One of the best parts of every trip, at least for me, is the food. In fact, eating out is fun no matter where you are, but it usually happens most often when travelling. There’s something to be said for picking a restaurant completely at random, not knowing what you’re going to get. You can find real gems this way, but can also find yourself paying for food you really don’t like, or sitting in places you’d rather not be.
There are plenty of services that can help you find a good restaurant. Yelp, Urbanspoon, Trip Advisor and Foursquare are just a few, and if you know what you’re looking for, chances are you’re going to find it. But have you ever had a craving for a specific dish? Say, banana pudding? Or fried rice? Have you ever visited a city and wondered where you can get the absolute best burger or the best pizza in town? The big apps are less helpful in these cases, as they don’t really go by dish, but rather by restaurant or cuisine.
A new take on food hunting called Dish.fm aims to change this, by aggregating reviews and photos from other networks, and arranging them so you can find the best dish around, rather than the best restaurant. The free iOS app currently works only in a limited number of US cities, but aims to expand to the rest of the world in the future.
There are several ways to get started with Dish.fm. For best experience, you should grant the app access to your current location. This is the first action you’ll have to perform upon launching the app, and it will make finding the best dish around much easier. Since I’m not in the US, I didn’t grant the app this permission, and was still able to browse the dishes and restaurants without a problem. Access to location data is not a must, but it will nag you about it every time launch the app.
You can log in to the app using Facebook or Twitter, but you can also use it effectively without doing so. If you don’t want to log in, tap “skip” in the top right.
If the app can detect your current location, and it happens to be in one of the 15 US cities currently supported, Dish.fm will present the tastiest dishes around you, complete with pictures it pulls from Instagram. Since not every dish has a photo, some will appear without one, but each dish comes with a like count, an address, distance in miles from your current location, and, of course, the name of the restaurant where it’s served.
You can use the slider on the right to adjust the suggested dishes’ distance from your current location. This can be anything from 0.1 of a mile to 15 miles, and at present you can’t switch to kilometers.
On top, you’ll find several ways to fine-tune your suggestions. To start, decide if you want to look for dishes or restaurants (yes, Dish.fm does restaurants too). I recommend going for dishes, but Dish.fm’s restaurant search is also nice as it aggregates reviews from several sources, helping you find something that’s highly rated. If you go by restaurant you’ll also see a star rating, the establishment genre or food type, and an idea about price.
Finding Yummy Dishes
And now for the really fun part of Dish.fm — the dishes! You can always look for the absolute best dishes in your area, but if you’re craving something more specific, you can filter out recommendations for a certain type of dish. Dish.fm shows the most popular searches, but you can also look for specific dishes sorted by types of cuisine and even search for specific drinks.
If you can’t find the dish you’re looking for, or want to look for dishes in a genre that doesn’t appear on the list, just start typing a keyword in the search box. The app will help you find what you’re looking for using suggestions from available dishes.
Each dish on the list is presented with a picture from Instagram, if available, a total number of likes, and other information such as distance. If you see a dish you’re interested in, find out more about it by tapping it.
On the dish’s screen, you can see how many likes and dislikes it received, its price, and comments, if any. On the left, you’ll find further details about the restaurant serving the dish such as star rating, address, phone number and hours. You can even see how many reviews the restaurant’s star rating is based on, but remember that Dish.fm relies on reviews from several different sources. From here you can also rate the dish as “Awesome” or “Awful” after you’ve tried it for yourself.
Drag the dish window up to see other dishes available in this restaurant, along with their own ratings. This is a great way to find out more about a restaurant you’re interested in. After all, you may want to eat real food before diving into that banana pudding you were craving.
Of course, nothing is complete these days unless it’s social: tap the share button to share your find on Facebook or Twitter, via email or via Messages. You can also save it to Instapaper, or print it, if you wish.
If you choose to log into the app, it will save all your Awesome and Awful ratings for you, so you can quickly find every dish you’ve rated. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to save a dish without rating it, so if you find several dishes you want to try, you’re going to have to remember them, or rate them before trying them – a Favorites section would have been useful.
Finding Where Dishes Are Served
Dish.fm doesn’t only help you find recommended dishes to try and the restaurants that serve them, it can also help you get there, or see where places are located relative to where you are now. Tapping a restaurant’s address will show its location on a map, though there are no walking directions or anything like that.
By tapping the globe icon on the top right corner of the app’s home screen, you can also get a map view of all the recommended places in your area. Set the radius to anything between 0.1 and 15 miles, and see the list of recommended places on a map. You can use several filters at once to find specific meals, or let Dish.fm just show the best overall dishes in the area if you can’t decide what you want to have.
As a foodie, I love the idea behind searching for dishes instead of restaurants. When travelling, I often want to know about the best pizza in town, or the absolute best place to have ice cream. With Dish.fm, the task becomes much easier, and with ratings being aggregated from several sources, I feel that the data I’m getting is pretty accurate.
I do wish the app expanded its range to work outside the US, and definitely want to see it on other platforms such as Android. I’m told we can expect both these features later this year, though for the time being Dish.fm is off to a really good start. I’d recommend it in a heartbeat to anyone who likes finding the best places to eat.
Download: Dish.fm at the App Store
Looking for other food-oriented apps that’ll help you find the best pizza in town? This cool infographic shows the top 35 restaurant-hunting apps, and what each is best for. Check it out!
How do you find places to eat when abroad? Do you use apps to find restaurants, or are there better ways? Tell us in the comments.