place’s hours, a link to the full menu, and in some cases, the option to book a table.
Scroll down to the full review section, where you can read all the restaurant’s reviews, or filter them so that you only see user reviews, critic reviews, blog posts or guides.
Up until now, everything I described can be done without ever logging into the app. If all you’re looking for is a good place to eat, you can keep using Urbanspoon anonymously. If, however, you want to write your own reviews, rate restaurants, and have your own favorite and wish list, you can sign up for an account or log in using Facebook.
Once logged in, you can easily give a restaurant a thumbs up or down, submit photos of the place, or write a review — all through the app. You can also add a restaurant to your wish list or favorites, but as far as I can see, there’s no way to access those lists on the iPad app unless you do so from the browser section. This opens when you’re viewing a restaurant page, and is in fact a mobile version of the regular website.
All in all, it’s easy to interact with the app and its community on your iPad, but most of it is not really done through the app itself. The actual iPad app is lacking any kind of personalization, and will only help you find good places to eat. Once you tap on a restaurant to go to its page, you’re no longer really using the app, but the Urbanspoon website.
Should You Use It?
In my experience, Urbanspoon is one of the easiest ways out there to find a good place to eat in a new city. While Yelp and other dining recommendation apps may have more features, Urbanspoon is great for the undecided.
For an app that’s yet to have an iOS 7 update, and was last updated in 2012, it’s surprisingly useful. Enter a cuisine or a locale, and let the app choose for you. I’ve found some delicious eats this way, and so will you.
Download: Urbanspoon (Free)
How do you find good places to eat in a new city? Add your recommendations below.
Image credit: PlaceIt